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Wednesday’s Pregame Shootaround: Iowa State-Kansas, top two teams on the road

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 16 Iowa State at No. 6 Kansas, 9:00 p.m.

Iowa State was one of the nation’s most intriguing teams earlier this season, but since Big 12 play started, they’ve fallen off a bit. DeAndre Kane injured his ankle. There was a three-game losing. There was the home loss to (you guessed it) Kansas. Fred Hoiberg’s club will have a chance to get some revenge tonight, but they’re going to have to figure out a way to deal with the monster known as Joel Embiid inside.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 21 UMass at St. Bonaventure, 7:00 p.m.

St. Bonaventure is a tough place to get a win, and while UMass has an impressive record, this is still a team that has had a really bad habit of digging themselves early holes and trying to find a way to scrap their way out of it. Digging a hole in Olean, NY, is not an easy place to dig out of.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE DAY: La Salle at George Washington, 7:00 p.m.

La Salle knocked off the Colonials in Philly earlier this month, GW’s only loss in Atlantic 10 play. GW is a tough team at home, but they are still playing without Kethan Savage, who broke his foot and will be out for about another month.

FIVE MORE THINGS TO WATCH:

1) The nation’s top two teams will certainly be on upset alert tonight as they both head on the road. No. 1 Arizona will pay a visit to Stanford while No. 2 Syracuse will be visiting Wake Forest. On paper, those aren’t difficult road trips. In actuality, both Winston-Salem and Palo Alto are tough road legs.

2) Northwestern has had a knack for upsetting teams this season. They’ll visit No. 14 Wisconsin tonight.

3) Arizona State will visit Cal, which will be fun, but not as fun as watching Jahii Carson and Justin Cobbs go head-to-head.

4) Richmond swept a key three-game homestand, but the Spiders will head on the road for a pair of huge games this week. They’re 4-1 in the league but will be paying a visit to No. 19 Saint Louis.

5) UW-Green Bay is on a five-game winning streak and is currently sitting at 7-0 in the Horizon. They’ll visit Valpo tonight.

NOTABLES:

  • No. 22 Memphis at UCF, 7:00 p.m.
  • Penn State at No. 24 Ohio State, 7:00 p.m.
  • UNC at Georgia Tech, 7:00 p.m.
  • Ole Miss at Tennessee, 8:00 p.m.
  • Florida State at N.C. State, 9:00 p.m.
  • UNLV at San Jose State, 10:00 p.m.
  • Gonzaga at Santa Clara, 11:00 p.m.

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.