ohio state

No. 24 Ohio State earns huge road win over No. 14 Wisconsin

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Going into Saturday’s Big Ten clash in Madison, it was hard to tell who needed the win more: No. 24 Ohio State or No. 14 Wisconsin.

Both teams entered Big Ten play with undefeated records but have since struggled in league play as the Buckeyes had dropped five out of six games entering Madison while Wisconsin had lost four of five games, including two straight at the Kohl Center.

In an offensive struggle that was slowed down by some questionable calls in the final few minutes, Aaron Craft and the Buckeyes (17-5, 4-5) came through with the big 59-58 win over the Badgers (17-5, 4-5) on Saturday at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin has now lost five of six games, including three straight losses at the Kohl Center — the first time that’s ever happened under Bo Ryan.

Although Craft struggled to find his offensive game for the first 36 minutes — going 0-for-2 from the field — his three-pointer with four minutes left cut Ohio State’s deficit to 54-53 as Craft scored seven consecutive points for the Buckeyes down the stretch to put them back into the game.

Ohio State once again had a tough time manufacturing points, but Amedeo Della Valle added 11 points and two three-pointers off-the-bench to help the Buckeyes get going offensively in the first half and LaQuinton Ross led the Buckeyes with 13 points in the game thanks to steady free throw shooting.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, struggled shooting the ball — both guarded and unguarded — and it led to their demise on Saturday. The Badgers were 3-for-17 from the three-point line against Ohio State’s tight perimeter defense and after starting 10-for-10 from the free throw line, the Badgers went 9-for-19 from the free throw line down the stretch.

Wisconsin had multiple chances to tie or take the lead in the final minute, but Traevon Jackson split a pair of free throws with under a minute left and, trailing by one on the final possession, Sam Dekker missed a very contested three-pointer at the buzzer.

Wisconsin freshman forward Nigel Hayes looked like the Badgers’ go-to guy for much of the second half, scoring a team-high 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting, but Hayes didn’t have much help from the rest of his teammates and Hayes struggled to a 5-for-11 finish from the free throw line.

But it was no fault of Hayes that Wisconsin didn’t have enough offense. After a hot start, senior guard Ben Brust (13 points) had a hard time finding his jumper and Dekker and Frank Kaminsky both looked timid on the offensive end. Jackson also struggled to 2-for-9 shooting from the field as well.

Neither team necessarily deserved to win or lose this game, but Ohio State showed grit and determination by fighting back while being down for most of the game on the road. Both of these teams are clearly struggling — especially on the offensive end — but I’m sure Thad Matta and the Buckeyes are thrilled to earn this Big Ten road win as they hope it ends their recent slide.

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.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.