syracuse

Pregame Shootaround: Duke and Syracuse headlines the first day of February

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 17 Duke at No. 2 Syracuse, 6:30 p.m., ESPN

Could this get any juicier? Let’s ignore, for a second, the fact that the team currently sitting in first place in the ACC will be taking on the team that may be playing the best basketball in the ACC. Let’s also ignore that this is the game between the biggest name in the ACC and the biggest name to join the ACC. Then we can also look past the fact that there are going to be somewhere around 35,000 people in the Carrier Dome to watch this game. Or Coach K vs. Boeheim.

Let’s focus, instead, on the fact this game will feature one of the nation’s three remaining undefeated teams taking on a team that features arguably the nation’s best player and just so happens to be well-suited to breaking down the Syracuse zone. Going beyond the multitude of story lines, the game itself should be fantastic.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 6 Kansas at No. 25 Texas, Sat. 4:00 p.m., ESPN

Kansas vs. Texas was the single biggest game in the Big 12 for a number of years, and it looks like it may be that way again this season. The Longhorns are much improved this year, defending as well as anyone in the Big 12 and getting enough out of their offense to slide into second in the conference standings. Texas might also be the best matchup of any Big 12 team with the Jayhawks given the size they have inside to combat Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis. The problem? If the Andrew Wiggins that has scored 56 points in the last two games shows up, I’m not sure Texas has a chance.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 21 UMass at St. Joseph’s, Sat. 6:00 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Based on the way that they’ve played over the last month, UMass is one of the most overrated teams in the country. They’ll visit St. Joe’s after losing at St. Bonaventure on Wednesday. St. Joe’s will be looking for revenge after a 66-62 road loss at UMass on January 8th. With both of these teams being tied for third in the A-10 at 4-2, this will be a big game for the winner to keep pace with conference leader St. Louis, who is still unbeaten in the league at 6-0.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Wright State at Green Bay, 7:00 p.m., ESPN2

Two of the preseason favorites in the Horizon collide as the Raiders (13-11, 5-4) travel to face the league-leading Phoenix (17-4, 7-1). Green Bay was cruising through the Horizon League until a 75-60 loss at Valpo earlier this week while Wright State desperately needs a conference road win after losing two straight to have any shot at the league’s regular-season crown.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) There will be four games on the NBC Sports Network on Saturday:

  • 12:30 p.m.: George Washington at Dayton
  • 2:30 p.m.: George Mason at No. 19 Saint Louis
  • 4:30 p.m.: Drexel at Towson
  • 9:00 p.m.: Penn at Harvard

2) No. 7 Michigan State will be without Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson on Saturday as they face Georgetown, which is key for the Hoyas. They don’t have much size inside and this will be a must-win game for them.

3) If you’re looking for an entertaining basketball game, check out No. 23 Oklahoma at No. 16 Iowa State. Both teams spread the floor, shoot threes, play at a faster and struggle defensively.

4) No. 11 Kentucky is coming off of an embarrassing road loss at LSU. Missouri, who is better at home, just picked up a win at Arkansas. Will trends continue? The Tigers need this win if they are going to be a tournament team.

5) No. 1 Arizona will put its undefeated season on the line against a good Cal team that desperately needs this win. Cal has lost three consecutive games in Pac-12 play since starting 5-0 and after an overtime home loss to Arizona State earlier in the week, the Bears can’t afford to get swept at home by the Arizona schools.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • Texas A&M at No. 3 Florida, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Evansville at No. 4 Wichita State, 3 p.m., ESPNU
  • Colorado State at No. 5 San Diego State, 7 p.m., ESPNU
  • Baylor at No. 8 Oklahoma State, 2 p.m., ESPN
  • No. 9 Villanova at Temple, Sat. 4:00 p.m., CBS SN
  • UCF at No. 12 Louisville, 9:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • No. 24 Ohio State at No. 14 Wisconsin 12 p.m., ESPN
  • No. 22 Memphis at SMU, 2 p.m., CBS SN

NOTABLES:

  • Richmond at VCU, Sat. 11:00 a.m., ESPN2
  • N.C. State at North Carolina, Sat. 1:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • Northwestern at Minnesota, Sat. 2:00 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • Arizona State at Stanford, Sat. 4:00 p.m., PAC-12 Network
  • Arkansas at LSU, Sat. 5:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Boise State at UNLV, Sat. 8:05 p.m., CBS Sports Network
  • Tennessee at Alabama, Sat. 9:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • Saint Mary’s at BYU, Sat. 11:00 p.m., ESPN2

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.