Maryland v Duke

No. 8 Duke, Maryland end rivalry in fitting fashion

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source: Getty Images

Dez Wells was well on his way to being a legend in College Park.

Maryland’s star guard had taken over late in the second half as the Terps made their final trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium as a member of the ACC. For all we know, it may be the final installment of the rivalry if the folks that plan the matchups for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge decide not to make the obvious decision to force the two teams to play.

That’s what made Wells’ second half so impressive.

He took over down the stretch scoring 15 of his 17 points in the second half, capped off by a three with just over a minute left that game the Terps a 67-64 lead. No. 8 Duke would score the next two buckets, giving them a 68-67 lead on the final possession.

source:
This is how close Maryland was to winning (ESPN)

Maryland had the ball, with just over seven seconds left on their baseline. Charles Mitchell, who had been overpowering everyone Mike Krzyzewski threw at him in the post, got the ball about 12 feet from the rim. He came across the middle of the lane, faked the spin over his right shoulder and put up a jump-hook with his right hand that hit the rim … then hit the back board … then hung on the front of the rim before finally falling harmlessly into the arms of Amile Jefferson.

Duke wins, 69-67.

If this is, indeed, the end of this rivalry, it could not have ended in a more fitting manner. An overmatched Maryland team, fighting and scrapping for their tournament lives, giving a Duke team chock-full of all-americans and Final Four expectations everything they can handle, the game being decided by the way that the ball happened to fall off the rim.

It was everything you could ask for in a basketball game. Raucous environment, great individual performances, two teams leaving everything they had on the floor, a national television audience, a thrilling finish.

That moment when Mitchell’s shot hung on the rim? That is what makes college basketball great. Maryland’s season is more or less boiled down to whether or not they’ll have a chance to lose in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament or if they’ll be banished to the NIT. In other words, they aren’t going to be contending for ACC titles or National Championships. They just want a chance to play on March’s biggest stage.

In order to do so, they needed to beat their biggest rival on the road.

That shot from Mitchell? That ball’s momentum carrying it away from the basket instead of into the basket? Not only did it cost the Terps their best chance to salvage what has been a disastrous season to date, but it would have given them bragging rights for … well, for eternity as far as we know.

Instead, Maryland fans can now look forward to trying to earn a home game in the NIT and their future league matchups with the likes of Purdue, Nebraska and Rutgers.

Coach K has already said he won’t play Maryland in the non-conference. To him, this rivalry is dead.

If only the people whose dollars fueled realignment had a way to force these two to play every 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.

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)
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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
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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.