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No. 9 Michigan State suffers worst loss of the year to Nebraska at home

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Terran Petteway scored 23 points and hit a pair of ridiculous threes to stave off No. 9 Michigan State’s comeback attempts as Tim Miles’ Cornhuskers picked themselves up a statement win by going into the Breslin Center to knock off the Spartans, 60-51.

Nebraska isn’t quite on the bubble yet, and while this win certainly will put them within striking distance, the bottom line is that this was a program win. Nebraska has a tough home court. They can play with anyone in Pinnacle Bank Arena, especially when it’s packed, but going into the toughest environment in the Big Ten?

Beating Tom Izzo in his own building?

That’s not something that anyone can do.

The future is bright in Lincoln, but that’s not the biggest story coming out of this game.

Michigan State has now lost four of their last seven games. Granted, they are not playing at close to full strength just yet. Two of those losses came without Adreian Payne in the lineup. One of them came with Keith Appling on the bench. He returned to action today, but came off the bench, played limited minutes and was largely ineffective and clearly not at 100%. Branden Dawson is still a week away from returning from his broken hand.

In fact, I think you have to go all the way back to their loss to North Carolina, when Gary Harris was battling an ankle issue and Appling first injured his wrist, for when the Spartans were last completely healthy.

That’s more than two months ago, which begs the question: How do we judge this team when it comes to the tournament? They beat Kentucky in the Champions Classic and they beat Oklahoma in Brooklyn, but beyond that, everything that they’ve done this season has come without one of their Big Four players in the lineup.

The eye test — and common-sense — will tell you that a team with that much talent and a head coach the likes of Tom Izzo will be an immediate tournament favorite, but can we really seed a team in the Big Dance based off of that? The Spartans need to prove it with results on the court, they’ll have a chance to in their last four games.

Here is the remainder of Michigan State’s schedule: at Purdue, at Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, at Ohio State. Appling should be back to 100% by next weekend, when Sparty makes the trip to Ann Arbor, and Dawson shouldn’t be out of the lineup much longer than that. They’ll play some tough games with their entire roster, which means that they’ll have a chance to show the selection committee what seed they deserve.

Because on Sunday, it was quite evident just how badly the Spartans miss Appling’s presence at the point.

Credit where credit is due: Nebraska played a heckuva game. But Michigan State made it easy on them. Outside of a 12 minute stretch in the middle of the second half, the Spartans put on a clinic on how to play dumb basketball. They forced quick threes, they committed costly turnovers, they took shots that were too difficult with time left on the shot clock. It seemed like every big possession for the Spartans, every chance they had to take firm control of the momentum, ended up poorly.

Nebraska didn’t make many mistakes. They didn’t turn the ball over and they didn’t let the Spartans get much, if anything, in transition. It all came in the half court, and Michigan State’s execution was, frankly, not good for most of the game.

When that happens, all it takes is a couple of ridiculously difficult threes to end up on the wrong side of an upset.

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.