Pitt v Syracuse

Bubble Banter: Just how close is Pitt to the bubble?

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There are 18 days left until Selection Sunday. Every morning from now until the bracket comes out, we’ll help you get caught up on the happenings with impact on the bubble from the night before. 

You can see NBCSports.com’s latest bracket here.

Pitt (RPI: 45, KenPom: 18) beat Boston College on Wednesday night. Not all that convincingly, but they won, which is more than we can say about the Panthers in recent weeks. Pitt had lost three straight games and five of their last seven. The only wins? In overtime at Miami and in double-overtime against Virginia Tech at home.

Suffice to say, Jamie Dixon’s club hasn’t been blowing people away.

So here’s where Pitt stands as of today. They have one top 50 wins, which came against Stanford on a neutral court. They have five more top 100 wins, none of which came against teams that are going to be in the NCAA tournament without a miracle. Six of their seven losses came against RPI top 20 teams, with the other coming to Florida State at home over the weekend.

In simpler terms, Pitt’s entire resume is built around the fact that they don’t have anything truly awful on their resume. They’re a No. 9 seed in our latest bracket, which means they have some wiggle room. But they won’t have a chance to land a marquee win until the ACC tournament, meaning that a loss at Notre Dame, against N.C. State at home or at Clemson would really hurt.

As crazy as it sounds, Pitt probably needs to lose two more regular season games to enter the ACC tournament on the wrong side of the bubble. That’s incredible for a team that has three single-digit wins over the dregs of the ACC since January 25th.

THE REST OF WEDNESDAY’S BUBBLE ACTION

Winners

  • Arizona State (RPI: 32, KenPom: 37) played their way into the dance with a win over Arizona two weeks ago, but road losses to Utah and Colorado put them in a position where their margin of error was getting thinner. A beatdown of Cal is a good way to right the ship.
  • LSU (RPI: 68, KenPom: 62) beat Texas A&M on Wednesday, a loss they couldn’t afford to take. On Saturday, they visit Florida. That’s a win the Tigers have to get to remain in contention.
  • Tennessee (RPI: 56, KenPom: 26) had lost four of their last six, but reversed that trend with a win at Mississippi State. The Vols are currently sitting right on the cut line, and with just one top 50 opponent left, any loss would be a massive blow.

Losers

  • Richmond (RPI: 46, KenPom: 70) got blown out by George Mason. The Spiders are now on the wrong side of the cut line. This is the worst timing to take a sub-150 loss.
  • Nebraska (RPI: 47, KenPom: 57) had their five game winning streak snapped at Illinois on Wednesday. It’s not a killer blow — road losses to top 100 opponents aren’t horrible — but the Huskers had a slim margin of error. They probably can’t afford another loss.
  • Cal (RPI: 52, KenPom: 55) missed an opportunity when they lost at Arizona on Wednesday. They are 6-8 against the top 100 with three top 50 wins — including Arizona — and two sub-100 losses. They’re at Arizona this weekend and host the mountain schools next week.
  • Baylor (RPI: 40, KenPom: 41) lost at Texas, which isn’t a crushing blow. They had played their way out of the First Four prior to Wednesday. Five top 50 wins are nice. A chance to pick off Iowa State and Kansas State on the road are as well.
  • Stanford (RPI: 42, KenPom: 33) lost at Arizona State on Wednesday, which isn’t a brutal blow. They’re probably still comfortably in the tournament. Four top 50 wins, a 6-9 record against the top 100 and no sub-100 losses is a lot better than some other bubble teams.

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.