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Oregon finds a way to pick up needed victory at UCLA (VIDEO)

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When news broke just a couple hours before Thursday’s game that UCLA guards Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams were suspended one game for a violation of team rules, it seemed to be a formality that Oregon would pick up a much-needed victory. Sure the Bruins still had some talented players available, but to expect UCLA to be a threat after losing its top two scorers seemed to be a bit much.

But that wasn’t the case, with UCLA putting up a greater fight than most expected and Oregon seemingly doing its best to make sure the Bruins hung around. After getting off to a good start offensively the Ducks slowed down in the second half, with UCLA’s 2-3 zone factoring into the issues experienced by Dana Altman’s team. Given the number of quality guards at Altman’s disposal this wasn’t the expectation, but far too often the Ducks failed to attack the middle of the UCLA zone.

And then there were the final seconds of regulation, with the Ducks losing track of David Wear after a Joseph Young free throw with 1.3 seconds remaining. After Young made the shot he was looking to miss Travis Wear fired a strike to his twin brother, with David knocking down the 30-footer as time expired. Oregon would have to work five more minutes of the win, and after the two teams combined to score four points in the first extra session five more.

Ultimately Young (26 points) and Mike Moser (12 points, 20 rebounds and five assists) would lead the Ducks to the 87-83 double overtime win, keeping alive their hopes of getting hot and earning a spot in the NCAA tournament. Oregon was able to win not only because of their outlasting UCLA, but also their advantages in points off turnovers and second-chance points. Oregon converted 11 UCLA turnovers into 18 points (+11 advantage) and rebounded 39.5% of their missed shots, scoring 17 second-chance points (+12).

Of course those are two areas in which Anderson and Adams have been so influential this season, as they’re also UCLA’s top two rebounders and Anderson the leader in assists. Oregon did much of its work in these areas early, leading by as much as 15 early in the second half. But the Ducks’ ability to make things difficult on themselves has been a theme of sorts in the majority of their conference games, and that was once again the case on Thursday night.

However given Oregon’s status as a bubble team it’s the result that matters. Some will look to add an asterisk of sorts to this result given the absence of Anderson and Adams, and while this would be fair it isn’t Oregon’s fault that they were suspended. Regardless of who was on the court for UCLA, Oregon had to get the win regardless of how long it took. And after fifty minutes of basketball, the Ducks accomplished that task.

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.