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Bubble Banter: Saturday’s winners and losers

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There are 15 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.

(This post will be updated throughout the day)

WINNERS

Oklahoma State: The Pokes beat Kansas, which should just about lock up a bid.

Xavier: We wrote about the Musketeer’s here.

Dayton: The Flyers landed a massive win on Saturday, hanging on to knock off UMass at home in a game they desperately needed. Dayton had played their way back into bubble contention at losing four straight games in January, but with three sub-100 losses on their resume, a 3-5 record against the top 50 wasn’t enough. Based on the RPI, UMass is now Dayton’s best win on the season. Don’t be surprised to see the Flyers hosting a game in the First Four when brackets are re-released on Monday.

Tennessee and Missouri: The Vols notched their eighth top 100 win on Saturday by blowing out Vanderbilt. Tennessee was out the tournament as of today, according to our Dave Ommen, and beating Vanderbilt certainly doesn’t change that fact. The Tigers, on the other hand, were in the dance, and they handled their business against Mississippi State. Tennessee’s finale against Missouri could end up being a play-in game.

Arkansas: There was no hangover for the Razorbacks, as they followed up a win at Kentucky by knocking off Georgia, who was third in the SEC, at home. The Razorbacks are looking like they will end up sitting right around the cutline on Selection Sunday, meaning that any loss that they suffer will hurt.

Baylor: The Bears bounced back from a loss to Texas this week by beating Texas Tech in Waco on Saturday. It’s their fifth win in the last six games and likely keeps Scott Drew’s team on the right side of the bubble as we head into the final week of the regular season. The Bears host Iowa State and visit Kansas State next week. I’d suggest at least a split.

Pitt: The Panthers won in overtime at Notre Dame, which means that Pitt is still comfortably in the NCAA tournament for now. Jame Dixon will be dancing as long as they don’t do anything silly like lose to N.C. State or Clemson.

Oregon: The Ducks followed up Thursday night’s win at UCLA by knocking off USC on the road. At this point, they are probably safely in the tournament, but with Arizona and Arizona State coming to Eugene next week, two straight losses and an early exit in the Pac-12 tournament could put them into an ugly position on Selection Sunday.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs knocked off Saint Mary’s in impressive fashion in Moraga. That’s a good win. But the Zags are still in a precarious position should they lose early in the WCC tournament. They have one top 50 win (BYU) and two sub-150 losses. An 8-4 record against the top 100 does look good, however.

St. Joseph’s: The Hawks keep themselves in a good spot with their 17th win in the last 20 games, this one coming on the road against St. Bonaventure. It’s their seventh top 100 win this season. Split George Washington on the road and La Salle at home and St. Joe’s should be dancing.

Nebraska: The Huskers bounced back from a loss to Illinois last week to knock off Northwestern at home on Saturday. It was a loss Tim Miles’ team couldn’t afford. Right now, they are probably on the wrong side of the bubble, but they have two key games next week to change that. Beating Indiana at Indiana is important, but picking up a win at home over Wisconsin in the season finale would likely lock up a tournament bid.

BYU: The Cougars avoided getting tripped up at San Diego on Saturday, meaning that they will head into the WCC on a four-game winning streak and having won eight of their last nine game. They probably need to make a run to the title game simply because an earlier exit will likely result in an ugly looking loss.

Utah: The Utes are a perfect example of why it’s important to play a tough non-conference schedule. Their win over Colorado on Saturday was their fourth top-35 win. They have just one loss outside the top 80. But they’re not all that close to a bid thanks to their atrocious non-conference schedule. They need to win at Cal and at Stanford next weekend to have a chance.

West Virginia: The tournament hopes of the Mountaineers’ are a bit of a pipe dream at this point, but they knocked off TCU on Saturday which means that, with wins at Oklahoma and over Kansas to close out the regular season, WVU will have a chance. It’s a long shot, but they still have a shot.

LOSERS

Colorado: The Buffaloes dropped a potentially costly game at Utah. It was their second straight loss after winning five of six, and with road trips to Stanford and Cal next week, that streak could realistically get extended to four straight losses. That could be a problem, as Colorado is going to be judged based on what they’ve done since Spencer Dinwiddie went down with an ACL injury. One win next week should be enough.

Minnesota: The Golden Gophers couldn’t build on a massive win over Iowa during the week, falling at Michigan on Saturday evening. Minnesota finishes their season next Saturday at home against Penn State. With a 3-8 record against the top 50, including a win over Wisconsin, and a 6-10 record against the top 100 — along with two sub-100 losses — Rick Pitino’s club looks like they might need to do some damage in the Big Ten tournament to feel safe.

Cal: The Bears didn’t have much fun on their trip to the Arizona schools, getting worked by both the Wildcats and, on Saturday, the Sun Devils. They’ve lost three of their last four and are now just 3-8 against the top 50. They have a nice win over Arizona, but that’s balanced out by a pair of sub-100 losses. They get Utah and Colorado at home next week. One would help. They might want both to feel safe.

LSU: The Tigers had a chance to pick up a statement win at Florida, but they got smacked around for 40 minutes. It’s their fourth loss in the last six games, and they simply have too many bad losses and no more chances for good wins. LSU looks destined for the NIT.

Richmond: If getting blown out by George Mason didn’t cost the Spiders an at-large bid, getting blown out by Rhode Island did.

N.C. State: I’m not even sure that the Wolfpack were still technically on the bubble, but after losing by 15 to Miami at home, they’re now on that ‘auto-bid or bust’ game plan.

Games left to be played:

  • 7:00 Iowa State at Kansas State
  • 10:00 Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s

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.