Joel Embiid, Scottie Wilbekin

Bracketology: Eight teams in play for No. 1 seeds

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Championship Week begins tomorrow.  It’s time to start handing out Dance tickets.

The two teams leading our March Madness Gala … Florida and Arizona.  The Gators and Wildcats both have the opportunity to enter the NCAA Tournament dance as the overall No. 1 seed.  Should both win their remaining games – including conference tournament titles – the edge will likely to go Arizona.  Not that it’s that critical this year because the two teams are geographically separated.  Florida will lead the South Region; Arizona the West.  A year ago, when Louisville and Indiana were battling for the top spot in the Midwest, and a route through Indianapolis, that top position meant more.

Wichita State begins Missouri Valley Tournament play today in St. Louis.  The Shockers ended the regular season without a blemish.  If they win three more under the Arch, expect WSU to be a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday.  Kansas continues to hold the final No. 1 slot.  Four other teams are chasing the top line: Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, and Villanova.  Recent struggles make it difficult for Syracuse to regain a No. 1 seed.

MORE: Duke-UNC headlines a packed college hoops weekend

It’s going to be another busy week on the bubble.  With so many teams tightly bunched around the cutline we’ll find out who plays their way in or out.  Keep a close eye on conference tournaments in the Big East, Atlantic 10, SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12.  In particular, those leagues have several teams with an uncertain prognosis.

Those same teams will be watching conference tournaments in the Missouri Valley and Horizon League, among others.  If Wichita State were to lose, one less at-large berth will be available.  And what if Green Bay reaches the Horizon final and loses a close game?  Whether or not the Phoenix would earn an at-large bid is up for debate.  But they will certainly be discussed inside the Selection Committee bunker.

Enjoy the Madness.

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid based on current standings with RPI as a tiebreaker for teams with the same number of losses. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UCLA, BYU, etc).

Several new bracketing principles were introduced after last year’s tournament. You can read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com. For example: teams from the same conference may now meet before a Regional final, even if fewer than eight teams are selected. The goal is to keep as many teams as possible on their actual seed line.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Missouri vs. Dayton | Midwest Region
  • Pittsburgh vs. BYU | West Region
  • ALABAMA STATE vs. UTAH VALLEY | South Region
  • WEBER STATE vs. HIGH POINT | Midwest Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

SOUTH – Memphis WEST Anaheim                             
Orlando San Diego
1) FLORIDA 1) ARIZONA
16) UTAH VALLEY / ALABAMA ST 16) ROBERT MORRIS
8) Baylor 8) SMU
9) GONZAGA 9) Oklahoma State
Spokane Orlando
5) Louisville 5) Oklahoma
12) LOUISIANA TECH 12) BYU / Pittsburgh
4) North Carolina 4) Michigan State
13) NORTH DAKOTA ST 13) BELMONT
San Antonio Buffalo
6) NEW MEXICO 6) Ohio State
11) GREEN BAY 11) Stanford
3) Creighton 3) Syracuse
14) GEORGIA STATE 14) BOSTON UNIVERSITY
Milwaukee Buffalo
7) SAINT LOUIS 7) Kansas State
10) Oregon 10) Saint Joseph’s
2) MICHIGAN 2) VILLANOVA
15) DAVIDSON 15) UC-IRVINE
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
St. Louis St. Louis
1) KANSAS 1) WICHITA STATE
16) FLA GULF COAST 16) WEBER ST / HIGH POINT
8) Memphis 8) Iowa
9) George Washington 9) Arizona State
Spokane San Diego
5) UCLA 5) Texas
12) HARVARD 12) Missouri / Dayton
4) San Diego State 4) Duke
13) DELAWARE 13) TOLEDO
Raleigh San Antonio
6) Kentucky 6) Connecticut
11) Georgetown 11) Xavier
3) CINCINNATI 3) Iowa State
14) S.F. AUSTIN 14) IONA
Raleigh Milwaukee
7) Massachusetts 7) VCU
10) Colorado 10) Arkansas
2) VIRGINIA 2) Wisconsin
15) VERMONT 15) NC-CENTRAL

NOTES on the BRACKET: Florida remains the overall No. 1 seed followed by Arizona, Wichita State, and Kansas.

Last Five teams in (at large): Georgetown, BYU, Dayton, Pittsburgh, Missouri

First Five teams out (at large): California, Tennessee, Providence, Nebraska, Minnesota

Next five teams out (at large): Florida State, St. John’s, LSU, Clemson, Southern Miss

Breakdown by Conference …

Big 12 (7): Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State

Pac 12 (6): Arizona, UCLA, Stanford, Arizona State, Oregon, Colorado

Atlantic 10 (6): Massachusetts, VCU, Saint Louis, George Washington, Saint Joseph’s, Dayton

Big Ten (5): Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin

ACC (5): Duke, Virginia, Syracuse, North Carolina, Pittsburgh

American (5): Louisville, Memphis, Connecticut, Cincinnati, SMU

SEC (4): Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Arkansas

Big East (4): Creighton, Villanova, Xavier, Georgetown

Mountain West (2): New Mexico, San Diego State

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, BYU

Missouri Valley (1): Wichita State

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … Louisiana Tech (C-USA), Belmont (Ohio Valley), Georgia State (Sun Belt), Boston University (Patriot), North Dakota State (Summit), Green Bay (Horizon), Davidson (Southern), Utah Valley (WAC), Iona (MAAC), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Toledo (MAC), Florida Gulf Coast (A-Sun), Harvard (IVY), UC-Irvine (Big West), Delaware (Colonial), Vermont (American East), Weber State (Big Sky), NC-Central (MEAC), High Point (Big South), Robert Morris (NEC), Alabama State (SWAC)

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)
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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.