Albany Great Danes head coach Will Brown shouts instructions to his team while playing against the Duke Blue Devils during the first half of their second round NCAA tournament game in Philadelphia

NCAA Tournament Primer: Albany Great Danes

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Get to know all of the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids here.

Conference: America East Conference

Coach: Will Brown

Record: 17-14 (9-7 America East)

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 195
– RPI: 199
– AP/USA Today: None

Seeding?: 16

Names you need to know: Peter Hooley (15.7 ppg, 40 percent from three); Sam Rowley (11.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg); DJ Evans (11 ppg, 2.8 apg); John Puk (5.7 percent block rate)

Stats you need to know: Albany flew under the America East radar this season thanks to seven conference losses (though only two of those losses were by double-digits). Brown’s squad isn’t an offensive juggernaut — 1.03 points per AE possession — and the Danes’ goal is to consistently attack the bucket. Nearly 50 percent of their shots are at the rim, with many of those attempts taken by Rowley and Gary Johnson, a 6-foot-6 senior who leads the squad in two-point field goal percentage (53.1 percent). Similar to the Albany team that danced last season, a stout defensive effort is demanded by Brown each time the SUNY school takes the floor. The Danes’ defensive efficiency rating is second in AE play, and their constant switching between man, 2-3, and 3-2 defenses kept Stony Brook off-balance during Albany’s AE final win.

Tendencies: The offense flows through Hooley and Rowley, two of Albany’s several Australians on the roster. The duo leads the team in percentage of shots attempted, and while Rowley prefers to work within the paint, using his heft to bully opposing defenders, Hooley’s game is a bit more diverse — the sophomore made 40 percent of his threes. But because the Danes aren’t going to offensively overrun teams, Albany needs to control the game’s pace, using a glacial strategy that involves going deep into the shot clock before unleashing their attempt — Albany uses just 63 possessions per game, 317th slowest nationally — and since their defense is so stingy and yields few offensive rebounds, additional possessions, and easy buckets, fail to materialize for Albany opponents.

Big wins, bad losses: Save for a late January win at home against Stony Brook, Albany did not have any big wins until the league tournament tipped. Perhaps a close lose to Pitt could be counted as a moral victory, but dropped games to UMass-Lowell and Duquesne weren’t great. The Danes didn’t begin to roll until the AE tournament semis, beating top seeded Vermont, a win which catapulted Albany to their match-up, and eventual victory, over Stony Brook.

How’d they get here?: Handcuffing Stony Brook (.89 PPP) in the America East final, winning 69-60.

Outlook: The America East representative has won just two tournament games within the past decade, and both wins were secured by Vermont (2012, over Lamar; 2005, over Syracuse), so while Albany lost only two players from s squad that won the league’s auto bid last season, it is hard to see Albany advancing past their first contest. However, the combination of NCAA tourney experience, a slow pace, and continuously switching defenses might confuse their opening round opponent.

How do I know you?: Brown has been Albany’s head coach for much of the 21st century, taking the bench’s first seat for the 2001-02 season. He’s led the Danes to four NCAA tournament appearances — 2006, ’07, ’13, and now ’14 — and is regarded as one of the nation’s most underrated coaches.

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.