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Pregame Shootaround: Can Friday match Thursday’s excitement?

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FRIDAY’S SCHEDULE (all times ET)

12:15 p.m.: No. 3 Duke vs. No. 14 Mercer (CBS)
12:30 p.m.: No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 11 Nebraska (Tru TV)
1:30 p.m.: No. 7 New Mexico vs. No. 10 Stanford (TBS)
2:00 p.m.: No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Weber State (TNT)
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2:30 p.m.: No. 6 UMass vs. No. 11 Tennessee (CBS)
3:00 p.m.: No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette (Tru TV)
4:00 p.m.: No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Eastern Kentucky (TBS)
4:30 p.m.: No. 8 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State (TNT)
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6:55 p.m.: No. 8 Memphis vs. No. 9 George Washington (TBS)
7:00 p.m.: No. 1 Wichita State vs. No. 16 Cal Poly (CBS)
7:15 p:m.: No. 6 North Carolina vs. No. 11 Providence (TNT)
7:25 p.m.: No. 5 VCU vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin (Tru-TV)
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9:15 p.m.: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 16 Coastal Carolina (TBS)
9:30 p.m.: No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas State (CBS)
9:45 p.m.: No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 14 North Carolina Central (TNT)
9:55 p.m.: No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 13 Tulsa (Tru-TV)

RECAP: Catch up on all of Thursday’s NCAA tournament action

GAME OF THE DAY: No. 7 New Mexico vs. No. 10 Stanford

The game itself is all kinds of intriguing. Stanford actually has the kind of size and versatility up front that could give the Lobos all kinds of problems, which Chasson Randle will be a tough cover for Kendall Williams. But there is also a lot riding on this game. You see, New Mexico, if they can get past the Cardinal, look like a team that could beat No. 2 seed Kansas in the Round of 32.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 8 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State

Marcus Smart has been playing some of the best basketball of his collegiate career since he got back from his suspension. When he plays this way — not forcing shots, not turning the ball over, within the framework of the offense, etc. — the Cowboys are a dangerous, and Gonzaga doesn’t really have anyone that can guard him and Markel Brown. The problem? Gonzaga has a big, physical front line, which is their strength this season, and Oklahoma State’s front court depth is non-existent. Foul trouble for Le’Bryan Nash will be the key.

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WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 6 UMass vs. No. 11 Tennessee

I love Chaz Williams, but I’m not sure the top of the Atlantic 10 is quite as good as we made them out to be. Antonio Barton will have his work cut out slowing Williams down, but if he can, the Minutemen are going to have a nightmares about the physicality of Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes. Look for a big day from Jordan McRae.

WHO ELSE IS GETTING UPSET?: No. 5 VCU vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin

Stephen F. Austin has been a trendy pick all week long, and I don’t blame anyone that went with them in their bracket. It looks all the more likely now that Melvin Johnson is out for VCU. He’s their best shooter, and where the Rams struggle is when you can bog them down in the half court. No Johnson makes them that much less effective in a slow-paced game.

WATCH: Cameron Ridley’s buzzer-beater | Vee Sanford’s game-winner

FOUR KEY INDIVIDUAL MATCHUPS

  • No. 6 North Carolina vs. No. 11 Providence: Marcus Paige vs. Bryce Cotton, two of the nation’s most underappreciated point guards. It won’t get much better than that.
  • No. 3 Duke vs. No. 14 Mercer: Two matchups here that will be fun to watch: how Mercer tries to slow down Jabari Parker, and how Duke matches up with Langston Hall.
  • No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas State: Julius Randle is usually bothered by length more than strength. Kansas State has a ton of strength up front, but they’re not all that big.
  • No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette: With the obvious acknowledgement that Doug McDermott and Elfrid Payton are the two stars, I think the matchup between Ethan Wragge and Shawn Long will be the key. Long is a big and burly post, Wragge is not. But Wragge has range out to 30 feet, and Long isn’t going to want to chase him all over the floor.

YOU CAN IGNORE THESE (UNLESS THEY’RE CLOSE LATE!):

  • No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Weber State
  • No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Eastern Kentucky
  • No. 1 Wichita State vs. No. 16 Cal Poly
  • No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 16 Coastal Carolina

NOTABLES

  • No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 11 Nebraska: The Cornhuskers have one of the nation’s most clutch shooters and best bad shot makers in Terran Petteway. How will he do against Baylor’s zone defense?
  • No. 8 Memphis vs. No. 9 George Washington: Perhaps the most intriguing tactical matchup of the day: how will the Tigers handle GW’s 1-3-1 zone?
  • No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 14 North Carolina Central: NCCU’s head coach LeVelle Moton’s one-year old son is in the hospital after having hot coffee spilled on him. The good news? LeVelle Jr. should be fine.
  • No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 13 Tulsa: Danny Manning’s Golden Hurricane better find a way to slow down UCLA’s run-and-gun game.

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.