Brittany Hrynko, Ka'Lia Johnson

Upsets highlight Monday’s women’s tourney action while unbeaten Notre Dame advances

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NCAA Women’s Tournament bracket

Second-round action of the 2014 NCAA Women’s Tournament continued on Monday night as the evening was highlighted by two big upset wins heading into the Sweet 16.

The biggest upset of the night belonged to No. 7 seed DePaul as the Blue Demons knocked off No. 2 seed Duke, 74-65, at Cameron Indoor Stadium. DePaul hit a season-high 14 three-pointers — seven of which came after Duke field goals — as the Blue Devils (28-7) became the first No. 2 seed to lose this early in the tournament since 2011. The Blue Demons (29-6) were led by Megan Rogowski’s 22 points as DePaul has won 18 of its last 19 games.

DePaul moves on to Lincoln for its Sweet 16 game on Saturday against the winner of Texas A&M and James Madison.

The other big upset of the night came courtesy of No. 12 seed BYU, as they toppled No. 4 seed Nebraska, 80-76. Morgan Bailey scored a career-high 18 points and Jennifer Hamson added 15 points and 14 rebounds as the Cougars (28-6) advanced to their first Sweet 16 since 2002. The loss for Nebraska (26-7) means they won’t get to play on its home floor for a potential Sweet 16 game against unbeaten No. 1 seed UConn, who still needs to beat St. Joseph’s tomorrow night to advance.

Unbeaten No. 1 seed Notre Dame moved to 34-0 on the season with an 84-67 win over No. 9 seed Arizona State (23-10). Natalie Achonwa finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds as the Irish moved on to its 12th Sweet 16 appearance in the last 18 years. Notre Dame is the host for the next two rounds, so the Irish will potentially have two home games as they attempt to advance to their fourth consecutive Final Four.

Also moving on was No. 1 seed Tennessee with a 67-51 win over No. 8 seed St. John’s (23-11). Cierra Burdick had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Lady Vols (29-5) as they advance to Louisville for its next game on Sunday.

A pair of No. 2 seeds — Baylor and Stanford — both advanced as well on Monday as Baylor (31-4) defeated No. 7 seed Cal, 75-56, behind senior Odyssey Sims’ 27 points. The Cardinal (31-3) cruised to a 63-44 win over No. 10 Florida State behind a 30-2 run.

No. 3 seed Kentucky (26-8) survived a scare from No. 6 seed Syracuse in Lexington as the Wildcats won 64-59 to move on to face No. 2 seed Baylor while No. 5 seed Oklahoma State (25-8) held off No. 4 seed Purdue with a 73-66 victory as the Cowgirls get a crack at No. 1 seed Notre Dame on its home floor.

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

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.