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Florida State, SMU advance to Postseason NIT semifinals

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Wednesday’s two NIT quarterfinal contests came down to last-second shots, with one being missed and another being made. As a result of those outcomes Florida State and SMU advanced to the semifinals to be played Tuesday night in New York. The Seminoles, with George Clinton in attendance (he and FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton are friends), held on to beat Louisiana Tech 78-75 after nearly blowing an eight-point lead in the game’s final 38.9 seconds.

Aaron Thomas accounted for 21 points and nine rebounds and Okaro White added 20 points and eight rebounds for Florida State, which managed to limit the Bulldogs to 35.6% shooting from the field. What made things tougher than they needed to be for Florida State was their turnover count, with the Seminoles committing 15 against Louisiana Tech’s pressure defense. Next up for the Seminoles is Minnesota, which beat Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on December 3.

Kenneth Smith led Louisiana Tech with 16 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, but he and fellow guard Alex Hamilton (nine points) combined to shoot 8-for-26 from the field.

SMU eliminated Cal 67-65, with Nic Moore’s three-pointer with 6.5 seconds remaining being the difference. Markus Kennedy paced the Mustangs, the last team left out of the NCAA tournament field, with 19 points to go along with ten rebounds. SMU won despite the fact that Cal shot 51.6% from the field due to their rebounding, as they managed to grab 51.5% of their misses on the night. SMU will face Clemson in Tuesday’s semifinals.

Cal once again played without senior center Richard Solomon, who missed his third straight game after suffering a concussion. Freshman Jabari Bird led the Golden Bears with 20 points and senior point guard Justin Cobbs added 18 along with seven assists in his final college game.

CBI: Siena, Fresno State advance to championship series

The three-game championship series is set, with Siena and Fresno State advancing with wins on Wednesday. Jimmy Patsos’ Saints defeated Illinois State 61-49 thanks to their solid defense and an standout performance from forward Brett Bisping. Siena limited Illinois State to 30% shooting from the field and 2-for-21 shooting from beyond the arc, and Bisping tallied 20 points and 13 rebounds. Siena will host games two and (if necessary) three of the series, which begins Monday at Fresno State.

The Bulldogs will host the opener, and they clinched their spot with a 71-64 win over Old Dominion. Marvelle Harris scored 20 points but the big difference was at the foul line, where Fresno State outscored the visiting Monarchs by 19 points (27-8). Four Bulldogs scored in double figures, and as a team Rodney Terry’s team shot 52.6% from the field.

CIT: Pacific, VMI and Yale reach semifinals

Three of the four spots in the CIT semis were determined Wednesday, with two of the games being decided by a total of five points. VMI held off Ohio 92-90, as Rodney Glasgow scored 30 points and D.J. Covington added 29 to go along with 11 rebounds to pace the Keydets. Nick Kellogg scored 30 points and Maurice Ndour added 26 to lead the way for the Bobcats. VMI’s opponent in Friday’s semifinal round will be Yale, which beat Ivy League rival Columbia 72-69 at Levien Gym. Javier Duren scored 33 points and nine rebounds to lead the visiting Bulldogs.

Pacific will play the winner of Thursday’s Murray State/Towson matchup as a result of their 75-60 win over WCC foe San Diego. Andrew Bock scored 23 points and Tony Gill added 18 and 11 rebounds for the Tigers, which lost to the Toreros by 15 points back on February 15 in Stockton (the road team won both regular season meetings). Duda Sanadze scored 16 points off the bench for San Diego.

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)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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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)
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)
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.