Associated Press

No. 2 seed Michigan escapes with a win over No. 11 seed Tennessee

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INDIANAPOLIS — At 39.8 percent from the three-point line, Michigan was one of the best teams in the country at filling it up from the perimeter this season.

In the first half of the No. 2 seed Wolverines’ contest against No. 11 seed Tennessee on Friday, though, Michigan nearly doubled that percentage as the Wolverines came out red-hot on the offensive end behind a balanced effort as six different players scored at least six points and Michigan shot 77.8 percent (7-for-9) from the three-point line. The first-half perimeter shooting helped propel Michigan to a 45-34 halftime lead and the Wolverines never trailed in the second half of their 73-71 win over the Volunteers in a Sweet 16 game in the Midwest Regional at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Michigan shot 55 percent from three-point line (11-for-20) for the game as four players finished in double-figures for the Wolverines.

Tennessee made the game interesting in the final minutes when the Volunteers cut the Michigan lead to 72-71 with 10.8 seconds remaining on a driving layup by senior wing Jordan McRae (24 points). On the ensuing inbounds play, Michigan sophomore guard Caris LeVert (10 points, five assists) touched the baseline out-of-bounds and gave Tennessee a possession with a chance to win the game, trailing 72-71 with 9.6 seconds remaining.

But senior center Jordan Morgan (15 points, seven rebounds) took a charge on Tennessee junior forward Jarnell Stokes (11 points) with six seconds left to give Michigan the ball back. After two Tennessee deflections out of bounds, junior forward Nik Stauskas (14 points) was fouled with 2.1 seconds remaining and split a pair of free throws to give Michigan the 73-71 lead. Off of a Stokes defensive rebound, McRae missed a three-quarters court heave at the buzzer that didn’t come close to seal the Michigan victory.

Stauskas, the 2013-14 Big Ten Player of the Year, has been the focal point for the Michigan offense all season long but on Friday he had plenty of help from a confident group of Wolverine shooters. If Michigan continues to play this well on offense, they look like a serious threat to make it back to the Final Four. Even with sophomore All-American candidate Mitch McGary acting as the NCAA Tournament’s most famous cheerleader from the Michigan bench, the Wolverines have plenty of ammo on the offensive end to beat any team in the country.

Michigan (28-8) decimated Tennessee’s defense in the first half by exploiting mismatches on high ball screens as Stauskas, LeVert and freshman point guard Derrick Walton (nine points, six rebounds, four assists) all did a great job finding open teammates and moving the ball.

Sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III (13 points) and Morgan (15 points, seven rebounds) did damage on the interior from there as the duo was also able to limit the Tennessee interior duo of senior forward Jeronne Maymon and Stokes (11 points) to a combined 13 points.

Michigan’s interior defense and ability to keep Tennessee away from the offensive glass was a key point entering the game and the Wolverines did an admirable job against the bigger Volunteers, limited Tennessee to eight second-chance points.

Freshman wing Zak Irvin also contributed nine points off the bench for Michigan as the freshman from nearby Fishers, Indiana knocked down three three-pointers.

Despite a strong first half from sophomore guard Josh Richardson (19 points), Tennessee (24-13) couldn’t get in an offensive rhythm to match Michigan’s first-half output.

The Volunteers shot 52.6 percent from the field for the game (30-for-57) but couldn’t defend Michigan’s for long enough to get over the hump and make a comeback. Michigan led by double-digits for a large chunk of the early part of the second half and held off the late Tennessee second-half push. Michigan led for the entire second half.

In his final college game, McRae scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the second half.

The Wolverines now move on to face the winner of No. 8 seed Kentucky and No. 4 seed Louisville in Sunday’s Elite 8 contest in Indianapolis.

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.