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Atlantic 10 releases schedule, Dayton to visit VCU on February 28

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The Atlantic 10, which had six teams reach the NCAA tournament last season, released its full schedule on Wednesday and there are a number of quality games on the slate. Dayton, which reached the Elite Eight last year, and VCU are expected to be two of the teams battling it out for conference supremacy in 2014-15 and they’re scheduled to meet just once.

That game will be played on February 28 in Richmond, and the contest should have a major impact on the Atlantic 10 race. Conference play tips off with six games on Saturday, January 3 with three of those contests scheduled to be broadcast on NBC Sports Network. Among those games is Davidson’s inaugural game as an Atlantic 10 member, with Bob McKillop’s Wildcats hosting Dayton. The other games to be played on that day are Dayton hosting Duquesne and Rhode Island visiting reigning regular season champion Saint Louis.

Some other conference games that will be interesting to watch are:

– VCU at Rhode Island, January 13: URI’s received some attention this offseason, with the expectation being that Dan Hurley’s team will take a step forward in 2014-15. We’ll learn some things about E.C. Matthews and company when VCU visits the Ryan Center.

– Dayton at Massachusetts, January 29: The Minutemen lost Chaz Williams but they return some key pieces from last season, and West Virginia transfer Jabarie Hinds is now eligible to play. The combination of their style of play and Dayton’s depth should make for a good contest in Amherst.

– VCU at George Washington, February 14: There are some good college basketball matchups scheduled for Valentine’s Day and this is one of them. Mike Lonergan’s building a good program at George Washington, and the Colonials should be among the contenders in the Atlantic 10 this season.

– Saint Louis at Duquesne, February 25: The Billikens will have to replace a very successful senior class, a group that included Jordair Jett and Dwayne Evans Jr. Can Jim Crews keep the momentum going? That’s one of the big questions hovering over the A-10 this offseason. This game will include a Duquesne team led by guards Micah Mason and Derrick Colter.

– La Salle at Saint Joseph’s, March 4: Both teams took some key personnel hits at the end of last season, but it doesn’t get much better than a battle between Big 5 rivals (not sure which of their two meetings will count in the Big 5 standings). And by this point in the season, Saint Joseph’s sophomore DeAndre Bembry could be regarded as one of the best players in the conference.

The NBC Sports Network Atlantic 10 schedule (conference games):

January 3: Duquesne at Dayton, 1:00 p.m.
January 3: Rhode Island at Saint Louis, 3:00 p.m.
January 3: Richmond at Davidson, 5:00 p.m.

January 8: George Mason at Richmond, 7:00 p.m.

January 10: George Washington at La Salle, 12:30 p.m.

January 17: Saint Louis at Dayton, 12:30 p.m.
January 17: Rhode Island at Massachusetts, 2:30 p.m.
January 17: George Mason at George Washington, 4:30 p.m.

January 18: Saint Joseph’s at St. Bonaventure, 2:30 p.m.

January 22: George Washington at Fordham, 7:00 p.m.

January 31: Davidson at Saint Joseph’s, 12:30 p.m.

February 5: Richmond at La Salle, 6:30 p.m.

February 7: VCU at St. Bonaventure, 2:00 p.m.
February 7: Saint Louis at Fordham, 4:00 p.m.

February 8: Rhode Island at Richmond, 2:30 p.m.

February 14: St. Bonaventure at Dayton, 12:30 p.m.

February 15: Saint Joseph’s at Fordham, 2:30 p.m.

February 21: Dayton at Duquesne, 2:00 p.m.

February 22: La Salle at Saint Louis, 2:30 p.m.

February 28: Rhode Island at La Salle, 12:30 p.m.

March 7: Massachusetts at George Washington, 3:30 p.m.
March 7: George Mason at VCU, 5:30 p.m.

NBC Sports Network will also air the second round and quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament, which runs from March 11-15 and will once again be played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

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.

VIDEO: Jim Boeheim makes TV appearance to talk Carmelo Anthony

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Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has drawn attention for some recent comments about former Orange star Carmelo Anthony.

After Anthony captured his record third gold medal with USA Basketball, his former college coach told Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard that Anthony didn’t have a great chance at winning an NBA title.

“He’s unlikely to win an NBA title,” Boeheim said of Anthony. “He’s never been on a team that even had a remote chance of winning an NBA title.”

Boeheim maintains that he was speaking of Melo’s legacy being about more than an NBA title and that he’s one of the game’s greats thanks to other accomplishments like the Syracuse title and gold medals. On SportsCenter, Boeheim made sure to stress where those comments were coming from, while also making sure his kids would stop being mad at him.

It’s much easier to understand where Boeheim is coming from in this instance and it clears up something that will probably go away now.