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Baylor should no longer be mentioned as an elite team

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source: Reuters

Twenty-three days after Kansas handed Baylor their first loss of the season, Bill Self’s team entered the Ferrell Center in Waco, TX on Wednesday night and did it again.

After falling behind 7-0 in the opening minutes, the Jayhawks, behind 25 points from center Jeff Withey and 19 from guard Tyshawn Taylor, were in control by the 16-minute mark of the second half, winning by a final of 68-54.

It didn’t start as a game that looked on its way to a 14-point Kansas win. In fact, questions about Baylor’s defense looked to be answered, to some extent.

Working mostly in the zone, the Bears denied Thomas Robinson the basketball and collapsed on him when he found space in the paint. He had just four points before sitting for the final four and a half minutes of the first half.

But it wasn’t the Player of the Year candidate Robinson that turned out to be the biggest problem on the block for Baylor. It was Withey, the 7-footer who posted a double-double in the first meeting of these teams, who made the difference.

With all the attention on Robinson, Withey’s ability to find openings on the interior deteriorated the Baylor defense and negated much of the athleticism that typically makes the Bears so effective.

As Rob Dauster has pointed out, it’s not an isolated problem. West Virginia’s Kevin Jones, a team effort from BYU, and Robinson, in their first matchup, have all had big nights against Baylor.

In addition to those defensive problems, offensive problems from their stars buried them against Kansas.

Quincy Miller and Perry Jones III, two future lottery picks playing in front of scouts from 17 NBA teams, were both rendered ineffective, shooting a combined 2-of-12 from the floor and finishing with eight points between them.

Jones III has had some difficulties against teams that can pressure him on the interior. Against No. 14 Mississippi State, he had eight points. Against West Virginia he had four points on 2-of-9 shooting. Against No. 5 Missouri, he had eight points.

Baylor was 2-1 in those games, winning by a combined margin of four points.

So what does it mean? We talked about North Carolina’s inclusion in the “elite teams” in the nation and it is now clear: Baylor is not in that group. Top 10 team? Yes. But not belonging in the same tier as Kentucky, Syracuse, UNC, and a few others.

Scott Drew’s team is now 0-3 against Top 10 teams, which makes it difficult to say with confidence that the Bears have the firepower to make it to the Final Four in New Orleans.

A shaky defense, which is many times reluctant to break from the zone, paired with an absent Perry Jones III in some big spots, and Kansas and Missouri look like better contenders for the Big 12 crown and more likely to make a run in March.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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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.