Jay Bilas

Jay Bilas is allowed one bad idea each offseason, and this is the one

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Earlier on Wednesday, ESPN’s resident college hoops handyman, Jay Bilas, posted a column that argued the elimination of two-thirds of 350ish teams currently participating at the Division I level.

Essentially, Bilas is saying that since there are so money non-competitive, uninteresting guarantee games that take place in November and December that we can drum up interest in college hoops by eliminating the supply.

In other words, he wants to force the best teams in the country to have to challenge themselves early in the year:

With a smaller field, the quality of matchups during the regular season will improve because teams will not have such a wide range of cupcakes to schedule. Is there really any compelling reason for Kentucky to play Marist, Radford, Portland, and Chattanooga at Rupp? Does anyone outside of Lexington care to see those matchups? Does it make any more sense than playing Transylvania or Morehouse, the Cats’ exhibition games?

Does it move anyone to see North Carolina play Elon, Nicholls, Mississippi Valley State, Monmouth or Tennessee State at home?

Personally, I not only hate the idea, but I don’t see how it would be feasible to pull off without eliminating the best parts of the NCAA tournament.

If this move was made ten years ago, would George Mason, VCU, Butler and St. Mary’s have been on the wrong side of the chopping block? What about the Murray States, Lehighs, Belmonts and Norfolk States of the world? How do you pick which programs to keep around from leagues like the Missouri Valley or the CAA?

Bilas brings up the idea of allowing the conference champions from the leagues that get demoted to partake in the NCAA tournament. Ok. That might save the cinderellas, but is that any different than setting an NCAA-wide ban on how poorly a team is allowed to schedule? Would that be any different than requiring a certain non-conference strength of schedule to be eligible for an at-large bid?

Bilas has good intentions here. The goal is to make the regular season in college hoops more meaningful, and it is inarguable that better hoops in November and December is a good thing for the sport.

Well, here’s an idea: let’s find a way to get non-conference rivalries that people care about to take place. (Looking at you, Kansas-Missouri.) Or maybe we can find a way to convince non-traditional programs to play games that people outside of Rupp Arena will care about. Keeping out marquee matchups should take priority to kicking out the smaller programs.

And hey, if Bilas really wants to make the regular season matter, he might want to take a look at the College Hoops Champions League.

Jay Bilas is much, much smarter than me.

He should be able to come up with a better idea for improving college basketball than this.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

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)
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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.