Erick Green, Markel Brown

Virginia Tech moves to 7-0 with upset of No. 15 Oklahoma State

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We love Oklahoma State here at CBT. We love the team’s grit, the soaring athleticism of LeBryan Nash and the ferocious dunking of Markel Brown. We’re waving the banner of Marcus Smart, who has lived up to his name and his pre-season billing as a fabulous freshman. We haven’t paid much attention to Virginia Tech, a team that fired long-time coach Seth Greenberg and hired relatively unknown James Johnson May 1 of this year. Top recruit Montrezl Harrell fled to Louisville shortly after, and the Hokies seemed to be in full-on rebuilding mode.

Now that Tech is 7-0 with an upset of a strong Oklahoma State team on their resume, is it time to take a second look?

Obviously. Rhetorical questions are so ten minutes ago.

The future does, indeed, still look somewhat shaky for Virginia Tech. The recruiting groundwork laid by Greenberg has been compromised. But Johnson has taken the leftovers and forged a team that could see some postseason play. Maybe not the Big Dance, but still.

The good news in Blacksburg starts with Erick Green. The senior guard stayed put, and has been spectacular for the Hokies. His 28 points against the Cowboys — a season high — included 57% shooting from behind the three-point line. Green can rebound, shoot, handle and pass, and he’s the heart of all the positivity that has clung to the Tech program this year.

Johnson was also able to keep his frontline strong, retaining redshirt junior Cadarian Raines (9.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and true junior Jarell Eddie (17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game) for his maiden voyage on the SS Hokie. 6’5″ sophomore guard Robert Brown is the team’s third-leading scorer, averaging 12.7 per.

According to Kenpom.com, the Hokies are shooting very well (56.2 effective FG%) and controlling the ball. Defensive lapses may yet cost them in a rugged ACC, but for now, the glass is half-full.

James Johnson did the first job any coach has to do when taking over a new team: he retained as many players as he could. It’s nearly impossible to keep everyone in that situation, and Johnson lost some good ones, but he kept some underrated players who give the Hokies leadership and a burning will to win and prove the doubters wrong.

Now, he’s doing the second job a new coach must do: he’s put together the pieces he has, and figured out how to win with them. I was rather impressed when they moved to 6-0 by beating a pretty good Iowa team. Now that they’ve put down a ranked Okie State, I’m very impressed.

With new coach point one taken care of, and new coach point two in progress right now, Johnson is practically playing with house money. If he can keep this team happy and healthy during the upcoming ACC season, and give a good account in televised December games against West Virginia and BYU, he’ll be well on his way to getting a jump on new coach point number three: a dynamite recruiting season that will put his stamp on the program and build a solid future.

That makes him, and the Hokies, worthy of our attention this season.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

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)
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.