Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic - Brigham Young v Florida State

Christmas Wish Lists: Florida State needs the Kung-Fu Grip

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: Interior defense

It seems absurd to say that Florida State lacks defense. If there’s one thing a Seminoles fan could count on throughout the Leonard Hamilton era, it’s that the team could lock down, even on nights when the ball wasn’t finding the nets. Last season, FSU finished 15th defensively, and the two years before that, they were No. 1 in back to back seasons. What’s changed? Opponents are now shooting nearly 48 percent inside, a figure unheard of in recent seasons in Tallahassee. The ‘Noles clearly miss former Air Force Staff Sergeant Bernard James, who averaged more than two blocked shots per game for his career as a Seminole, but he was hardly the only one doing the job right; Xavier Gibson also helped form the wall inside in past seasons. This year, Kiel Turpin, Michael Ojo and Boris Bojanovsky — all legit seven-footers — have combined to prove conclusively that sheer size without positioning and technique amounts to very little.

Stocking Stuffer: Windex

Nobody’s cleaning the glass any more, and that’s killing these guys. The only player who seems to have the knack so far is 6’8″ junior Terrance Shannon, and the fouls are starting to mount up on him as he claws for each board. Shannon had a 15/10 double-double against St. Joe’s this season before he copped a DQ, and he had four-foul evenings against South Alabama, BYU, Mercer and Florida. Even if Shannon could do it all without getting into foul trouble, why should he have to? Someone else — if not several someone elses — needs to put in some elbow grease at window-cleaning time.

Planning on re-gifting: Haste

I know I’m getting some dirty looks now. Yes, I am saying that Florida State needs to slow the heck down. They’ve never been burners under Hamilton, but right now, they’re playing much faster than they did in past seasons when they excelled. This year’s team is hitting a pace of 72 possessions per 40 minutes. According to Basketball State, that’s above the national average and the ACC average so far. That’s causing their turnovers to go up, and their scoring to go down. FSU was built to be a bear, not a cheetah.

Clearly, everything on this wish list is tied together. The ‘Noles offense and defense are predicated on a slower pace and great rebounding, things that happen organically when there’s a big man in the middle who knows his business. The team is suffering because there’s no reliable post presence on either end of the floor. Assists are down, and the ball is going up faster and from farther away, because there’s no impetus to pound it inside right now. If they can’t handle the likes of South Alabama and Mercer, imagine what Mason Plumlee will do to them.

Florida State has big men, so they don’t need any more 7-foot-plus boxes under the tree. Maybe just an accessories package; something that replicates the old G.I. James kung-fu grip.

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.