Florida v Arizona

College Hoops Week in Review: Five Thoughts

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Butler’s win will resonate: At face value alone, Butler’s win over Indiana on Saturday was huge. Ignoring the fact that the Bulldogs, you know, beat the No. 1 team in the country, that No. 1 team also happened to be an in-state rival that had begun promoting the idea that Butler was back in their role as the little brother. Those bragging rights won’t soon be forgotten.

But it’s also worth noting that the official announcement that the Big East’s Catholic 7 would be leaving the conference came during the first half of the game, and, as seemingly everyone is reporting, the Bulldogs are way up on the list of teams that group will be looking to bring into their new league. That’s quite a convincing argument for inclusion, isn’t it?

What does Saturday’s result say about Florida and Arizona?: Here’s the funny thing about sports: no one walked away from Arizona’s win on Saturday night against Florida thinking that the Wildcats were the better team. With the exception of collapses in the final minutes of both halves, Florida completely dominated Arizona. They controlled tempo, they kept Arizona from getting quality looks, and they executed their offense to perfection, routinely and calmly scoring at the end of a shot clock over and over again. I came away from that game thinking that Florida could win a national title, and that Arizona will be good enough to make it to the second weekend of the tournament if their big men continue to develop.

But Arizona won the game, which, for me, highlighted the one, potentially fatal flaw for this Florida team: the point guard spot. In critical moments, at the end of both halves, Florida completely lost the ability to handle the ball, the ability to run offense, the ability to break a press. They missed crucial free throws. They even looked nervous in those final seconds against Arizona’s pressure. That’s not a good sign, but it doesn’t change the fact that I still believe Florida is one of the five best teams in the country and Arizona isn’t.

What about the state of the Pac-12?: The fact that Arizona actually was able to come back and win this game is huge for the Pac-12. It simply cannot be understated how badly this team and this league needed a marquee win this season. The biggest reason that the Pac-12 managed just two NCAA tournament bids a season ago — and an NIT trip for regular season champion Washington — is that they did nothing or note in non-conference play. This year, the league has already strung together a couple handfuls of good wins, but nothing close to as noteworthy as beating a top five team. Arizona’s win brings credibility to their resume, which, in turn, will boost their opponent’s RPI every time they play a league game.

And the SEC?: The SEC had just an awful weekend. Georgia lost at home to Iona. Mississippi State lost to Loyola (IL). Texas A&M lost to Oklahoma. LSU got hammered by Boise State. Alabama was drubbed by VCU (at one point, the Crimson Tide went 17 possessions without scoring). Florida, who appears to be the only elite team in the conference this season, could have saved some face on Saturday night with the win, but they gave that away down the stretch. But hey, at least short-handed Tennessee picked up a win, right?

All of a sudden, the SEC, which once looked like it could have three Final Four contenders at the top of the conference, is looking incredibly ordinary.

Tough, old school coaches a thing of the past?: I’ve played for screamers before. It’s not really as bad as you might imagine, but it certainly isn’t enjoyable to be cursed at in incredibly high volumes in front of some of your best friends over and over and over. And with the advent of social media and the more-powerful-than-ever 24 hour news cycle, maybe we are nearing the end of the uber-intense basketball coach.

Bob Knight has been gone for nearly a decade. Billy Gillispie saw his career go up in flames over the way he treated his players. Mike Rice was suspended for three games and gave up a fifth of his salary over allegations that he has mistreated his players, including throwing basketballs at them. Frank Martin parted ways with Kansas State in part because the AD didn’t love his coaching style. And Bob Huggins’ West Virginia teams haven’t been nearly as good as you would expect over the last three seasons; the ‘Eers lost by 15 to Michigan on Saturday and did so without Aaric Murray. Maybe it’s time to learn a way to get through to kids without berating them?

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

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
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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.