Rodney McGruder

Late Night Snacks: Gators go cold again; unbeatens fall

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Game of the Night

No. 12 Missouri 82, No. 10 Illinois 73: Phil Pressey shot 2-18 and still led the Tigers to their fourth straight victory in the annual Braggin’ Rights game. His eleven assists found the hot hands, which belonged largely to Laurence Bowers (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Alex Oriakhi (13 and 14). Jabari Brown logged his first start of the year, putting up 18 points. The Illini lost their first game of the season, falling to 12-1.

Meaningful Results

Kansas State 67, No. 8 Florida 61: Poor shooting from the backcourt kept the Gators on the slide began at Arizona last weekend. Starters Mike Rosario, Kenny Boynton and Scotty Wilbekin combined to shoot 10 of 31 from the floor and 2 of 12 from deep in a game that Florida never led in the second half.

Indiana State 87, Ole Miss 85 (OT): Ole Miss isn’t exactly a powerhouse right now, but they came to Hawaii sporting an 8-1 record and reasonable expectations of being able to handle a middle-of-the-pack MVC team. That didn’t happen, as Manny Arop (27 points) led five Sycamore starters into double figures. Junior Marshall Henderson had a 27 point night for the losing team.

No. 11 Cincinnati 68, Wright State 58: Wright State led this game 28-22 at the half, and Cincy looked like it might be vulnerable to the malaise that hit other undefeated teams like Syracuse and Illinois today. But the Bearcats clawed their way back into the game in spite of terrible shooting from the floor, riding JaQuon Parker’s 21 points to a 12-0 mark.

Virginia Tech 66, Bradley 65 (OT): Erick Green scored 31 points — a new career high — including the game-winner in this tight contest.

Starred

Kalif Wyatt, Temple: Hard to argue with 33 points, 15-15 from the line, and an upset of the previously undefeated No. 3 team in the country.

Ben McLemore, Kansas: DeShaun Thomas got all the ink at the beginning of the season, but McLemore proved to be the best player on the floor when Kansas visited Columbus. The freshman went home with 22 points, 6 boards, 2 assists, 1 steal and a block, as well as a couple more of the above-the-rim dunks that are becoming his calling card.

D.J. Cooper, Ohio: The Bobcats were facing one of the worst teams in Division I, so Cooper didn’t have to do much scoring. Instead, he decided to indulge in the spirit of the season and gave out gifts to his teammates in the form of 14 assists, tying his season high. And he did it in just 23 minutes of floor time.

Struggled

Luke Hancock, Louisville: At the beginning of the season, Hancock was generally regarded as the missing piece in a possible national title picture for the Cards, thanks to the 50% shooting mark he brought with him as a transfer from George Mason. Forget about being a missing piece, Hancock is just missing this season: missing the basket, missing in action, you name it, he’s missing it. In a 78-55 rout of Western Kentucky, Hancock tallied zero points, one assist and two turnovers in 16 minutes of play.

Florida’s gunners: Last week, the Gator shooters confined their worst shooting to the ends of halves. Against K-State, they couldn’t find the range all night, not that it stopped them from banging away. As a team, the Gators were 5 of 19 from behind the arc; a tidy 26.3%.

Houston’s Health & PE Center: The bucolically-named venue played host to the worst game of the night. Florida International put up 48 points and Texas Southern managed just 45. Texas Southern’s 83% from the free throw line would have been the stat of the night, except that closer inspection reveals that the Tigers were only awarded six charities all night long, making five.

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)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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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)
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)
(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.