Chris Udofia, Pierce Hornung

College Hoops Team of the Week: Colorado State

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Team of the Week: Colorado State

The Rams were pegged as a sleeper in the Mountain West prior to the start of the season, but after losing to Colorado and following that up with a loss at Illinois-Chicago, there were those (me!) who had their doubts about whether or not this group was actually going to be able to compete with the likes of UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico. Well, CSU has won four straight games, since then, all of which were by at least 17 points, and capped the run off with a 36 point win over Virginia Tech on Sunday night.

Pierce Hornung was the best player for the Rams this week. In the three games, he averaged 17.3 points and 9.7 boards, a welcome offensive boost from a guy that wasn’t averaging double figures at the start of the week. Hornung and Minnesota transfer Colton Iverson make up one of the nation’s most underrated front lines.

Five Teams Deserving a Shoutout

Cincinnati: The Bearcats picked up a pair of solid wins this week. After knocking off intra-city rival Xavier in the first installment of the newly sanitized Crosstown Classic on Wednesday, Cincy erased a six point halftime deficit while running over Wright State. Cincinnati is one of just five undefeated teams left in the country, but we may not get a chance to fully gauge just how good Mick Cronin’s club is until they play New Mexico on Thursday and travel to Pitt next Monday night.

Kansas: I’ve been saying it for a while, but it’s now time to consider Kansas one of the nation’s elite. As in this is a top five team. Their defense is just as tough as always and anchored by the nation’s best shot blocker. Naadir Tharpe is morphing into a quality back up point guard. And Ben McLemore is ahead of the curve when it comes to being a dominant scorer and go-to guy. The Jayhawks are the truth.

Temple: The Owls may have lost to Canisius on Wednesday afternoon, but they more than made up for it on Saturday as Fran Dunphy led Temple to what may end up being the best win of the regular season: beating Syracuse in their de facto second home court. (Go ahead, Nunes Magician. Make fun of me for saying that.) Khalif Wyatt had 33 points in the win, but the MVP of the game may have been Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, whose presence in Temple’s high-post offense was the biggest reason Temple was able to dissect the Syracuse zone.

UCLA: The Bruins won two games this week, but the most important win came on Saturday. That was against Fresno State, and while Fresno State isn’t exactly a juggernaut, it was the box score that mattered the most. Jordan Adams finished with 25 points, seven boards, five assists and five steals. Kyle Anderson had 20 points, 17 boards, seven assists, three blocks and two steals. Shabazz Muhammad had 27 points and seven boards, all of which came on the offensive end of the floor. That’s what Ben Howland expected out of those three.

UTEP: Tim Floyd’s UTEP Miners might turn out to be a force to be reckoned with this season. After Konner Tucker missed a wide-open three that would have won the game at the buzzer against UNLV, UTEP went out and won three games last week: they beat Oregon in triple overtime on Wednesday and followed that up with wins over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Nebraska. Keep an eye on this group.

You can find Rob 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)
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.