After watching Florida steamroll their first four SEC opponents by an average of 26.8 points — which included Saturday’s 31 point beatdown of Missouri — and being reminded of the fact that the Gators did the same thing to Wisconsin, Marquette and Florida State earlier in the season, the biggest question mark about this team is: ‘How did they manage to lose two games?’
It’s pretty simple, really. Florida gave away the game at Arizona, losing by one while being outscored 15-0 in the final two minutes of the half and regulation. The loss to Kansas State came when they laid an egg against Kansas State in Kansas City three days before Christmas when Kenny Boynton was shooting awfully and Mike Rosario went 1-9 from the floor.
Because Florida looks like they very well could be the best team in the country right now, and Kenpom agrees. They are second nationally in offensive efficiency. They are first nationally in defensive efficiency. They are balanced offensively, they have size inside, and they can give multiple different looks on the defensive end of the floor. On the nights that Boynton and Rosario do shoot well, the Gators are scary-good.
Five teams deserving a shout out:
Butler: The Bulldogs beat Gonzaga on a fluky play with 3.5 seconds left that may or may not have involved multiple push-offs by Roosevelt Jones and may or may not have come after the buzzer. But that’s almost beside the point, because the Bulldogs did it without their best player, Rotnei Clarke. If this win did anything, it drove home a point that has been made too many times about Brad Stevens’ Bulldogs: Butler has always been more than the individuals on the roster. Their success is a testament to their system and their program.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes had a tough start to league play, losing road games to Indiana and Michigan State before dropping a home date with Michigan, but have turned things around since. They won at Northwestern last Sunday, and followed that up no Saturday with a win over Wisconsin at home. The Hawkeyes were up 30-10 on Wisconsin early in the first half, and rode out a four-point win on the night they honored the memory of Chris Street.
Oregon: Believe it or not, the Ducks are sitting all by themselves at the top of the Pac-12 standings thanks to a win over No. 24 UCLA in Pauley Pavilion on Saturday and a loss by Washington to Utah. And the most impressive part? It doesn’t seem fluky. The Ducks are legit, and may actually be the best team in the Pac-12. Who saw that coming?
Syracuse: You go into the Yum! Center and you knock off the No. 1 team in the country on the road, you get nominated for Team of the Week. That’s just how it works.
Valparaiso: The Crusaders have moved into sole possession of first place in the Horizon League thanks to a pair of impressive performances this week. On Thursday, Valpo came back from down 22 points in the second half to beat Detroit on the road and followed that up with a 69-63 win over Wright State, who was previously undefeated in league play.
Best of the rest: Belmont, Colorado State, Michigan, Michigan State, Northeastern, Pitt, Rhode Island, Stetson, Wichita State
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.
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.
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.
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
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.