Kenny Boynton

Five Thoughts: Florida nation’s best team, UVA and ‘Nova’s weird profiles

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Florida may not be the new No. 1, but they’re the best team in the country: The Gators probably aren’t going to be. Indiana was ranked one spot higher than Florida and they are coming off of a week where they knocked off No. 1 Michigan and beat a conference rival on the road by 37 points. That, combined with the fact that the Hoosiers were the preseason No. 1 team in the country and now have sole possession of first place in the toughest conference in the country, is an easy way to get yourself a No. 1 ranking.

But that doesn’t mean the ranking will be correct.

Because as of today, Florida is the best team in the country.

Think about it like this: Louisville’s defense is allowing 0.822 PPP (adjusted) right now, which is equivalent to the most efficiency defense that we’ve seen in the Kenpom era* — Kansas in 2007. Florida’s defensive efficiency is 0.803 PPP (adjusted) right now, a number that drops to 0.779 PPP through eight SEC games. In simpler terms, if the season ended today, Florida would be the best defensive team of the past decade, and they do it playing man, zone and pressing, depending on who they’re playing.

But Florida also happens to be the nation’s second-most powerful offense, sliding in between Michigan and Indiana.

In other words, Florida is what happens when you take Louisville’s defense and Michigan’s offense and put them onto the same team.

(*The Kenpom era dates back to 2003.)

Someone explain Virginia to me, please: The Cavaliers are going to be the toughest bubble team to place this year, because they have one of the strangest profiles I’ve ever seen. Virginia is 15-6 on the season and 5-3 in the ACC, which puts them a game behind Duke in third place in the league standings. They have won all three of their games against the RPI top 50, including a win at Wisconsin, and are 5-0 against the RPI top 100.

But Virginia is only 99th in the RPI, because they’ve lost six games to teams outside the RPI top 100. Three of those losses came on the road in ACC play — Clemson, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest — while the other three losses came to teams from the CAA. One of those losses was to Old Dominion, who is 2-18 this season and winless in league play. They’re 324th in the RPI, making that easily the worst loss suffered by a potential tournament team this season.

Villanova will be the second weirdest profile: The Wildcats have a pretty standard middle-of-the-pack power conference profile. They’re RPI is in the 70’s. They’ve got five top 100 wins but a handful of bad losses — they were swept by Providence and lost by 18 to Columbia at home. They’ve currently lost five of their last seven games.

Those two wins? Against top ten teams Syracuse and Louisville. Because that makes sense.

Wisconsin’s free throw shooting: I think we can all agree that Ohio State has one of the nation’s best perimeter defenses while Illinois does not. And all it took was a week where Wisconsin played both teams to prove that to us. The Badgers lost to Ohio State on Wednesday 58-49 and didn’t attempt a single free throw in the game. That’s the first time that’s happened in the Bo Ryan era. Against Illinois on Sunday, the Badgers shot 42 free throws.

That makes sense, too.

Jarred Shaw stepping up for Utah State: We have to give some love to Utah State big man Jarred Shaw. The Aggies lost both Kyisean Reed and Preston Medlin in the same half of the same game last month, which all but ended their chance at a WAC title this season. In the last three games, he’s averaging 21.7 points, 10.0 boards and 2.0 blocks while shooting 69.0% from the floor. USU is 2-1 in that stretch, with two road wins and a three point loss to league leader Louisiana Tech.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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)
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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)
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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)
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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.