Trey Burke

Michigan sophomore Trey Burke sits atop CBT’s National Player of the Year rankings

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A hearty welcome to those of you just now joining the rest of us in following college basketball now that football season has ended. We’ll be running a series of posts to get all you football fans caught up on the season at-large. To read through them all, click here.

Honorable Mentions

Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State (17.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists per game)

Franklin has continued his upward trajectory this season for the Aztecs, who will need him down the stretch in a loaded Mountain West race.

Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State (20.0 points, 6.2 rebounds per game)

The most impressive part of Thomas’ performance this year is that, as the only go-to scorer on this Ohio State team, opponents gameplan to contain him, but he still puts up 20 points per game.

Cody Zeller, Indiana (16.3 points, 8.3 rebounds per game)

With the emergence of Victor Oladipo, Zeller has seemed to take a back seat, but his production is just as consistent. Without his double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds, the Hoosiers would not have beaten No. 1 Michigan on Saturday.

Russ Smith, Louisville (18.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists per game)

Smith has worked to channel his at-time erratic playing style last season into full-on production this year. The Cardinals have hit a rough patch, of late, but he is averaging 19 points in his last two games, both Louisville wins.

Otto Porter, Georgetown (14.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.8 blocks per game)

The do-everything guy for Georgetown has stepped his game up since Greg Whittington has been out of the lineup. A huge double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds led the Hoyas to a win over Louisville on Jan. 26.

Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse (12.6 points, 8.6 assists, 4.9 rebounds per game)

Many picked Carter-Williams to be one of the breakout stars in the country this season and he has delivered. Syracuse has been at a disadvantage without James Southerland, who is out with academic issues, but Carter-Williams is the engine of the Orange offense.

Ben McLemore, Kansas (16.4 points, 5.4 rebounds per game)

McLemore is the center of the Jayhawks’ offensive attack and is the star that coach Bill Self needed after a run to the Final Four last season.

The Countdown

5. Victor Oladipo, Indiana (14.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists per game)

Oladipo might not have the gaudy numbers to show it, but if we’re talking about value, there are few players more valuable to their teams than Oladipo is to Indiana. Not only an offensive threat, Oladipo brings energy and is one of the nation’s toughest defenders. He was key to Indiana’s ability to slow down a big-time Michigan offense and get a win Saturday.

4. Jeff Withey, Kansas (13.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.2 blocks per game)

Withey’s ability to affect the game on both ends of the floor is what makes him so valuable to this Kansas team. His domination around the rim changes the way Kansas is able to play defense and, in concert with McLemore on the offensive end, the inside-out combination drives the Jayhawks.

3. Mason Plumlee, Duke (17.6 points, 10.8 rebounds per game)

The weight of Duke’s NCAA tournament hopes falls heavier onto Plumlee’s shoulders after the injury to forward Ryan Kelly, but he has continued to produce. If Duke wants to make a run deeper than the Round of 64 and Kelly remains out, the way Plumlee plays will likely steer the ship for the Blue Devils.

2. Doug McDermott, Creighton (24.0 points, 7.3 rebounds per game)

McDermott has scored in double figures in all but one game for the Bluejays this season, including a 39-point outing against Missouri State, which he followed with a 31-point game against Northern Iowa. His team is 20-3, including 9-2 in a tough Missouri Valley Conference. If his production keeps up, like many believe it will, Creighton will keep winning.

1. Trey Burke, Michigan (18.2 points, 7.2 assists, 3.1 rebounds per game)

Burke is the engine of an offensive attack that features a number of weapons for the No. 3 Wolverines. He is a simultaneously a scorer and a facilitator. He has worked to become the best player in the country at his position and is showing how wise it was for him to spurn the NBA Draft and return to Ann Arbor for his sophomore season.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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
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.