Coty Clarke

No. 2 Florida gets whooped by Arkansas, 80-69

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This is what I wrote on Monday morning: “Florida is what happens when you take Louisville’s defense and Michigan’s offense and put them onto the same team.”

This is what the score was with just over nine minutes left when No. 2 Florida visited Arkansas on Tuesday night: Arkansas 36, Florida 13.

The Razorbacks would eventually hang on, knocking off the Gators 80-69 behind 13 points and five assists from future NBA Draft pick BJ Young. Only two other players on Arkansas reached double-figures — Marshawn Powell and Marshall Qualls both had 11 points.

And that right there should give you a glimpse of what happened here.

Arkansas’ Bud Walton Arena is one of the tougher places to get a win in college basketball. It’s loud, it’s hot, and the Razorbacks — a streaky, pressing team that thrives on the energy of their crowd — are always ready to play. That’s precisely what happened on Tuesday, as Arkansas made 13 of their first 16 shots and seven of their first nine threes in opening up that 36-13 lead.

Florida simply didn’t have an answer.

There were a couple stretches at the end of the first half and during the second half where it looked like the Gators were ready to make a run and turn this into a ball-game, but inexcusable mistakes cost them. Florida started going 1-on-1 and forcing jumpers, they started settling for threes, they stopped being patient offensively. In the stretches where they moved the ball and got some post touches — essentially, when they ran their offense — Billy Donovan’s club got good looks and chipped away at the lead.

Here’s the perfect example. Midway through the second half, Florida had gotten the lead down to 14 points and had momentum heading in their direction. Then Scottie Wilbekin turned the ball over trying to force penetration. Casey Prather missed two free throws on the next possession, which was followed up by a missed Wilbekin three. After that, Prather threw the ball away, then missed a layup which was followed by another missed layup from Wilbekin and a turnover by Michael Frazier.

Seven possessions. Three turnovers. Two missed free throws. Two turnovers. And a missed three.

That’s not how you make a come back on the road.

College basketball, especially this year’s version of college hoops where there really isn’t a stand-alone team, is a sport where, every so often, a team simply doesn’t show up. It happened to North Carolina last year at Florida State, and they still made the Elite 8 despite losing their lottery pick point guard. Duke isn’t the same team without Ryan Kelly, but they still bounced back nicely from the mollywhopping they received from Miami.

Did Florida’s stats get inflated by absolutely pounding some weak SEC competition? Probably.

Were they overrated heading into Tuesday? It sure looks that way.

Is this still one of, if not the best team in the country? Yes.

And while I wish I hadn’t said that this group is “what happens when you take Louisville’s defense and Michigan’s offense and put them onto the same team” yesterday, I still think that Florida is very much in the conversation for being the best team in the country.

But let’s see how they bounce back from this defeat before we (i.e. me) go and do something like call Florida “what happens when you take Louisville’s defense and Michigan’s offense and put them onto the same team” again.

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
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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.