Connell Crossland, Ben McLemore

No. 5 Kansas loses to TCU, has their fatal flaw exposed

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I think it’s officially time for us to start worrying about Kansas.

Losing at home to Oklahoma State is one thing. Getting drubbed by TCU is a totally different story. Because on Wednesday night, the Jayhawks went into Fort Worth and got drubbed, 62-55, by a Horned Frog team whose best performance in Big 12 play was a nine point loss to fellow bottom-feeder Texas Tech.

It’s the first time that Kansas has lost back-to-back games in 264 contests. That happened in 2005-2006.

But there is so much more at play here than the simple fact that the Jayhawks have lost two straight games, one of which came to a team that has a lower RPI than five teams from the Ivy League.

All those offensive issues that we’ve been talking about this season have finally come to a head.

With a little more than six minutes left in the first half, Kansas was down 12-2 to TCU. At halftime, the Jayhawks had managed all of 13 points on 3-22 shooting. That’s the lowest scoring output that the Jayhawks have had in any Big 12 half. Ever.

The Jayhawks finished the game shooting 29.5% from the field and 3-22 from three. Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe, the two guys that Bill Self criticized over the weekend when he said he “didn’t have a point guard“, were 5-27 from the floor and 3-14 from three with three assists and four turnovers.

And it’s not like these were bad shots, either. Kansas missed a lot of layups and a lot of open threes.

We’ve reached the point where this is more than simple offensive issues for the Jayhawks. This is a confidence problem. This is a leadership issue. They simply did not have any of it tonight. At this point, Johnson seems to be a mess mentally. His 3-12 performance was bolstered by a layup and a pair of threes that came when Kansas was down 51-40 with less than two minutes left. I’m not going to pretend to know what’s going on between his ears, but anyone that watched that game would agree that he looked completely out of it. Not in the sense that he didn’t care or that he didn’t want to play, because I genuinely believe that he wants to succeed and he wants to win.

Think about it like this: imagine if the nerd from that Super Bowl commercial actually went up and hit on Gisele in real life. He would have more confidence than Johnson currently does in his basketball ability right now. Tharpe, to his credit, tried to take over in the second half and lead the team back, but he’s just not at a point where he’s capable of doing that. Neither is Ben McLemore, who is far and away the most talented player on the Kansas roster.

And that is where the biggest issue for this team lies.

They need someone to rely on to get them a bucket at the end of a clock. They need someone who can be isolated and counted on for points when Kansas is trying to stop a run. They need a player that’s willing and able to take over a game and do so as more than just a jump-shooter.

One day, McLemore will be that guy.

But that’s not him right now, and that’s not an insult, either. He’s an introvert, a shy kid that is currently more comfortable playing a supporting role. In the NBA, that will be a quality that behooves him, that can make him a valuable piece on a talented roster.

At this level, it hurts him. And it hurts Kansas. And until he realizes that playing a supporting role in the Johnson and Tharpe show is hurting the Jayhawks, Kansas will never reach their full potential.

Does it mean they are as bad as this performance? Of course not. And it certainly doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance of winning the national title.

But the issues that have come to light in recent weeks could end up costing them in March.

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)
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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.