Jake Odum

Player of the Week: Jake Odum guides Indiana State into MVC lead

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Player of the Week: Jake Odum, Indiana State

Jake Odum put Indiana State into serious contention for an at-large bid this week. On Wednesday, he put together one of his best games of the season, as he went for 22 points, five assists and four boards as the Sycamores walloped Creighton by 19 points. He followed that up with 13 points, five assists, four steals and the game-winning layup with 19 seconds left to avoid an upset at the hands of Southern Illinois on Saturday.

This week was massive for ISU for two reasons: beating Creighton only solidifies a solid NCAA tournament profile that could very well earn them an at-large berth. But, thanks to Wichita State’s three-game losing streak and Creighton dropping a home game to Illinois State on Saturday night, the Sycamores are now tied for first place in the Valley with just five league games remaining. Who predicted that in October?

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:

G: Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: Wolters exploded for 53 points in a win over IUPUI on Thursday night, the most points scored by a player this season. He followed that up with 36 points, six boards and seven assists against Oakland on Saturday, but the Jackrabbits ended up losing that game on the road. For the week, Wolters averaged 44.5 points while shooting 29-48 (60.4%) from the field and 12-23 (52.8%) from three.

G: Tyler Brown, Illinois State: All of a sudden, Illinois State is back from the dead, having won six of their last seven games to put themselves in the conversation for the MVC tournament. This week, the Redbirds knocked off Drake and Creighton on the road. In the two games, Brown averaged 26.0 points, 7.0 assists, 3.5 boards and 2.5 steals.

G: Geron Johnson, Memphis: Johnson broke out of his slump in a big way this week, leading the Tigers to win at SMU and Southern Miss, which opened up a two-game lead in the Conference USA race. Johnson averaged 22.0 points, 7.5 boards and 4.5 assists for the week, shooting 14-24 (58.3%) from the floor and 9-16 (56.3%) from three.

F: CJ Fair, Syracuse: James Southerland’s return may have been the biggest news of the week for the Orange, but it overshadowed something else: Fair put together a terrific week, averaging 17.5 points and 9.5 boards in dominating wins over Notre Dame and St. John’s. Fair has quietly put together an outstanding season for Jim Boeheim and appears to finally be having the breakout season so many of us expected for so long.

C: Mason Plumlee, Duke: Plumlee must have been getting frustrated seeing other names pass him on the Player of the Year ballots, because he decided to show up this week. After going for 30 points, nine boards and two blocks in a dominating win over NC State on Wednesday, Plumlee followed that up with 19 points, 10 boards and two blocks — including the game-tying and game-winning free throws — against Boston College.

Bench: Travis Bader (Oakland), Ben Brust (Wisconsin), Allen Crabbe (Cal), Shane Larkin (Miami), Greg Smith (Colorado State), Joel Smith (Northeastern), Taylor Smith (Stephen F. Austin), Isaiah Sykes (UCF), Chaz Williams (UMass)

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)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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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)
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)
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.