Bill Self

Late Night Snacks: Kansas survives, UNLV gets important win in MWC

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Game of the Day: No. 9 Kansas 68, No. 14 Oklahoma State 67

It was not one of the double-overtime games we’ve seen this season, but Naadir Tharpe’s late heroics made for an exciting ending. His runner in the lane put KU ahead by one and Oklahoma State could not convert on its final possession, giving the Jayhawks the win.

Kansas freshman Ben McLemore had one of his roughest games of the season with seven points on 3-of-12 shooting from the floor, but Tharpe’s confidence helped Kansas in overtime. Marcus Smart did not shoot well from the floor for Oklahoma State, but he still managed 16 points by getting to the free throw line and converting.

Important Outcomes

1. UNLV 61, No. 22 Colorado State 59

UNLV was fearless on the interior and got a much-needed win in the Mountain West. The key for the Rebels is to take smarter shots and becoming a more efficient offensive unit. As Rob Dauster writes in the link above, this is a step in the right direction, but UNLV must prove its ability to win on the road, too.

2. No. 18 Ohio State 71, Minnesota 45

Ohio State needed to stop its recent skid before moving into the final stretch of its Big Ten regular season schedule. A big night from Deshaun Thomas and a good overall defensive game made that happen. The loss raises legitimate concerns for Minnesota, too, a team that is turning the ball over far too often to have success right now.

3. Kentucky 74, Vanderbilt 70

Kentucky could not lose this game if it wanted to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive. Thanks to Willie Cauley-Stein, improved backcourt play, and maybe even an intrasquad dodgeball game, the Wildcats pulled it out. Click the link above for the back-story on the dodgeball game.

Starred

1. Gonzaga’s Team Effort  (85 points, 58% FG, +21 rebounding margin)

The nation’s No. 3 team simply dominated Santa Clara on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs remain undefeated in WCC play and a legitimate force out West. Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk led the way with 17 and 15 points respectively.

2. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky (20 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks)

Without Nerlens Noel in the lineup, Kentucky got crushed by Tennessee over the weekend. Cauley-Stein wasn’t the only reason the Wildcats bounced back with a win over Vanderbilt, but his defense around the rim on the game’s final two possessions helped to seal the victory.

3. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State (32 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists)

Wolters already dropped 53 points earlier this season, but this performance was pretty impressive, too, coming just one assist away from a triple double. Oh, not to mention he also dropped 32 points.

Also of Note: Eric Mosley, St. Bonaventure (39 points, 12-of-18 FG)

Struggled

1. Ben McLemore, Kansas (7 points, 3-of-12 FG)

McLemore did not look confident for much of Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma State, especially contrasted with guard Naadir Tharpe, who took control down the stretch. This was the first game of his college career that he had truly struggled, so we will learn a good deal about McLemore when we see how he bounces back.

2. Minnesota Offense (29% FG, 2-of-15 3pt FG, 21 turnovers)

Granted, Ohio State is one of the nation’s better defensive teams. That being said, though, Minnesota’s offensive output was abysmal. The Gophers turn the ball over too much and it will be one of the biggest threats to its NCAA tournament hopes.

3. Greg Smith, Colorado State (4 points, 1-of-7 FG)

Smith averages close to 12 points per game for the Rams, but managed just four on Wednesday vs. UNLV. In Colorado State’s two-point loss, they could have used him.

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

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.