Oscars

College Basketball Oscars: Who would bring home the biggest awards?

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Argo took home Best Picture at Sunday night’s Academy Awards, but who is deserving of similar awards in college basketball? CollegeBasketballTalk compiled a list and voted for winners in 12 key categories. Take a look at the list below. Have a differing opinion? Feel free to vote for your own winners in the comments.

Best Picture: No. 13 Butler 64, No. 8 Gonzaga 63

This one had all the elements of a true masterpiece. There are good college basketball games, then there are those like Butler-Gonzaga on Jan. 19. It had all the elements: the “underdog” implications, the national rankings, the late-game drama, the surprise ending. You thought the game was over when Alex Barlow was called for traveling with 3.5 seconds to play? Wrong. Roosevelt Jones’ steal, weave, and floater as time expired gave Butler the win and cemented a place in highlight history for years to come.

Best Player in a Leading Role: Trey Burke, Michigan (18.6 points, 6.9 assists, 3.2 rebounds per game)

When Burke made the decision to return to Michigan for his sophomore season and put off his NBA dreams for another season, he knew that he was walking into a leading role. He knew he would inherit and team with talent and national title aspirations in the nation’s toughest conference and, like Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln, he has shouldered the weight of those expectations.

Best Player in a Supporting Role: Victor Oladipo, Indiana (14 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.4 steals per game, 63.9% FG)

Oladipo has emerged throughout the season and shown that he has the single most important characteristic of a supporting player: versatility. One night, he could carry the Hoosiers offensively. Another night, it is his defense that makes Indiana go. He may even bring everything together into one performance that is truly masterful, like when he had 21 points, seven rebounds, six steals, and three blocks in a win over Michigan State on Jan. 27.

Best Original Dramatic Sequence: Frantz Massenat, Drexel vs. Hofstra

There’s always room for a low-budget film in the College Basketball Oscars. None is more deserving than the moment Frantz Massenat gave us against Hofstra. With seconds remaining in regulation, Massenat heaved a shot from beyond half court between two defenders and nailed it, giving Drexel the 55-52 win. Perfection. We’ve seen similar shots, like Ben Brust’s prayer against Michigan on Feb. 9 that sent that game into overtime, but sheer distance and the fact that it was for the win gives Massenat the nod.

Best Costume Design: UCLA’s blue alternates, adidas

In a year that has seen its share of new uniforms, including the logo-prominent Nike look to adidas’ monochromatic experiment, UCLA’s blue alternate jerseys stand above the rest. The designer takes care to contrast the lighter blue with a sharp navy color for the number, but also makes one key addition. Where the monochromatic jerseys failed, these succeed. A thin bit of gold outlines the numbers and makes them pop. Important.

Best Short Film: Jamaal Franklin’s Off-the-Backboard Dunk vs. Fresno State

Considering the undertaking, for Franklin to even attempt a moment like this is almost unthinkable. To have captured it so perfectly is something else entirely. But that is a mark of a great innovator. He is not afraid to take chances. As a wise man once said, “You miss 100% of the off-the-backboard alley-oops to yourself that you don’t take.” Perhaps I’m paraphrasing, but the message still rings true.

Best Kiss: Jack Cooley, Notre Dame

Very little can be said, other than to let the image speak for itself. The Casablanca kiss pales in comparison.

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Best Director: Jim Larranaga, Miami

With the cloud of an impending NCAA investigation hanging over the program’s head, Larranaga has worked with a group of veterans that he largely inherited to become a force in the ACC and a contender for a top seed in the NCAA tournament. College basketball lacks a dominant team this season, which makes Larranaga a clearer choice, considering the expectations going into the season, a non-conference loss to Florida-Gulf Coast, and the injuries that the Hurricanes have endured.

He has mastered a range of styles, key for any director, helping Miami to win at a slow, grinding pace, or more up-tempo and in transition. He caps it all off with his personal masterpiece, a 27-point drubbing of then-No. 1 Duke. Bravo.

Best Player in a Foreign Film: Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s (Australia)

Dellavedova comes from a program that has a history of producing and developing quality Australian-born players. He is simply the next in line. In the off-season, he developed his game by adding muscle to his frame, making him a player with more physical tools with which to work. He knows how to work the whole “persona” thing, too. His oversized mouthguard is unique and helps him stick out more than just his 16.1 points and 6.3 assists per game already do.

Best Single-Game Performance in a Leading Role: Kendall Williams, New Mexico vs. Colorado State

There are nights when one player simply cannot be stopped. On Feb. 23 against Colorado State, Kendall Williams had one of those nights. The junior shot 12-of-16 from the floor, including 10-of-13 from three-point range on his way to 46 points and a nine-point New Mexico victory. Consider the stakes of the game, with both teams ranked and fighting for position in the highly contested Mountain West, and Williams’ performance shines even brighter.

Most Animated Player: Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss

Henderson has been as polarizing as he has been productive, which makes him such an intriguing personality and the kind of “What will he do next?” character that we don’t often see at the college level. He once posited that Ole Miss could beat Tennessee 10 out of 10 times (100% of the time, for those of you keeping track at home), and on another occasion kindly told the media that he didn’t have much time for questions because it was a Saturday night and he had a place to be. Oh, and this happened:

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Breakthrough Performance: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga (17.0 points, 7.0 rebounds per game)

A breakout performer turns a quality project into an elite one. This is what Kelly Olynyk has done for Gonzaga. Olynyk redshirted the 2011-12 season and came out of it now averaging 17.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. He has shown the ability to attack defenses in a number of ways, whether it is around the rim, off the dribble, or on the perimeter. Gonzaga has ridden the classic underdog narrative to a 27-2 record and a No. 3 national ranking. The Bulldogs are hoping that this one ends with triumph and possibly even a national championship.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Jeff Withey, Kansas (13.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.0 blocks per game)

The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to the nation’s best fifth-year senior. Its recipients are part of a select group, one that only has players who have continued to produce long after others around them are past their time. Coach Bill Self and Kansas has had continued success because elite players leave and more fill in seamlessly behind them. This season, Withey is that elite player filling in the gap left by the depature of Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson and is one of the main reasons that the Jayhawks are eyeing another Final Four run. For that, Mr. Withey, we honor you.

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
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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.