Michigan State v Michigan

This year’s Player of the Year race is not wide-open. It’s Trey Burke.

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Mike Rothstein of ESPN.com released his latest installment of the Player of the Year straw poll, and once again, Michigan point guard Trey Burke sits at the top.

He received 30 first-place votes and was named on 49 of the 64 ballots, which was the most out of anyone.

But here’s where I get confused: what are those other 15 people thinking? Because as of today — and with all due respect to Otto Porter, Victor Oladipo, Doug McDermott and Kelly Olynyk — I do not think that this vote is really all that close.

Trey Burke is the National Player of the Year.

Let’s start with the ‘eye test’. Burke is averaging 19.1 points, 6.9 assists and just 1.9 turnovers with shooting splits of 49.2/38.4/79.4 for a top ten team. He’s doing so as the primary ball-handler and playmaker on a team chock-full of jump-shooters and big men who can’t do much more than roll after setting a screen and crash the offensive glass. He’s the leader on a team that is just as young as Kentucky’s national title-winning squad was last season.

That’s impressive, right?

Now consider this: his offensive rating (127.6) leads the country, according to Kenpom.com, for players that use at least 28% of their team’s possessions (he’s at 28.6%) while they’re on the floor. Burke is on the floor for more than 35 minutes per game. His numbers are, essentially, on par with what Jordan Taylor did in 2011 — Taylor had a 127.6 offensive rating while using 27.4% of the Badgers possession while logging similar minutes for a team that had more veterans but wasn’t as good as this year’s Michigan team — a season that was lauded as the second-best in the efficiency era.

I know, Kelly Olynyk and Doug McDermott have been almost as efficient as Burke while using just as many possessions and playing just as many minutes. But Olynyk is a 7-footer playing in the WCC, not a 6-footer playing in the Big Ten. And McDermott recently watched was his Creighton struggled through six losses in 11 games, which was nearly enough to drop them from the top 15 to the bubble.

Oh, and I know the stat-guys hate bringing up “clutchness” or “late-game execution”, but Burke has been the guy making the plays for Michigan down the stretch all season long. At the end of the day, winning games is what matters, and Burke has ensured that the Wolverines have won some games they may not have deserved to win.

Trey Burke is the most valuable player in the country playing on a top ten team that can win a share of the Big Ten regular season title on Sunday, and he just so happens to be having a historically significant season in terms of efficiency.

Why is there a debate 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)
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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.