Wichita State

Why Wichita State benefits from the absence of Kevin Ware

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ATLANTA — What does Wichita State need to do to be able to beat Louisville?

I’ve been asked that question upwards of 20 times heading into Final Four weekend, and the answer is alarmingly simple: protect the basketball.

You see, what Louisville does better than anyone is to use their press to force turnovers, converting those turnovers into easy buckets at the other end of the floor. They lead the country in pick-sixes, if you will. Since they can only get into their press when they score, those pick-sixes become even more devastating; not only do you turn the ball over and give up a bucket, you now have to try and get the ball over half court against Russ Smith and Peyton Siva again.

Louisville plays streaky defense. They can get on these roles where they look absolutely suffocating because those turnovers and those easy baskets wear on you, both physically and mentally. Not only do those guards get in your head, they’re in peak physical condition. They don’t get tired. You will. And if trying to dribble against Smith and Siva wasn’t tiring enough, then you have to drop back and defend them at the other end.

The Cardinals have solved some of their issues with half court offense as the season has gone on, but they still aren’t a great team in that aspect of the game. Avoiding turnovers allows your defense — in Wichita State’s case, Pitino referred to them as “the best team we will have faced this year on the defensive end” and “Marquette on steroids” — to get set.

But it will also allow Wichita State to capitalize on what may be their greatest advantage heading into Saturday.

For all that Louisville does well, they’re not a great defensive rebounding team. the Cardinals allow opponents to grab almost a third of the available offensive rebounds. The Shockers are 18th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. Fewer turnovers means more shots, and even if Wichita State shoots a low percentage, that’s beneficial for them; Gregg Marshall’s best offense on Saturday may be a missed shot.

Make sense?

Now think about this: Kevin Ware isn’t playing. The first guard off of Louisville’s bench? Tim Henderson, a walk-on. Ware isn’t Smith or Siva, but he’s the biggest of the three of them and had been playing the best basketball of his career before getting injured on Sunday. He’s just as much of a turnover creator as Smith and Siva can be. Henderson isn’t.

“We don’t have a back court substitute,” Pitino said. “We had a great rotation. All three guards were playing well. Obviously when you press and run as much as we do, it becomes a great concern when you don’t have a substitute. We substitute every game and give those guys breaks. Now we can’t change our style of play because we won’t win or have a chance of winning.”

“Now we have to play a walk-on. He’s got to do the best job he can do.”

Ware’s a good player, but he was anything but a household name before his injury.

It’s ironic that his absence in the lineup could end up being what costs Louisville.

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.