Doug McDermott

The ten biggest early entry decisions remaining

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With Gary Harris, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III all announcing that they are going to be returning to school for the 2013-2014 season, here are the ten biggest decisions left to be made in the week and a half until the NBA’s deadline to enter the draft:

Adreian Payne, Michigan State: Payne is the difference-maker for Michigan State next season. If he returns, the Spartans are a true national title contender, in the mix with Kentucky, Arizona and Duke. Without him, they will still be good, but they will have a hole up front. Gavin Schilling, Matt Costello and Alex Gauna just aren’t the same player as Payne.

Shane Larkin, Miami: Larkin had a breakout season, earning all-ACC first team honors and leading Miami to a dual-ACC title and a trip to the Sweet 16. But the Hurricanes were a senior-laden team in 2012-2013, and with a number of the key pieces — including the entire front line — graduating. Draft Express projects Larkin as a late-first round pick.

Doug McDermott, Creighton: Creighton will lose a number of pieces heading into their first year in the new Big East, including center Gregory Echenique and point guard Grant Gibbs. But if McDermott decides to return, he’ll be a favorite to be the National Player of the Year and will make the Bluejays a tournament team.

Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga: Olynyk was the biggest surprise of the 2012-2013 season, as he went from a redshirt to an all-american as a junior. Given his mobility and offensive repertoire, he could be a mid-first round pick if he decides to leave. If he returns, Gonzaga should once again be a top ten team.

(CLICK HERE to follow along with who is turning pro and who is returning to school.)

Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson, Baylor: With Pierre Jackson graduating, Baylor is already going to have a major hole to fill. If Austin and Jefferson also decide to enter the draft, that would put a lot of pressure on Rico Gathers and Dominic Woodson up front. Jefferson is probably a second round pick, but Austin could go in the lottery.

Russ Smith, Louisville: Smith was out the door in the moments after the title game, according to his father. But it seems like he’s waffling on that decision and may actually be leaning towards returning. Smith is a perfect fit for Pitino’s pressing system and will help bridge the gap to Terry Rozier and Chris Jones.

CJ Fair, Syracuse: CJ Fair is as underrated as any player in the country. That’s what happens when you’re Mr. Consistency. But what makes Fair so important for Syracuse is that he’s really the only front court player that Jim Boeheim will have that can score the ball outside of five feet from the rim.

Shabazz Napier, UConn: The Huskies have a shot to be a tournament next season, but that’s only if Napier can once again team up with Ryan Boatright in the back court. If Napier leaves, the Huskies could end up being in trouble.

Andre Roberson, Colorado: Colorado is going to be a good basketball team with or without Roberson, but he’s an excellent rebounder and defender that can help them make a push to be the second best team in the Pac-12.

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)
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
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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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.