Mitch McGary, Adreian Payne

NBA Draft Early Entry winners: There are a lot of them

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With the deadline to enter the NBA Draft having come and gone at midnight on Sunday night — and with the last-minute decisions made by Adreian Payne, Andre Roberson and Isaiah Austin — we now have a full list of all the meaningful college hoopers that made the decision to jump to the league early. 

Here are the early entry’s biggest winners

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

Michigan State: Not only did the Spartans get Adreian Payne back for his senior campaign in a semi-surprising decision on Sunday afternoon, the Spartans had already received word that Gary Harris would be returning for his (hopefully healthy) sophomore season. With everyone else except for Derrick Nix returning, Michigan State not only looks like the favorite to win the Big Ten, they have the pieces to make a run at Kentucky and Louisville for the No. 1 spot in the preseason rankings.

Oklahoma State: The Pokes are going to enter the season as the favorite to win the Big 12 thanks to the return of the nation’s best freshman in 2012-2013, Marcus Smart. Smart would have been a top five pick had he headed off to the NBA. Instead, he’s once again team up with Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash to give Travis Ford one of the biggest and most athletic perimeter attacks in the country.

Louisville: The Cardinals lost Gorgui Dieng to the NBA, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Pitino had said that Dieng would be heading off to the pros a number of times during the season. But Louisville did return Chane Behanan, who some thought might be off to the NBA, as well as Russ Smith, who said that he would be heading to the NBA after the Cards won the title. With Smith back in the fold, Louisville now has a real chance to repeat as champs.

Point guards in this draft: The biggest name to pull out of the draft was Marcus Smart, meaning that guys like Trey Burke, CJ McCollum and Michael Carter-Williams will slide higher up the list of available point guards. That’s good news for them. But with borderline first rounders like Shabazz Napier, Jahii Carson and Russ Smith also returning to school, guys like Shane Larkin and Ray McCallum find themselves in a better position to sneak into the first round.

Creighton: Doug McDermott is the best player to ever don a Creighton uniform, and he’s back for his senior season. He’ll be the preseason Player of the Year in the new Big East, Creighton’s first time playing in a league above the Missouri Valley. They’ll contend for the league title with Dougie McBuckets back. The Bluejays might not have finished in the top half of the league without him.

Baylor: The Bears got great news on Sunday, as Isaiah Austin officially announced that he would be returning alongside Cory Jefferson to anchor Baylor’s front line for another year. I hesitate to say Baylor is a Big 12 contender, since they’ve been unable to truly contend with an overabundance of talent recently, but they certainly have the pieces to do so.

Syracuse: Getting CJ Fair back was huge for the Orange. He’s the only player that they have for next season that can a) play on the win in their zone and b) do more than run, jump and be active. He’s got a really nice mid-range game and can step out and knock-down a three.

Michigan: Losing Trey Burke hurts, but it’s not a surprise. Seeing Tim Hardaway Jr. head off to the NBA isn’t a shock, either. But with Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III both returning to school, the Wolverines will have a shot at winning the Big Ten.

College Basketball: It’s going to be awesome next season. Seemingly every single fence-sitter made the choice to return to school, and it’s going to make for some truly compelling hoops throughout the season. Kentucky-Louisville will be unbelievable, with Duke-UNC and Michigan-Michigan State not too far behind. Oklahoma State will look to upset Kansas in the Big 12, as will Baylor. McDermott will make a run at 3,000 points while Syracuse will make a run at ACC supremacy. There are as many as five teams that could legitimately be voted No. 1 in the preseason. Is it November yet?

Six more early entry winners:

  • North Carolina: James Michael McAdoo and PJ Hairston return, which offset the loss of Reggie Bullock enough to keep the Heels at the top of the ACC.
  • Arizona State: We all win with another year of Jahii Carson in college.
  • Tennessee: Both Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae announced they’ll be back in college next season, meaning that a healthy Jeronne Maymon will make the Vols dangerous.
  • Florida: The Gators return Patric Young and, suddenly, have arguably the best front line in the SEC.
  • Kentucky: Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein both announced that they will be passing up the NBA and returning to Lexington for another year.
  • UConn: Shabazz Napier remaining in Storrs makes the Huskies a real threat in the AAC.

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.