Big 12 Media Day Basketball

Andrew Wiggins to Kansas was the best option for college hoops fans

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Last month, after Russ Smith, Doug McDermott and CJ Fair announced their intentions to return to school for their senior seasons, I penned a column about just how great the 2013-2014 college basketball season is shaping up to be.

You can read it here.

Everything that I wrote in that post remains true today with the exception of one nugget. Kentucky is going to be the best team in the country, once again, but they’ll be challenged for supremacy in the Commonwealth by a Louisville team with the talent to repeat as champs. Michigan State is going to be up there, as well, but Michigan and Ohio State have their sights sets on bringing home the Big Ten title. The new Big East should be awesome, especially with Dougie McBuckets back in the fold, while UConn and Memphis should have enough pieces to challenge Louisville in the AAC. Syracuse will turn the ACC into a three-team race, alongside Duke and UNC, while Oklahoma State should have the horses to contend with Kansas in the Big 12.

And there lies the difference.

Kansas landed Andrew Wiggins on Tuesday afternoon, meaning that the Jayhawks are undoubtedly the favorite to win the Big 12. They will also be a favorite to make the Final Four and a legitimate contender to win the National Title.

And that is what Wiggins picking Kansas was the best decision he could have made from a college hoops perspective.

Wiggins was never going to North Carolina, so we’ll leave them out of the discussion for now. If he had ended up at Florida State, he would have toiled away in relative anonymity, playing for a team that he would’ve made good enough to potentially sneak into the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. At Kentucky, he would’ve starred for a team that already has too many stars, turning the college basketball season into a year-long race for an undefeated season.

But at Kansas, Wiggins not only makes one of the best fanbases, one of the top programs, and arguably the best head coach in the country a title contender, he allows everyone else — Louisville, Michigan State, Duke, Florida, Arizona — to keep their names in title contention.

That’s not to Kentucky would have waltzed their way to an undefeated season and a national title, but it would have been their title to lose, much in the way it was heading into the 2012 NCAA tournament.

But with Wiggins at Kansas, it means that this year’s national title picture will be as wide open as last year’s.

The only difference?

Last year, the title race was wide-open because there wasn’t a dominant team in the country. This season, the race is wide-open because their is a dominant team — Kentucky — but there may be ten schools that have enough talent to truly challenge the Wildcats.

So yeah, the 2013-2014 season is going to be awesome.

Is it November yet?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

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)
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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.