Cameron Ridley

Between ’12 and ’14, Texas has landed one of 13 in-state top 15 recruits

Leave a comment

Much has been made over the last week or so of Rick Barnes’ struggles at Texas.

The consensus seems to be that Barnes has taken his foot off the accelerator on the recruiting trail, that something in his life has made him realize that his job is only that: a job.

But regardless of the reason, the results speak for themselves. Barnes hasn’t had a winning record in the Big 12 since the 2010-2011 season. He missed the NCAA tournament last year, the first time in 14 seasons at UT that he has done so, and it doesn’t look like there’s much hope for him to make the tournament this year.

The biggest reason?

His inability to tap into the talent pool currently coming through Texas. As Gary Parrish laid out here, since 2008, the only top 40 recruit that Barnes has landed from the state of Texas is Cameron Ridley. There have been 21 top 40 recruits in that time frame, but what’s more concerning is that between the 2012, 2013 and 2014 classes, there are 16 top 40 recruits, 13 of which were in the top 15 of their class. Again, Ridley is the only one that ended up at Texas.

When Barnes first built up the Longhorn program, he was doing it with in-state stars. Chris Mihm, Brad Buckman, TJ Ford, LaMarcus Aldridge and Daniel Gibson all played their high school ball in Texas. But then the talent in the state hit a dry spell. Look at the guys he missed on between 2008 and 2011: Willie Warren, Tommy Mason-Griffin, and Tony Mitchell were head cases. LeBryan Nash and Perry Jones III are superb talents that have been somewhat disappointing. Cameron Clark and Anthony Jones were, well, unremarkable.

At that same time, Barnes landed players like Avery Bradley, Jordan Hamilton, J’Covan Brown, Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, and a 2011 class that included three four-star recruits from Texas as well as the nation’s No. 1 point guard. When in-state talent was low, he was able to reel in players from outside the state of Texas.

But now that Texas is churning out five-star recruit after five-star recruit, he can’t get back into the mix.

He’s still got a chance to turn things around in 2014, as three of the top five in-state players — Myles Turner, Justise Winslow and Kelly Oubre — are as of yet uncommitted, but that will take some work.

Battle 4 Atlantis title proves Syracuse will be relevant this season

rad Horrigan/The Courant via AP
Leave a comment

Michael Gbinije scored 20 points and Trevor Cooney added 15 points and five assists as Syracuse left the Bahamas with a title, beating No. 25 Texas A&M 74-67 in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

I guess it’s time to start taking the Orange seriously.

There’s a lot to like about this group. Gbinije and Cooney are both fifth-year seniors that not only understand how to operate at the top of the 2-3 zone that Jim Boeheim runs, but they both have developed into versatile offensive weapons. Cooney was known as nothing more than a jump-shooter when he arrived up north, but he’s now averaging 3.5 assists on the season.

And Gbinije?

He has been one of the best players in the country through the first two weeks of the season. Through six games, he’s averaged 19.7 points, 4.2 assists, 3.0 boards and 2.8 steals while shooting 51.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Freshman Malachi Richardson, who had 16 points in the win over A&M, has scored double-figures in all six games this season while another freshman, Tyler Lydon, was against terrific on Friday, finishing with 13 points and eight boards. He’s now shooting 58.8 percent from beyond the arc this season.

And that’s where this team is going to do the majority of their damage this season.

Through six games, they’re shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. In the three wins in the Bahamas, the Orange knocked were 34-for-73 from beyond the arc, a 46.5 percent clip. The question isn’t whether or not that rate can continue — four of the six players that saw action on Friday are dangerous three-point shooters while the other two, Tyler Roberson  and DaJuan Coleman, aren’t going to be shooting threes — but what happens on the nights where the threes aren’t going down.

There are going to be nights where they shoot 5-for-25 instead of 11-for-25. Will they have enough firepower then? Will their defense be good enough? Will guys like Roberson and Coleman be able to supply a scoring punch? Will Cooney, Gbinije and Richardson attack the paint instead of settling for jumpers?

Because at the very least, these three games in the Bahamas have proven that the Orange are going to be relevant this season, even in the loaded ACC. Whether that means they’re going to push for a top four finish or simply end the year as a tournament team remains to be seen, but this much is clear: Jim Boeheim has himself a squad Upstate.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

Leave a comment

No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.