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Defense to be a staple of Texas basketball in 2013-14

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Criticize Rick Barnes all you want — believe me, the criticism is not unfounded — but the longtime Texas coach has built quite the resume for himself in his time with the Longhorns. He has been the head coach for 15 years, and in his first 14 years earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament in each year. Last year, however, was nothing short of a major disappointment. A fringe Top 25 team to begin the season with a surplus of talent, the Longhorns finished the year 16-18 — the only sub .500 in Barnes’ history as a head coach which spans more than 25 years.

That’s pretty impressive. But last season? Far from it.

Expectations are low for Texas entering the 2013-14 campaign, and the coaching seat hot for Barnes.

The offense wasn’t very good to begin with last season, and compound that with Texas losing Myck Kabongo, Sheldon McClellan, Julien Lewis and Ioannis Papapetrou, it doesn’t figure to get much better. There are many uncertainties entering the season, with the primary one being who will actually score the basketball. Barnes told the Longhorn Network that he wasn’t sure “who would be that guy if we had to go get a basket.”

That’s pretty unsettling. Entering the year not knowing who was going to be “that guy” isn’t a good thing.

If there is one bright spot for Texas, it will be on the defensive end, according to Barnes.

The last season Texas was considered a top team and routinely in the Top 25 was in 2010-11; they were 28-8 that year and earned a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Much of their success that year could be attributed to their defensive play as they held opponents to just 29.5% shooting from 3PT and 42% shooting from 2PT — both top ten nationally.

Said Barnes, “We haven’t been good the last couple years. We will play harder and play better defense. With the size we have, we’ll be able to protect the rim.”

Rising sophomore guard Javan Felix will spearhead the effort to turn the program around and back to its winning ways. That’s a big onus for Felix, especially considering he is the top offensive threat returning from last season. Felix averaged 6.8 points and shot 35.4% from the field — both of those numbers will have to drastically improve.

With a dearth of proven scorers, Texas will need to hang their hat on the defensive end in order to find success.

Top-25 guard trims list to six

Trae Young , Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images
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One of the top points guards in the Class of 2017 has trimmed his list of potential collegiate destinations to six.

Trae Young, a consensus top-25 recruit, listed Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma, Washington, Oklahoma State and Kentucky as the schools he is considering as he readies to begin his senior year of high school.

The list of the 6-foot-2 point guard is largely provincial as it includes Oklahoma, whose campus is just minutes away from Young’s Norman North High School, and fellow in-state school Oklahoma. Another pair of Big 12 schools make the list in powerhouse Kansas and the Red Raiders, whose first-year coach, Chris Beard, has spent the bulk of his career working in Texas. Texas Tech is also Young’s father’s alma mater. Washington has been on a role sending its players to the pros and recently received the commitment of top-five 2017 recruit Michael Porter, Jr.

Kentucky, of course, needs no explanation as to its attractiveness to high-level players.

Top-100 guard commits to Xavier

Chris Mack has Xavier back in the Sweet 16 (AP Photo)
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Xavier has added a top-100 prospect into its 2017 recruiting class Wednesday.

Elias Harden, a shooting guard from Georgia, pledged to the Musketeers via social media to become the second member of Chris Mack’s next class.

“The recruiting process was not EASY AT ALL,” Harden wrote on Twitter. “I wanna thank all the coaches that took time to recruit me.

“WIth that being said I will continue my academic and athletic career at Xavier University.”

The 6-foot-6 guard is ranked 92nd overall by 247Sports and had offers from Auburn, Maryland, Texas Tech and Ole Miss. He joins Jared Ridder, a Missouri guard, as part of the 2017 Xavier class.

The Musketeers return the bulk of last year’s 28-6 team that narrowly missed out on the Sweet 16.

Clemson recruit to enroll early

Brad Brownell
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Clemson will get a four-star recruit on campus a year earlier than it expected, though his on-court debut for the Tigers will remain on schedule.

A.J. Oliver, a guard from South Carolina, will enroll early at Clemson and redshirt this upcoming season, he announced via social media Wednesday.

“I woke up this morning and realized that the greatest opportunity for me is to enroll early into Clemson,” he wrote on Twitter. “I will redshirt a year & start my college career early.”

Oliver, whose mother is the head women’s basketball coach at Clemson, was a consensus top-100 player in the class of 2017 who committed to the Tigers last December. Texas Tech and the College of Charleston were involved before his commitment.

A three-star shooting guard, Scott Spencer of Virginia, was previously the only member coach Brad Brownell’s 2016 class. While Oliver’s decision to redshirt will keep him off the court for the 2016-17 season, he’ll have spent a full season in the Tiger program before making his debut in 2017

The cupboard isn’t bare in 2017 for the Tigers due to Oliver’s reclassification because Clemson received a commitment from power forward Malik Williams, a consensus top-150 player, earlier Wednesday.

Kentucky used Calipari-Chaney fight in media training

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Kentucky Sports Radio
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Kentucky held some media training sessions yesterday, and one of the topics that head coach John Calipari used to make a point was … his blow-up with John Chaney. The moment was captured on SnapChat by a trio of Kentucky newcomers.

You remember that incident. Chaney, then the head coach at Temple, and Cal, who was coaching Atlantic 10 rival UMass at the time, nearly came to blows over the way that Cal handled officials during the game. Before the video below picks up, the two shared this exchange:

“Could I say this to you, please?” Chaney said, before the video above picks up. “You’ve got a good ball club. But what you did with the officials out there is wrong, and I don’t want to be a party to that. You understand?”

Cal responded: “You weren’t out there, Coach. You don’t have any idea.”

Chaney fired back: “You got a game given to you by officials right here with G.W. on three bad calls, O.K.? Then you send your kids out there pushing and shoving. You had the best officiating you could ever get here. And for you to ride them, I don’t want to be a party to that.”

And that led to “I’ll kill you”:

(h/t KSR)

VIDEO: Shaq’s son, Shareef O’Neal, with monster dunk in Vegas

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Shareef O’Neal is a top 50 prospect in the Class of 2018. In Vegas this past weekend, he threw down a monster put-back dunk.