Florida Gulf Coast Eagles Bernard Thompson celebrates the Eagles win over the Georgetown Hoyas in their second round NCAA tournament game in Philadelphia

Atlantic Sun 2013-14 Preview: Dunk City returns plenty for another run

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FGCU Athletics

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click hereTo see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Can Florida Gulf Coast return to postseason glory after last season’s magical Sweet 16 run? That’s the big question in the Atlantic Sun for the 2013-14 season as “Dunk City” will attempt to show that they have more staying power than past NCAA Tournament upset darlings. Thanks to four returning starters, led by the junior backcourt of Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson, and forwards Chase Fieler and Eric McKnight, the Eagles are the returning favorites in the league after last season’s 26-11 campaign that saw 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast upset Georgetown and San Diego State in the NCAA Tournament.

The main competition for Dunk City comes from Mercer. The Bears won the Atlantic Sun regular season crown last season (14-4) and finished 24-12 while beating Tennessee in the NIT. Efficient senior floor leader Langston Hall had a 2.28 assist-to-turnover ratio last season and will lead Mercer in their attempt at revenge after falling to Florida Gulf Coast in last season’s A-Sun Conference Tournament title game.

Versatile wing and A-Sun leading scorer Torrey Craig (17.2 points per game) returns to give USC Upstate a shot at the conference title. The Spartans return all five starters from a 9-9 team in the league and have multiple scoring options, including senior forward Ricardo Glenn (10.5 points, 8.1 rebounds per game).

Guards Keith McDougald (13.1 points per game) and Jarvis Haywood (11.5 points per game) give Jacksonville a formidable returning backcourt, East Tennessee State returns four starters and promising sophomore forward Lester Wilson (13 points, 5.3 rebounds per game) while North Florida, Lipscomb, Stetson and Northern Kentucky played much better during A-Sun play than the nonconference portion of their schedules last season. Kennesaw State looks to turn it around after five games behind ninth place in the league last season.

PRESEASON ATLANTIC SUN PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Bernard Thompson, Florida Gulf Coast

The 6’3″ junior shooting guard is the returning leading scorer (14.3 points per game) and second leading returning rebounder (4.4 rebounds per game) for Florida Gulf Coast and was also the A-Sun’s Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore. Thompson ranked second nationally in steals with 102, started all 37 games last season for the Eagles and also shot 38 percent from three-point range.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • Torrey Craig, USC Upstate: Versatile wing is former conference player of the year on pace to crack 2,000 career points.
  • Brett Comer, Florida Gulf Coast: Point guard that makes Dunk City go led conference in assists (6.6 per game) and was A-Sun Tournament MVP last season.
  • Keith McDougald, Jacksonville: The 6’1″ senior plays much bigger and stepped up in A-Sun play to average 15.4 points per game while accumulating two games of 13 rebounds in conference play.
  • Langston Hall, Mercer: One of the more efficient guards in America, the 6’4″ senior averaged five assists a game and shot 84 percent from the free-throw line.

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Florida Gulf Coast
2. Mercer
3. USC Upstate
4. Jacksonville
5. East Tennessee State
6. North Florida
7. Lipscomb
8. Stetson
9. Northern Kentucky
10. Kennesaw State

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.