Corey Walden, Gary Browne

2013-2014 Ohio Valley Season Preview: Is this the year for Eastern Kentucky or Southeast Missouri State?

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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 here. To see the rest of our preview lists, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last season, the Ohio Valley Conference title game ended in a thriller between Murray State and Belmont. Kerron Johnson hit a game-winner to advance the Bruins to the NCAA tournament in Belmont’s first year in the conference.

This season, Murray State no longer has one of the conference’s all-time greats in Isaiah Canaan, aand Ed Daniel and Stacy Wilson graduate as well. Belmont lost the back court of Johnson and leading scorer Ian Clark. That gives several teams then chance to take over the conference in 2013-2014.

Eastern Kentucky is one of the preseason favorites, bringing back two OVC all-newcomer selections in Glenn Cosey and Corey Walden. The Colonels return three other starters besides Cosey, but one of the starters they lost was point guard and all-OVC selection Mike DiNunno.

Southeast Missouri State is coming off a 17-win season this past year, and with Murray State without three key players — as well as sophomore point guard Zay Jackson, who tore his ACL earlier this month — the Redhawks should be able to make that jump atop the West Division this season. SeMo brings back Tyler Stone and Nino Johnson, a combo that makes up the conference’s best frontline.

source: Getty Images
Rick Byrd (Getty Images)

Eastern Illinois and Austin Peay lead the group of sleepers this season in the OVC, while Belmont can’t be counted out. Rick Byrd has created a winning culture at the Nashville school, and the Bruins will contend if J.J. Mann, Reece Chamberlain and Samford transfer Drew Windler embrace their bigger roles this season.

PRESEASON OHIO VALLEY PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tyler Stone, Southeast Missouri State

Tyler Stone helped the Redhawks finish second in the West Division, behind Isaiah Canaan-led Murray State, last season. The 6-foot-8 Stone led the team in scoring at 15.5 points and was second in rebounding at 7.8 boards per game, which put him top-10 in the conference in both those categories.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • Patrick Miller, Tennessee State: The 6-foot-1 senior guard was the best playmaker last season with 5.9 assists per game. Miller is one of two returning starters following a junior campaign averaging 14.8 points per game.
  • J.J. Mann, Belmont: No more Ian Clark or Kerron Johnson or Trevor Noack. Rick Byrd will have to rely on more production from returning starter J.J. Mann. The 6-foot-6 wing is the only returner to average double figures last season.
  • Glenn Cosey, Eastern Kentucky: Leading an experienced Colonels team that returns four starters as well as Corey Walden. He put in 15.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.
  • Chris Horton, Austin Peay: The Austin Peay sophomore has a lot of upside after a freshman campaign that saw him average 8.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. The Governors also return Travis Betran, who averaged 17.2 points a night.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @OVCBall

PREDICTED FINISH:

East

1. Eastern Kentucky
2. Belmont
3. Morehead State
4. Tennessee State
5. Jacksonville State
6. Tennessee Tech

West

1. Southeast Missouri State
2. Eastern Illinois
3. Murray State
4. Tennessee-Martin
5. Austin Peay
6. SIU-Edwardsville

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)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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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)
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)
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.