UMass hasn’t reached the NCAA tournament since 1998, but through five games Derek Kellogg’s Minutemen have the appearance of a group that can end that drought. Friday afternoon UMass added another solid victory to its resume, soundly beating No. 19 New Mexico 81-65 in the semifinals of the Charleston Classic. After struggling from the field in the first half and leading by just five at the break UMass took better shots while controlling the flow of the game, shooting 56.3% in the game’s final 20 minutes.
Chaz Williams led four Minutemen in double figures with 19 points and big man Cady Lalanne posted another double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds. While Alex Kirk was highly productive for the Lobos, finishing with 32 points and 11 rebounds, but outside of Kendall Williams (13 points) no other New Mexico player scored in double figures.
UMass was able to make New Mexico uncomfortable offensively, resulting in 18 turnovers that led to 21 points on the other end. Add in a 46-26 advantage in points in the paint and an offensive rebounding percentage approaching 46%, and it isn’t difficult to see why UMass was able to put the game away in the second half.
With either Clemson or Davidson next, Kellogg’s Minutemen will likely be favored to win the title game on Sunday. And with that could come the program’s first appearance in the Top 25 since November 1998. With Williams running the show and talented options in fellow guard Derrick Gordon (11 points), forwards Raphiael Putney (18) and Sampson Carter and Lalanne in the middle, UMass has the talent needed to contend in the Atlantic 10.
With games against BYU and Florida State remaining on the non-conference schedule, they’ll have the opportunity to add more quality non-conference wins to their resume before the start of Atlantic 10 play. Before the season began the question asked was why should UMass be regarded as a threat to preseason favorite VCU and reigning champions Saint Louis. After this latest result, it’s more appropriate to ask why can’t the Minutemen contend for the A-10 crown.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.