Credit: AP

College Basketball Talk’s latest top 25

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source: AP
Credit: AP

The toughest part about putting these rankings together right now is trying to balance out the difference the performance we’ve seen to date and the potential that each team has on their roster.

Look at Kansas, for example. They’re lost three times to top 15 teams away from Phog Allen Fieldhouse, none of which came by more than six points. They have as much talent, top-to-bottom, as anyone in the country, and they have arguably the best head coach in the game. But that doesn’t change the fact that they’re sitting at 7-3.

I think the Jayhawks are still the best team in the Big 12, better than Baylor and better than Oklahoma State. I think they’re a better team than Oregon or Wichita State or UConn. But, a third of the way through the season, can we rank the Jayhawks higher than teams that have outperformed them?

1. Arizona (11-0, LW: No. 1): The Wildcats came back from 11 points down in the second half to beat Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday afternoon. Arizona just keeps on impressing. The week, it was the development of Brandon Ashley that started to draw attention.

2. Syracuse (10-0, LW: No. 2): The Orange only played one game this week, but it was a 68-63 win over former Big East rivals St. John’s at Madison Sqaure Garden. Tyler Ennis continues to play like an all-american, but C.J. Fair has been playing well of late as well.

3. Wisconsin (12-0, LW: No. 3): It was actually a relatively quiet week for the Badgers, who beat Horizon contender Milwaukee and Ohio Valley favorite Eastern Kentucky without breaking a sweat.

4. Ohio State (10-0, LW: No. 4): The Buckeyes are still locking people up defensively. Now that LaQuinton Ross looks like he may be breaking out of his funk, the Buckeyes are becoming more dangerous. Now if they would only play someone good …

5. Louisville (9-1, LW: No. 5): With Chris Jones out of the lineup, Russ Smith stepped in and posted a double-double, 14 points and 10 assists, in a 16-point win over Western Kentucky.

6. Michigan State (9-1, LW: No. 6): Sparty needs Christmas break to get here so they can get healthy. Tom Izzo’s club struggled to knock off Oakland on Saturday. Gary Harris, Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Matt Costello — four starters — are all banged up right now.

7. Duke (7-2, LW: No. 7): Duke didn’t play this week because of finals.

8. Florida (7-2, LW: No. 17): I’m buying the Gators. I think they’re going to end up being one of the top five teams in the country in a month, especially now that it looks like Chris Walker’s first appearance is coming soon.

9. Oklahoma State (9-1, LW: No. 9): Le’Bryan Nash went for 22 points, 10 boards and three steals for the Pokes on Saturday. He’s a key for them, a third option and a post presence to help keep defenses honest.

10. Villanova (10-0, LW: No. 14): I watched some tape on Villanova and came away more impressed this weekend. This is the epitome of a Jay Wright team. Tough, talented guards and big men that create matchup nightmares on the perimeter. This will be a fun team to watch.

11. UConn (9-0, LW: No. 11)
12. Wichita State (10-0, LW: No. 12)
13. Oregon (9-0, LW: No. 13)
14. Baylor (8-1, LW: No. 15)
15. Kansas (7-3, LW: No. 10)
16. North Carolina (7-2, LW: No. 24)
17. Kentucky (8-3, LW: No. 8)
18. Memphis (7-1, LW: No. 16)
19. Iowa State (7-0, LW: No. 18)
20. Gonzaga (10-1, LW: No. 19)
21. Iowa (10-1, LW: No. 20)
22. UMass (9-0, LW: No. 21)
23. San Diego State (7-1, LW: No. 22)
24. Colorado (10-1, LW: No. 23)
25. Pitt (10-0, LW: No. 25)

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)
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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)
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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)
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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)
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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.