Aaron Gordon

College Basketball Talk’s latest top 25

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For the second straight week, the top seven teams in the country are exactly the same.

In fact, the only team from last week’s top 15 that lost this past week was UConn, who is now No. 15 in the country. That much likely won’t change next week, either, as only six teams in the top 25 will be challenged this week. No. 23 Missouri is at N.C. State). No. 18 Iowa State is out in Diamond Head Classic.

There’s the whole Syracuse-Villanova and Louisville-Kentucky double-header on Saturday, but those are just two games.

Anyone else ready for conference play to begin?

1. Arizona (12-0, LW: No. 1): Arizona’s only game this past week was a blowout win over Southern in the McKale Center. The Wildcats are the most balanced and versatile team in the country, but they need Gabe York to wake up. His last eight games: 4.5 points, 26.8% FG, 8-for-25 3’s.

2. Syracuse (11-0, LW: No. 2): Friday’s blowout win over High Point isn’t going to blow anyone away. I know much has been written about Tyler Ennis this season, but here’s something for you: Ennis is the best point guard in the country. Too much? Well, he’s averaging 12.1 points, 5.4 assists and 2.8 steals while turning it over 13 times in 11 games and shooting 43.5% from three.

3. Wisconsin (12-0, LW: No. 3): The Badgers didn’t play last week, but that doesn’t change the fact that Bo Ryan’s club is, right now, the best team in the Big Ten.

4. Ohio State (12-0, LW: No. 4): The Buckeyes managed to avoid a loss against Notre Dame on Saturday, but OSU’s flaw was exposed. They’re not a good team on the offensive end of the floor. Their defense will never let them get blown out, but when you need to rely on the streaky LaQuinton Ross as much as Ohio State does, it makes them primed for an upset.

5. Louisville (11-1, LW: No. 5): Much like they did after losing three in a row last January, the Cardinals are flying under the radar again this season. Russ Smith is a much-improved distributor. They’ll get a chance to prove it on Saturday at Kentucky.

6. Michigan State (10-1, LW: No. 6): The Spartans went into Texas and whipped up on the Longhorns in a game where Keith Appling struggled, Gary Harris was hobbled by his ankle injury and Matt Costello didn’t play. Adreian Payne was dominant.

7. Duke (9-2, LW: No. 7): The Blue Devils picked up an impressive win over UCLA on Thursday night in the Garden, one highlighted by the return to relevance of sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon.

8. Florida (9-2, LW: No. 8): The Gators picked up an impressive win on Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden over Memphis. At full strength, this is one of the nation’s best teams.

9. Oklahoma State (11-1, Lw: No. 9): Markel Brown busted out of his mini-slump as the Pokes knocked off Colorado out in Vegas. Brown went for 23 points and 11 boards.

10. Villanova (11-0, LW: No. 10): The Wildcats will square off with Syracuse on Saturday at the Carrier Dome is what could end up being the best game in the month of December. I’m ready.

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

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.

VIDEO: Jim Boeheim makes TV appearance to talk Carmelo Anthony

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Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has drawn attention for some recent comments about former Orange star Carmelo Anthony.

After Anthony captured his record third gold medal with USA Basketball, his former college coach told Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard that Anthony didn’t have a great chance at winning an NBA title.

“He’s unlikely to win an NBA title,” Boeheim said of Anthony. “He’s never been on a team that even had a remote chance of winning an NBA title.”

Boeheim maintains that he was speaking of Melo’s legacy being about more than an NBA title and that he’s one of the game’s greats thanks to other accomplishments like the Syracuse title and gold medals. On SportsCenter, Boeheim made sure to stress where those comments were coming from, while also making sure his kids would stop being mad at him.

It’s much easier to understand where Boeheim is coming from in this instance and it clears up something that will probably go away now.