East Carolina v Duke

College Basketball Talk’s Player of the Year Power Rankings

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The 2013-2014 season is sure to be a thrilling Player of the Year race, so to keep track of it, we will be posting weekly Player of the Year Power Rankings for your reading goodness.

Who’d we miss? Who’s ranked too high? We love to overlook your team’s best player and overrate your rival’s superstar.

1. Jabari Parker, Duke: You hear all the time about how Jabari Parker is one of the most well-rounded offensive weapons we’ve seen at the college level in a long time. He scores in the post, he spreads the floor with his ability to shoot, he’ll take people off the dribble, he’ll go coast-to-coast off of a defensive rebound.

To get an idea for just how effective Parker is offensively, here are Synergy’s points-per-possession numbers for post-up, catch-and-shoot, transition and isolation situations:

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How do you stop someone that can do that?

2. Shabazz Napier, UConn: For the first time in what feels like Napier’s career, he struggled in the final minutes as UConn lost at home to Stanford, 53-51. Napier was 0-for-5 from three in the second half, missed a pull-up jumper that would have tied the game with 30 seconds left and gave the ball up to Omar Calhoun on the game’s final possession. That’s enough to get him dropped out of the Player of the Year top spot. Harsh, I know. He did bounce back with 20 points in a win at Washington on Sunday.

3. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: Smart continued his terrific season on Saturday, bouncing back from an off-night against Delaware State to go for 18 points and three assists in a win over Colorado out in Vegas. Smart has improved his shot selection a bit this season, but he’s still a long way from being a consistent perimeter jump-shooter. According to Synergy, he’s shooting 28.1% from the floor on jump shots.

4. Doug McDermott, Creighton: Comparing him to Jabari Parker, here are those same numbers for Dougie McBuckets:

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5. Julius Randle, Kentucky: Coming off of a loss at North Carolina where Randle finished with just nine shots while only getting to the line six times, the Wildcats got back to their bread-and-butter, pounding the ball into the paint to Randle. He finished with 29 points and 10 boards in the come-from-behind win over Belmont.

6. Chaz Williams, UMass: Williams had his worst game of the season in a loss to Florida State on Saturday, finishing with 10 points and three assists while committing four turnovers and shooting 4-for-14 from the floor and missing all four of his threes.

7. Russ Smith, Louisville: It may be hard to believe, I know, but according to KenPom, Louisville is the nation’s most efficient offensive team. Smith is a huge part of that, as he’s become an even more efficient scorer than he was last season as KenPom’s Player of the Year.

8. Casey Prather, Florida: Prather’s breakout senior season has been the result the fact that he is now embracing his ability as a slasher. Of the 117 field goals that Prather has taken through 11 games, only three have come from beyond the arc. Only six other field goal attempts have been jump shots, according to Synergy’s logs. He’s thriving as a guy that attacks the rim, in both half court sets and transition.

9. Nick Johnson, Arizona: The versatility of Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is what makes Arizona a national title contender, but Johnson is still their most important player. A lockdown defender, his value only skyrockets with Gabe York’s inability to make anything over the course of the last month.

10. Keith Appling, Michigan State: Appling did not play his best game in Michigan State’s win over Texas, and while he’s been Michigan State’s best player for much of the early part of the season, Adreian Payne is making a push as the Spartan’s most valuable player.

Others: Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Ron Baker, Cameron Bairstow, Jahii Carson, Jordan Clarkson, Aaron Craft, Joel Embiid, Tyler Ennis, Aaron Gordon, Rodney Hood, Roberto Nelson, Marcus Paige, Lamar Patterson, Elfrid Payton, T.J. Warren, Andrew Wiggins, Joseph Young

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)
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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
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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.