calipari

The Secondary Break: Friday’s Links

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It’s time for Bill Walton to stop slamming Ben Howland (CBS Sports)
UCLA’s win over Alabama last Saturday also marked the season debut of ESPN color commentator Bill Walton, one of the greatest players in college basketball history. And for those who have watched him call college games, his disapproval of the Ben Howland era is well-known. He continued on that path Saturday, and the feeling in some circles is that he needs to put a cap on it now that Howland’s no longer the head coach at UCLA.

I’m not sure it’s the hardest job, but this is one of the best (Coach Cal)
Kentucky head coach John Calipari has his own website, which he uses to relay his thoughts to fans of the program. In this post he tackled the idea that he currently has the toughest job in college basketball, offering up some interesting words on the topic.

Arizona, Syracuse stride into 2014 as top teams (Sports Illustrated)
As two of the nation’s seven remaining undefeated teams, Arizona and Syracuse have remained atop the national polls as they begin conference play this weekend. That’s also the case in Luke Winn’s power rankings, in which he discusses the Wildcats’ offensive balance and Wisconsin’s efficiency on baseline out of bounds plays.

Grad students have helped UConn, but some want tighter rules (Hartford Courant)
After R.J. Evans proved to be a capable contributor for UConn last season, George Washington transfer Lasan Kromah has done so this season for the Huskies. But even with that being the case, there are some who aren’t too fond of the current NCAA rules regarding graduate transfers.

Big patience: transfer Hunter Mickelson using year to learn (Lawrence Journal-World)
One big man on the Kansas roster who has not played this season is center Hunter Mickelson, who has to sit out this season after transferring in from Arkansas. And even though he can’t play in games, Mickelson’s done his best to improve and learn from one of the nation’s best coaches in Bill Self.

Answers come for Utah, but the biggest question remains (Salt Lake Tribune)
Utah performed well in its 70-68 loss to No. 10 Oregon on Thursday night, with Jordan Loveridge, Delon Wright and Dallin Bachynski all playing well. But even with that being the case, the next step for the program is to learn how to win games of that magnitude.

Butler basketball comes out a winner figuratively, if not literally (Fort Wayne News-Sentinel)
Butler made its Big East debut on Tuesday night, losing to No. 8 Villanova in overtime at Hinkle Fieldhouse. But even with the loss it’s difficult to say that the Bulldogs weren’t a winner in one regard, as the debut was the culmination of years of hard work to reach that point.

Perspective needed for transition season in Bloomington (Inside the Hall)
Indiana dropped its Big Ten opener at Illinois on Tuesday night, and while there’s certainly talent at Tom Crean’s disposal there will be growing pains as well. And given how much was lost from last year’s Big Ten champion squad, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

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.