Nebraska v Cincinnati

College Hoops Week in Review: Justin Jackson leads Cincinnati, San Diego State Road Warriors

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Justin Jackson, Cincinnati

The Bearcats could not have asked for a better stop to league play in the inaugural season of the American. After knocking off SMU in Cincinnati on New Year’s Day, Mick Cronin’s club went down to Memphis where they laid the wood on the Tigers, whipping then-No. 18 Memphis by 16 points on their home floor. Do the math, and that would be two wins over top five teams in the conference in the span of four days.

The star of the show for Cincinnati was Justin Jackson, who has developed into as much of a centerpiece as there is on this roster. Nothing that the Bearcats do this season is going to be pretty. They are the nation’s second-most efficient defense, according to Kenpom, and the third-best offensive rebounding team. They win by attacking the glass and swarming defensively. It’s ugly, but it’s effective, which is what makes Jackson the perfect fit.

In the two wins, Jackson averaged 15.0 points, 7.0 boards, 6.0 blocks and 3.0 steals while shooting 11-for-19 from the floor. Cincinnati has now won six straight games, a stretch where Jackson is averaging 15.3 points, 9.7 boards, 4.3 blocks and 2.2 steals.

They were good, too:

  • Eric Atkins, Notre Dame: Jerian who? After going for 30 points and seven assists in an overtime win over Canisius, Atkins made sure that Notre Dame’s first foray into the ACC was a successful one. He had 19 points and 11 assists as the Irish beat Duke 79-77 in South Bend.
  • Askia Booker, Colorado: Colorado picked up a huge win against Oregon on Sunday evening which was spurred on by 27 points and four assists from ‘Ski. He also had 13 points and four steals in a win over Oregon State.
  • Devin Oliver, Dayton: Oliver had 26 points, seven boards and five assists and banked in a game-winning three in overtime to beat Ole Miss in Oxford.
  • Nik Stauskas, Michigan: I’ve said it for a while: if Michigan is going to win, they need Stauskas to do more to key the offense. In two wins this week, he averaged 16.0 points and 5.5 assists with just four turnovers. Those numbers are Burke-ian.
  • Fred VanVleet, Wichita State: VanVleet had a career-high 22 points in a win over Northern Iowa and averaged 19.5 points and 4.0 assists on the week. He hasn’t committed a turnover since the 11:47 mark of the second half of a game on Dec. 22nd, a stretch where he’s played roughly 107 minutes of basketball.

source:  TEAM OF THE WEEK: San Diego State Aztecs

The Aztecs were supposed to be in a rebuilding mode this year, but if that was the case, they have rebuilt pretty quickly. We knew that the Aztecs were good heading into this week, but they made a statement in the last five days by going into two of the nation’s toughest road environments and leaving with wins. On New Year’s Day, they won their Mountain West opener in Moby Arena, knocking off Colorado State, 71-61. Then on Sunday, SDSU rode their powerful interior to a win at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, beating then-No. 16 Kansas, 61-57.

What makes SDSU tough is the length and athleticism they have up and down their roster. Their front line can match up, physically and athletically, with anyone in the country, and they have enough length on their perimeter to cause trouble for any and all wing scorers. The key, however, is going to end up being the play of Winston Shepard and Xavier Thames in the back court. SDSU isn’t exactly a great offensive team, and those two guys are by far the best scorers they have.

Now consider this: in the second half of the win over Kansas, Shepard and Thames combined to go 3-for-16 from the floor. SDSU is legit.

They were good, too:

  • Air Force: Are the Falcons a sleeper in the Mountain West? After one week of league play, AFA is sitting pretty at 2-0 with wins over Utah State and at UNLV.
  • Creighton: The Bluejays won their first two games in Big East play, whipping up on Marquette in their opener on New Year’s Eve and following that up with a win over Seton Hall on Saturday afternoon.
  • Kansas State: There aren’t many teams around the country that have gotten as much better during the first two months of the season as Kansas State has. The team that lost to North Colorado back in November now has won nine straight games. This week alone, they beat George Washington and Oklahoma State.
  • Pitt: The Panthers kicked off their tenure in the ACC in promising fashion, but going into Raleigh and smacking around N.C. State despite the fact that they dug themselves a 17-2 hole to begin the game.
  • Rhode Island: The Rams were one of the more promising teams in the Atlantic 10 heading into the season, but they struggled a bit early on in the season. Was this week the turnaround? URI won at Brown and followed that up with an impressive win at LSU.

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.