DeAndre Kane

After beating No. 7 Baylor, just how good is No. 9 Iowa State?

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I listed Deandre Kane No. 3 in my Player of the Year Power Rankings earlier today, which turned out to be really convenient timing as Kane put on a show on Tuesday night.

The Iowa State point guard went for 30 points, nine assists, eight boards and five steals while shooting 11-for-18 from the floor as the No. 9 Cyclones put a whipping on No. 7 Baylor in Ames, winning 87-72. It took a while for Fred Hoiberg’s boys to find a rhythm offensively, but once they did, Baylor didn’t stand a chance.

Iowa State finished the night shooting 54.8% from the floor and 10-for-25 from three. They aren’t going to lose many games when they do that, let alone games in Hilton Coliseum.

The win pushed Iowa State to 14-0 on the season and 2-0 in Big 12 play and will likely make them seem all-the-more likely to push Kansas and Oklahoma State in the Big 12 race.

So just how good are the Cyclones?

Honestly, I don’t think we know yet.

Look, this is one of the most entertaining teams in the country to watch. They love to get up and down the floor. They jack up threes like few teams in the country are capable of. They are actually defending this season, instead of merely looking at the defensive end of the floor as an inconvenience. Kane is an all-american at this point in the season, and Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang and Dustin Hogue are all all-Big 12 caliber talents.

They’re also a nightmare to try and matchup with. Kane is a physical, 6-foot-5 presence at the point guard spot. He can post up and overpower smaller defenders. The three big men on this team — Ejim, Niang, and Hogue — are all atypical forwards. Ejim and Hogue are terrific athletes that can run the floor. Niang is slow and looks like an overweight gym teacher but he is one of the most skilled offensive players in the Big 12. Every player on the Iowa State roster can hit threes.

They spread you out, they let Kane create off the bounce and they trust that they’ll find the mismatch or the open three on the perimeter. The beauty of it is its simplicity.

So yeah, I think Iowa State is a good basketball team. I have them ranked in my top 20.

But I’m still not completely convinced that this is really a top ten team for a couple of reasons. ISU shot up in the polls because of wins over Michigan, BYU and Iowa. Well, neither that Michigan win or that BYU win looks nearly as impressive now as it did when it happened, and if we’re being completely honest, the Cyclones beat Iowa because the Hawkeyes gave that game away down the stretch.

Smacking around Baylor is a statement, and trust me when I tell you that point is not lost on me. But it’s a win that came at Hilton Coliseum, which is one of the best home environments in the country. I’m not sure there are ten tougher places to pick up a win in the country when Iowa State is good, and they’re good this year.

Prove it with wins on the road this year, wins that have some more umph that at BYU or at Texas Tech or over Boise State in Hawaii.

ISU’s next seven games look like this: at Oklahoma, Kansas, at Texas, Kansas State, at Kansas, Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State.

Let’s see how they fare during that stretch. If they’re still sitting in the top ten, I’ll gladly eat these words.

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.