Joel Embiid is doing his best to mimic the growth of Anthony Davis back in 2012. Davis was a no-name on the AAU circuit heading into the summer after his junior season, but he shot up the rankings, becoming the top player in the class. And as he began to develop and dominate defensively, with Kentucky’s team growing around him, the Wildcats went on to become national champions.
Could the same be happening to Embiid? It sure looks like it. In two games last week, Bill Self’s seven-footer averaged 14.5 points, 10.0 boards and 6.5 blocks while shooting 12-for-14 from the floor. He absolutely controlled the paint in wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma State, helping Kansas reach 4-0 in the Big 12, good enough for sole possession of first place. It will be interesting to see how he develops the rest of the season, but the way that he is playing right now, he’s the most dominant interior presence in college basketball.
They were good, too:
Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke: The Blue Devils bounced back from an ugly start to ACC play by knocking off Virginia and N.C. State this week. Sulaimon was the hero in a game Duke struggled against UVA, finishing with 21 points (and the game-winning three). He chipped in with 13 points and six assists in the blowout of the Wolfpack.
Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley, Texas: Holmes and Ridley combined for 39 points, 18 boards and seven blocks in a huge win over Iowa State on Saturday. That came after they went for 21 points and 24 boards in a win at West Virginia.
Delon Wright, Utah: Is there a better player in the country that no one is talking about than Wright? In wins over USC and UCLA this week, he averaged 17.0 points, 7.0 boards, 5.5 assists, 4.5 steals and 2.0 blocks. He’s a 6-foot-5 guard.
Nik Stauskas, Michigan: The Wolverines went into Wisconsin on Saturday and knocked off the Badgers. Stauskas had 23 points, including the last 11. He’s become the centerpiece of John Beilein’s offense.
Kevin Larsen, George Washington: Larsen averaged 18.5 points and 7.5 boards this week in wins over VCU at home and at St. Bonaventure.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Michigan Wolverines
The Wolverines were written off when Mitch McGary put his season on hold to get his ailing back surgically repaired. Not by me, mind you. It would be silly to write off a team that still had Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert as the centerpieces of a team with a point guard that’s only going to get better and a pair of big men that, at worst, are serviceable top-of-the-rotation Big Ten bigs.
Michigan proved that on Saturday. The Wolverines won their seventh straight game, starting off Big Ten play 5-0, and they did it with a statement win over Wisconsin in Madison. And once again, it was Stauskas making all the big plays down the stretch of a close game. If Robinson stays aggressive, Stauskas and LeVert continue to manufacture open looks for their teammates and Derrick Walton can avoid turning the ball over, this can be a top three team in the Big Ten.
They were good, too:
Kansas: It’s hard to argue with wins over Oklahoma State and at Iowa State in the same week, especially when Naadir Tharpe shoots 14-for-17 from the floor and hands out ten assists. But here’s my concern: Kansas had 43 turnovers in the two games. Tharpe committed ten of them. Joel Embiid had 11.
Kansas State: It was a big week for the Wildcats, as they not only notched a win over Oklahoma at home, they went into West Virginia and just pounded the Mountaineers. Believe it or not, the Wildcats are in sole possession of second place in the Big 12.
Syracuse: The Orange can now claim sole possession of first place in the ACC after beating Pitt this week at the Carrier Dome.
Texas Tech: All of a sudden, it may be time to pay a bit of mind to the Red Raiders. After knocking off Baylor at home this week, Jaye Crockett and company went into TCU and beat the Horned Frogs.
Providence: Ed Cooley’s club has not had an easy go of it this season, but they picked up a pair of huge wins this week, going into NYC and knocking off St. John’s before they blew out Creighton at home.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.