Connecticut v Memphis

College Basketball Player of the Year Power Rankings

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1. Doug McDermott, Creighton: At this point in the season, I probably don’t need to do much more than simply write McDermott’s name here. Everyone else is battling for second-place. It doesn’t matter how you break it down: McDermott is the second-leading scorer in the country; he’s the highest-usage weapon in the nation’s most efficient offense; he’s a two-time first-team all-american playing on a top 25 team that just upset the No. 4 team in the country. Whether you’re a casual fan, a numbers geek or an old-school, eye-test type, McDermott is the easy vote for Player of the Year. How often does that happen?

2. Shabazz Napier, UConn: Considering the lack of depth UConn has in their front court and the fact that their second and third options offensively (Deandre Daniels and Ryan Boatright) are brutally inconsistency, the Huskies should probably be an NIT team. But they’re not. They have a win over Indiana in the Garden, a win over Florida at home and a win over Memphis in Memphis. Shabazz is the guy to thank for that. As a result, I’ve adjusted my thinking on where he should sit in this rankings.

3. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: Smart can dominate a game in so many different ways, but what I’ve been most impressed with has been his ability to rebound the ball now that Michael Cobbins is out. In the five games since then, Smart is averaging 9.6 rebounds. If only he could learn to shoot the ball consistently.

4. Deandre Kane, Iowa State: Some of the hype surrounding Deandre Kane has dissipated in the last week as the Cyclone’s star guard has dealt with a sprained ankle and the Cyclones have suffered through three straight losses. The biggest concern? 22 turnovers the last four games.

5. Jabari Parker, Duke: Parker looks like he’s worked his way through the five-game slump he was in, popping off for 23 points in a 35-point win over N.C. State. I’ve dropped him to fifth, however, because after watching a ton of film on Jabari, I’ve become horrified at how bad he can be defensively.

6. Nick Johnson, Arizona: Johnson continues to fly under the radar as “just” the nation’s No. 1 team’s leading scorer, best defender, best perimeter shooter and best playmaker in crunch time. Ho-hum.

7. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: I’m still shocked that I see Player of the Year lists with C.J. Fair listed above Tyler Ennis. He’s the only point guard on the Syracuse roster, he doesn’t turn the ball over, he forces a ton of turnovers and he’s the go-to guy in the clutch for the nation’s No. 2 team. I think I have him too low.

8. Julius Randle, Kentucky: Randle is still putting up monster numbers, but he’s become less of the focal point for Kentucky offensively as teams have started to collapse on him more and more. Doesn’t help that he got lit up by Jarnell Stokes on Saturday.

9. Casey Prather, Florida: He missed two games because of a knee injury, coming back to score 21 points in a far-too-close win at Auburn. He’s the leading scorer for a team that goes through too many inexplicable scoring droughts.

10. Joel Embiid, Kansas: This is a little bit of forward projecting. Embiid has not earned this spot yet. But if he continues to play the way that he has played in the last few weeks, and Kansas keeps on looking like a top five team, Embiid is going to have to be in this conversation eventually. Might as well toss him in there now.

Others: Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Keith Appling, Cameron Bairstow, Sam Dekker, C.J. Fair, Aaron Gordon, Rodney Hood, Kevin Pangos, Lamar Patterson, Adreian Payne, Elfrid Payton, Jayvaughn Pinkston, Russ Smith, Fred Van Vleet, T.J. Warren, Andrew Wiggins, Chaz Williams

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)
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
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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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.