michigan

College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

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The toughest team to rank this week was Michigan, a team sitting at 15-4 on the season that, until last week, wasn’t even in the conversation to be in the top 25.

I had them 18th last week. I slotted them No. 5 this week. Too high? Maybe, but there are a couple of things to remember with this Michigan team:

  • Their worst loss of the season, to Charlotte in Puerto Rico, came in a game that both Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III got injured. Robinson didn’t play after getting hurt in the first half. Stauskas did, but he spent much of the end of the game limping around the floor.
  • Derrick Walton is a different player than he was early in the season. His confidence and understanding of the offense is growing, and he’s been more effective when Stauskas is allowed to initiate offense.
  • Losing Mitch McGary for the season was a blessing in disguise for this team. He’s an effort guy. His impact on the floor is a result of his ability to play harder than his opponent. He was injured and out of shape, which really hampered his effectiveness. In other words, a healthy rotation of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford is better than a banged up Mitch McGary.

As a result, the Michigan team we’re watching now is a different team than the one that lost at Iowa State, at Duke and at home to Arizona. Michigan currently is sitting at 7-0 in the Big Ten, all alone in first place, after reeling off three straight wins over top ten teams. If we’re ever going to overlook a slow start, it has to be with this team.

THE TOP 25

1. Arizona (20-0, LW: No. 1): Arizona is still undefeated after getting tested at home by Utah on Sunday night. That road win over Michigan is looking better and better by the day.

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2. Syracuse (19-0, LW: No. 3): The Orange aren’t blowing teams out, but they keep on winning. On Saturday, they got another fight out of Miami and managed to hang on to beat the Hurricanes. Trevor Cooney had been shooting 24% from three in ACC play, but snapped out of that funk with a 3-for-6 performance that included a huge three late in the Miami game to stretch the Orange lead to six.

3. Florida (17-2, LW: No. 4): Florida is in the same boat as Syracuse. They’re defense can be, at times, absolutely stifling — Tennessee scored 41 points against them and Jordan McRae shot 1-for-15 — but they can go through lulls offensively. I’m ready for the Gators to be tested against Kentucky. The rest of the SEC is just thoroughly mediocre.

4. Kansas (15-4, LW: No. 5): Andrew Wiggins put together one of his most impressive halves in college basketball on Saturday, lighting TCU up for 19 of his 27 points in the first half. The Jayhawks are 6-0 in Big 12 play and already hold a two-game lead on everyone in the conference.

5. Michigan (15-4, LW: No. 18): Michigan became the first team since 1997 to knock off three straight top ten teams as they beat Iowa at home and won at Michigan State this week. Nik Stauskas is playing like an all-american, and having a healthy Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford inside has proven better than having a banged-up Mitch McGary.

6. Michigan State (18-2, LW: No. 2): For the first time since November, Michigan State had their injury issues catch up with them. They were without Adreian Payne, the fifth straight game he’s missed, and Branden Dawson, who is out for a month, on Saturday.

7. Wichita State (21-0, LW: No. 7): The Shockers just keep winning. The problem? Nothing they can do in the Valley this season will be considered impressive. Does anyone else hate the Big East for snatching away what could have been three games between the Shockers and Creighton this season?

8. San Diego State (18-1, LW: No. 8): SDSU won at San Jose State this week and survived Utah State on the road in overtime. The Aztecs are a nightmare defensively, but they have some issues on the offensive end. If Xavier Thames isn’t scoring, will anyone on this team?

9. Villanova (17-2, LW: No. 6): I still like Villanova, but when you lose by 28 on your home floor, you fall in the rankings. I’m pretty sure that’s a federal law.

10. Kentucky (15-4, LW: No. 11): Willie Cauley-Stein snapped out of his funk on Saturday and Alex Poythress has scored in double-figures in three of his last four games. Beyond that, it’s tough to take anything out of the Wildcats beating up on mediocre SEC competition. Seriously, Kentucky-Florida? Can we make this happen four times a year in the future?

11. Oklahoma State (16-3, LW: No. 12)
12. Cincinnati (19-2, LW: No. 13)
13. Iowa (16-4, LW: No. 9)
14. Wisconsin (17-3, LW: No. 10)
15. Iowa State (15-3, LW: No. 14)
16. Pitt (18-2, LW: No. 15)
17. Louisville (17-3, LW: No. 16)
18. Saint Louis (18-2, LW: No. 17)
19. Duke (16-4, LW: No. 19)
20. Creighton (17-3, LW: No. 24)
21. UConn (16-4, LW: No. 22)
22. Memphis (15-4, LW: No. 23)
23. UMass (17-2, LW: No. 21)
24. Oklahoma (16-4, LW: UR)
25. UCLA (16-4, LW: UR)

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.