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College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

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I spent the morning arguing with Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com for his decision to include SMU in his Top 25.

You can see it here. SMU is sitting right there at No. 25 despite the fact that, just six days ago, the Mustangs lost to South Florida at South Florida.

His justification, more or less, is that the Mustangs have (mostly) beaten who they’re supposed to beat, and they also have wins over two teams that are all-but locks for the NCAA tournament in UConn and Memphis, both of who can be found in both my top 25 and his top 25.

And at this point, that’s actually a resume that’s worth consideration for being ranked, because once you get past the top 22 or 23 teams, there is a whole lot of mediocrity out there. Me? I have New Mexico ranked 24th mostly because they beat Cincinnati back in December and because they have been steam-rolling the Mountain West despite missing starting center Alex Kirk of late.

The MWC is down this year and UNM might be better without Kirk because it forces them to actually defend.

I have Pitt ranked 25th despite the fact that they’ve beaten absolutely no one of note — unless you are enamored with Penn State or Stanford — simply because I think that they are better than some of the other teams in consideration. You want to put UMass or Gonzaga or Wisconsin there? It’s not all that crazy.

Neither is ranking SMU.

Because, as ridiculous as this sounds, whipping up on this Memphis team — at home, nonetheless — is enough to set SMU apart from some of the other dreck that will find its way into the ‘others receiving votes’ pile, even if it came four days after a loss to South Florida.

THE TOP 25

1. Syracuse (21-0, LW: No. 2): If C.J. Fair is going to play like a superstar, like he did on Saturday, Syracuse really is one of the best teams in the country.

2. Arizona (20-1, LW: No. 1): I’m leaving Arizona at No. 2 for now, but I think that this injury to Brandon Ashley is really going to hurt the Wildcats.

3. Florida (19-2, LW: No. 3): Wanna talk defense? Florida has given up 128 points in their last three games.

4. San Diego State (19-1, LW: No. 8): SDSU is one of nine teams in the last nine-plus seasons to win at Phog Allen, and their only loss came by single-digits at Arizona. That’s strong.

5. Kansas (16-5, LW: No. 4): Kansas got embarrassed at Texas, but the Longhorns are a tough matchup for this group. I’m still buying the Jayhawks.

6. Wichita State (22-0, LW: No. 7): Big week for the Shockers: at Indiana State and at Northern Iowa. Win these two, and they might actually go undefeated in the regular season.

7. Michigan State (18-2, LW: No. 6): A banged up team lost a non-conference game at Madison Square Garden in February. I’ll put more stick in the win at Iowa five days earlier.

8. Cincinnati (19-2, LW: No. 12): The Bearcats are legit. Winning at Louisville should convince you. This team can really, really defend.

9. Villanova (19-2, LW: No. 9): I’m not ready to bump Villanova up past anyone of the teams in front of them, but rest assured, three road wins in their last three games didn’t go unnoticed.

10. Michigan (16-5, LW: No. 5): Indiana was able to stop Nik Stauskas. Was that just the result of a great performance from Yogi Ferrell, or is it a blueprint for the rest of the Big Ten?

11. Duke (17-5, LW: No. 19)
12. Texas (17-4, LW: UR)
13. Creighton (18-3, LW: No. 20)
14. Kentucky (16-5, LW: No. 10)
15. Iowa (17-5, LW: No. 13)
16. Iowa State (16-4, LW: No. 15)
17. Saint Louis (20-2, LW: No. 18)
18. Virginia (17-5, LW: UR)
19. Louisville (18-4, LW: No. 17)
20. Oklahoma (17-5, LW: No. 24)
21. UConn (17-4, LW: No. 21)
22. Memphis (16-5, LW: No. 22)
23. Oklahoma State (16-5, LW: No. 11)
24. New Mexico (17-4, LW: UR)
25. Pitt (18-4, LW: No. 16)

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.