St. Johns v Creighton

College Basketball Player of the Year Power Rankings

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1. Doug McDermott, Creighton: Last week, I wrote that McDermott was the runaway favorite to for National Player of the Year. I think everyone pretty much agreed with me at the time. He’s played one game since then, against St. John’s, scoring 39 of Creighton’s 63 points and burying the game-winning three at the buzzer. Yeah, I think McDermott is still the favorite.

2. Shabazz Napier, UConn: I’m not sure there is a player in the country that is more influential in regards to his team’s success than Napier. He’s averaging 17.9 points, 6.0 boards, 5.7 assists and 1.9 steals while shooting 43.5% from a team that doesn’t have a single low-post scoring presence and has a talented-but-inconsistent supporting cast. UConn is 17-4 this season with a win over Florida and a win at Memphis. Outside of a disastrous New Years trip to Texas — the first the Huskies took to that part of the country as a member of the American — Kevin Ollie’s team has been better than most anticipated.

3. Jabari Parker, Duke: Parker’s offensive numbers have dipped since the start of the season, when he was playing like the consensus National Player of the Year. Part of that is regression to the mean (he wasn’t always going to shoot 60% from three), part of it is a slump he went through in December and part of it is that defenses are being built around slowing him down. Duke’s had a bit of a resurgence in the last month, and the biggest reason why is their defense has gotten better.

Parker’s contribution? Cleaning the glass. He’s averaging 11.2 rebounds over the last five games.

4. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: The Orange have played three games since the last Player of the Year Power Rankings went up, and, obviously, they won all three. Against Wake Forest, Ennis scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half. Against Duke, he had 14 points and nine assists. Against Notre Dame, he chipped in with six points and eight assists. All told, in the three games, he had 38 points, 21 assists and just six turnovers.

source: Getty ImagesNow, the hero against Duke was C.J. Fair, but Fair struggled against Notre Dame. The hero against the Irish was Trevor Cooney, but he didn’t do much in the other two games. That kind of sums up what Ennis does for this Syracuse team. He gets the talent around him involved … until he can’t afford to do it anymore. Then he takes over. His reputation for being one of the most clutch players in the country is well-earned.

5. Nick Johnson, Arizona: I don’t think Johnson is going to want people talking about his 1-for-14 performance in Saturday’s loss to Cal. To be fair, he was clearly favoring his right hand, and with Brandon Ashley out of the game, he didn’t have an option but to fire away. And he did spur the team’s come-from-behind win over Stanford earlier in the week.

Here’s the key for Johnson going forward: with Ashley out, the Wildcats are going to have to rely on him even more on the offensive end of the floor. Can he carry this team?

6. Nik Stauskas, Michigan: It is going to be interesting to see where Stauskas goes from here. He was the best player in the Big Ten for the first month of league play, but he was completely shut down by Yogi Ferrell in Michigan’s loss at Assembly Hall. Was that just the by-product of a bad matchup, or did Tom Crean just give every coach in the country a blueprint on how to get into Stauskas’ head?

7. Xavier Thames, San Diego State: SDSU is good because their defense is stifling. They win games because a team that can really struggle offensively has a closer like Thames. He makes a lot of big shots and big plays.

8. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati: It’s past time to give Kilpatrick some love on this list. Like Thames, he’s the best (only?) offensive weapon on a very, very good defensive team, but I could make a strong argument that teammate Justin Jackson is more deserving of this ranking. That’s a good sign for the Bearcats.

9. Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, Kansas: They’re arguably the two most talented players in the country. But we’re never quite sure which Wiggins and which Embiid will show up. They’re on this list because both can put together the kind of stretch run that would allow them to catch McDermott.

10. Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico: The Lobos are winning with Alex Kirk hurt. They were winning before Alex Kirk got hurt. The biggest reason why? Bairstow transformed himself from just another plodding MWC big man to the Australian Hulk who just so happens to have a nasty post-game. He may not be an all-american, but between the struggles of Lamar Patterson, Marcus Smart and Julius Randle in the last week, we’ll give him the bump to the 10th spot.

Others: Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Keith Appling, Bryce Cotton, Sam Dekker, C.J. Fair, Aaron Gordon, Gary Harris, Rodney Hood, Deandre Kane, Kevin Pangos, Lamar Patterson, Adreian Payne, Elfrid Payton, Jayvaughn Pinkston, Casey Prather, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Russ Smith, Fred Van Vleet, T.J. Warren, Chaz Williams

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (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)
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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.