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College Basketball Talk’s latest Top 25

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Virginia is the perfect example of why unbalanced schedules as a result of conference expansion is lame.

The three teams that the ‘Hoos played twice during ACC play were Florida State, Maryland and Notre Dame. They didn’t have to play at North Carolina or at Syracuse. So while I certainly respect that the only loss that Tony Bennett’s club has taken since that 35-point beatdown at Tennessee on Dec. 30th was at Duke, it’s hard to truly sit here and say Virginia is a Final Four contender and the best team in the ACC.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Cavs. With the length and athleticism that they have this season, that packline defense is just stifling. London Perrantes has been one of the nation’s most underrated freshman, and the development of Malcolm Brogdon into a first-team all-ACC performer is something no one expected.

But this is a group that had one quality win in the non-conference (SMU) and is just 3-1 against tournament teams in league play. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row.

THE TOP 25

1. Florida (27-2, LW: No. 1): The Gators just keep on winning, and that won’t likely change if Dorian Finney-Smith can keep hitting from the perimeter. When he’s shooting well, it adds another dimension for Billy Donovan’s group offensively.

2. Wichita State (31-0, LW: No. 2): All you need to know about Wichita State and their undefeated regular season can be read here and here.

3. Arizona (26-2, LW: No. 5): Right now, I’m not sure any team is playing better basketball anywhere than Arizona. They’ve beaten the breaks off of three straight tournament teams. Now there are now 120 minutes of this new, uptempo Arizona on film. Who finds a way to slow them down?

4. Kansas (22-7, LW: No. 3): 22 turnovers in a loss to Oklahoma State is concerning, but not exactly unexpected. Joel Embiid’s back problems are a much bigger issue.

5. Duke (23-6, LW: No. 4): The Blue Devils blew out Virginia Tech in their only game this week. It’s wild when you think about the fact that Duke is actually tied for third in the ACC.

6. Virginia (25-5, LW: No. 15): The Cavs blew out Syracuse over the weekend to earn the outright ACC title. They currently lead a conference that includes the Orange, Duke and North Carolina by two full games. Say what you will about unbalanced schedules, that’s still impressive.

7. Creighton (23-5, LW: No. 7): Creighton lost to a better-than-you-think Xavier team in the Cintas Center on Saturday. Not exactly ideal, but I’m not exactly concerned, either. The bigger concern is that Isaiah Zierdan, who has given them good minutes off the bench in recent games, is done for the year with a knee injury.

8. Syracuse (26-3, LW: No. 6): The Orange lost on the road to a very good Virginia team in a game where they were essentially playing without Jerami Grant. In a vacuum … whatever. The problem is that it came at the end of an extended cold streak. Can the Orange turn around these struggles on the offensive end of the floor?

9. Villanova (26-3, LW: No. 12): The Wildcats smacked around Marquette on Saturday and look like they are going to be headed for the Big East regular season title.

10. Louisville (24-5, LW: No. 9): If Louisville doesn’t blow an eight-point lead in the final minutes at Memphis, we’re having a very different conversation about them right now. Louisville’s seed might not reflect it, but this team seems to be peaking at the right time.

11. San Diego State (25-3, LW: No. 11)
12. Wisconsin (24-5, LW: No. 13)
13. Michigan (21-7, LW: No. 16)
14. Cincinnati (24-5, LW: No. 10)
15. Iowa State (22-6, LW: No. 17)
16. North Carolina (22-7, LW: No. 19)
17. UConn (23-6, No. 24)
18. Memphis (22-7, No. 23)
19. Saint Louis (25-4, No. 14)
20. New Mexico (23-5, No. 25)
21. Michigan State (22-7, No. 18)
22. SMU (23-6, LW: UR)
23. Texas (21-8, LW: No. 23)
24. Oklahoma (21-8, LW: UR)
25. VCU (22-7, 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.