The CAA lost some of it’s charm when it got raided by bigger conference. VCU and George Mason were the league’s two Final Four programs whose battles on the court were always — Always!!!! — bested by the rivalry between Mason’s Doc Nix and the Green Machine and VCU’s Peppas. Old Dominion is also spending their first season away from the CAA.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good teams in that conference. Delaware has been rolling through the conference despite spending a month without Devon Saddler and another month without Jarvis Threatt, arguably their two best players. Towson finished second in the league while riding the coattails of Jerelle Benimon, the best player in the conference. Drexel survived the loss of Damion Lee about as well as Dragon fans can hope. Marcus Thornton of William & Mary is as good as any of the great guards in the league.
The league may not be centered in Southern Virginia anymore, but there is still some fun basketball to be played.
Somehow, Devon Saddler is still playing college basketball in what feels like his 17th season at Delaware. He teams up with Jarvis Threatt and Davon Usher to give Monte’ Ross one of the best perimeter attacks at the mid-major level. Throw in Carl Baptiste, who has played well in the paint, and Delaware should be considered the favorite to bring home the CAA tournament title.
And if they lose?: Towson
Pat Skerry has done a terrific job building Towson into a power in the CAA. It helps when you’ve got a hoss like Jerelle Benimon, who might be the best player in all of mid-major basketball, monitoring the low-block. The Tigers enter the postseason having won six games in a row and 10 of their last 11.
William & Mary: The Tribe finished third in the CAA, winning six of their last night games. They’re led by Marcus Thornton, one of the best guards this side of Delaware and Drexel.
Drexel: The Dragons aren’t the same team without Damion Lee, but Chris Fouch, Frantz Massenat and Tavon Allen are as good as any top three in the league. Don’t count out Bruiser Flint.
Jerelle Benimon, Towson: Benimon averaged 18.9 points and 11.7 boards as the Tigers finished in second in the conference.
Devon Saddler, Delaware: Saddler missed time before league play started, but carried the Blue Hens when they were without Jarvis Threatt. He averaged 20.2 points and 3.4 assists.
Scott Eatherton, Northeastern: Eatherton was the only guy in the CAA to average a double-double other than Benimon, posting 15.5 points and 10.1 boards.
Zeke Upshaw, Hofstra: The second-leading scorer in the league, Upshaw went from being a no-name with Illinois State to one of the most-improved players in the country.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.