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No. 8 Kansas loses, but The Andrew Wiggins Show is what’s important

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source: AP
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There must be something in the water in the state of West Virginia because whenever Andrew Wiggins plays in the Mountain State, he puts on an electric performance.

The Kansas freshman forward came to national prominence during his high school years by putting on jaw-dropping aerial shows while playing at Huntington Prep in Huntington, West Virginia and during Saturday’s 92-86 Big 12 loss for No. 8 Kansas at West Virginia, we finally saw the Wiggins that many deemed the best player in college basketball before he ever took the floor in a Jayhawk uniform.

Kansas (23-8, 14-4) might have lost on the road to a West Virginia (17-14, 9-9) team with no NCAA Tournament hopes on Saturday, but they have to be thrilled that the alpha male version of their star freshman finally came to life.

MORE: Our latest bracket projections — is your team in?

Wiggins was simply astounding in the loss. The freshman hadn’t eclipsed 30 points all season — and averaged 16 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest — but finished with 41 points, eight rebounds, five steals, four blocks and two assists in 39 minutes. Wiggins was 12-for-18 from the field and 15-for-19 from the free throw line and it was a season-high in both field goal and free throw attempts for the freshman.

With Kansas out of timeouts with 17 minutes left and trailing by as much as 25 points to West Virginia in the second half, Bill Self and the Jayhawks damn near rode Wiggins’ super-human effort to victory in what seemed like an impossible uphill climb. Kansas made it a game and trailed, 85-80, with 1:25 remaining, but could never get over the hump as Wiggins didn’t have enough help.

(MORE: Browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

Joel Embiid was out of the lineup and the Kansas guards no-showed on both ends of the floor against West Virginia, but Wiggins had a look in his eyes that we haven’t seen all season and he simply took over. Just look at the photo above of Wiggins soaring in for a dunk on Saturday. You feel bad for the rim he’s about to crush.

If Wiggins plays with the kind of intensity and confidence that he showed on Saturday then he doesn’t have a peer in college basketball. Jabari Parker is more polished and balanced as an offensive threat and Doug McDermott is a much better shooter, but neither have the kind of athleticism to make the plays that Wiggins can make. And that doesn’t even factor in Wiggins’ tremendous ability to rebound and defend on the wing.

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The Jayhawks might have squandered a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with Saturday’s loss, but they’ve played the toughest schedule in the country and shouldn’t be too concerned with dropping a seed or two. Kansas still has some legitimate concerns as we near the postseason with Embiid’s health and the consistency of Naadir Tharpe topping that list, but if Andrew Wiggins plays at all like he did at West Virginia on Saturday, he’s personally good enough to overcome a lot of the Jayhawks’ flaws.

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.