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Kentucky, Wisconsin headline 2014 NBA Draft Early Entry Winners

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The NBA Draft’s early entry deadline came and went at midnight on Sunday. Who were this year’s five biggest winners?

MORE: The full list of players who have declared | Early Entry losers

1. Kentucky: It sounds weird to say this, I know, but the Kentucky lost two lottery picks, including a guy that will go top five in the NBA Draft, and they were clearly the biggest winner during the entire early entry circus. It started with Willie Cauley-Stein, who announced that he would be returning to school after undergoing surgery on his ankle. He was a potential lottery pick. Then Marcus Lee returned. Then Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson came back. And, lastly, both of the Harrison twins returned to school.

Five were expected to declare off of Kentucky. Only two did. The key? The Harrisons, who will provide the Wildcats with perimeter depth and justify yet another preseason No. 1 ranking.

2. Wisconsin: The Badgers made a bit of a surprising run to the Final Four in 2014, and they did it as Frank ‘The Tank’ Kaminsky turned into an unstoppable force. His size and ability to score from anywhere on the court made him one of the breakout stars of the NCAA tournament, and while he flirted with the idea of putting his name into the draft, he will return. So will Sam Dekker, who is a potential first round pick at the small forward spot. As a result, the Badgers are going to be the Big Ten favorites and a top five team in 2014-2015.

3. Louisville: Outside of the Harrison twins announcing that they would be returning to school, the single most important early entry decision was Montrezl Harrell’s announcement that he would be back for his junior season. A potential lottery pick, Harrell is going to be the only veteran — and only physical presence — on a big and athletic-albeit-extremely young front line. He makes the Cardinals a Final Four contender. Without him, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

4. Arizona: Aaron Gordon was never spending more than one season on campus. Nick Johnson left and that void will hurt although it wasn’t all that much of a surprise that he went pro. The good news? Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski all will be back on campus next season, and as a result Sean Miller will once again have a top five team and the Pac-12 favorite at his disposal.

5. North Carolina: The Tar Heels lost James Michael McAdoo to the NBA, but they also kept him for two years longer than just about anyone expected. They came out ahead there. The bigger news is that not only did Marcus Paige return for his junior season, but Brice Johnson did as well. With the recruiting class that Roy Williams brings in this season, don’t be surprised to see the Tar Heels give Louisville and Duke a run for their money at the top of the ACC next season.

Three more winners

  • Utah: Delon Wright’s decision to return to Utah for his senior season will give him a shot at being an all-american in 2014-2015 and will allow the Utes to be a top four team in the Pac-12.
  • Oregon: Joseph Young flirted with leaving for the NBA, but ultimately he returned. He may end up leading the Pac-12 is scoring this season.
  • West Virginia: Juwan Staten was a hidden gem at the point guard spot this past season thanks to the play of Marcus Smart and DeAndre Kane. He’ll be an all-Big 12 first team player entering next season.

 

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.