Player of the Week: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Marcus Smart entered the season with the reputation for being a winner and one of the best all-around players in the country, and nothing about his first four games at the collegiate level has proven different. Smart led Oklahoma State to a title in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off by averaging 17.7 points, 4.3 assists, 8.3 boards, 1.7 blocks and 3.3 blocks in three games. Most impressive? Smart had 20 points, seven assists, seven boards, four steals and four blocks — that’s an unbelievable line — in a 20 point win over No. 6 NC State in the title game.
The season didn’t start off all that well for the Pokes. They struggled to beat UC Davis in the opener and got taken to overtime by Akron in the opener of the tournament. But after rolling over a depleted Tennessee team, Travis Ford’s team made a statement against NC State, and Smart was the biggest reason why. That’s quite impressive for a team dealing with the loss of two key players to season-ending injuries.
The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:
- G: Keith Appling and Gary Harris, Michigan State: Appling was simply unbelievable down the stretch against Kansas, scoring 16 points in the second half and five points in the final minute to ensure that the Spartans would leave Atlanta with a win. Harris had 18 in that win — included a pair of big buckets of his own down the stretch — while chipping in with 19 points in a win over Texas Southern.
- G: Trevor Releford, Alabama: Releford may come off the bench for the Crimson Tide, but he’s already their most important player. He’s their best creator off the dribble, and, quite frankly, he’s the only true point guard that sees minutes. In leading the Tide to the title in the 2K Sports Classic, Releford averaged 19.5 points and 3.0 assists, shot 70% from the floor and committed just a single turnover in wins over Villanova and Oregon State.
- F: Tony Snell, New Mexico: For the Lobos to be contenders in the MWC this season, Tony Snell needs to be an aggressive scorer. He had 25 points against Davidson during Marathon Madness, helping spark a comeback from 14 points down, before dropping 27 points on George Mason, including the game-winning three at the buzzer. UNM hasn’t exactly been impressive through three games, but they are 3-0 in large part due to the play of Snell.
- F: Deshuan Thomas, Ohio State: Thomas looked every bit a preseason all-american as the Buckeyes won the Hall of Fame Tip-Off this weekend. In wins over Rhode Island and Washington, Thomas averaged 28.0 points and 9.0 boards while shooting 55.3% from the field and 46.2% from three.
- C: Mason Plumlee, Duke: Plumlee eventually fouled out against Kentucky, but he set the tone early against the Wildcats, scoring 14 of his 18 points in the first half and outplaying UK’s twin towers. He followed that up with a 28-point, nine-rebound performance against Florida-Gulf Coast.
- Bench: Askia Booker, Colorado; Devon Collier, Oregon State; Jud Dillard, Tennessee Tech; Mike Muscala, Bucknell; Ronald Roberts, St. Joseph’s; Nate Wolters, South Dakota State
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 3 Michigan State vs. Providence, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
Two Player of the Year candidates lock horns on Sunday night as Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine battles Providence’s Kris Dunn. Both players are strong threats to record a triple-double each time they take the floor and both are key reasons why their teams are 6-0. The Friars could probably use this game a bit more than Michigan State since they enter this game unranked and could use another confidence-boosting win for a team filled with newer players. As for the Spartans, winning the Wooden Legacy would mean another great accomplishment before December even started for a team that has national title aspirations.
THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 23 Xavier vs. Dayton, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
These two 6-0 teams from Ohio will meet in Orlando in the championship game of the AdvoCare Invitational. The Musketeers have six different players averaging at least 9.7 points per game this season as they’ve received great balance on the offensive end. As for Dayton, Charles Cooke as emerged as a go-to player early this season while guard Scoochie Smith has also been outstanding. This will be the first time these two schools have played since Feb. 16, 2013.
SIX THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- One of the fun teams to watch this week has been Monmouth and their amusing end-of-bench antics. On the floor, the Hawks knocked off Notre Dame and gave Dayton a scare and they’ll face USC for the second time this season to close out the AdvoCare Invitational. The Trojans won the first one 101-90, but this is a 12:30 p.m. EST tip, so that could benefit Monmouth the second time around.
- Wisconsin visiting No. 7 Oklahoma is an intriguing Sunday matchup. The Badgers could certainly use a true road win here as they’re off to a 4-2 start. The Sooners get more of a real test after only playing Memphis as a notable opponent their first three games.
- Also going on in the AdvoCare Invitational is No. 20 Wichita State facing Iowa and No. 17 Notre Dame battling Alabama. The Shockers are going without senior starters Fred Van Vleet and Anton Grady as they try to escape Orlando with a win. Notre Dame is hoping to close out the event strong after its surprising upset to Monmouth.
- Action also continues in Anaheim at the Wooden Legacy as No. 11 Arizona will take on Boise State, while Boston College plays Santa Clara and UC Irvine faces Evansville. Arizona will look to get back on the right track after the close loss to Providence in the semifinals.
- No. 6 Duke gets an afternoon tilt with Utah State at home before they face Indiana during the week. It’ll be interesting to see if Blue Devil freshman wing Brandon Ingram keeps his strong play going from earlier in the week.
- UCLA returns home and could badly use a win against Cal State Northridge. The Bruins went a disappointing 1-2 in the Maui Invitational and need to get back on the right track before the face No. 1 Kentucky next week.
TOP 25 GAMES
- Brown vs. No. 25 SMU, 2:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
OTHER NOTABLE GAMES
- Jackson State at Marquette, 12:30 p.m.
- Rider at Rhode Island, 1:00 p.m.
- Savannah State at South Florida, 1:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
- South Carolina State at Kansas State, 2:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Northern Colorado at Colorado, 2:00 p.m. (PAC12)
- UC Santa Barbara at Arizona State, 4:00 p.m. (PAC12)
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics