Derrick Marks, Gregory Echenique

College Hoops Team of the Week: Boise State Broncos

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Team of the Week: Boise State Broncos

Boise State was supposed to finish near the bottom of the Mountain West this season. With powerhouse programs like UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico populating the top of the league and teams like Colorado State and Nevada around to occupy the middle of the league, there really wasn’t much space for a Boise State team that looked to still be a year away from relevancy to climb.

It looks like we’re going to have to make space now, as Boise State put together one of the more impressive performances of the young season as they went into Omaha and smacked around a very good Creighton team. (For what it’s worth, Creighton was up by 32 in the first half against St. Joseph’s in their next game.) The Broncos have a slew of good perimeter players — led by Derrick Marks, who had 35 against Creighton, and Anthony Drmic — and shoot a lot of threes, which makes them a dangerous team when those threes start dropping.

The reason to keep an eye on this team, however, is that the Creighton win isn’t their only win of the season. Boise is now 6-1 on the season, with their only loss coming by four at Michigan State.

Teams Deserving of a Shoutout

  • Baylor Bears: The Bears bounced back from a rough start to the season in the biggest of ways: by going into Rupp Arena and knocking off the Kentucky Wildcats, 64-55. The Bears put all five starters in double figures, led by 17 from Pierre Jackson. Now here’s the question that we need answered: which is the real Baylor team? The one that lost at home to Charleston, or the one that beat Kentucky in Lexington. And given the fact that Baylor won despite turning the ball over 19 times and getting just five points from their bench, is this really a sign of Baylor’s strength or Kentucky early-season struggles? Regardless, asking what a win really means is a much, much better conversation to have than discussing how bad a loss is.
  • Minnesota Golden Gophers: Might the Gophers be for real? After putting together a pretty impressive performance out in the Bahamas, the Gophers went straight to Tallahassee, where they worked over Florida State. After a win over North Florida on Saturday night, Minnesota is now 8-1 on the season. The best news of all? They are doing it while Trevor Mbakwe is still a shell of his former self.
  • Miami Hurricanes: In Durand Scott’s first game back, the Hurricanes beat a good Detroit team by 15 points. Three nights later, when Michigan State came to town, the Canes won again, proving it wasn’t coincidence. They followed that up with a trip to Amherst, MA, where they beat UMass by 13 points. With Shane Larkin and Trey McKinney-Jones playing well, this looks like a team that could end up finishing in the top three in the ACC if NC State and UNC continue to struggle.
  • Wichita State Shockers: The Shockers continue to put together an impressive non-conference schedule. In addition to wins over Iowa and at VCU, Wichita State knocked off Tulsa this week and then went to Air Force and beat a 6-2 Falcon team on their home floor. The Shockers are now the only undefeated team left in the Missouri Valley.
  • Wyoming Cowboys: Boise State isn’t the only MWC surprising people early in the season. Wyoming is as well. After rolling through seven their first seven games, the Cowboys finally had a chance to make a statement, and they did just that against Colorado. Leonard Washington had 22 points, seven boards, four assists, three blocks and two steals in the win.
  • Who else was good?: Cincinnati, Virginia, Notre Dame, Florida, Maryland

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

No. 22 Cincinnati’s loss to No. 16 Butler shines light on AAC’s struggles

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 10: Head coach Mick Cronin of the Cincinnati Bearcats reacts against the Butler Bulldogs in the first half of the game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on December 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Kelan Martin scored 20 points and Andrew Chrabascz added 12 points, four boards and five assists as No. 16 Butler bounced back from a tough loss at Indiana State to beat No. 22 Cincinnati, 75-65.

The Bulldogs had been undefeated on the season prior to the loss to the Sycamores, but their ranking was built on the fact that they had beaten Arizona, who was No. 8 at the time, as well as a trio of high-major programs that look destined for the NIT.

Cincinnati probably isn’t destined for the NIT. Their top 25 ranking is justified, which is what makes this win valuable. Quality non-conference wins matter, and this is just one of a handful of good wins for what has proven to be one of the most top-heavy conferences in the country. Villanova, Creighton, Xavier and Butler all look capable of reaching the Sweet 16 this season.

The opposite is true for Cincinnati, who look like the flag-bearer in a conference that isn’t really all that good. They’re the best team in the AAC this season, but that’s a conference that has consistently disappointed this year. SMU, Temple and UConn have all struggled more than we expected them to. Tulsa and Memphis are in rebuilding mode. Houston was supposed to be good this season but they’ve yet to live up to the preseason hype.

Think about it like this: The only team in the AAC without multiple losses on the season is now UCF. That’s … not ideal, and it’s going to be interesting to see just how many bids the league is able to generate.

Think about it. Temple has beaten West Virginia and Florida State while losing to New Hampshire and UMass. SMU’s best win is either Pitt or TCU, both of whom are borderline tournament teams. UConn beat Syracuse but has some atrocious losses on their resume. Houston beat Rhode Island but lost to Arkansas and LSU. Memphis beat Iowa, but Iowa’s not all that good. UCF’s best win is … Mississippi State?

Cincinnati’s lone quality win is at Iowa State, who is about to drop out of the top 25.

POSTERIZED: Wichita State’s Daishon Smith dunks on Oklahoma big man

WICHITA, KS - NOVEMBER 13:  Guard Daishon Smith of the Wichita State Shockers drives up court past forward Roschon Prince #23 of the Long Beach State 49ers during the first half on November 13, 2016 at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
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Daishon Smith is 6-foot-1.

Kristian Doolittle is 6-foot-7.

The lil guy won this battle:

Here’s another angle of the dunk, which sent Wichita State’s bench into hysterics:

POSTERIZED: Duke’s Grayson Allen with a Dunk of the Year candidate (VIDEO)

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It looks like Grayson Allen’s toe is healthy. I’d say his explosivness is back:

Whoa.

Yeah.

POSTERIZED: Five-star Class of 2017 guard Trevon Duval dunks on 6’8″ defender

CHARLOTTE, NC - JULY 9: Trevon Duval during the 2015  Under Armour All-America Basketball Camp on July 9, 2015 at Queens College in Charlotte, NC. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Under Armour)
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Class of 2017 point guard Trevon Duval put down a huge poster dunk on a 6’8″ defender on Saturday as the five-star prospect showed why many consider him the top lead guard in high school basketball.

The 6-foot-2 Duval is considered the No. 3 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.

Nigel Hayes shines against as No. 17 Wisconsin beats Marquette

MILWAUKEE, WI - DECEMBER 10:  Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers is fouled by Luke Fischer #40 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the first half of a game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on December 10, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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What a difference a year makes.

Last season at this time, Wisconsin dropped a home game to a Marquette team that was headed to the NIT.

This year?

The Badgers put six players in double-figures as they went into Milwaukee and knocked off Marquette, 93-84.

Bronson Koenig continued his hot shooting, finishing with 18 points and six assists while shooting 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. Vitto Brown chipped in with 15 points, Khalil Iverson had 16 and Ethan Happ chipped in with 11 despite battling foul trouble all afternoon.

But the really story here – hell, the story of Wisconsin’s season to date – has been the change in the way that Nigel Hayes plays.

Hayes was terrific again on Saturday. He had 17 points, nine boards, four assists and three steals. He shot 6-for-10 from the floor and attempted just a pair of threes, making one of them. He had the ball in his hands when Wisconsin was trying to kill off the game, and, more importantly, head coach Greg Gard has seem to start to take advantage of just how good Hayes can be as a facilitator.

There are a couple of points that need to be made here:

  1. When Hayes plays like this, he deserves to be in the all-american discussion. He’s averaging 18.0 points, 7.3 boards and 6.7 assists in the three games Wisconsin has played against high-major competition since the change, and the Badgers have won five straight games while playing easily their best basketball of the season.
  2. And it’s not just because of the numbers he puts up. When Hayes operates as Wisconsin’s de-facto point guard, it makes everyone else on the roster better. For starters, it allows Koenig to play off the ball, where he seems to be more effective. He’s at his best when he’s hunting shots and trying to create off the bounce, but his aggressiveness can be detrimental when he’s the only one touching the ball. It also means offense runs through Happ more often since Koenig isn’t dominating possession, and it lets guys like Brown space the floor because they’re actually able to get rhythm threes.

As of today, Wisconsin is the favorite to win the Big Ten, even if Indiana is far more likely to end up being a No. 1 seed in March.