Chris Udofia, Pierce Hornung

College Hoops Team of the Week: Colorado State

Leave a comment

Team of the Week: Colorado State

The Rams were pegged as a sleeper in the Mountain West prior to the start of the season, but after losing to Colorado and following that up with a loss at Illinois-Chicago, there were those (me!) who had their doubts about whether or not this group was actually going to be able to compete with the likes of UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico. Well, CSU has won four straight games, since then, all of which were by at least 17 points, and capped the run off with a 36 point win over Virginia Tech on Sunday night.

Pierce Hornung was the best player for the Rams this week. In the three games, he averaged 17.3 points and 9.7 boards, a welcome offensive boost from a guy that wasn’t averaging double figures at the start of the week. Hornung and Minnesota transfer Colton Iverson make up one of the nation’s most underrated front lines.

Five Teams Deserving a Shoutout

Cincinnati: The Bearcats picked up a pair of solid wins this week. After knocking off intra-city rival Xavier in the first installment of the newly sanitized Crosstown Classic on Wednesday, Cincy erased a six point halftime deficit while running over Wright State. Cincinnati is one of just five undefeated teams left in the country, but we may not get a chance to fully gauge just how good Mick Cronin’s club is until they play New Mexico on Thursday and travel to Pitt next Monday night.

Kansas: I’ve been saying it for a while, but it’s now time to consider Kansas one of the nation’s elite. As in this is a top five team. Their defense is just as tough as always and anchored by the nation’s best shot blocker. Naadir Tharpe is morphing into a quality back up point guard. And Ben McLemore is ahead of the curve when it comes to being a dominant scorer and go-to guy. The Jayhawks are the truth.

Temple: The Owls may have lost to Canisius on Wednesday afternoon, but they more than made up for it on Saturday as Fran Dunphy led Temple to what may end up being the best win of the regular season: beating Syracuse in their de facto second home court. (Go ahead, Nunes Magician. Make fun of me for saying that.) Khalif Wyatt had 33 points in the win, but the MVP of the game may have been Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, whose presence in Temple’s high-post offense was the biggest reason Temple was able to dissect the Syracuse zone.

UCLA: The Bruins won two games this week, but the most important win came on Saturday. That was against Fresno State, and while Fresno State isn’t exactly a juggernaut, it was the box score that mattered the most. Jordan Adams finished with 25 points, seven boards, five assists and five steals. Kyle Anderson had 20 points, 17 boards, seven assists, three blocks and two steals. Shabazz Muhammad had 27 points and seven boards, all of which came on the offensive end of the floor. That’s what Ben Howland expected out of those three.

UTEP: Tim Floyd’s UTEP Miners might turn out to be a force to be reckoned with this season. After Konner Tucker missed a wide-open three that would have won the game at the buzzer against UNLV, UTEP went out and won three games last week: they beat Oregon in triple overtime on Wednesday and followed that up with wins over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Nebraska. Keep an eye on this group.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
Leave a comment

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

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.