Chase Tapley, closer: Jamaal Franklin is the most talented player on San Diego State, and I don’t really think that’s up for discussion. He’s lanky and athletic, a terrific rebounder at 6-foot-5 and one of the most exciting — and confounding — scorers in the country. He’s like Russ Smith that rebounds the ball; you just know that when he has the ball in his hands, something exciting is going to happen, and it may not always be a good thing.
But if I’m a San Diego State fan, I don’t want the ball in Franklin’s hands on a big possession. I want the ball in Chase Tapley’s hands. The senior guard has turned into a lethal finisher, somewhat reminiscent of Tu Holloway before the brawl. On Saturday, he scored 12 points in overtime as the Aztecs avoided getting upset by Colorado State.
Frankln may be the guy that gets San Diego State through a game, but Tapley is the guy who needs the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.
Who is the best team in the Pac-12?: The west coast is shaping up to have some terrific regular season title races this season. The Mountain West speaks for itself, but the Pac-12 should be just as entertaining.
UCLA is finally hitting their stride and, for my money, has become the best team in the conference. The win at Colorado convinced me. They can survive even when their trio of stud freshmen struggle on the road against a talented opponent. But the Bruins really aren’t all that much better than Arizona or Oregon. The Ducks beat the Wildcats at home on Thursday night in a game where Sean Miller’s club nearly finished off another ridiculous, last-minute comeback.
But can we really right off 1-3 Colorado right now? I don’t think so.
And what about Arizona State, who has arguably the best point guard in the conference in Jahii Carson and a triple-double waiting to happen at center in Jordan Bachynski? And did you realize that Washington — yes, that Washington — has improved to 3-0 in the Pac-12 after winning at Cal and at Stanford this week?
Buckle up, left-coasters.
Road games in conference: Two weeks into league play, the road is looking like a pretty friendly place to be in the Big East. Home teams are just 11-17 after Providence went into New Jersey and knocked off Seton Hall on Sunday.
The Big Ten, however, is a much different story. Home teams are 14-9 in league play. Seven of those homes losses were by teams in the bottom of the league standings — Iowa, Northwestern, Nebraska and Penn State. The other two? Purdue dropped a home game to Ohio State this week, and Illinois was run out of their gym by Minnesota.
There’s a reason that we’ve been saying whoever wins on the road is going to win the Big Ten.
Reggie who?: The biggest reason that Miami has been able to survive without Reggie Johnson on the court? Julian Gamble. The 6-foot-8 senior has played the best basketball of his career over the last seven games, averaging 9.3 points, 7.5 boards and 2.4 blocks. He had 14 points and six boards in the win at UNC during the week and finished with nine points and eight boards against Maryland on Sunday night, including three huge baskets late in the second half.
Branden Dawson’s return: You might have missed it on Sunday because of those football games that were on TV, but Dawson had a terrifying moment when he looked to re-injure his surgically repaired left knee. He was going up for a dunk and crumpled in a heap. It looked really, really bad.
But it turned out to be nothing serious, and Dawson had a terrific moment where he came spring out of the locker room to a standing ovation:
“It felt great because Q (team trainer Quinton Sawyer) said, ‘This is what we’ve been waiting for. We’ve been putting in the hard work. Next dead ball, I want you to sprint out,'” Dawson said. “I did that, and the crowd went crazy.”