Jake Odum

Player of the Week: Jake Odum guides Indiana State into MVC lead

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Player of the Week: Jake Odum, Indiana State

Jake Odum put Indiana State into serious contention for an at-large bid this week. On Wednesday, he put together one of his best games of the season, as he went for 22 points, five assists and four boards as the Sycamores walloped Creighton by 19 points. He followed that up with 13 points, five assists, four steals and the game-winning layup with 19 seconds left to avoid an upset at the hands of Southern Illinois on Saturday.

This week was massive for ISU for two reasons: beating Creighton only solidifies a solid NCAA tournament profile that could very well earn them an at-large berth. But, thanks to Wichita State’s three-game losing streak and Creighton dropping a home game to Illinois State on Saturday night, the Sycamores are now tied for first place in the Valley with just five league games remaining. Who predicted that in October?

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:

G: Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: Wolters exploded for 53 points in a win over IUPUI on Thursday night, the most points scored by a player this season. He followed that up with 36 points, six boards and seven assists against Oakland on Saturday, but the Jackrabbits ended up losing that game on the road. For the week, Wolters averaged 44.5 points while shooting 29-48 (60.4%) from the field and 12-23 (52.8%) from three.

G: Tyler Brown, Illinois State: All of a sudden, Illinois State is back from the dead, having won six of their last seven games to put themselves in the conversation for the MVC tournament. This week, the Redbirds knocked off Drake and Creighton on the road. In the two games, Brown averaged 26.0 points, 7.0 assists, 3.5 boards and 2.5 steals.

G: Geron Johnson, Memphis: Johnson broke out of his slump in a big way this week, leading the Tigers to win at SMU and Southern Miss, which opened up a two-game lead in the Conference USA race. Johnson averaged 22.0 points, 7.5 boards and 4.5 assists for the week, shooting 14-24 (58.3%) from the floor and 9-16 (56.3%) from three.

F: CJ Fair, Syracuse: James Southerland’s return may have been the biggest news of the week for the Orange, but it overshadowed something else: Fair put together a terrific week, averaging 17.5 points and 9.5 boards in dominating wins over Notre Dame and St. John’s. Fair has quietly put together an outstanding season for Jim Boeheim and appears to finally be having the breakout season so many of us expected for so long.

C: Mason Plumlee, Duke: Plumlee must have been getting frustrated seeing other names pass him on the Player of the Year ballots, because he decided to show up this week. After going for 30 points, nine boards and two blocks in a dominating win over NC State on Wednesday, Plumlee followed that up with 19 points, 10 boards and two blocks — including the game-tying and game-winning free throws — against Boston College.

Bench: Travis Bader (Oakland), Ben Brust (Wisconsin), Allen Crabbe (Cal), Shane Larkin (Miami), Greg Smith (Colorado State), Joel Smith (Northeastern), Taylor Smith (Stephen F. Austin), Isaiah Sykes (UCF), Chaz Williams (UMass)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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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
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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.