With all the chatter, deserved as it may be, for Indiana’s Victor Oladipo as the National Player of the Year over the past few weeks, we got a reminder Sunday from another player in the running.
While Oladipo has gotten the majority of the talk, Michigan guard Trey Burke continues to produce and did so again Sunday against Illinois in a 71-58 home victory at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. Burke scored 26 points on 8-of-11 shooting and dished out eight assists, all while only turning the ball over once.
The explanation for the shift in the national narrative is likely a simple one. Michigan had lost three of four in a tough stretch of the Big Ten schedule before winning two straight, while Indiana has retained the No. 1 ranking in the country and have won nine of its last ten.
The most interesting race might not be the National Player of the Year race, but rather just the Big Ten Player of the Year, with Burke and Oladipo looking to be at the top of the list.
Burke is the engine behind the Michigan offense, but Oladipo is the do-everything wing man who has turned out to be just as important, if not more important, than Preseason Player of the Year Cody Zeller. Among those who vote, will the more important factor be pure stats alone, or the complete game that goes beyond the box score?
Perhaps we’ll know more when Indiana meets Michigan in the regular season finale on March 10.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_
Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.
The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.
It wasn’t pretty.
And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.
Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.
The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.
But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.
Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: