PLAYER OF THE WEEK: J.J. Mann, Belmont
Mann led the Bruins to two massive wins this week, scoring 23 points as Rick Byrd’s club came from 16 points down to beat Indiana State at home. That’s the same Indiana State team that went into Notre Dame and beat the Fighting Irish by 13. He followed up that performance by scoring 28 — including three threes in the final minute — as Belmont knocked off then-No. 12 North Carolina 83-80.
Belmont wasn’t exactly expected to put together wins like this this season, not when they lost Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark, their starting back court from a season ago. Clark is now with the Utah Jazz. The program has proven to be impressively resilient, however. It doesn’t matter who they lose, there’s always someone else in line.
They were good, too:
- Perry Ellis, Kansas: While the freshmen dominated the conversation, Ellis finished with 24 points, nine boards and three steals in the Jayhawk win over Duke in the Champions Classic.
- Shabazz Napier, UConn: Napier’s been the best player in the American this season, leading UConn with 13.5 points, 9.8 boards and 7.5 assists. He had a triple-double against Yale.
- Treveon Graham, VCU: Graham went for 22 points, leading VCU in their win at Virginia. He also hit the game-winning three with 1.1 seconds left. He followed that up with a double-double against Winthrop.
- Brad Waldow, St. Mary’s: Waldow averaged 16.3 points, 8.3 boards and 3.3 blocks in three wins this week, including 18 points, 10 boards, five assists and three blocks against North Dakota State.
- Roberto Nelson, Oregon State: Playing in front of the First Family, Nelson went for 31 points and seven assists to lead the Beavers to a win at Maryland. He had 24 points and seven assists against Portland as well.
Ohio State looked absolutely dominant on the defensive end of the floor in their 52-35 win over a good Marquette team in the Bradley Center on Saturday afternoon. The win becomes all the more impressive when you consider that LaQuinton Ross, the guy that everyone thought would be filling Deshaun Thomas’ role as leading scorer, didn’t score a single point. If Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson can be as good as they were on Saturday on a consistent basis, the Buckeyes have a chance to win the Big Ten.
They were good, too:
- Belmont Bruins: Coming from 16 down to beat Indiana State and winning at North Carolina is a pretty good week for anyone, let alone a school in the Ohio Valley.
- Kansas Jayhawks: Their one win this week? Duke at the United Center.
- Michigan State Spartans: Tom Izzo’s club knocked off Kentucky in the Champions Classic and barely avoided a letdown game against Columbia on Friday.
- VCU Rams: The Rams went 2-0 this week with their most impressive win coming at Virginia during the Tip-Off Marathon.
- Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers have three terrific wins this season: St. John’s, Florida and at UW-Green Bay.
- UMass Minutemen: UMass knocked off LSU during the Marathon and followed that up with a win over Youngstown State. Chaz Williams and Cady Lalanne are a really good 1-2 punch.