Has there been a more surprising breakout player than Casey Prather this season? The Florida senior went from being a bit player as a freshman and a sophomore to embracing a role as a defensive stopper off the bench as a junior. But this season, with Florida dealing with what felt like two-thirds of their roster missing time due to injuries or suspensions, Prather stepped up.
He’s averaging 18.5 points this season, with the highlight of the year being the 22 points that he scored in Florida’s win over Memphis in the Jimmy V Classic. I won’t get too far into how he developed into a star — I did that in the 900 word column I filed from the Garden that night — but I think it’s safe to say that those injuries and suspensions were the best thing that could have happened to both Prather and the Gators. Without them, I don’t think he’s the player that he is today.
They were good, too:
Tracy Abrams, Illinois: Abrams scored 22 points and had the game-winning bucket in a 65-64 win over Missouri in the Braggin’ Rights game.
Jason Calliste, Oregon: Calliste went for 31 points as Oregon knocked off BYU in overtime in Eugene. He also popped off for 14 points in a win over UC-Irvine.
Melvin Johnson, VCU: Johnson had 27 points and his eight threes in VCU’s blowout win over Virginia Tech. That’s huge. The Rams desperately need a knockdown three-point shooter.
Aaric Murray, Texas Southern: Murray currently holds the nationwide season-high for points in a game after lighting up Temple for 48 points in a win in Philly.
Adreian Payne, Michigan State: Payne put together one of the most dominating performances of the season on Saturday afternoon in Austin, dropping 33 points on 10-13 shooting.
T.J. Warren, N.C. State: Warren led the Wolfpack to back-to-back wins at Tennessee and over East Carolina by scoring a combined 53 points.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Oregon Ducks
Dana Altman’s club picked up a pair of wins this week, knocking off BYU at home in an overtime thriller while also blowing out UC-Irvine. That wasn’t the big news of the week in Eugene, however. The big news is that both Dominic Artis and Ben Carter, both expected starters entering the season, are back in the lineup for the Ducks after missing the first nine games of the season.
Here’s the best news of all: the Ducks don’t necessarily need Artis or Carter. They combined to play just 17 scoreless minutes in the win over BYU. Johnathon Loyd has been flat-out terrific this season, and the combination of Richard Amardi and Elgin Cook has been more than enough in the paint. There is a reason the Ducks are still undefeated, and if they can figure out a way to keep everyone happy with their minutes — and iron out some rotation kinks — I think it’s safe to say that the Ducks are Arizona’s biggest challenger in the Pac-12.
They were good, too:
Auburn: How about them Tigers? Beating Clemson and Boston College isn’t exactly program-changing, but it does mean that a potential bottom-feeder in the SEC isn’t losing to bottom-feeders from other conferences.
Boston U.: The Patriot League favorites went into College Park and knocked off Maryland, 83-77. D.J. Irving gave Mark Turgeon’s club 25.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats knocked off Pitt in NYC at the Jimmy V Classic, earning themselves a win they really needed.
Florida State: The Seminoles picked up two big wins over the weekend, blowing out Charlotte before picking up an ugly win over UMass.
Kansas State: The Wildcats picked up a much-needed win over No. 21 Gonzaga on Saturday at home. Marcus Foster is one of the best freshmen in the country that no one is talking about.
It’s officially time to be concerned about No. 22 Xavier.
The Musketeers have now lost three straight games, all to the top three teams in the Big East, and currently sit at 13-5 on the year with just a single good win to their name: Clemson.
But prior to Monday’s loss to No. 7 Creighton, Xavier had lost all of their games on the road to teams that will either get a top five seed in the NCAA tournament (Villanova, Butler, Baylor) or play at altitude (Colorado). On Monday, the Musketeers not only lost 72-67 to Creighton, but they did so on a day where the Bluejays lost star point guard and all-american candidate Mo Watson to a knee injury midway through the first half and spent the majority of the game playing with star center Justin Patton saddled with fouls.
Should I mention that Creighton, who is third-nationally in three-point percentage, shot 5-for-19 from beyond the arc, or that their two best healthy guards – Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas – shot a combined 10-for-31?
All of the stars were aligned. Coming how to an afternoon game against a top ten team on a holiday after losing back-to-back games on the road, and that top ten team lost their most important player early in the first half?
This should have been where Xavier landed that first elite win.
Instead, the Musketeers are left scratching their head again.
And it begs the question: If not now, when?
The Musketeers still play Villanova and Butler at home, visit Creighton and have the Crossroads Classic at Cincinnati. There are opportunities for them to get wins that they need.
But if they cannot get a win over a short-handed Creighton team at home, who are they actually going to be?
VIDEO: No. 7 Creighton beats No. 22 Xavier, loses all-american Mo Watson to a knee injury
The Bluejays would hold on to win a thrilling, hard-fought game, 72-67, without Watson. That’s impressive, and it means that they move into a tie for first place in the Big East with Villanova, but the story of this game was Watson.
According to a reporter at the game, Watson told head coach Gregg McDermott that he “heard it pop“. Losing Watson to any significant injury would be catastrophic for the No. 8 Bluejays. Watson entered Monday averaging 13.4 points and a nation’s-best 8.8 assists. He’s been in the top ten of our Player of the Year Power Rankings all season long, is a clear-cut candidate for an all-american team and is the engine for the high-powered offense that has made Creighton a Final Four contender.
The injury may be somewhat controversial as well. Two minutes before the video clip above, Watson banged knees with a Xavier defender and had to be helped off of the floor. He was tested on the sideline and allowed to return to the game, albeit with a noticeable limp.
UPDATE: Gregg McDermott told FS1 after the game that Watson’s ligaments are intact, but that they are concerned about the meniscus.
College Basketball Coaches Poll: Kansas vaults to No. 1
Kansas vaulted up to the No. 1 spot in the Coaches Poll for the first time this season, receiving 23 of the 32 first place votes.
Villanova comes in at No. 2 while UCLA, Gonzaga and Kentucky finish up the top five. Bay.or, who was No. 1 in the country last week, is No. 6 while Duke fell all the way to No. 18 with a pair of losses last week.
Villanova vaulted back into the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll after falling out for a week when they lost at Creighton.
Kansas comes in at No. 2 while UCLA, Gonzaga and Kentucky finish up the top five. Bay.or, who was No. 1 in the country last week, is No. 6 while Duke fell all the way to No. 18 with a pair of losses last week.
Texas landed an important piece for its future on Monday as four-star Class of 2017 point guard Matt Coleman committed to the Longhorns during a televised announcement.
A priority recruit for head coach Shaka Smart, the 6-foot-2 Coleman is regarded as the No. 35 overall prospect in the country, according to Rivals. A lefty floor general who can attack the basket and set up others, Coleman played for Smart this summer as the two won a gold medal together with the USA Basketball U18 team during the 2016 FIBA Americas.
Coleman is going to have to improve his perimeter shooting for the next level — he only shot 18 percent from three-point range in Nike EYBL play — but he’s the type of setup guard who should help the talented Texas perimeter get ideal shots. It’ll be intriguing to see how Smart plans to play Coleman in what could be a crowded backcourt next season but Coleman should help bring stability to the team.
With Coleman in the mix, we’ll likely see Smart use a lot of lineups with two ball handlers as we saw with Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix last season. That type of backcourt might suit Smart’s style of play a bit better than the current Texas roster this season.
Coleman is the fourth commitment for Texas in the Class of 2017. He joins three other four-star prospects in big man Jericho Sims, guard Jase Febres and forward Royce Hamm.