Nebraska v Cincinnati

College Hoops Week in Review: Justin Jackson leads Cincinnati, San Diego State Road Warriors

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Justin Jackson, Cincinnati

The Bearcats could not have asked for a better stop to league play in the inaugural season of the American. After knocking off SMU in Cincinnati on New Year’s Day, Mick Cronin’s club went down to Memphis where they laid the wood on the Tigers, whipping then-No. 18 Memphis by 16 points on their home floor. Do the math, and that would be two wins over top five teams in the conference in the span of four days.

The star of the show for Cincinnati was Justin Jackson, who has developed into as much of a centerpiece as there is on this roster. Nothing that the Bearcats do this season is going to be pretty. They are the nation’s second-most efficient defense, according to Kenpom, and the third-best offensive rebounding team. They win by attacking the glass and swarming defensively. It’s ugly, but it’s effective, which is what makes Jackson the perfect fit.

In the two wins, Jackson averaged 15.0 points, 7.0 boards, 6.0 blocks and 3.0 steals while shooting 11-for-19 from the floor. Cincinnati has now won six straight games, a stretch where Jackson is averaging 15.3 points, 9.7 boards, 4.3 blocks and 2.2 steals.

They were good, too:

  • Eric Atkins, Notre Dame: Jerian who? After going for 30 points and seven assists in an overtime win over Canisius, Atkins made sure that Notre Dame’s first foray into the ACC was a successful one. He had 19 points and 11 assists as the Irish beat Duke 79-77 in South Bend.
  • Askia Booker, Colorado: Colorado picked up a huge win against Oregon on Sunday evening which was spurred on by 27 points and four assists from ‘Ski. He also had 13 points and four steals in a win over Oregon State.
  • Devin Oliver, Dayton: Oliver had 26 points, seven boards and five assists and banked in a game-winning three in overtime to beat Ole Miss in Oxford.
  • Nik Stauskas, Michigan: I’ve said it for a while: if Michigan is going to win, they need Stauskas to do more to key the offense. In two wins this week, he averaged 16.0 points and 5.5 assists with just four turnovers. Those numbers are Burke-ian.
  • Fred VanVleet, Wichita State: VanVleet had a career-high 22 points in a win over Northern Iowa and averaged 19.5 points and 4.0 assists on the week. He hasn’t committed a turnover since the 11:47 mark of the second half of a game on Dec. 22nd, a stretch where he’s played roughly 107 minutes of basketball.

source:  TEAM OF THE WEEK: San Diego State Aztecs

The Aztecs were supposed to be in a rebuilding mode this year, but if that was the case, they have rebuilt pretty quickly. We knew that the Aztecs were good heading into this week, but they made a statement in the last five days by going into two of the nation’s toughest road environments and leaving with wins. On New Year’s Day, they won their Mountain West opener in Moby Arena, knocking off Colorado State, 71-61. Then on Sunday, SDSU rode their powerful interior to a win at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, beating then-No. 16 Kansas, 61-57.

What makes SDSU tough is the length and athleticism they have up and down their roster. Their front line can match up, physically and athletically, with anyone in the country, and they have enough length on their perimeter to cause trouble for any and all wing scorers. The key, however, is going to end up being the play of Winston Shepard and Xavier Thames in the back court. SDSU isn’t exactly a great offensive team, and those two guys are by far the best scorers they have.

Now consider this: in the second half of the win over Kansas, Shepard and Thames combined to go 3-for-16 from the floor. SDSU is legit.

They were good, too:

  • Air Force: Are the Falcons a sleeper in the Mountain West? After one week of league play, AFA is sitting pretty at 2-0 with wins over Utah State and at UNLV.
  • Creighton: The Bluejays won their first two games in Big East play, whipping up on Marquette in their opener on New Year’s Eve and following that up with a win over Seton Hall on Saturday afternoon.
  • Kansas State: There aren’t many teams around the country that have gotten as much better during the first two months of the season as Kansas State has. The team that lost to North Colorado back in November now has won nine straight games. This week alone, they beat George Washington and Oklahoma State.
  • Pitt: The Panthers kicked off their tenure in the ACC in promising fashion, but going into Raleigh and smacking around N.C. State despite the fact that they dug themselves a 17-2 hole to begin the game.
  • Rhode Island: The Rams were one of the more promising teams in the Atlantic 10 heading into the season, but they struggled a bit early on in the season. Was this week the turnaround? URI won at Brown and followed that up with an impressive win at LSU.

UT-Arlington dominates, upsets No. 12 St. Mary’s

Texas-Arlington's Kevin Hervey, left, reacts to a 73-68 NCAA college basketball game win as Ohio State's Jae'Sean Tate looks on  in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
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UT-Arlington made a statement on Thursday night, completely dominating No. 12 Saint Mary’s in a 65-51 upset win in a true road game in Moraga.

Back in October, I ranked both the Gaels and the Mavericks in the top-5 of my Mid-Major Power Rankings. Saint Mary’s was the obvious top choice, one of the nation’s most efficient offenses that returned Emmett Naar and Jock Landale. UT-Arlington, ranked fifth, served as a dangerous opponent. The Mavs had defeated Ohio State and Memphis in 2015, but their season was derailed once Kevin Hervey, a player with serious pro potential, tore his ACL.

With five starters back, including Hervey, who is just now getting back to 100 percent, UT-Arlington looks every bit the part of a March Cinderella.

The Mavericks jumped out to an early lead and forced the Gaels to play out of character. Saint Mary’s had only committed a season-high 14 turnovers before the midway point of the second half. The Gaels, who entered shooting 40 percent from three as a team, was held to 8-of-27 (30 percent) from beyond the arc.

UT-Arlington did an incredible job of closing out on shooters. And it didn’t matter the matchup, at times we saw Hervey, a 6-foot-9 junior, come out and run a guard off the 3-point line. While those statistics mentioned above show up in the box score, the amount of deflections don’t. The Mavericks used its length and athleticism to get their hands everywhere on the defensive end of the floor, making it difficult to find good looks.

In the first half, UT-Arlington controlled the glass. Saint Mary’s found more success in that department after halftime, as Kevin Clark’s offensive putback capped an 11-2 run, which cut the deficit to 52-41. However, the Mavs were able to counter each time the Gaels threatened, never letting the lead get to single digits.

Aside from the struggles the typically-efficient Saint Mary’s offense had, the Gaels struggled to keep UT-Arlington guards Erick Neal and Kaelon Wilson out of the lane, whether it be on a high ball screen or a handoff. Saint Mary’s never seemed to have a help-side defender there to protect the rim. Neal had 13 points and eight assists (five turnovers), while Wilson had 10 points off the bench. Hervey had a game-high 15 points and seven rebounds.

UT-Arlington is winners of eight straight after losing three straight. One of those wins includes a double-digit win over Texas in Austin. The Mavericks are the clear-cut favorite to win the Sun Belt. Come Selection Sunday, I’d say plenty of at-large teams would not like to be paired up with Scott Cross’ team.

Iowa cruises past No. 25 Iowa State

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 20:  Head coach Fran McCaffery of the Iowa Hawkeyes reacts in the first half against the Villanova Wildcats during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 20, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Iowa picked up a major win on Thursday night, defeating in-state rival No. 25 Iowa State, 78-64, in a contest the Hawkeyes thoroughly dominated.

Let’s put it this way: the Hawkeyes have played four top-100 teams, according to kenpom. In those games, all losses by the way, their defense has surrendered 91 points to Seton Hall, 74 points to a Virginia team that plays at the slowest tempo in the country, 100 points to Memphis and 92 points to Notre Dame.

On Saturday, on the same floor Iowa demolished the Cyclones, its defense allowed 98 points in a loss to Nebraska Omaha.

This is exactly the sort of win Fran McCaffery and Co. needed to right the ship as we inch closer and closer to conference play.

When the Cyclones went to their bench in the first half, Nick Baer sparked a 10-0 run which helped set the tone for the remainder of the half. Iowa State went without a field goal for more than six minutes during that span.

Iowa kept Iowa State from getting out and running, holding the Cyclones to zero fast break points through the first 20 minutes and limiting them to only 36 percent from the floor as a team. Iowa, on the other hand, shot 47 percent, including 59 percent in the first half, which led to a 15-point halftime lead.

Peter Jok torched Iowa State to the tune of 23 points (4-of-7 from distance).

Monte Morris was held in check with 10 points, while Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas shot a combined 4-of-13 from three (they each hit a three with less than three minutes to play and the outcome all but decided).

Iowa State’s offense is becoming a bigger concern. Just like against Gonzaga, the Cyclones dug a first-half hole they could shoot out their way of. And like last week’s overtime loss to Cincinnati, they struggled from beyond the arc.

Iowa landed a marquee win it needed, while its rival headed home with questions to answer after losing three of four.

 

Alabama wing sidelined due to weight loss

ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 29: Head coach Avery Johnson of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at HP Field House on November 29, 2015 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Alabama junior wing Nick King will not be with the team for Sunday evening’s matchup against No. 24 Oregon in Eugene.

According to Rainer Sabin of the AL.com, Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said King undergoing a series of tests after losing more than 10 pounds in less than a week and a half.

Johnson told reporters that he is “very concerned” and estimates that as of now King will be sidelined for “a week or two.”

King, who played his first two seasons at Memphis, has appeared in all seven games for the Crimson Tide, averaging 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game.

Damonte Dodd out with MCL sprain

COLLEGE PARK, MD - FEBRUARY 13: Melo Trimble #2 and Damonte Dodd #35 of the Maryland Terrapins react to a call as Alex Illikainen #25 of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on in the second half at Xfinity Center on February 13, 2016 in College Park, Maryland. Wisconsin won 70-57.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Maryland could be without the services of starting center Damonte Dodd for the remainder of the non-conference slate, the team announced on Wednesday.

Dodd suffered a MCL sprain in his left knee during practice earlier this week. The injury caused him to miss Wednesday’s 76-56 win over Howard. He will not be available for matchups with St. Peter’s and Jacksonville State. The Terrapins then close out the non-conference slate at Charlotte on Dec. 20 before opening up Big Ten play a week later.

Dodd has started in six of seven games he’s appeared in this season. He’s averaging 5.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Michael Cekovsky started in place of Dodd on Wednesday night. Ivan Bender, who returned to the lineup against Howard after missing the previous contest, should also see an increase in minutes with Dodd sidelined.

Federico Mussini goes coast-to-coast, beats buzzer with and-1

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 03:  Chris Mullin the head coach of the St. John's Red Storm gives instructions to Federico Mussini #4 during the game against the  Xavier Musketeersat Cintas Center on February 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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St. John’s capped the first half with a 6-0 run.

Sophomore guard Federico Mussini went coast-to-coast to beat the buzzer, and draw the foul, as the Johnnies went into the break up 42-33 on city rival Fordham.

The 6-foot-4 guard had gone cold during a five-game stretch, but since Thanksgiving he’s scored in double figures in four consecutive games, including on Thursday night.