Melvin Ejim, Hudson Price

College Hoops Week in Review: Melvin Ejim and SMU burst onto national radar

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Melvin Ejim, Iowa State

Melvin Ejim put on one of the single most impressive individual performances that you’ll see on Saturday afternoon. He scored 48 points on 20-for-24 shooting from the floor and added 18 rebounds in Iowa State’s 84-69 win over TCU. That just doesn’t happen. People just don’t put up numbers like that. You want proof? The last time that anyone had 48 points and 18 boards in a basketball game at the NBA or Division I level was in 2003 when Shaq did it. That same year, David West had 47 points and 18 boards in a game for Xavier, which is the closest that any college player has come to those numbers since 1996.

Here’s the other thing about Ejim: this isn’t necessarily a fluke. What you may not realize is that Ejim led the Big 12 in rebounding last season and that he’s leading the Big 12 in scoring this season. There’s a chance that he ends up being the Conference Player of the Year by the time that it is all said and done. He’s been awesome this season, but it took 48 points and 18 boards for us to realize it.

They were good, too:

  • Davon Usher, Delaware: Usher averaged 33.5 points in two wins this week, which included arguably the best individual performance of the season. He scored 27 of his 42 points on Wednesday against Charleston in the last nine minutes, helping the Blue Hens erase a 20 point deficit.
  • Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State: The Sun Devils swept Oregon this past week, and Bachynski was the biggest reason why, averaging 21.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 8.0 blocks while shooting 75% from the floor.
  • Jaye Crockett, Texas Tech: Lost in the Marcus Smart debacle was the performance from Texas Tech and Crockett, who had 21 points and 12 boards, following up 15 points, six boards, five assists, two blocks and two steals he had against TCU.
  • Xavier Thames, San Diego State: Thames averaged 20.0 points in two wins this week, which included taking over down the stretch in a come-from-behind win against Boise State.
  • Bobby Portis, Arkansas: Portis had 35 points, nine boards and six blocks in a win against Alabama, and followed that up by helping Arkansas pick up their first SEC road win against someone other than Auburn in Mike Anderson’s tenure.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: SMU Mustangs

The Mustangs moved into the AP top 25 for the first time in nearly three decades on Monday morning after Larry Brown’s squad rolled knocked off No. 7 Cincinnati by 21 points on Saturday evening. It’s the latest example of just how far ahead of schedule SMU is in their development as a program. They were expected to be a potential bubble team this season. Instead, they have looked just as good, if not better, than they other four AAC contenders this season.

The key now for SMU is to prove that they can win a game on the road. Blasting Cincinnati, Memphis and UConn in a suddenly-raucous Moody Coliseum is one thing. Going into Storrs or Louisville and coming away with a win is an entirely different story.

They were good, too:

  • Wisconsin: The Badgers ended their skid of five losses in six games by winning at Illinois and then knocking off Michigan State at home this week.
  • St. John’s: The Johnnies have now won six of their last seven games after winning at Providence and knocking off Creighton in the Garden on Sunday night. All of a sudden, this looks like a bubble team.
  • Ohio State: The Buckeyes are back. After winning at Wisconsin two weeks ago, Ohio State won at Iowa and knocked off Purdue over the weekend.
  • Yale: The Elis are now swept the weekend, winning at Dartmouth and Harvard to put themselves into a tie for first place in the conference.
  • North Carolina: The Tar Heels are back. They’ve won five straight games after knocking off Maryland and Notre Dame this week.

No. 11 Oregon blows by Cal, but Dillon Brooks leaves with “lower left leg injury”

Oregon Ducks forward Dillon Brooks (24), collides in the first half against California in an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Eugene, Ore. Brooks later left the game with an injury on a different play. (AP Photo/Thomas Boyd)
AP Photo/Thomas Boyd
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Oregon defeated Cal on Thursday. The score was 86-63. That hardly matters, though, considering what else occurred in Eugene.

Ducks star Dillon Brooks left the game with a “lower left leg injury,” which is particularly ominous considering it was a surgically repaired left foot that sidelined Brooks all summer and kept him from joining Oregon on the floor until mid-November.

As of Thursday evening, there was no specific clarification, leaving only questions not only about Brooks’ health but what Oregon will have to potentially do without him.

The Ducks can win without Brooks. They went 8-1 before Brooks ever logged 30 minutes in a game and blasted Washington State in Pullman when Brooks got ejected after just seven minutes. They didn’t need him to dismantle the Bears, shooting 58 percent from the floor for the game and 54.2 percent without him in the second half. Jordan Bell made 11 of 12 shots for a career-best 26 points, and three other Ducks scored in double figures.

It wouldn’t be ideal, but Oregon could tread water to a high seed with him missing a chunk of time as they’ve shown at different times throughout this season. The Ducks only have one matchup left with both UCLA and Arizona, coming back-to-back in the first week of February.

But if it’s a serious injury, it necessitates a recalibration of expectation for Oregon.

Brooks scored 23 and had the game-winner as the Ducks handled No. 3 UCLA its lone loss this season and had 28 points when they blew out then-No. 22 USC to end December. Brooks is too talented, too versatile and too important for a prolonged absence to be meaningfully weathered. The NCAA tournament just too often demands too much from teams to be without a player of Brooks’ caliber.

For Oregon to reach the heights that many predicted for it since last spring, Brooks has to be on the floor.

The wait for the diagnosis and prognosis, not just for Brooks but for Oregon’s season, is on.

After win at Iowa, what’s to be made of No. 25 Maryland?

Maryland guard Anthony Cowan is fouled by Iowa forward Ryan Kriener, right, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in Iowa City, Iowa. Maryland won 84-76. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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Maryland, after an 84-76 win at Iowa, now stands at 5-1 in the Big Ten. The Terps are the only team in the league with five conference wins and are tied with Wisconsin in the loss column atop the Big Ten.

Is it time to start taking them seriously as Big Ten title contenders?

It just might be, less so for who Maryland is proving to be but, in part, for how the schedule lays out for the Terps.

The resume right now isn’t overly impressive, other than sheer volume of wins at 16. There’s the loss at home to Nebraska for one thing, but they haven’t been overly convincing in a win since their opener against Illinois.

Many of their issues were on display against the Hawkeyes, a team that has lodged a number of good wins but still shows loads of inconsistency with a roster heavily dependent upon freshmen. Maryland led by 15 in the first half and held a double-digit lead well into the second half. Then, as carelessness set in, it was gone with just over 6 minutes to play and the Terps trailed with as little as 3 minutes left.

Turnovers were nearly the Terps’ undoing. They committed 21 of them that led to 30 points for the Hawkeyes, who are hardly known for turning opponents over. Maryland, though, has consistently failed to take care of the ball with a turnover rate hovering around 20 percent.

What saved them against Iowa was, what (or who) else, than Melo Trimble. One of the game’s most clutch players, Trimble hit back-to-back 3s after Maryland fell behind to turn a three-point disadvantage into a three-point lead that the Terps wouldn’t hand back to a feisty Iowa squad. Trimble finished with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists.

So, 21 turnovers and a blown lead salvaged only by Trimble’s heroics doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in a team with as many question marks as Maryland, even if it came on the road.

The Terps, though, do keep winning and while close games do invite luck and chance into the equation, Trimble’s presence and Maryland’s track record suggests it may be able to survive the variance.

Then you’ve got to look at that schedule. They’ve got Rutgers at home before a tricky Minnesota-Ohio State road trip. Then of the Big Ten teams currently with two losses or less, Maryland gets Purdue and Michigan State at home and has just one game apiece against Wisconsin and Northwestern, though both are away from College Park.

So while it may be hard to fully buy in to Maryland given its so-so offense and unremarkable defense, the Terps have made it nearly to the end of January with just two losses and have a manageable road ahead.

That’s something that has to be taken into account, just like Maryland in the Big Ten.

Ohio’s Antonio Campbell to miss season with foot injury

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 22:  Head coach Saul Phillips of the North Dakota State Bison reacts in the first half against the San Diego State Aztecs during the Third Round of the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 22, 2014 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The MAC race just took a turn, as Ohio’s star forward Antonio Campbell will miss the rest of the season with a broken bone in his foot.

Campbell, who was the best player in the conference, was averaging 16.4 points and 8.9 boards.

“We feel awful for Tony,” said head coach Saul Phillips. “Sick to our stomach. We wish him nothing but a speedy and full recovery. We are proud of all that he’s accomplished while wearing a Bobcat uniform and thank him for his many contributions to our program.”

Ohio is 11-5 on the season and 3-2 in the MAC.

Indiana’s OG Anunoby out indefinitely with knee injury

Indiana's OG Anunoby (3) dunks in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Michigan in the quarterfinals at the Big Ten Conference tournament, Friday, March 11, 2016, in Indianapolis. Michigan won 72-69. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
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The exact extent and specific diagnosis of the injury suffered by Indiana sophomore OG Anunoby isn’t yet public, but the Hoosiers offered a brief update Thursday.

“OG sustained a knee injury this past Wednesday night’s game against Penn State and is in the midst of ongoing medical evaluations,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said in a statement released by the school. “He will be out indefinitely.”

Anunoby went down clutching his knee late in the first half against the Nittany Lions and did not return, with many fearing the severity of the injury after Crean delivered an emotional post-game interview following Indiana’s three-point win.

The 6-foot-8 forward has largely been considered a potential lottery pick in this June’s NBA draft. He’s averaged 11.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game this season.

Indiana’s first game back is Saturday at home against Michigan State followed by road games against Michigan and Northwestern the following week. The Hoosiers are 13-6 overall and 3-3 in the Big Ten.

Report: Villanova and UConn set to renew series

Villanova's Kyle Lowry (1) goes up for a shot over Connecticut's Josh Boone (21) Monday, February 13, 2006 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, PA. Villanova University (4) upset University of Connecticut (1) 69-64. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
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Another former Big East Rivalry will be renewed soon.

Villanova and Connecticut are set to resume a home-and-home series next year, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

The Huskies will host the first game of the series with the return game coming in 2018, though exact dates and venues have not yet been set.

Since the Big East split in recent years, the two teams have met once, in the 2014 NCAA tournament when the Huskies went on to win a national championship.

UConn played Syracuse earlier this year while the Orange also took on St. John’s and Georgetown in a rematch of former Big East rivals now spread across the realignment landscape.

While the new iteration of the Big East is as strong as its best since the basketball schools bolted – with the Wildcats the defending champions and Creighton and Xavier both having big years – it’s encouraging to see that the classic matchups  of the old Big East aren’t being completely abandoned in this new era of hoops, not only for nostalgia purposes but because they remain some of the best brands and programs in the sport.