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Kyle Wiltjer (Getty Images)

Weekly Awards: Kyle Wiltjer’s continued growth, and Kansas wins again

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Kyle Wiltjer (Getty Images)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga

Gonzaga is in the Pac-12 portion of their schedule, as they knocked off Washington State and UCLA this past week after losing to Arizona in overtime last week. Wiltjer was Gonzaga’s leading scorer for the week, averaging 22.5 points and 5.0 boards while shooting 66.7 percent from the floor and 5-for-7 from three in the two wins.

Wiltjer has just about made the transition into Gonzaga’s go-to guy this season. Kevin Pangos is the engine that makes this team run, but it’s Wiltjer’s ability to shoot and score from the perimeter that has made them so tough to guard. If you put a smaller player on him, Wiltjer can go into the post and make you pay. If you use a bigger player on him, Gonzaga can put him in pick-and-roll actions with Kevin Pangos, which have proven to be lethal. If you decide to go zone, Wiltjer helps spread the floor for Domantas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski in the paint, working in high-low passes.

Wiltjer is a much different player than Kelly Olynyk, but the impact the former Kentucky Wildcat is having on this team is the same.

THE ALL-THEY-WERE-GOOD, TOO TEAM

  • Ron Baker, Wichita State: In wins over Seton Hall and at Detroit, Baker averaged 20.5 points, 5.0 boards and 3.5 assists.
  • TaShawn Thomas, Oklahoma: Thomas played his best game as a Sooner on Saturday. He finished with 25 points on 9-for-12 shooting and added three blocks in a win over Tulsa, finally showing why everyone considered his waiver to be immediately eligible a season-changer.
  • Ty Wallace, Cal: Cal won a pair of close games this week, thanks in large part to Wallace, who finished with 40 points, 16 boards, eight assists and five steals in two games.
  • T.J. Price, Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers went into Oxford and knocked off Ole Miss on Saturday, and Price led the way with 26 points, 10 boards and five assists.
  • Amida Brimah, UConn: UConn played just one game this week, and it was Brimah that was the star. The 7-foot Ghanaian finished with 40 points on 13-for-13 shooting from the floor and 14-for-16 shooting from the line in a win over Coppin State. He had 56 points on the season coming in.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Kansas Jayhawks

source:
Bill Self (AP Photo)

I wrote extensively on Kansas last week after seeing them go into the Verizon Center and knock off a good Georgetown team. You can read that here. If you don’t want to click, my point is essentially this: Kansas is nowhere near complete right now, yet they have already beating Utah, Michigan State, Florida and Tennessee and won at Georgetown. So what happens when they get to full strength?

Kelly Oubre is coming along nicely, as he’s starting to figure things out defensively and getting more aggressive — and a longer leash — offensively. Cliff Alexander is not going to be more than a effort guy that rebounds and dunks and defends this season, but he’s getting closer to being someone that can have a major impact in games. Wayne Selden and Frank Mason are getting more consistent.

It all seemed to be trending in the right direction … until Devonte’ Graham’s toe injury was announced. There’s speculation that he could miss the rest of the season, which would be a major, major blow. We know Kansas has point guard issues. They have for a long time now. And with Conner Frankamp transferring to Wichita State, Mason is now the only point guard on the team.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Colorado State Rams: The Rams won a pair of games this week, but the notable one came on Wednesday when they went into Boulder and knocked off Colorado. CSU is still undefeated this season.
  • Iowa State Cyclones: Three games this week, three wins. UMKC and Southern are whatever, but the Cyclones also went into Carver-Hawkeye Arena and blew out Iowa on Friday night.
  • Saint Mary’s Gaels: The Gaels picked up a huge win on Saturday afternoon, going into Omaha and knocking off Creighton in overtime despite the fact that star big man Brad Waldow struggled and Kerry Carter fouling out in overtime.
  • Incarnate Word Cardinals: The Cardinals lost their first game of the season this week. They also went into Nebraska and knocked off the Cornhuskers. Ken Burmeister has himself a pretty good ball club.
  • Wofford Terriers: The Terriers are now 8-2 on the season after going into Raleigh and beating N.C. State. They got a bit lucky, but they also got the win, so who cares?

GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEK:

  • UConn vs. No. 2 Duke, Thu. 8:00 p.m.
  • No. 3 Arizona at UTEP, Fri. 11:00 p.m.
  • Syracuse at No. 7 Villanova, Sat. 1:00 p.m.
  • No. 21 North Carolina vs. No. 12 Ohio State, Sat. 1:00 p.m.
  • No. 15 Butler vs. Indiana, Sat. 2:30 p.m.
  • UCLA vs. No. 1 Kentucky, Sat. 3:30 p.m.
  • No. 16 Oklahoma at No. 17 Washington, Sat. 9:00 p.m.
  • Harvard at No. 6 Virginia, Sun. 12:00 p.m.

Incarnate Word upsets Nebraska for its biggest win as a Division I member

Kyle Hittle
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After losing to in-state rival Creighton on Sunday night, Nebraska looked poised to get back on the right track with provisional Division I member Incarnate Word in town Wednesday. While the Cardinals, who are in the second year of their transition to the Division I level, entered the game with a 5-1 record just two of those games were played against Division I competition.

Ken Burmeister’s team posted a win over Princeton last month, and on Monday fell 81-65 at UTEP. But none of that mattered Wednesday night, as the Cardinals knocked off the Cornhuskers 74-73 with a Kyle Hittle jumper with 2.7 seconds remaining proving to be the difference.

Hittle finished the game with 18 points and was one of five UIW players to score in the game, with all five reaching double figures. As a team Incarnate Word shot just over 48 percent from the field for the game, and they managed to win despite the fact that leading scorer Denzel Livingston (19.6 ppg) shot just 3-for-11 from the field.

For Nebraska this loss, their second straight at home, makes Saturday’s game against Cincinnati even more important. Shavon Shields (19 points) rebounded from a disappointing game against Creighton and Terran Petteway added 18, but the Huskers need some supplementary scoring options to step forward before Big Ten play begins. Just one other player scored in double figures (Walter Pitchford- ten points), and the remaining players shot a combined 8-for-24 from the field.

That being said defense was a bigger issue on this night, with Incarnate Word shooting nearly 58 percent from the field in the second half.

While Nebraska will look to address the issues that led to their third defeat of the season, Incarnate Word will celebrate what is the program’s biggest win as a Division I member. And while the result is a good one for this year’s team, it’s also an important step forward as Burmeister’s program works towards competing for an NCAA tournament bid when it becomes eligible to do so in 2017-18.

Tracking the Unbeatens: Only 12 teams remain without a loss on the season

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source: Getty Images
Karl Towns (Getty Images)

Every Monday from now until every team in the country has a loss on their resume, we will be Tracking The Unbeatens, and predicting when, exactly, that unbeaten streak will end.

Kentucky (9-0): The Wildcats are the best team in the country through the season’s first three weeks, having rolled through the first half of their marquee non-conference games by smacking around Texas, Providence and Kansas. Their next three games: North Carolina at home, UCLA in Chicago and Louisville on the road.

  • Next Game: Dec. 13 vs. North Carolina
  • First Loss?: Dec. 27 at Louisville

Duke (8-0): The Blue Devils worked past their toughest non-conference matchup of the year, as they knocked off Wisconsin at Wisconsin. They look like the clear-cut, second-best team in the country right now.

  • Next Game: Dec. 15 vs. Elon
  • First Loss?: Jan. 17 at Louisville

Arizona (8-0): The Wildcats survived a visit from Gonzaga over the weekend, as T.J. McConnell sparked a late comeback in an overtime win. Scoring is still a major issue for this team, but you won’t find many that can defend and rebound like the Wildcats.

  • Next Game: Dec. 9 vs. Utah Valley
  • First Loss?: Jan. 22 at Stanford
source:
Justin Anderson (Getty Images)

Virginia (9-0): Virginia got through their toughest week of the non-conference by knocking off Maryland and VCU on the road. Is that their springboard towards being the second-best team in the ACC?

  • Next Game: Dec. 18 vs. Cleveland State
  • First Loss?: Jan. 3 at Miami

Louisville (7-0): The Cardinals passed their first team of the season last week as they knocked off Ohio State at the Yum! Center. Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier have been as good as advertised, but we are still waiting to see if they will ever get consistent support.

  • Next Game: Dec. 9 vs. Indiana (NYC)
  • First Loss?: Dec. 9 vs. Indiana (NYC)

Villanova (8-0): The Wildcats have had an impressive start to the year, particularly when you consider their best players have arguably been Dylan Ennis and Daniel Echefu. But their two marquee wins, over VCU and Michigan, don’t look quite as impressive now as they did two weeks ago.

  • Next Game: Dec. 9 vs. Illinois (NYC)
  • First Loss?: Dec. 9 vs. Illinois (NYC)

Washington (7-0): The Huskies have wins over UTEP and at home against San Diego State, which are both good wins but not necessarily the kind of performance that will make you believe that this group can contend in the Pac-12. That said, the addition of shotblocker Robert Upshaw has changed this team on the defensive end. I’m buying U-Dub.

  • Next Game: Dec. 14 vs. Eastern Washington
  • First Loss?: Dec. 20 vs. Oklahoma (In Las Vegas)

Colorado State (8-0): It may be too early to count out San Diego State, but if Colorado State isn’t the best team in the Mountain West right now, they’re not far behind. Want to convince me? Win at Colorado on Wednesday.

  • Next Game: Dec. 10 at Colorado
  • First Loss?: Dec. 10 at Colorado

Northern Iowa (8-0): The Panthers are the best team in the Missouri Valley not named Wichita State, but it looks like this is the year that they can push the Shockers for a league title. They’ve already won at Stephen F. Austin, beaten Richmond at home and knocked off Northwestern and Virginia Tech at a neutral court.

  • Next Game: Dec. 10 at Denver
  • First Loss?: Dec. 13 at VCU

Seton Hall (7-0): Isaiah Whitehead has been terrific for the Pirates of late, and Sterling Gibbs has been the program’s best scorer, but this group’s best win is still just George Washington at home. Win Tuesday and we’ll talk.

  • Next Game: Dec. 9 at Wichita State
  • First Loss?: Dec. 9 at Wichita State

TCU (8-0): The Horned Frogs made a statement last week as they went into Oxford and knocked off Ole Miss. They should enter Big 12 play unscatched, and they already are the league’s only undefeated team.

  • Next Game: Dec. 9 vs. Furman
  • First Loss?: Jan. 7 at Kansas State

Incarnate Word (5-0): The Cardinals have played four non-Division I teams. They did beat Princeton at Princeton, though.

  • Next Game: Dec. 8 at UTEP
  • First Loss?: Dec. 8 at UTEP

There seven potential meetings between undefeated teams the rest of the season, although it seems unlikely that we will get more than one.

  • Kentucky at Louisville, December 27
  • Villanova at Seton Hall, January 3
  • Duke at Louisville, January 17
  • Duke at Virginia, January 31
  • Louisville at Virginia, February 7
  • Arizona at Washington, February 13
  • Seton Hall at Villanova, February 16

2014-15 Southland Preview: Can Stephen F. Austin go unbeaten again?

Jacob Parker (Getty Images)
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source: Getty Images
Jacob Parker (Getty Images)

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

Stephen F. Austin has a lot to live up to if they hope to achieve similar success in 2014-15. The 2013-14 iteration of the Lumberjacks went 32-3, 20-0 in the Southland, won 29 straight games and beat VCU in the Round of 64 before falling to UCLA.

That’s quite an accomplishment for first-year head coach Brad Underwood, a former assistant of Frank Martin, who had tremendous balance and perimeter shooting last season. Although Stephen F. Austin loses leading scorer Desmond Haymon and another double-figure scorer in Deshaunt Walker, they do return Southland Player of the Year Jacob Parker, as well as Southland Tournament MVP Thomas Walkup and point guard Trey Pinckney.

The trio of returning starters is more than enough with others filling the departed players’ shoes to once again win the Southland Conference Title, as the Lumberjacks were one of the country’s best non-power conference teams last season.

Underwood’s team is the heavy favorite and he received an eight-year deal after last season.

The early runner-up candidate behind Stephen F. Austin is Sam Houston State, who returns seven contributors from last season including Southland Newcomer of the Year and 6-foot-4 senior Jabari Peters. Peters started all 35 games last season, along with three other returning starters: 6-foot-0 guard Kaheem Ransom, 6-foot-1 junior Paul Baxter and 6-foot-11 center Michael Holyfield.

This is a deep and experienced team. The Bearkats lost in the Southland title game last season and finished 24-11 (13-5).

Northwestern State is situated next as junior point guard Jalen West averaged 19.4 points and 6.4 assists last season for an offense that averaged 86.6 points per game, good enough for second in the nation. The Demons also return Southland Freshman of the Year, 6-foot-2 guard Zeek Woodley and 6-foot-9 center Marvin Frazier.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi returns after a 14-4 conference mark and all-league candidate John Jordan is back at point guard. The Islanders could compete in the Southland as 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Rashawn Thomas also returns. McNeese State and Incarnate Word both have all-conference caliber players in senior guards Kevin Hardy and Denzel Livingston. Both of those players are capable of making plays all over the floor and each averaged over two steals a game last season.

It’s worth noting that Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word are playing full 18-game Southland schedules this season for the first time, but both remain ineligible for the NCAA Tournament after transitioning from Division II. Central Arkansas, Houston Baptist and Lamar are all banned from the postseason due to low APR scores.

Of the 13 teams in the Southland, only eight may play in the postseason in 2014-15.

REALIGNMENT

  • In: None
  • Out: Oral Roberts

PRESEASON SOUTHLAND PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jacob Parker, Stephen F. Austin

The reigning Southland Player of the Year, the 6-foot-6 Parker is one of three returning starters for a team that reached the Round of 32 in 2014. The senior averaged 14.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.4 steals per game last season while shooting 53 percent from the field, 46 percent from three-point range and 79 percent from the free-throw line. Efficient and productive from all over the floor, Parker will be the key for Stephen F. Austin to maintain last year’s success after the Lumberjacks lost some valuable seniors.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-SOUTHLAND TEAM:

  • Kevin Hardy, McNeese State: Do-it-all 6-foot-2 senior guard averaged 11 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2 steals per game last season.
  • John Jordan, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: A dynamic, play-making senior guard, the 5-foot-10 Jordan averaged 14.8 points and 5.4 assists per game as a junior.
  • Denzel Livingston, Incarnate Word: The 6-foot-4 senior combo guard averaged 20.3 points per game and a Southland-leading 2.5 steals per game as he scored 20 or more points in 10 of the last 11 games in 2013-14.
  • Jalan West, Northwestern State: The 5-foot-10 junior point guard averaged 19.4 points and a Southland-best 6.4 assists per game last season and could de-throne Parker for Player of the Year honors.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @SFA_MBB

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Stephen F. Austin
2. Sam Houston State
3. Northwestern State
4. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
5. McNeese State
6. Incarnate Word
7. Southeastern Louisiana
8. New Orleans
9. Nicholls State
10. Abilene Christian
11. Houston Baptist
12. Central Arkansas
13. Lamar

2013-14 Southland Preview: Realignment brings plenty of unfamiliar faces

Oklahoma Oral Roberts Basketball
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source:
ORU Athletics

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

If the Southland Conference had an unofficial motto this season, it might be “Who Dat?”

Seismic shifts at the top of the NCAA power structure draw the most ink, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a league that has been more visibly impacted by realignment than the Southland. Texas State, UT-Arlington (both now Sun Belt) and UT-San Antonio (C-USA) bolted last season to jump on the BCS football gravy train, and Oral Roberts traded in the Summit League’s frequent flyer miles to join the Southland. The league’s tight four-state footprint solidified this year with the addition of New Orleans, Houston Baptist and transitional DI members Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word.

Incarnate Word? Who Dat?

(MORE: Oral Roberts looks to return to their Giant-Killer roots)

The Southland isn’t entirely devoid of name recognition, however. Scott Sutton’s Oral Roberts team was an upset special waiting to happen in the late 2000s, and the Golden Eagles have enough talent, although inexperienced, to feast on the diluted Southland slate this season. Pat Knight, son of the legendary Bobby Knight and former Texas Tech coach, has struggled to build a consistent contender at Lamar, but at least he’s a familiar face. Northwestern State, last season’s auto-bid winner, is losing a lot of senior leadership, so they’re likely to suffer the mid-major curse and fall off the pace a bit. The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks won 27 games last season and missed the Big Dance in a narrow two-point loss in the league’s title game, so they’ll be in the mix as well.

source:  REALIGNMENT MOVES

In: Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist, Incarnate Word, New Orleans
Out: None

PRESEASON SOUTHLAND PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Shawn Glover, Oral Roberts

A rather slight 6-foot-7 wing, Glover got plenty of minutes in two seasons at Utah but just couldn’t finish well enough. After sitting out a season, he came on strong for ORU, sharing the team lead in blocks and steals while averaging 14.4 points per game. Glover is a strong all-around player who should thrive in his senior season.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • Jalan West, Northwestern State: The redshirt sophomore should build on his strong debut season at the point.
  • Dederick Lee, Oral Roberts: The highly-regarded freshman from Clarksville, Arkansas had an offer from the Razorbacks, but will star for Sutton instead.
  • LaQuintin Miles, Central Arkansas: Miles can really pour it on if he finds a way to improve on last season’s 44 percent mark from the floor.
  • DeQuan Hicks, Northwestern State: Hicks had 12 points and 8 boards against Florida in the NCAA tournament last year. He’s ready to make a difference as a senior.

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Oral Roberts
2. Northwestern State
3. Southeastern Louisiana
4. Stephen F. Austin
5. Sam Houston State
6. Central Arkansas
7. Nicholls State
8. McNeese State
9. Texas A&M Corpus Christi
10. Houston Baptist
11. New Orleans
12. Lamar
13. Abilene Christian
14. Incarnate Word