There were a lot of games during the first weekend of the college basketball season. There weren’t a lot of meaningful games, however, as the most important matchup of the first three days of college hoops was relevant more for the coaching matchup than the game itself. Minnesota took on Louisville — and lost — and Richard Pitino couldn’t knock off his dad, Rick.
That said, there was a bright spot for the Cardinals, as Montrezl Harrell looked every bit the part of an all-american. He finished with 30 points and seven boards, but that’s not the whole story. Harrell, who spent the offseason trying to develop his perimeter skills, went 3-for-4 from three and knocked down 9-of-10 from the foul line. If he turns into a player that has to be covered out to the three-point line, he’ll be borderline unstoppable.
THE ALL-THEY-WERE-GOOD-TOO TEAM:
Stefan Nastic, Stanford: The senior big man was terrific in two wins for the Cardinal this weekend. He was an unstoppable force as Stanford knocked off a good Wofford team, finishing with 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting. On Sunday, he added a double-double — 14 points and 11 boards — in a win over South Dakota. On the season, Nastic is now averaging 20.0 points, 8.0 boards, 4.0 assists and 2.0 blocks.
Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse: The Orange won both their games this weekend, but they didn’t come without concern. Syracuse has issues on the offensive end of the floor, which makes the week Christmas had all that much more important. He averaged 18.0 points and 12.5 boards.
Cullen Neal, New Mexico: One of the big questions for the Lobos this season was where they were going to get their offense from. Neal seems to be the answer, as he had a total of 49 points and eight assists in a pair of wins this weekend.
L.J Peak, Georgetown: How about this for the start of a career: Peak scored 23 points and went 9-for-9 from the floor in Georgetown’s win over St. Francis (NY). If only he shot better than 4-for-8 from the foul line.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Doug McDermott, Creighton How good was McDermott this week? Here are the numbers for you:
He averaged 32.5 points and 6.0 boards in wins over Butler and No. 6 Villanova.
McDermott had 39 points in that win over the Wildcats, scoring 22 in the first half and passing Larry Bird on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list.
He had “just” 26 points against Butler, but the three he hit with 47.8 seconds left would prove to be the game-winner.
He was 24-for-36 from the floor in the two games, hitting 7-for-11 from three and all ten of his free throws.
That’s impressive and all, but you really want to get a feel for how good McBuckets was this week? This is how Villanova had to guard him:
They were good, too:
Billy Baron, Canisius: In two games last week, Baron averaged 37.0 points, 8.0 boards and 5.0 assists. Solid numbers, right? If he goes for 35 points and eight assists the next time out, he’ll be averaging 25.0 points, 5.0 assists and 5.0 boards.
Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: Wisconsin’s big man had 25 points and 11 boards in Wisconsin’s 13 point win at Michigan on Sunday. He also went for 17 points and six boards in a win over Minnesota.
Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: Ennis hit the game-winning three from 35 feet to give Syracuse a win at Pitt on Wednesday and followd that up with the game-winning assist in a win against N.C. State on Saturday.
Scottie Wilbekin, Florida:
Jermaine Marshall, Arizona State: Marshall finished with 29 points in Arizona State 69-66, double-overtime win over No. 2 Arizona on Friday night.
Kyle Anderson, UCLA: In wins over Utah and Colorado, Anderson averaged 19.0 points, 8.0 assists and 8.5 boards while shooting 14-for-24 from the floor
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Nebraska Cornhuskers Want to talk about a big win? Prior to going into East Lansing and knocking off Michigan State on Sunday, Nebraska wasn’t even involved in the bubble conversation. They weren’t even an afterthought. They have wins over Ohio State, Indiana and Minnesota at home, but that’s not much to write home about when the best thing you did in the non-conference was to knock off Georgia.
But Tim Miles and company pulled off what many believed to be impossible, beating Tom Izzo in his building and, in the process, turning themselves into a team that could very well hear their name called on Selection Sunday. Granted, they still have a lot of work to do, but look at it like this: Nebraska has three top 50 wins, one of which came on the road, and three more top 100 wins. Their RPI is currently 52nd and their KenPom ranking is 62nd. That’s enough to get them onto the bubble.
But there’s more. Here’s their remaining schedule: Penn State, Purdue, at Illinois, Northwestern, at Indiana, Wisconsin. Those are all very winnable games. A tournament berth is well within reach.
They were good, too:
Baylor: The Bears seem to have righted their ship, blowing out TCU on the road before picking up a crucial win over Kansas State at home in double-overtime on Saturday.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils vaulted themselves onto the right side of the bubble by knocking off in-state rival and No. 2 Arizona at home on Friday evening.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels didn’t get a chance to play Duke last week thanks to a massive storm that hit the mid-Atlantic, but they did beat Pitt at home. James Michael McAdoo has been terrific over the course of the last two months.
Middle Tennessee State: MTSU went 2-0 this week and climbed into first place of Conference USA with a blowout win over Southern Miss.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles are doing everything they can to work their way back onto the bubble. They won at Seton Hall and knocked off Xavier at home this week. They get Creighton in Milwaukee next. That’s a big one.
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.