Player of the Week: Mike Moser, UNLV
Less than three weeks into the season, its already quite apparent who the most influential transfer in the country is. After seven games, Moser is leading the Rebels in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals. He ranks third in assists. In three games last week — wins against Cal Poly, USC and No. 1 North Carolina that pushed the Rebels to 7-0 on the season — Moser averaged 13.3 ppg, 13.0 rpg and 2.7 apg while adding three blocks and four steals. In the win over UNC, he had 16 points and 18 rebounds and helped keep Tyler Zeller and John Henson in check. That should give you a glimpse into Moser’s value for this team.
But its more than that. Moser’s value is in his versatility at the four spot. What UNLV wants to do is spread the floor and create lanes for penetration from the perimeter. Moser’s ability to rebound and defend at the four spot while providing a perimeter threat offensively makes the Rebels a more dangerous and complete team. Moser is probably not the most talented player on this team, but his skill set makes him the most valuable. Now imagine what will happen when he finds a consistent stroke from the perimeter; he’s done this much damage while shooting just 2-17 from beyond the arc.
The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team
– G: Evan Roquemore, Santa Clara: Everyone knows about Kevin Foster, but he’s not the only talented back court player for the Broncs. Santa Clara went 2-1 in the 76 Classic — including wins over New Mexico and Villanova — while averaging 22.7 ppg, 8.0 apg and 3.7 rpg while shooting 12-21 from three and 24-25 from the foul line.
– G: Kevin Dillard, Dayton: Dillard, a transfer from Southern Illinois, led the Flyers to the Old Spice Classic title with wins over Wake Forest, Fairfield and Minnesota. In the three games, he averaged 15.3 ppg, 5.0 apg, 3.7 spg and 2.3 apg while shooting 51.6% from the floor and 4-9 from three.
– F: Eric Griffin, Campbell: Griffin led the Camels to a 2-1 week, including a 16 point win over Iowa, while averaging 23.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg and 3.7 bpg. He shot 75% (24-32) from the floor, 4-5 from three and also added six steals. Griffin went for 23 points, 13 boards and six steals in the win over Iowa, and then had 29 points and 14 boards in a loss to Creighton. Oh, and he did this.
– F: Thomas Robinson, Kansas: The Jayhawks lost the title game of the Maui Invitational to Duke, but Robinson made a statement on the island. He had three straight double-doubles and averaged 17.0 ppg and 12.3 rpg in the three games.
– C: Henry Sims, Georgetown: Sims only averaged 13.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.3 apg and 1.7 bpg in a 2-1 week for the Hoyas. But it was the 24 points, eight boards and five assists that Sims notched in an overtime win over Memphis in the fifth-place game.
– Bench: Griffin Callahan, South Dakota State (18.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 18 3’s, 3-1 week); Isaiah Canaan, Murray State (25.3 ppg, 3.3 apg, 5.7 rpg, Great Alaska Shootout champ); Jason Clark, Georgetown (23.0 ppg, 12-20 3’s); Reggie Hamilton, Oakland (34 points, five assists, five steals vs. Utah Valley State); Orlando Johnson, UC-Santa Barbara (26.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 4.0 apg); Maurice Jones, USC (28 points, 7-7 3’s vs. South Carolina); Velton Jones, Robert Morris (38 points, 10-15 shooting vs. James Madison); Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee (23.0 ppg, 16.0 rpg, including 32 points, 20 boards vs. Memphis); Anthony Miles, Lamar (24.5 ppg, 6.0 apg, 4.5 rpg); Jim Mower, Lafayette (28.0 ppg, including 37 points, 10-13 threes vs. FDU); Jake Odum, Indiana State (10 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists vs. Fairfield); Joel Smith, Northeastern (29 points, 10 boards in win vs. St. John’s); Kyle Vinales, Central Conn. (27.0 ppg, 3.5 apg, 20-36 FG, 6-12 3’s)
Team of the Week: Harvard Crimson
The Crimson moved to 6-0 on the season as they rolled through the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. Harvard didn’t get a matchup with UConn, who lost in the semifinals to Central Florida, but they did land a couple of big wins. Harvard destroyed Utah, who may actually be the worst major conference team in the country, and followed that up with an impressive win over a big, physical Florida State team. Throw in their title game victory over UCF, and the Crimson legitimized the preseason speculation that they were one of, if not the best mid-major team in the country.
There is so much to like about this Harvard team. They have a front line that went punch for punch with one of the biggest and most physical front lines in the country in Florida State, keeping the Seminoles off of the offensive glass despite holding them to 36.2% shooting. They have a solid point guard in Brandyn Curry and a slew of jump shooters on their perimeter. They have youthful experience, meaning that their young roster has been together for a couple of seasons. Perhaps most importantly, the Crimson have depth on their roster. They are bringing top 100 recruits off the bench. This team is for real.
Teams that also deserved to be Team of the Week:
Missouri Tigers: I just wrote a 700 word post on Missouri, so I’m not going to go to in depth here about the Tigers, but their start to the season has been nothing short of incredible. What’s most impressive is the way that Frank Haith has been able to embrace the principles that Mike Anderson instilled in this group during his tenure. The Tigers play terrific pressure defense on the perimeter and have excelled in transition.
San Diego State: I’ll admit it — I doubted this team. And it looks like that was a mistake. The Aztecs moved to 7-1 after a 2-0 week in which Steve Fisher’s club won two games on the road. On Wednesday, they went into the McKale Center and hung on to beat Arizona after opening up the game with a 21-4 run. Then on Saturday, the Aztecs knocked off UC-Santa Barbara in overtime. SDSU has a loaded perimeter attack, but if they can get more performances like the 13 points and nine boards that center Garrett Green had against UCSB, this team gets that much better.
St. Louis Billikens: This group was named BIAH Team of the Week last week after going 3-0 and beating Washington at home. They continued that terrific play this week as they rolled through the 76 Classic, knocked off BC, Villanova and Oklahoma in the span of four nights. What makes this group so intriguing is the way that they play defense and how well they shoot the three ball. That is going to keep them in a lot of games this season. With Temple’s Michael Eric banged up, is St. Louis now the second best team in the Atlantic 10?
UNLV Runnin’ Rebels: UNLV looked very, very impressive in their win over North Carolina on Saturday night. But the game also brought some concerns to the surface. For example, UNLV caught a break down the stretch in that the Tar Heels were unable to get a defensive rebound or force a turnover, because they made some really sloppy decisions down the stretch. There were three or four possessions in the final three minutes where UNLV shot a three with 25 or 30 seconds left on the shot clock. North Carolina will usually make their opponents pay for rushing shots like that.
Teams deserving a shout out:
DePaul: The Blue Demons are now 4-1 on the season after a 2-1 week down in Orlando for the Old Spice Classic. DePaul knocked off Texas Tech and Arizona State, and while neither of those teams are going to be competing for conference titles, they are wins none-the-less. Those haven’t been easy to come by for DePaul the past couple of seasons. Their one point loss to Minnesota might have been their most impressive performance of the week.
Duke: The Blue Devils improved to 7-0 on the season by rolling through Tennessee, Michigan and Kansas to take home the Maui Invitational title. The two best signs of the week for Duke — Austin Rivers is starting to show signs of understanding how to be a basketball player, and Mason Plumlee’s back-to-the-basket game is getting better and better.
Georgetown: Its tough to not be impressed by the performance that the Hoyas had in Maui last week. After nearly knocking off Kansas, Henry Sims and Jason Clark took over as Georgetown knocked off Memphis in overtime in the fifth-place game. With how much the Big East has struggled this year, the Hoyas look like they may be able to finish in the top six.
Indiana: The Hoosiers went 2-0 last week, but it was their 75-59 win over Butler that turned the most heads. The Bulldogs are down this season, but the Hoosiers have been down for the entirety of Tom Crean’s tenure. With this win, they, once again, look like the best team in the state. While Cody Zeller has been impressive, its been the play of Will Sheehey that has really sparked IU.
Marshall: The Thundering Herd improved to 5-0 on the season by winning a pair of road games last week. They knocked off UNC-Wilmington by five, and followed that up by going into Cincinnati and beating the Bearcats in overtime.
Michigan: The Wolverines have been one of the bigger surprises of the young season, and much of the credit has to go to Trey Burke. The freshman point guard has valiantly replaced Darius Morris, and while he’s not going to put up the same numbers, his leadership and playmaking has been there. As Burke continues to learn the game, he’s only going to get better.
Santa Clara: Santa Clara finished in third place at the 76 Classic, but they had a couple of very impressive performances. The Broncs not only knocked off New Mexico in the opening round, they beat Villanova in the third-place game, coming from down seven points in the final minute to win. Kevin Foster is the name that everyone knows of this team, but Evan Roquemore has played like a potential all-WCC player early in the season.
St. Joseph’s: The Hawks are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the A-10 this season. After losing a double overtime battle to Iona earlier in the week, St. Joe’s went into Happy Valley and scored the first 22 points of the game as they knocked off Penn State. This is a young group with a lot of promise.
Stanford: Its hard not to be impressed with the way that Stanford played in New York over the holidays. They soundly smacked Oklahoma State before giving Syracuse all they could handle in a six-point loss at the Garden, what effectively amounts to a home-game for the Orange. Josh Owens, Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle provide a sold 1-2-3 punch for Johnny Dawkins, but if Dwight Powell ever grows into his potential, this could be a dangerous team late in the year.
Tennessee: They lost both of their meaningful games in Maui, but the Vols deserve some credit. They are a much different team than last season. They play hard, they play smart and they appear to be well-coached. If Jeronne Maymon and Trae Golden can avoid letting their egos get too big for the team, this is a group that will make some noise in the SEC.
– What’s going on in the Pac-12?: There have been two impressive teams in the Pac-12 this season: Oregon State and Stanford. What’s crazier is that neither of them actually won the preseason tournament that they played in. Its gotten to the point in the Pac-12 where we are impressed when teams are able to beat mediocre competition and simply compete with some of the top teams in the country. That’s not a good sign.
I’m not ready to say that either the Beavers or the Cardinals are the favorite in this league just yet. The beatdown that Cal received at the hands of Missouri seems like more of a bad matchup where Cal happened to play poorly and Missouri happened to be on fire. If those two played 10 more times, Cal would win four of them. The same can be said for Washington’s performance at St. Louis; the Huskies aren’t as bad as they appeared playing a game that was a 9:00 am tip pacific time. Arizona will get better as the season progresses, young teams always do. At the very least, the league will be fun to follow.
The bottom of the Pac-12 is where it gets ugly. Arizona State lost to DePaul. Washington State lost to UC-Riverside. Utah was blown out by Harvard, UNC-Asheville and UMass. USC lost to Cal Poly. That’s bad.
– The Big East is down, too: The Pac-12 isn’t the only conference dealing with some early-season struggles. The Big East has been anything but impressive this year. UConn lost to Central Florida. Pitt lost to Long Beach State. Villanova went 1-2 in the 76 Classic after needing overtime to beat La Salle. Cincinnati has now lost to Presbyterian and Marshall. West Virginia lost to Kent State. Notre Dame looked terrible at the CBE Classic and lost Tim Abromaitis for the season with a torn acl. St. John’s lost to Northeastern. Half of Louisville’s roster is injured.
I’d go as far as to say that the only Big East team that has been impressive this season has been Georgetown. Marquette could have been included in that conversation until they struggled to beat Norfolk State.
– North Carolina’s loss: There are definite issues with the Tar Heels. They don’t defend well enough, they can get beat up in the paint and they struggle when they are forced to play a half court game. Those are major red flags. But remember this: there are not going to be many games that the Tar Heels get such poor performances out of their front line. Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, John Henson and James Michael McAdoo combined to go 12-38 from the floor, 13-24 from the line, score just 37 points and grab only 24 rebounds. Credit UNLV’s front line for some of that, but also remember how rare that kind of stat line is going to be.
– What happened to Alex Oriakhi?: UConn’s big man played such a vital role in their national title performance last season, anchoring the paint and defending the rim. This year, however, he’s struggled to find minutes, and its not because Andre Drummond has been playing great basketball. Against Florida State, Oriakhi played just 10 minutes despite going up against the biggest front line in the country. So what’s the issue? Oriakhi’s been fouling too much, rebounding too little and done nothing to force Calhoun to keep him on the floor. When he did against Central Florida — 14 points, 10 boards, 5 blocks — you saw the results. In those 10 minutes against FSU, he went without a rebound or a shot attempt. Its no wonder he’s not playing.
– The Austin Rivers conundrum: Much has been made about the early season performance of Austin Rivers. And, yes, its been less than ideal. But remember, this kid is still a freshmen. He’s still learning the game. He’s still learning how to be a member of a team as good as Duke is. For his entire high school career, Rivers played a style that was, essentially, “give Austin the ball and let him do what he wants”. He’s taking fewer bad shots and playing more within the Duke offense.
It also should be noted that you don’t want to take away the ability of Rivers to throw up one or two ill-advised shots a game. That aggressiveness is what makes him so dangerous. You can’t take away his confidence, but he does need to learn about when the right situation is to attack and when he needs to pull it out and run some offense. He’ll get there. Give him time.
Game of the Week: Duke 68, Kansas 61
This really was just a sensational game. Two high-level teams trading haymakers in a raucous environment. There was defense being played, there were battles underneath the rim and there big-time shots being made. The hero? Seldom-used Tyler Thornton, who hit back-to-back threes in the final minute to clinch the win:
Matchups of the Week:
– Mon. 7:00 pm: No. 12 Xavier at No. 22 Vanderbilt
– Mon. 7:00 pm: Long Beach State @ No. 7 Louisville
– Tue. 7:00 pm: No. 15 Michigan @ Virginia
– Tue. 9:30 pm: No. 6 Duke @ No. 3 Ohio State
– Wed. 7:30 pm: No. 20 Florida State @ Michigan State
– Wed. 9:30 pm: No. 11 Wisconsin @ No. 1 North Carolina
– Wed. 10:30 pm: No. 25 Creighton @ San Diego State
– Thu. 9:30 pm: Georgetown @ No. 13 Alabama
– Fri. 7:00 pm: No. 9 Florida @ No. 5 Syracuse
– Fri. 9:00 pm: No. 22 Vanderbilt @ No. 7 Louisville
– Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 1 UNC @ No. 2 Kentucky
– Sat. 3:00 pm: Purdue @ No. 12 Xavier
– Sat. 3:15 pm: No. 19 Gonzaga @ Illinois
– Sun. 5:00 pm: No. 18 Cal @ San Diego State
– Sat. 4:30 pm: No. 17 Marquette @ No. 11 Wisconsin