Player of the Week: Jae Crowder, Marquette
The Golden Eagles are coming off of a 2-0 week that saw them knock off both Washington in New York City and UW-Green Bay. In those two wins, Crowder was terrific, averaging 19.5 ppg an 6.5 rpg while collecting three blocks and three steals and shooting 60% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. But with Crowder, its about more than just the numbers. You want an example? He’s all of 6’6″ and probably would be listed as a small forward in a normal lineup, but when Chris Otule injured his knee on Tuesday at the Jimmy V Classic, Crowder was the guy that slid into the center spot for the Golden Eagles. Another example? Crowder also hit the game-winning jumper against the Huskies.
Marquette isn’t a secret anymore. This is a tough, physical team that is as talented this season as they have been under Buzz Williams. They have a stable of big, athletic wings that can shoot and penetrate, they have a pair of capable big men and they have an underrated, playmaking point guard.
But Crowder is the piece that brings it all together. His ability to play on the perimeter and in the post is a major reason for the versatility that Williams has in the lineups that he is able to put on the floor. He defends, he rebounds and he is one of the most efficient offensive players in the country. He’s a leader for this group, and it shows. As Williams said of Crowder after the close win over Washington, “that’s my guy. I’ll roll with that cat no matter where he goes.”
The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:
– G: Phil Pressey and Marcus Denmon, Missouri: Denmon scored 50 points in two games this week, including 28 in the Tiger’s win over Villanova. But we went over him earlier this week. Pressey deserves just as much credit for his team’s success. He only shot 5-18 from the field, but he had 17 assists in the two games, including 12 in just 24 minutes against Nova.
– G: Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones, West Virginia: The ‘Eers went 2-0 this week with wins over Kansas State and Miami, two other teams that will be on or around the bubble come March. Bryant had 51 points in the two games. Jones went for 30 points and 12 boards against the Wildcats, including a three at the end of regulation to force overtime.
– F: Christian Watford, Indiana: Watford had 20 points, including 17 in the second half, as Indiana knocked off then-No. 1 Kentucky. He also hit a pretty big shot.
– F: Draymond Green, Michigan State: Green was sensational as the Spartans knocked off Gonzaga in Spokane, finishing with 34 points on 11-13 shooting from the floor and adding three assists and three steals. Green added 14 points and nine boards as Michigan State knocked off CCSU at home on Wednesday.
– C: Patric Young, Florida: Young was completely dominant as the Gators knocked off Arizona in overtime, going for 25 points and 10 boards while blocking two shots and shooting 12-15 from the floor. He added another double-double on Friday night, finishing with 12 points and ten boards in a win over Rider. For the week, Young shot 17-22 from the field.
– Bench: Will Barton, Memphis (27.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.5 spg, 22-33 FG); Ben Brust, Wisconsin (25 points, 7-7 3’s vs. UNLV); Deonte Burton, Nevada (24.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.0 apg); Jack Cooley, Notre Dame (22.0 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 3.0 bpg) DJ Cooper, Ohio (14 pts, 10 rbs, 10 asts, 5 stls vs. Portland); Vincent Council, Providence (21 pts, 11 asts, 9 rbs vs. Brown); Gorgui Deing, Louisville (16.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 13-15 FG); Thomas Gibson, Kansas State (19.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg); John Henson, North Carolina (18.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 3.5 bpg); Tay Jones, St. Joseph’s (29 pts, 5 asts, 5 rbs vs. Creighton); Kevin Murphy, Tennessee Tech (26.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.5 spg); Mason Plumlee, Duke (13.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.5 spg, 3.5 rpg, 11-15 FG); Herb Pope, Seton Hall (25.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 18-24 FG); Thomas Robinson, Kansas (23.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg); Josh Terry, Austin Peay (21.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg); Alex Young, IUPUI (43 pts, 9 rbs vs Western Kentucky)
Team of the Week: Indiana Hoosiers
Indiana played just one game last week, but it was a big one. The Hoosiers hosted heated rival and then-No. 1 Kentucky and won a thriller, using a three-pointer from Christian Watford as time expired to upset the Wildcats. The shot set off a wild scene, as the fans stormed the floor, setting off a wave of emotion that had built up for four years.
But this win was about more than just a party. I think that its safe to say Indiana is for real this season; knocking off the no. 1 team in the country will make a lot of people think the same. The question I have, however, is just how fluky this game was. Kentucky did not play well. Terrence Jones was no where to be found, Anthony Davis was in foul trouble and Doron Lamb didn’t have his best game. Combine that with the energy in the building that was fueling the Hoosiers, and its not difficult to see why it would be easy to assume that this game was more about the circumstances surrounding the teams than it was about the game. Styles make the fight, so to speak.
This is the best Indiana team to take the court in the Tom Crean era, and there is no question that the Hoosiers are probably better than we thought heading into the season. But, at best, I still think this is, at best, a borderline top 25 team.
Teams deserving a shout out:
Austin Peay: The Governors won their first two games of the season this week, beating Arkansas State in overtime before going into Knoxville and taking down Tennessee. Josh Terry led the way, averaging 21.0 ppg and 5.5 rpg for the week. He had 20 points, six boards, five assists and four steals in the win over Tennessee.
Dayton: The Flyers are still the most confounding team in the country. After solidly handling No. 15 Alabama on Tuesday, the Flyers struggled to hold off USC-Upstate over the weekend. The Flyers have some talented scorers and a couple of big guys on their roster, but with Dayton, the issue seems to be whether or not they are going to decide to show up.
Duke: The Blue Devils won two games this week, including a six point win against Washington in Madison Square Garden in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. Austin Rivers played well in both games, but the performance of the week belongs to Mason Plumlee. He averaged 13.0 ppg and 9.5 rpg while totaling seven blocks and seven steals in the two games. But while he shot 11-15 from the field, Plumlee was 4-17 from the free throw line.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles picked up two wins on the week, knocking off UW-Green Bay on Saturday after their thrilling win over Washington in the Jimmy V Classic. Its tough not to like Marquette this season. Size, balance, athleticism, experience and toughness. Can’t ask for much more than that.
Missouri: Like Marquette, Missouri put together a strong performance at the Garden on national television, one that swayed the national consciousness in their favor. The Tigers are fun to watch simply because everyone of the players on their roster plays a vital role. While its the ability of Kim English to spread the floor at the four spot, its the play of Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon that gets the Tigers all of those open looks.
Murray State: Its time for us to starting talking about the Racers more seriously. Murray State is now 10-0 on the season after Sunday night, when they went into Memphis and knocked off the Tigers. Isaiah Canaan — who seems like he has been in college for a decade — is the player to watch, averaging 19.8 ppg and 4.0 apg.
Northern Iowa: The Panthers improved to 9-1 on the season by going 2-0 this week with a pair of impressive wins. First, they knocked Iowa off 80-60 despite finding themselves down 10-0 in the first couple of minutes. UNI followed that up by putting a whooping on Milwaukee, beating them 67-51. Milwaukee was coming off of a double-digit win over DePaul.
Oklahoma: Lon Kruger has done an impressive job turning this program around. The Sooners, who are now 7-1 on the season, went 2-0 last week, knocking off in-state rival Oral Roberts before earning a win over Arkansas. The Sooners also have wins over Washington State and Santa Clara, but we may not know how good they are until Big 12 play starts considering that their last non-conference test, Cincinnati, will be dealing with suspensions when they play.
St. Joseph’s: Langston Galloway had 30 points in a win over Boston University on Wednesday while Tay Jones had 29 points — including 20 in the second half — on Saturday as the Hawks knocked off Creighton.
Temple: The Owls may be playing without Michael Eric right now, but they still have Ramone Moore. The talented small forward had 32 points as the Owls handled Villanova fairly easily at home. Temple also picked up a win against Toledo on the road.
West Virginia: Playing two teams that they appear destined to share the bubble with this season, West Virginia went into Wichita and knocked off Kansas State in double overtime, following that up with an impressive and fairly dominating win over Miami. Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant combined to scored 93 points in the two games.
Wichita State: Coming off of a 19 point win over UNLV, Wichita State went into Tulsa and knocked off the Golden Hurricane, following that up with a win over Utah State. Combine that with the loss that Creighton had at St. Joseph’s, and the Shockers might be the favorite in the Missouri Valley.
– Is it time to call Washington just mediocre?: After losing to both Marquette and Duke at the Garden last week, the Huskies are now just 4-4 on the season and losers of three straight. That’s not exactly ideal from the team that many believe is the most talented team in the Pac-12. Why are they struggling? Washington doesn’t play enough defense, for starters. They also are a poor decision-making team. Their shot-selection leaves much to be desired and they average 15 turnovers per game. Washington is extremely talented, but they consistently under-perform every season. Why should we expect any different this year?
– Struggles for the WCC?: Two weeks ago, I said that the WCC was the best mid-major conference in the country. My sentiment hasn’t exactly changed, but the league doesn’t appear to be quite as strong as I had originally thought. Over the weekend, Gonzaga lost at home to Michigan State while Santa Clara got dropped by 38 against Washington State. Portland got worked over by both Boise State and Ohio while Loyola Marymount is only a week removed from losing to both Columbia and North Texas. Throw in St Mary’s loss to Denver, and the strength and depth of the league isn’t what it appeared to be.
So who is the best mid-major league? If you are asking me today, I’m taking the Missouri Valley. Creighton is ranked and, in my opinion, should still be ranked even after losing at St. Joseph’s this weekend. Wichita State has won three straight against UNLV, Utah State and Tulsa. Northern Iowa is 9-1 with wins against Iowa and Milwaukee this past week. Not a bad top three.
– Murray State should be ranked: The Racers are now 10-0 on the season, but that record is only 7-0 against Division I teams. The thing is, all of those wins are solid. Four of them came on the road against the likes of UAB, Morgan State and Western Kentucky. The other three were against Dayton, Southern Mississippi and San Francisco. And then on Sunday, the Racers went into Memphis and knocked off the Tigers. You think there are really 25 teams in the country that a) have a better resume than that and b) are actually better than the Racers?
– Reeves Nelson had to go: There was no other choice for Ben Howland. You cannot suspend a player three times during a single season and keep him on the team. As a head coach, you lose credibility, and Howland is already struggling with that. The next step, however, would be to kick Josh Smith off of the team. The big fella is, simply put, too big to be an effective basketball player. His conditioning is a bigger issue and more of a detriment to the Bruin’s success Nelson ever was. Nelson may have been a clubhouse cancer, but Smith can be Jared Sullinger if he wanted to be.
– The Crosstown Punchout: Before I say what I am about to say, remember this: I think that the suspensions given to the players on the Cincinnati and Xavier teams were too short. Six games and one Big East game for the sucker punch that was landed on Kenny Frease’s chin or the stomp that was placed on his head is too short. Four games for being the spark that ignited the entire brawl is not enough.
That said, I am sick of hearing people say that basketball has to be taken away from these kids to teach them a lesson. Isn’t the point here that this is bigger than basketball? That we are trying to get these kids educated not just in sports and the classroom, but in how to be able to be a functioning member of society? If Yancy Gates thinks its ok to throw a sucker punch like that, doesn’t that show you he is a long way away from that lesson? And if you kicked him out of school, would he even get that point?
Games of the Week:
Indiana 73, No. 1 Kentucky 72: We all know what happened by now:
West Virginia 85, Kansas State 80 2OT:
Marquette 79, Washington 77:
Matchups of the Week:
– Tue. 9:00 pm: No. 16 Wisconsin @ Milwaukee
– Wed. 8:00 pm: Belmont @ Middle Tennessee State
– Thu. 8:00 pm: Oral Roberts @ No. 22 Gonzaga
– Fri. 10:30 pm: Weber State @ Cal
– Sat. 2:30 pm: No. 25 Texas A&M @ No. 12 Florida
– Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 20 Memphis @ No. 4 Louisville
– Sat. 4:00 pm: Arizona @ No. 22 Gonzaga
– Sat. 5:00 pm: UNLV @ No. 22 Illinois