Player of the Week: Elias Harris, Gonzaga
Harris didn’t put up eye-popping stats this week, as he averaged 18.3 points and 7.7 boards in Gonzaga’s run through the Old Spice Classic down in Orlando. He did, however, look like a first round draft pick as the Bulldog’s knocked off Davidson in the title, game, 81-67. Harris had 24 points and 10 boards on 9-11 shooting in that game, but his value extended beyond the box score. Harris is a much improved defender this season, and he’s really taken on something close to a point forward role this season. He’s not Kyle Anderson and he’s not Draymond Green, but he’s capable of pushing the ball up the floor and leading the break, which becomes especially useful when Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell are in the back court.
For the first time since his freshman season, Harris looks 100% healthy. He’s explosive, making a couple of athletically-impressive plays over the weekend. Perhaps more importantly, he’s embraced his role with the Zags. There’s simply too much talent on that roster for him to be concerned about how many points or shots he gets; he’s a complimentary piece, a rebounder and a defender, that just so happens to be able to get you 24 points on a night when you need it. Fran Fraschilla had a great line about Harris in Sunday’s title game broadcast: Harris was one of the most overrated players in the country during his freshman season, but he’s one of the most underrated players in the country as a senior.
The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:
G: Quinn Cook, Duke: Cook was terrific for the Blue Devils this weekend, as they picked up three very impressive wins to bring home the Battle 4 Atlantis crown. Cook isn’t the star of this Duke team — that award goes to Mason Plumlee, with Seth Curry being the runner-up — but he may be the most important piece. In three games, Cook averaged 13.7 points and 6.3 assists, which included playing 73 minutes on back-to-back nights against two of the toughest full-court presses that he’ll see this season in wins over VCU and then-No. 2 Louisville. Cook’s role this season is to be the facilitator: protect the ball, get Duke into their sets, create open shots for teammates off the dribble, and knock down an open jumper when it’s given to him. After struggling with turnovers in the preseason, it’s pretty clear Cook’s embraced this role.
G: Andre Hollins, Minnesota: No one in the country woke up on Sunday morning with a bigger smile on their face that Hollins. On Friday, the Memphis native went for 41 points against his hometown Tigers, who chose Joe Jackson over him, as the Gophers beat a roster full of his former AAU and high school teammates. Then on Saturday, Hollins finished with just eight points, but hit three free throws with 0.4 seconds left on the clock to beat Stanford; he was fouled taking a three from half court.
G: Brandon Paul, Illinois: Paul was going to be the Player of the Week this week until he needed a last-second three from Tyler Griffey to help him lead the Illini past Gardner-Webb at home. Paul was terrific in three games out in Maui, however, scoring 26 points in a rout of USC in the opener and closing the event with 20 points in a win over Butler. Here’s the million dollar question, however: are the Illini truly contenders for a tournament berth, or was this simply an early-season tease?
F: Doug McDermott, Creighton: Here’s the crazy thing about how good Doug McDermott has been in his career: he averaged 29.5 points and 8.5 boards in wins over Wisconsin and a much-improved Arizona State, yet I still came away from the weekend feeling like he didn’t play all that well because he shot 47.6%. Granted, McDermott’s legendary stroke has been a bit off early in the season — he’s down to 51.9% from the floor and 30.0% from three from 60.1% and 48.6% last year — but that’s still an impressive way to have a mediocre night.
C: Colton Iverson, Colorado State: The Rams won at Denver and at Washington this week, to improve to 4-0 on the season. They look like a team that can make a serious run at the MWC title, and the addition of Iverson is one of the biggest reasons why. The Minnesota-transfer averaged 14.5 points and 12.5 boards this week, giving CSU a low-post scoring threat and a big-body on the block that they lacked last season.
Bench: Tim Hardaway Jr (Michigan), Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati), Markel Starks (Georgetown), Jeff Withey (Kansas)