PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Tyus Jones, Duke
In the best regular season matchup that we are going to get this season, Duke put together arguably the most impressive performance of the year. The Blue Devils went into Madison, Wisconsin, and knocked off the Badgers in the Kohl Center, 80-70. They shot the ball 65.2 percent from the floor, went 7-for-12 from three and had a firm grip on the game for 40 minutes despite the fact that Wisconsin actually played well.
The star on that Wednesday night was Tyus Jones, Duke’s freshman point guard, who finished with 22 points, six boards and four assists while shooting 7-for-11 from the floor and 2-of-3 from three. He did all that while playing his first true road game in one of the toughest home courts in the country while playing a team that will spend the whole year as a one of a handful of favorites to win a national title. Do you realize how impressive that is?
And here’s the craziest part about it: Jones is one of the freshman that you forget about from Duke’s 2014 recruiting class. Jahlil Okafor is the star of the class and was the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Justise Winslow has been the trendy name in NBA Draft circles over the course of the season’s first month. Jones is the guy everyone forgets about, yet here he is, averaging 10.5 points and 5.8 assists with eight turnovers in eight games.
THE ALL-THE-WERE-GOOD-TOO TEAM
- Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: Cauley-Stein was unbelievable in Kentucky’s win over No. 6 Texas on Friday night, finishing with 21 points, 12 boards, five steals and three blocks. On a night where Kentucky couldn’t buy a bucket from the perimeter, he was a difference-maker in the paint and in transition.
- Georges Niang, Iowa State: Everything that makes Niang special was on display on Thursday as the Cyclones knocked off Arkansas in Ames. He had 26 point, six boards and eight assists in the win.
- Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth, BYU: In wins over Hawaii and at Utah State, Haws averaged 32.5 points and 6.5 boards while shooting 19-for-36 from the floor, 5-for-13 from three and 22-for-23 from the line. And Collinsworth was better, following up a double-double (20 points, 10 boards, four assists and three steals) against the Aggies with a triple-double (19 points, 12 boards, 10 assists) against the Rainbows.
- Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: Grant looked the part of an all-american in Notre Dame’s 79-78 overtime win against Michigan State, finishing with 27 points, six assists and three steals.
- Venky Jois, Eastern Washington: Jois finished with 38 points, seven boards and three blocks in a win at Seattle on Saturday. That was the second straight game that he went for 38 points.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Virginia Cavaliers
I had my doubts about Virginia after seeing them in the Barclays Center Classic two weeks ago, and to a point, I still do. But Virginia did their best to make those concerns look foolish, as they won at Maryland and VCU within a four-day span in convincing fashion. It doesn’t get much better than that.
The biggest question that I had centered on their ability to replace Joe Harris. He required the attention of the entire defense whenever he was on the floor, and they just don’t have that guy this season. What they do have, however, is a trio of guys capable of getting 20 points on any given night. We knew that Malcolm Brogdon would be an all-ACC caliber player, and anyone that watched Virginia in March knew that Anthony Gill had a chance to be special. The difference-maker has been Justin Anderson, an athletic marvel that has turned into a dead-eye three-point shooter this season.
If those three continue to play at this level — and London Perrantes continues to be London Perrantes — Virginia will be better than I gave them credit for.
THEY WERE GOOD, TOO
- Arizona Wildcats: Arizona got key performances from T.J. McConnell and Brandon Ashley as they picked up a hard-fought, overtime win against No. 9 Gonzaga at the McKale Center.
- Iowa Hawkeyes: Perhaps the most surprising outcome during the ACC/Big Ten Challenge was Iowa going into the Dean Dome and knocking off No. 12 North Carolina in a game where they out-toughed a good team. Iowa won with their defense, which is huge not only for their confidence, but their tournament resume.
- Utah Utes: Utah finally won a close game, surviving a visit from No. 8 Wichita State after the Shockers erased a late, nine-point deficit to force overtime. They did it without Jordan Loveridge, and since they’ll be without him during the most important stretch of their non-conference schedule, the win is that much more important.
- Yale Bulldogs: If you paid attention in the preseason, you knew that Yale had a chance to be special this season. They proved it on Friday by going into Gampel and knocking off UConn at the buzzer.
- LSU Tigers: Remember when we wrote off LSU? Well, they blew out UMass at home and knocked off West Virginia in Morgantown this week. Maybe it’s time we start paying attention again.