PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Jakob Poeltl, Utah
Poeltl has turned into a full-fledged monster in the season’s first month, and it was on full display this past week. On Wednesday, when the Utes hosted arch-rival BYU at the Huntsman Center, Poeltl put together arguably his best game of the season, finishing with 26 points, 13 boards and five blocks in a game that Utah dominated for more than 36 minutes. He followed that up with 21 points, six boards and six assists (!) in a win over IPFW. On the week, Poeltl shot 21-for-28 (75%) from the field and upped his numbers on the season to 21.9 ppg, 9.9 rpg and 2.5 bpg while shooting 69.2 percent from the floor.
Poeltl’s presence is critical for the Utes. This team is different than the one that Delon Wright had control of last season — that team was young and needed leadership, these guys don’t — but what they miss more than anything is a guy to give the ball to where they know they’ll get a good look out of it. It’s a good bet right now that giving Poeltl a touch will either get Utah a high-percentage shot or get them to the foul line, and that’s before you factor in the six assists he had on Saturday.
The Pac-12 is wiiiiiiiide open this year. When Poeltl plays like this, Utah is good enough to win the league.
THE ‘ALL THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM
- Ben Bentil, Providence: Bentil averaged 22.0 points and 7.0 boards on the week, including a 23-point, eight-board performance in a win at in-state rival Rhode Island that also happened to include a game-winning tip-in. Bentil has turned into the perfect complement to Kris Dunn.
- Brandon Ingram, Duke: Ingram had the best week of his college career, going for 24 points in a win over Indiana and following that up with 23 points against Buffalo. Ingram’s potential is off the charts, but he’s struggled with the physicality of college basketball this season.
- Taurean Waller-Prince, Baylor: Waller-Prince had the best game of his college career in Baylor’s come-from-behind win over No. 16 Vanderbilt, scoring 30 points while showing off his versatility.
- Thomas Welsh, UCLA: Welsh was the best big man on the floor as the Bruins knocked off No. 1 Kentucky on Thursday night, finishing with 21 points, 11 boards and two blocks. He followed that up with 15 points and 10 boards in a win over LBSU.
- A.J. Hammons, Purdue: Isaac Haas has been sensational for Purdue this season, but Hammons was their best center this week. He had 24 points and 12 boards in a win at Pitt, following that up with 16 points and 11 boards, including a number of critical buckets down the stretch, in a home win over New Mexico.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: North Carolina Tar Heels
What a difference a Paige makes.
Marcus Paige played for the first time this season, and it totally changed the product that the Tar Heels put out. He had 20 points and five assists in a win over No. 2 Maryland on Tuesday night and followed that up with 13 points in a blowout win over Davidson on Saturday. It’s amazing what happens when an all-american is added into the mix, isn’t it?
When Marcus Paige is healthy, he’s a legitimate National Player of the Year contender, and with him in the mix, North Carolina may just very well be the best team in the country.
It’s good to have him back and have him healthy, isn’t it?
THEY WERE GOOD, TOO
- Arizona Wildcats: Few were sold on the Wildcats after a less-than-stellar performance in the Wooden Legacy, and rightfully so. There isn’t the kind of talent on this roster that were accustomed to from a Sean Miller team. But that didn’t matter on Saturday when they went into Spokane and beat Gonzaga on a night where Kyle Wiltjer went bananas. I’m not sure there are five more impressive wins this season than that …
- UCLA Bruins: … but one of those five might actually be UCLA’s win over No. 1 Kentucky on Thursday night. The Bruins are the most frustrating team in the country. They lose to Monmouth and struggle with Cal Poly and LBSU but they manhandle the Wildcats? Ay yi yi. This team may cost Steve Alford that beautiful head of hair.
- Georgetown Hoyas: There were more impressive wins this season — hell, this week — but I promise that none were as satisfying for the winners as the Hoyas landing a win in the Verizon Center against rival Syracuse.
- Butler Bulldogs: A 14 point home win over Indiana State is solid, but the reason the Bulldogs are on this list is because they went into Cincinnati and knocked off the No. 17 Bearcats on a last-second jumper from Roosevelt Jones.
- Wisconsin Badgers: Remember when we had all written Wisconsin off this season? Did we speak too soon? Wisconsin won at No. 14 Syracuse in overtime in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and followed that up by beating Temple at home on Saturday.
SET YOUR DVR
- No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 8 Villanova, Mon. 7:00 p.m. (Hawaii)
- No. 20 West Virginia vs. No. 10 Virginia, Tue. 7:00 p.m. (Madison Square Garden)
- Florida at No. 21 Miami, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
- Michigan at No. 22 SMU, Tue. 9:00 p.m.
- No. 2 Maryland at UConn, Tue. 8:30 p.m. (Madison Square Garden)
- Dayton at No. 16 Vanderbilt, Wed. 9:00 p.m.
- Iowa at No. 5 Iowa State, Thu. 9:00 p.m.
- No. 17 Cincinnati at No. 18 Xavier, Sat. 5:30 p.m.
- UCLA at No. 13 Gonzaga, Sat. 10:00 p.m.