PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Kris Dunn, Providence
Kris Dunn was the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year, but ever since Denzel Valentine went for 29 points, 12 boards and 12 assists, the Michigan State Spartan has found himself atop out Player of the Year rankings. That may end up changing on Tuesday, as Dunn kicked off Big East play in impressive fashion.
On New Year’s Eve, Dunn had 15 of his 20 points and seven of his nine assists in the second half as No. 12 Providence went into Hinkle Fieldhouse and erased a 13-point deficit in a win over No. 9 Butler. Dunn was totally unstoppable, just like he was two days later when St. John’s paid a visit to The Dunk, when he totaled 26 points, nine boards and six assists, the third time this season Dunn has gone for 25-5-5 in a single game.
Right now, Ben Simmons is the best player in college basketball and I’m not sure that anyone in their right mind would argue that fact. But Dunn, when he’s playing like this and given what he can do on the defensive side of the ball, is not all that far behind. There’s a reason that Providence is a top ten team. He is it.
THE ‘ALL THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM
- Diamond Stone, Maryland: Stone was solid in a win at Northwestern, finishing with 10 points, but it was his 39-point, 12-rebound performance in a come-from-behind win over Penn State — when he scored 32 points in the second half — that got him on this list.
- Mark Donnal, Michigan: Donnal came up huge for the Wolverines in a 2-0 week to kick off Big Ten play, averaging 21.0 points and 8.5 boards while shooting 72.0 percent from the floor. Michigan needs consistency from the front court, a fact that is all the more important with Caris LeVert’s injury.
- Jordan Mathews, Cal: The Golden Bears had a statement week, beating Davidson, Colorado and No. 21 Utah in Berkeley. Mathews was the most consistent player for them, averaging 19.3 points while shooting 13-for-24 from three.
- Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall: The Pirates kicked off Big East play with a pair of wins as Whitehead led the way, averaging 17.0 points and 8.0 assists.
- Rob Gray Jr., Houston: The most underrated player in the American? Kelvin Sampson has a talented Cougar team and Gray is their best player. He averaged 21.0 points in a pair of road wins to kick off league play.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Iowa Hawkeyes
If you had doubts about the Hawkeyes this season, you weren’t alone. The reputation that Iowa has built for themselves is of a program with the talent to compete with anyone in the country and the inability to close out games. That was only reinforced when Iowa blew a 20-point second half at Iowa State earlier this year.
But it may be time to change that scouting report.
Iowa kicked off the week by handing then-No. 1 Michigan State their first loss of the season, the kind of win where the NCAA tournament Selection Committee won’t factor in that it came with Denzel Valentine injured. They followed that up by going into West Lafayette and knocking off No. 14 Purdue despite the fact that they trailed by 19 points late in the first half. And here’s the best part: The Hawkeyes won the Michigan State game despite a pedestrian (relatively, by his standards) effort from Jarrod Uthoff and completed their comeback against Purdue without having to rely on their star to do the heavy lifting.
All of those things are great signs for a team that suddenly looks like they’re the elusive fourth-best team in the Big Ten.
THEY WERE GOOD, TOO
- Washington Huskies: The Huskies sit atop the Pac-12 standings right now. How about that? After a double-overtime win over No. 25 UCLA on Friday night, U-Dub followed that up by erasing a 22-point deficit in the final 14 minutes against USC. Andrew Andrews has been awesome awesomes.
- Kansas Jayhawks: After cruising to a win over UC Irvine mid-week, the Jayhawks absolutely beat down No. 23 Baylor in Phog Allen Fieldhouse, winning by 28 points in a game that was really never in doubt. Kansas should be the AP’s No. 1 team in the country on Monday.
- Oklahoma Sooners: The Sooners matched Kansas, setting up a potential No. 1 vs. No. 1 game thanks to a win over No. 11 Iowa State on Saturday. Oklahoma is currently No. 2 in the Coaches Poll, one spot behind Michigan State.
- Villanova Wildcats: Like Iowa, there are quite a few people who have had their doubts about Villanova. After beating Xavier by 31 points, those people may now have an answer.
- San Diego State Aztecs: SDSU has not looked like the program that has become a powerhouse atop the Mountain West under Steve Fisher. They kicked off league play this week and went 2-0. Does that say more about SDSU or the MWC?
SET YOUR DVR
No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 2 Kansas, Mon. 9:00 p.m.
No. 10 Kentucky at LSU, Tue. 9:00 p.m.
No. 8 Arizona at No. 25 UCLA, Thu. 9:00 p.m.
No. 23 Baylor at No. 11 Iowa State, Sat. 3:00 p.m.
No. 16 Villanova at No. 9 Butler, Sun. 7:30 p.m.