WEEKLY AWARDS: Utah is legit, Johnathan Motley’s big week

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Johnathan Motley, Baylor

The Bears entered one of their most important weeks of the regular season with Rico Gathers limited due to an illness and they managed to land a win over Iowa State and a blowout victory at Texas.

And it was Johnathan Motley that was the star.

The sophomore center thrived without Gathers clogging up the paint, averaging 25.5 points and 7.0 boards in the wins while shooting 73.3 percent from the floor. And while I don’t exactly buy the argument that the Bears are better without Gathers on the floor, it’s good to know that they can survive without him. This is not a team that entered the season with a ton of depth in their front court, and to see Motley — and Terry Maston — play this well is assuring.

THE ‘ALL THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM

  • Jakob Poeltl, Utah: Utah became the first team in the Pac-12 to sweep two road weekends in league play with wins at USC and UCLA, and Poeltl was the star. Against USC on Sunday, he had 29 points, 13 boards, four assists and four steals.
  • Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: The Spartans picked up wins over Indiana and Wisconsin by a combined 31 points since last Sunday, and Valentine averaged 27.0 points, 11.5 assists and 6.0 boards in those two wins. Remember when I said Valentine is still in the Player of the Year race?
  • Brice Johnson, North Carolina: The Tar Heels lost to Duke at home on Wednesday, but it wasn’t Brice Johnson’s doing; he had 29 points and 19 boards. He also followed that up with 16 points and 15 boards in a blowout win over Miami.
  • Troy Williams, Indiana: Indiana played just one game this week, but it was an impressive win over Purdue at home where Williams finished with 19 points.
  • Josh Adams, Wyoming: Adams put together one of the best individual performances we’ve seen this season on Saturday. He had 37 points, eight assists, seven boards, four steals and two blocks while hitting nine threes in a blowout road win.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Utah

The Utes profile just continues to get stronger and stronger, and I’m not sure if people realize just how high this team is going to be seeded in the NCAA tournament. They’ve aided by the fact that some of their early-season wins — Duke, Texas Tech, Cal, IPFW — look better now than they did at the time, but that shouldn’t take away from their body of work.

Utah is now sitting one game out of first place in the Pac-12 in the loss column with all three of their remaining games coming at home. They’ve lost just one game at home this season, and of their seven losses on the year, Stanford is the only team that sits outside the top 50. They have three top 25 wins, six top 50 wins and 14 top 100 wins.

They also just became the first team to have two road sweeps in league this season. They’re really, really good.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Indiana: The Hoosiers moved into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with their Saturday night win over Purdue, a win that, until the final five minutes, was their most impressive performance of the season. The Hoosiers out-toughed the Boilermakers and gave up just four offensive rebounds to one of the nation’s biggest and most physical front lines.
  • Louisville: I’m not going to lie: I was half expecting the Cardinals to roll over and die after getting the news of their post season ban. An 0-2 week two weeks ago didn’t help matters. But credit to this group: They haven’t quit. After beating Syracuse on Wednesday, they landed an impressive come-from-behind win over the Blue Devils on Saturday.
  • Cal: The Golden Bears have now won five straight games and look to be peaking at the right time. Most important here: Their two wins this week both came on the road, which doubled the number of wins they had away from Haas Pavilion on the season.
  • Texas Tech: The win over Oklahoma on Wednesday is the reason that the Red Raiders are on this list. Believe it or not, Tubby Smith has Tech in line for an NCAA tournament bid. He’s doing a terrific job at a place where it is really difficult to win.
  • Texas A&M: The Aggies bounced back from a really tough stretch in the SEC by beating Mississippi and Kentucky this week, even if the latter came under questionable circumstances.

SET YOUR DVR

No. 7 Virginia at No. 11 Miami, Mon. 7:00 p.m.
No. 13 Iowa State at No. 10 West Virginia, Mon. 9:00 p.m.
No. 2 Kansas at No. 25 Baylor, Tue. 8:00 p.m.
No. 1 Villanova at No. 8 Xavier, Wed. 7:00 p.m.
No. 18 Louisville at No. 11 Miami, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
No. 12 Arizona at Utah, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
No. 6 Maryland at No. 17 Purdue, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
No. 5 North Carolina at No. 7 Virginia, Sat. 6:30 p.m.