PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Obi Toppin, Dayton
Heading into the Maui Invitational, Obi Toppin was one of the best kept secrets in college basketball.
We all knew who he was, but we didn’t quite have a feel for whether or not he was simply a really, really good Atlantic 10 player or a legitimate candidate for All-American and the top of the 2020 NBA Draft.
Turns out, it’s the latter.
And even the people that were bullish on Toppin probably undervalued him.
In three games in the Maui Invitational, Toppin averaged 22.3 points and 7.0 boards. He blocked four shots in the three games, including three in the overtime loss to Kansas in the title game. He was a very nice 25-for-36 (69%) from the floor and 6-for-11 from three. He was the best player every time he stepped into the gym, and he proved it.
That matters a great deal for Toppin since he does play in something of a lesser league. He’s not going to be on national television every single night going up against the likes of Kansas, or Anthony Edwards, or the team that just beat No. 3 Michigan State. He needed to make a statement in the event that literally everyone in the world pays attention to, and he did.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Michigan Wolverines
There really was no decision to make here.
Michigan went from unranked to No. 1 in the NBC Sports Top 25.
What more can I say?
1. MICHIGAN IS THE BEST TEAM IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL
The Wolverines have one of the nation’s best point guards a senior leader in Zavier Simpson that is also the head of the snake defensively. They have one of the nation’s most underrated big men, a 7-footer in Jon Teske that has developed into an elite defensive presence that can play as a pick-and-pop five or roll to the rim. They are one of the nation’s best three-point shooting teams, with myriad and versatile wings that can space the floor and lock up defensively.
Truthfully, we should have seen this coming from Juwan Howard’s program. I explain why in this column.
2. THE MOST IMPORTANT PERFORMANCE OF THIS WEEK CAME FROM UDOKA AZUBUIKE
I think that I can make the argument that the single-most important individual development from Feast Week came when Udoka Azubuike completely took over a game against Dayton.
Doke is a throwback center. He’s a low-post behemoth that can barely make free throws, let alone threes, and saying he moves slowly laterally is like saying that grass grows slowly in the winter. Dayton is a team that plays five-out, that has shooters every where on the floor and that actually has the adequate size and rim protection to hold their own against a big like Azubuike in the post.
And, after about a dozen post touches in the final five minutes and overtime, Azubuike was able to lead Kansas back from a late eight-point deficit to an overtime win against the Flyers.
I went in depth on why this matters in this column.
3. DAYTON’S PERFORMANCE IN THE MAUI INVITATIONAL WAS AWESOME, BUT HAS BEEN OVERVALUED
I cannot take credit for this overreaction. This is courtesy of Bobby Reagan, which he discussed on the CBT podcast on Monday, but I’m going to be talking about it here.
The Maui Invitational is the most visible Feast Week tournament. It’s the oldest that is still running, for starters, and it’s held in one of the best environments for a neutral site college basketball game in the world. There’s tradition, there’s history and that means there are plenty of casual college basketball fans that love it.
But that exposure means that a couple good performances can end up being massively overrated, and Dayton is the perfect example. The Flyers dominated a couple of high-major teams in Georgia and Virginia Tech, but there’s no guarantee that either of those two teams are going to be in the NCAA tournament in March. I’m guessing that both of them will eventually end up being Quad II wins. The most impressive thing Dayton did was A) Take Kansas to overtime, and B) Do it while playing a style, and with a super star, that made them jump off the page.
Put another way, anyone with two eyes will know that the Flyers are really dangerous.
But the truth is that they really did not do all that much this week to change their resume on the islands.
4. FLORIDA STATE IS A TOP 20 TEAM AT WORST
I was ready to write off Florida State as anything more than an also-ran after they went into Pittsburgh and lost to the Panthers on the opening night of the season.
And that … might have been a mistake.
Because since that season-opening loss, Florida State has reeled of seven straight wins. They beat Florida at Florida before this weekend’s Emerald Coast Classic, in which they beat Tennessee and Purdue.
The Seminoles lost some big names, but they still have all kinds of length and athleticism, and they are still a nightmare defensively, and when you combine that with the emergence of Devin Vassell and Trent Forrest and the addition of P.J. Williams, you get a pretty damn good basketball team.
5. DEPAUL IS A TOP SIX TEAM IN THE BIG EAST
I’m not ready to say top five.
Not just yet.
The Blue Demons are 8-0 on the season and they have been the easiest team to bet on over the course of the last month. It’s obvious that the market has undervalued them, I’ve won a lot of bets on the Blue Demons proving me correct and I’m sad that is going to end up going away pretty soon.
That said, their three good wins right now are at Iowa, at Boston College and at Minnesota. Beating those three teams on the road matters, but I don’t think any of the three are actually any good. The Blue Demons get Texas Tech at home on Wednesday. Let’s see what happens then.
Until then, it’s hard to justify putting DePaul above any of Villanova, Xavier, Seton Hall, Marquette or Butler.