PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Reggie Perry, Mississippi State
Reggie Perry is quietly putting together an SEC Player of the Year caliber season in Starkville. The 6-foot-10 Georgia native is averaging 17.2 points, 10 boards and 2.3 assists this season. Those numbers just to 21.3 points and 10.9 boards during SEC play. This past week, as the Bulldogs landed a pair of critical wins over Florida and Tennessee, Perry averaged 25.5 points and 10 boards. He’s been an absolute monster this season.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Arizona Wildcats
The biggest knock on Arizona this season has been their utter inability to win away from home. They blew a lead at Oregon earlier this year. They got smoked at Oregon State. The capper was when they blew a 22-point lead at Arizona State last week, the kind of loss that can derail the season of a lesser team. This week, however, the Wildcats rectified all of that. They make their trip up to visit the Washington schools and left quite successfully — the Wildcats erased a second half deficit in a win at Washington before going into Pullman and knocking off a sneaky-good Washington State team. They have now won four of their last five games and get Utah and Colorado at home this week.
1. GONZAGA IS THE LEAST LIKELY TO WIN THE TITLE OF THE THREE NON-POWER CONFERENCE CONTENDERS
Instead of writing this all out, I’m going to say this: We had a long conversation about this on the podcast this week. It starts at the 23:00 mark. Go listen here.
2. CREIGHTON IS THE MOST DANGEROUS TEAM OUTSIDE THE TOP 25
Unfortunately for this take, Creighton no longer remains outside of the top 25.
But alas, we’ll continue.
The Bluejays are the team that I do not want to see come March. They are a nightmare to matchup with, have a coach that has built an offense that is very difficult to play against and have a number of players on their roster that are capable of taking a game over. We know about Marcus Zegarowski, Mitchell Ballock and Ty-shon Alexander, but what we saw on Saturday in their 76-61 win at Villanova is that the Bluejays can create all kinds of mismatches as well. We saw Denzel Mahoney go for 21 points playing as a small-ball five in lineups that included Damien Jefferson stepping in as a small-ball four.
The Bluejays are lethal, efficient, explosive and difficult to matchup with. That is a good combination of things to be heading into the NCAA tournament.
3. WILL WADE IS MAKING MIRACLES HAPPEN AT LSU
You may not have noticed since they have been flying under the radar, but No. 22 LSU improved to 17-4 on Saturday by knocking off Ole Miss, 73-63. The Tigers improved to 8-0 in the SEC and have now won 10 straight games overall, and they are doing all of this as the reigning SEC regular season champions. All told, Will Wade’s club is 45-11 in the last two seasons combined with a 24-2 mark in the SEC, which is incredibly impressive. As much has been written about John Calipari, Bruce Pearl and Rick Barnes, it’s inarguable that Will Wade has been the best coach in that conference during this stretch.
And the reason I say that is because of everything else that he has had to deal with. LSU has been right in the middle of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college athletics. There are reports that Wade was caught on a wire-tap discussing a “strong-ass offer” to land Javonte Smart, a player currently on LSU’s roster. He lost Naz Reid and Tremont Waters this summer. He had a player murdered before the start of last season.
The people in that program have been through more than they should have to deal with, and through it all they haven’t stopped winning.
It’s time we gave them their due for it.
4. XAVIER TILLMAN NEEDS TO START MAKING LAYUPS
Michigan State is quickly developing a reputation for being a team that can’t win games away from home, and while that is inarguably true — their only road win since Christmas came at Minnesota — it’s not simply because they aren’t playing well on the road. When Michigan State lost at Indiana, they erased a 16 point first half deficit and should have sent the game to overtime, except Xavier Tillman missed a wide-open, point-blank put-back layup that would have tied the game.
On Saturday at Wisconsin, the Spartans again erased a huge first half deficit, but Tillman was still unable to finish around the rim. He was 2-for-8 on layups, missed at least three that were relatively uncontested and that doesn’t include layup opportunities where he dropped the pass.
The Spartans are not that far away, but they need Tillman to be more consistent. It is costing them wins.
5. THE ATLANTIC 10 AND WCC BOTH SHOULD GET THREE BIDS
At this point, it looks like the WCC is a pretty safe bet to get three teams into the NCAA tournament. Gonzaga is dancing. That’s a given. But BYU and Saint Mary’s are both sitting in a place where they are fairly comfortably on the right side of the bubble. In our most recent bracket projection, our Dave Ommen has Saint Mary’s as a No. 9 seed and BYU as a No. 10 seed. As long as they avoid one of the landmines in their league, they should be fine.
The Atlantic 10 is a different story. We know Dayton is dancing, but Rhode Island and VCU are also right there in the mix. Rhode Island has the benefit of a sweep over the Rams, who have beaten LSU but don’t have all that much more on their resume right now. They do get a chance to host Dayton coming up in two weeks, and that is starting to feel like something close to a must-win for Mike Rhoades if he wants to get this group back to the dance.