Northern Iowa’s pulled off some major upsets this season, beating both North Carolina and Iowa State, but they haven’t been able to maintain the level of consistency needed to threaten Wichita State in the Missouri Valley. Wednesday night the Panthers knocked off Evansville 57-54, with senior guard Wes Washpun being a key contributor in the win.
Washpun, who was a handful against both the Tar Heels and Cyclones, finished the game with a team-high 14 points and four assists. Two of those points came in impressive fashion, as he turned the corner on a ball screen and threw down an emphatic one-handed dunk on Evansville big man Egidijus Mockevicius.
For the second time this season, the Panthers have landed a win over a top five team. In November, they beat then-No. 1 North Carolina. On Saturday, they knocked off No. 5 Iowa State. No one in all of college basketball has two wins that are as good as those two wins, and given that the Panthers don’t have any horrid losses on their résumé, this win more or less locks up an at-large bid as long as UNI does the things they’re supposed to do in Missouri Valley play.
The star of the show this weekend was Washpun, who finished with 28 points, 11 assists and seven boards. The scouting report on Iowa State at this point is pretty easy to figure out: they are not great defensively and struggle to contain penetration. Washpun exposed them, and while he was helped by the fact that UNI went 13-for-22 from beyond the arc, it doesn’t change how dominant he was on Saturday.
THE ‘ALL THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM
Brice Johnson, North Carolina: It’s been two games since North Carolina lost Kennedy Meeks to a knee injury and Johnson is doing his best to make sure that the Tar Heels don’t miss him. In wins over Tulane and No. 22 UCLA, Johnson averaged 26.0 points and 9.5 boards while shooting 22-for-29 from the floor.
Kahlil Felder, Oakland: Felder had 38 points, nine assists and six boards as the Grizzlies knocked off Washington in Seattle on Saturday. He’s now averaging 25.9 points and 8.9 assists on the season.
Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga: The good news: Sabonis played his best game as a collegian in a win over Tennessee on Saturday, finishing with 36 points and 16 boards. The bad news: The Zags needed every one of those points and rebounds in a close win over Tennessee.
Cat Barber, N.C. State: The 33 points, seven boards and four assists that Barber had in a win over Missouri on Saturday was his second-best game of the week. He also had 26 points, six boards, five assists and the game-winning, buzzer-beating jumper to beat High Point.
Isaiah Taylor, Texas: The 12 points and seven assists that Taylor had in a win over Appalachian State was nice and all, but it was the 26-point, six-assist homecoming performance in which he hid a game-winning floater to beat Stanford in Palo Alto that got Taylor on this list.
BENCH: London Perrantes (Virginia), Roosevelt Jones (Butler), Troy Williams (Indiana), Ryan Anderson (Arizona), Stefan Moody (Ole Miss)
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State was dead in the water this season. They had already lost at home to UT-Arlington and Louisiana Tech. They lost in overtime against Memphis. They fell at UConn by 20 points in a game that wasn’t even that competitive. They’re young, they lack leadership at the point guard spot, they don’t have a go-to scorer or a low-post presence, they don’t defend. Through the season’s first 10 games, Ohio State was 5-5 and, more than anything, proving to the world just how much better D’Angelo Russell made the players around him.
And then on Saturday, at the Barclays Center, Ohio State came out and whipped up on No. 4 Kentucky. They led by 16 points in the second half. Kentucky made a run when Jamal Murray caught fire, but the Buckeyes were able to hold them off, in the process landing the kind of marquee win that can be the difference between the NIT and the right side of the bubble.
Will Thad Matta’s crew be able to get a bid?
It’s way too early to make any kind of declarations like that, but the bottom line is that a young, inexperienced team get themselves a shot of confidence that they desperately needed.
THEY WERE GOOD, TOO
Utah: Utah made a statement on Saturday in New York, as they knocked off No. 7 Duke despite the fact that they spent much of the second half playing without Jakob Poeltl, who was in foul trouble all game long. The Utes have been a bit inconsistent this season — that loss at Wichita State doesn’t look great today — but if this wins shows us anything, it’s that this group is capable of being pretty good.
Virginia: The ‘Hoos knocked off No. 12 Villanova in Charlottesville on Saturday afternoon in yet another sterling, late-game performance from London Perrantes. This team is not as good defensively as they have been in recent years, but are they actually the most dangerous offensive in college basketball? They may be.
Butler: Purdue entered the weekend undefeated, looking like the nation’s best defensive team and a real Big Ten contender, and the Bulldogs beat them in impressive fashion at the Crossroads Classic despite getting an 0-for-12 shooting performance from leading scorer Kellen Dunham.
Monmouth: The latest Monmouth victims? Georgetown and Rutgers, who joined UCLA, USC and Notre Dame.
Texas A&M: The Aggies beat the brakes off of No. 16 Baylor on Saturday. The final score was 80-61, but at one point, Billy Kennedy’s club was up 62-35. It was a mismatch. A&M might actually be the best team in the SEC as of today. Think about that.
Indiana: The most important ten minutes of Indiana’s season came on Saturday as the Hoosiers erased a 16-point deficit against Notre Dame. Indiana beat the Irish with their defense, which is not something that has been said before this season.
SET YOUR DVR
No. 19 Louisville at No. 4 Kentucky, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
No. 10 Xavier at Wake Forest, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
No. 5 Iowa State at No. 23 Cincinnati, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
Vanderbilt at No. 9 Purdue, Tue. 8:00 p.m.
Cal at No. 8 Virginia, Tue. 9:00 p.m.
WEEKLY AWARDS: Purdue and Miami shine, as does Denzel Valentine
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
Through three games this season, these are Valentine’s numbers: 16.3 points, 10.7 assists and 9.0 boards while turning the ball over just six times. The seven points, seven boards and 11 assists he had in a blow-out win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday was the second-best stat-line he had this week.
Those 29 points, 12 boards and 12 assists that he had as No. 13 Michigan State stormed back from a double-digit deficit late in the second half to knock off No. 4 Kansas in the Champions Classic. It was dominant, quite possibly the best all-around performance that we are going to see from anyone at any point this season. He scored or assisted on 22 of Michigan State’s 28 baskets, and only turned the ball over once in those 38 minutes.
Valentine was a popular pick as an All-American in the preseason, and he looks every bit the part through the first two weeks of the year,
THE ‘ALL THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM
Grayson Allen, Duke: Allen was sensational in New York this weekend, averaging 31.0 points, 5.5 boards and 3.5 assists in wins over VCU and Georgetown to take home the Legends Classic title. He’d be a shoo-in for Player of the Week again if it wasn’t for that six-point, four-turnover performance against Kentucky on Tuesday night. I told you it was too early to write them off.
Patricio Garino, George Washington: The man they call ‘Pato’ was the best player on the floor as the Colonials knocked off No. 6 Virginia at home on Monday night, going for 18 points and five boards. He followed that up with 18 points in wins over Army and at South Florida.
Shaquille Harrison, Tulsa: Harrison was terrific in Tulsa’s two games in the Paradise Jam, sparking come-from-behind wins over Ohio and Indiana State by averaging 27.5 points, 6.5 boards, 3.5 assists and 3.0 steals. And that came after he went for 20 in Tulsa’s win over No. 9 Wichita State.
Tyler Ulis, Kentucky: Ulis has been Kentucky’s best player through the first week and change of the college basketball season, and it was on display in his 18-point, six-assists, four-rebound performance in the win over Duke.
Wes Washpun, Northern Iowa: Washpun was the best player on the floor for the Panthers as they knocked off No. 1 North Carolina on Saturday afternoon, finishing with 21 points and eight assists.
BENCH: Jakob Poeltl (Utah), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Evan Bradds (Belmont)
TEAMS OF THE WEEK: Purdue and Miami
No two teams in the country made as much of a statement as the Boilermakers and the Hurricanes did this week.
We kind of saw it coming with Purdue. The Boilermakers shot the ball incredibly well from three during the season’s first weekend, overpowered teams with their front court and did so before A.J. Hammons was able to play. Throw in the fact that Caleb Swanigan has been excellent in his role at the four and it was really not a surprise that this group rolled over Old Dominion and Florida in the Hall of Fame Classic at Mohegan Sun this weekend. Purdue’s ranking probably isn’t going to skyrocket — they’re currently No. 21 — because they didn’t beat anyone all that impressive, but it’s easy to watch this team and know just how good they are.
Miami, on the other hand, will likely go from unranked to the top 15, if not the top ten. That’s what happens when you spend a weekend steamrolling Mississippi State (who stinks), No. 16 Utah and No. 22 Butler (who don’t stink). This group reminds me quite a bit of the 2013 Miami team that won the ACC: They have tough, veteran guards and a slew of high-motor bigs, all of whom are totally bought into what head coach Jim Larrañaga wants from them. There hasn’t been a consistently more impressive team in the country this season.
I wrote a column on Saturday about how wide-open this season is and why it is that way, and that’s very much the case in the Big Ten and the ACC. As a result, while it is still early, I’m willing to say that both of these teams will be in the mix for their respective regular season titles. That’s how impressive they’ve been.
THEY WERE GOOD, TOO
Xavier: The Musketeers woke up a lot of people on Friday night as they went into Ann Arbor and knocked off No. 24 Michigan by 16 points. The Big East race looks like it is going to be a fun one, and at this point, it’s tough to imagine Xavier not finding a way to be relevant in that race.
Northern Iowa: The Panthers picked off a good Stephen F. Austin team during the Tip-Off Marathon and followed that up by knocking off North Carolina, the No. 1 team in the country, over the weekend.
George Washington: The Colonials picked up a huge win on Monday night at home over No. 6 Virginia, one that could very well have locked up their NCAA tournament chances, assuming they do the things they’re supposed to do this season.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane landed a key win over No. 9 Wichita State on Tuesday night, an impressive win that they followed up with two come-from-behind wins in the Paradise Jam.
Oregon: The Ducks have now beaten No. 20 Baylor and one of the nation’s best mid-major, Valparaiso, without their best big man and their senior point guard.
SET YOUR DVR
These are the tournaments to keep an eye on this week:
11/23-11/25: Maui Invitational, featuring Indiana, Kansas, UCLA and UNLV
11/25-11/27: Battle 4 Atlantis, featuring Gonzaga, Washington, UConn and Michigan
11/26-11/29: Advocare Invitation, featuring Wichita State and Notre Dame
11/26-11/29: Wooden Legacy, featuring Arizona and Michigan State