February 28th, 2012
Kentucky has hung on to the #1 ranking in the nation, with a player who many deem to be the likely #1 pick in the 2012 Draft. In an 83-74 Kentucky victory over Vanderbilt, Anthony Davis had a performance that could only be described as dominant. Scoring a career high 28 points (10-11 FG, 8-9 FT) to go with 10 rebounds and 6 blocked shots, it seemed Vanderbilt could do nothing to slow the freshman big man down. Displaying his usual skill for scoring around the basket, Davis also showed excellent form and touch on some jumpers that hit all net.
With a previous victory over Kansas and a 19 point lead with just over 16 minutes remaining, Missouri had to feel they had a good chance of breaking the dominant force of the Big 12. Instead, Kansas was fuelled by the Allen Fieldhouse crowd to go on a monumental comeback and take the game 87-86 in overtime. Thomas Robinson scored 28 and had 12 rebounds to remain at the forefront of any National Player of the Year discussions with Kentucky's Anthony Davis.
Player of the Week
Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Kentucky trailed 41-28 at halftime in Starkville, and Davis appeared phased by the environment/competition for the first time in his young career. He had just 4 points and 3 rebounds after 20 minutes. To the surprise of no one, however, he raised his energy level in the second stanza (including a technical foul) en route to 13 points, 11 boards, 2 blocks and 2 steals, as UK prevailed by a comfortable margin. Davis found no such struggles back in the friendly confines of Rupp against Vanderbilt, as he finished with 28 points on 10/11 field goals, 11 boards (4 offensive), 6 blocks and 2 steals. He even tossed in a few short-mid range jumpers, including a smooth turnaround J. A 13/15 stretch from the free throw line in the two games highlights both his developing stroke and enhanced aggression. The battle between AD and Thomas Robinson for National POY will be decided down the home stretch.
Jordan McRae, Tennessee
Following a ferocious mid-season slump (4 PPG in January), McRae has re-emerged as a prominent factor in Cuonzo Martin’s rotation. In wins versus Mississippi and at South Carolina he averaged 31 minutes, 16 points (50% FG), 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Early in the year his shot attempts were predominantly long-range bombs, but this week he attempted only 30% three’s and found his way to the charity stripe 15 times (11 makes). He’s added weight to his brittle frame, and at 6’7 he has a serious height advantage over opposing off-guards. Add his explosive athleticism into the mix and there’s no reason he should be camped out behind the arc. Versatility is his ticket to collegiate stardom, and beyond.
Player of the Week
Khalif Wyatt, Temple, SG, Junior, 6-4 210 lbs.
Wyatt played a fundamental role in preserving Temple’s (22-5, 11-2) top spot in the Atlantic 10 Conference this week. The Owls rolled over Duquesne (15-12) in a 19-point victory and then managed to win on-the-road against La Salle (18-10) in a contest that needed overtime to decide the winner. Against Duquesne, Wyatt finished with 24 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and shot 11-17 from the field and 1-4 from three-point land. Against La Salle, Wyatt posted 25 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 2 steals, and shot 7-11 from the field and 4-5 from three-point land. Temple has won 11 consecutive games and has developed a strong case to receive a #5 or #6 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Wyatt and fellow swingman, Ramone Moore, are pivotal parts to the Owls potential to make a run in March. For the season, Wyatt is averaging 17.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, 2.1 SPG, and 48.8 FG%, 40.3 3P%, 84.1 FT%.
Julian Boyd, Long Island University (LIU), PF, Junior, 6-7 230 lbs.
Boyd is a lesser known player in the mid-major realm of college basketball, but he is a beast. Period. He’s slightly undersized for the power forward position, but for mid-major schools he’s an effective size. In the past week Boyd and LIU (21-7, 15-1) have been on a tear, winning three games to help keep them atop the Northeast Conference. In those games, Boyd finished with point totals of 25, 20, and 20, respectively. Not only was Boyd scoring bunches of points; he also collected a total of 29 rebounds in the three games. If Boyd and LIU can continue to win and put up the number of points that has ranked them fourth nationally, LIU could earn a #13 or #14 seed for the NCAA Tournament (assuming it wins the Northeast Conference Tournament). For the season, Boyd is averaging 17.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 0.7 BPG, and 53.8 FG%, 35.3 3P%.
Player of the Week
Matt Gatens, Iowa
In two games, the senior guard has taken the Hawkeyes from looking like the Big Ten’s cellar-dwellers to the middle of the pack and a shot at an NCAA Tournament berth. He’s played for three coaches in four years and never has experienced a winning season in Iowa City, but the hometown kid brought the Hawkeyes a step closer with 30 points Sunday against No. 18 Indiana and 33 in a win vs. No. 16 Wisconsin — each at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Each were career highs.
How did he follow up a 10-for-18, 7-for-10 performance from 3 vs. the Hoosiers? Went 12-for-18 and matched the 7-of-10 to lead the Hawkeyes to a sweep of the Badgers for the first time since the 1994-95 season. Gatens had never made more than nine field goals or five 3-pointers in a game before the last pair.
But this is what was most impressive about the past two wins for Iowa (15-13, 7-8 Big Ten): Gatens hit 12 consecutive shots from downtown, three short of the NCAA Division I record of 15 set by Northwestern’s Todd Leslie in 1990. In the last four games, he’s 22-of-32 from 3-point range (68.8 percent). Iowa now sits in seventh place in the Big Ten, and on the NCAA Tournament bubble with two wins apiece over the Badgers and Minnesota, and victories over ranked foes Indiana and Michigan. It finishes the season with games at Illinois and Nebraska before hosting Northwestern.
Player of the Week
Justin Cobbs, PG, California Golden Bears
The sophomore Cobbs has established himself as an integral piece of the Bears perimeter attack which also features a pair of pre-season all conference candidates in defensive specialist combo guard Jorge Gutierrez and sharp shooting wing man Allan Crabbe. Cobbs is a skilled pg who can get all the way to the rim and has size to finish. He has an excellent mid range game with the ability to break his man down off the dribble and a has a smooth shot with good hang time to hit over contesting defense. He is gaining confidence with his freedom to attack on offense and is becoming more assertive. This past week in wins over Colorado and Utah, Cobbs averaged 19 points, 10.5 assists and had more steals then turnovers helping improves Cal's record to 22-6 overall. I mentioned Justin in the last blog as an under the radar sophomore to keep an eye on who could break out next season, but if he can keep up his current play, there might be no need to wait till next season before he emerges and makes a name for himself, possibly this March when it counts the most.
David Kravish, PF, Cal Bears
It was not my intention to make this a Cal basketball-centric week, but I have to bring up yet another Golden Bear who has stepped his game up as of late in freshman big man David Kravish. Kravish has been given a larger role following the suspension of big man Richard Solomon due to academic issues about a month back, and he has done his best to alleviate the loss. David has a very nice touch around the paint and does a good job keeping the ball up high and not bringing it down low allowing for smaller players to reach in. He doesn't provide much of a physical presence as he needs to add quite a bit of weight to his frame, but the offensive skills and his confidence level at that end of the court are intriguing. He averaged 15 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in a pair of wins over the Oregon schools this past week. He also posted an impressive 18 rebound performance just two weeks ago versus the USC Trojans. His improvement gives the Bears an inside player who can provide points and keep defenses honest.