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January 12th, 2012

Big Ten Blog

Player of the Week

Brandon Paul, Illinois

Brandon PaulBrandon PaulThis was a strange yet wonderful week in the Big Ten, highlighted by Paul’s ridiculous 43-point output Tuesday in a crucial 79-74 home win for the Illini against No. 6 Ohio State. It began a string of head-scratching results, including Minnesota beating No. 7 Indiana at Assembly Hall and Wisconsin getting back on track at Purdue. Illinois’ win put it at a somewhat-surprising 4-1 conference clip while Ohio State fell to 3-2.

But back to Paul. All he did was score 20 more points than his career high and 30 more than his season average coming in (12.1). He outscored Ohio State 15-8 in the game’s final 2:40. It was third-most points ever scored by an Illinois player, and most by any player against Ohio State since 1987. But nearly equally impressive about Paul was his effort on the defensive end. He totaled four blocks, including one late in the second half on Jared Sullinger that had Sullinger staring into the stands in disbelief.

11-of-15 from the field. 8-of-10 from three. 13-of-15 from the free-throw line. He also had seven turnovers, but hey, the Illini won the game. Everybody knew Paul had the talent and athleticism to go off like this, but it’s been missing in his first two seasons. His shots haven’t been falling — he came into Tuesday’s game making just 28.4 of his 3-point shots but wasn’t afraid to keep shooting. He attempts nearly five per game. Will he go 8-of-10 every game? No, but he seems to think it’s possible every time out.

In one game, Paul became Illinois’ leading scorer. He went from ranking third at 12.1 to 13.8. The big question moving forward is if this is a flash-in-the-pan moment or if it will give him the confidence to take over this team.

Who’s Hot

Draymond Green, Michigan State

The entire Spartans team probably deserves to be on this list, but Green has just been lights-out lately. With two double-double performances this past week, he averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds, dishing out seven assists and turning the ball over just two times. He’s almost averaging a double-double this season at 15.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game as his team won its first four conference games.

January 11th

ACC Blog

Player of the Week

CJ Leslie

CJ LeslieCJ LeslieIt's that wonderful time of year again. The time that basketball turns into a scrum of turnovers, fouls and ugly, UGLY play. Everything becomes twice as competitive and three times as exciting for basketball junkies like myself. It's ACC play and a whole new season (cliché ahead) where the real stars come out to shine. Early results are in (game one, at least), and things look promising for CJ Leslie. The freakishly athletic forward has been featured on this blog several times (as both hot and cold), but seems to be responding well to the higher intensity of conference play. He played with a much better effort than he was earlier in the season and it showed on the stat-sheet. He put up 20 points and 11 rebounds in his team's win against Maryland on Sunday. The improved rebounding is a good sign, as he only averaged 6.2 rebounds during non-conference play, and that's extremely disappointing for a player with his athletic ability. Though billed as a combo-forward, I'm convinced that his position both now and in the future is in the post. While thin for the position, he's a monster around the hoop and will be an easy alley-oop target if paired with a quality point guard at the next level. In the meantime, the Wolfpack is a much better team when Leslie is dominating, so they'll be hoping he can keep this up.

Hot

Tyler Zeller

UNC's star center is also responding well to conference play. In the Tar Heels' two conference games (both wins), Zeller has averaged 18.0 points on 60.9% shooting from the floor, along with 9.0 rebounds per game. This kind of production is fairly typical from Zeller, and it will have to continue if the Tar Heels want to make a deep postseason run. Zeller's size is a very important asset for the team, especially when they’re playing ACC opponents. Bigs often seem to be what separates the upper-tier teams in the conference from the lower-tier teams. While I don’t think UNC is a lower-tier team with or without Zeller, a offensive big like that provides a huge advantage against teams like Boston College and Virginia Tech that don’t have an answer for him. This is a luxury only a few ACC teams possess.

Pac 12 Blog

Player of the Week

Carlon Brown, Colorado Buffaloes

Carlon BrownCarlon BrownBrown was lights out this past week in leading the Buffaloes to a sweep of the Washington schools scoring 23 points per in the two games on 59% shooting from the field including 9 of 15 from three point land. The 6-5 senior wing man is stepping up as a scorer who can both shoot from the outside as well as use his solid frame to get into the paint and play through contact. Colorado leads the Pac 12 at 3-0 out of the gate and will look to validate their candidacy as a team to beat in the conference with a pair of upcoming road games versus the Bay Area schools, Stanford and Cal.

Heating up

Joe Burton, Oregon State Beavers

The 6-7 280 pound big man has steadily been improving and showing more consistency. Joe is an excellent high post passer who loves to hang outside showing off his passing abilities and court vision while the wings play off the ball using screens and back cuts looking to get open. But as the season progresses, he is now looking to establish himself down low demonstrating his own offensive repetoire. In 4 Conference games, Burton is averaging 16 points on 66% shooting to go with 7 boards.

January 10th

SEC Blog

Player of the Week

Justin Hamilton, LSU

Justin HamiltonJustin HamiltonA new face emerges at the top of the page, as the Tigers big man put forth two dynamic efforts against stellar competition. In two games versus Virginia and Mississippi, Hamilton averaged 22 points on 18/26 shooting (69%), 12.5 rebounds (5 offensive), 3 blocks and 1.5 steals. His 16-rebound explosion on Saturday against Ole Miss was a career-high, and the Rebels don't lack for size on the frontline.The 6'11 260 pounder was utilized in a more finesse role during his two seasons in Ames, but he's thriving at LSU mixing it up on the interior. Hamilton has been essential to the Tigers 11-4 (1-0) start. Games at Alabama and at Arkansas this week will assuredly test his valor.. and foot speed.

Who's Hot

John Jenkins, Vanderbilt

The conference's leading scorer at 20.3 PPG, Jenkins hit 10 of 18 treys in two games this week and 21 of 35 over a four-game stretch. The good news is he's shooting 46% on the year on nearly 9 attempts per game. The bad news is his overt reliance on the three-point shot is back with a vengeance. In that same four-pack of games he's attempted just 13 two's and 5 free throws. A leopard can't change his spots. His specialty has earned him a spot at #25 in our 2012 mock.

Kenny Gabriel, Auburn

Gabriel is making ignoring his accolades an impossibility, putting up wild numbers week after week. The electric 6'8 forward recorded the first triple-double in Auburn history, scoring 24 points (11/13 FG), notching 13 boards and swatting 10 shots versus Bethune Cookman. He also added 2 three's, 3 assists and 4 steals. He continued his statistical barrage at Florida State with 3 blocks and 2 steals, albeit in a 29-point defeat. The senior has the look of a developmental league project.

January 9th

Big East Blog

Player of the Week

Darryl Bryant

Darryl BryantDarryl BryantTruck has been brilliant as of late, scoring at least 25 points in three of West Virginia's last four games (prior to UConn). He's been instrumental in the team's success, acting as a true veteran lead guard who could be counted on for needed production. In the three games that Bryant scored 25, 29 and 34, West Virginia beat Georgetown, Rutgers and Villanova respectively, all in convincing fashion. He's been a terror off the dribble, even getting to the line an impressive 35 times in the past four games.

With Bryant playing at a high level, West Virginia is really one of the better teams in the conference. Veteran groups who can rebound, defend and get scoring production from their guards are excellent Cinderella candidates come March. Look out for the Mountaineers.

Heatin' Up

DAngelo Harrison

He's averaging 21 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game over his last five, playing more aggressive following the departure of Nurideen Lindsey. Harrison is fun to watch because of his energy and ability to score, and has emerged as St. John's go-to guy on offense.

Coolin Off


Maalik Wayns

Why is Wayns stock dropping? He failed to record an assist in Villanova's embarrassing loss to South Florida. Sunday he finished with 3 assists and 6 turnovers against DePaul. If he doesn't improve his efficiency as a facilitator, there won't be many suitors for the ultra-quick yet frustrating point guard.

Top Five Freshmen

1. Andre Drummond

Visions of his potential have begun to flash, as Drummond is adjusting to his positioning on the floor. If given just a few inches of room, he'll use his explosiveness to launch himself at the rim, elevating high above the cylinder and throwing down with unstoppable power. He's using his body under the boards and making his presence know defensively, altering shots at the rim and swatting others. With a soft touch, quick feet and ideal physical tools, Drummond has the chance to become the most dominant interior force in the country. He scored 20 points on 9-11 in a good comeback win against West Virginia, while grabbing 11 boards and blocking 3 shots. Look for him to continue to improve with every game.

January 8th

Big 12 Blog

Player of the Week

Thomas Robinson, Kansas

Thomas RobinsonThomas RobinsonThe monster season continues for the dominant power forward. The junior is without a doubt the leading candidate for National Player of the Year honors. His ability to dominate games is impressive. He is a player who uses his physical strength and tremendous motor to impose his will on the opposition. In his past two games, he has accumulated a mind-boggling 45 points and 34 rebounds! He also leads the Big 12 in double-doubles with 10. His best game this past week was in an 84-58 romp over North Dakota. He scored 30 points and grabbed 21 rebounds while shooting 10-14 from the field for a blistering 71%. Maybe ever more impressive was his marksmanship from the line, knocking down nine of his 12 shots. He even dished out four assists.

Who's Hot


Rodney McGruder, Kansas State

The junior swingman is the type of player who "quietly" fills the stat sheet. The 6'4" guard/forward is very adept at slashing to the basket, as well as rebounding the basketball and being a force on the defensive side of the floor getting steals or deflections. In an 82-46 blowout of Howard, he scored 14 points, grabbed five rebounds, and had five steals. He is showing improvement on his jump shot as well, nailing 4-4 from behind the three-point line. In a 67-49 loss to rival Kansas this week, he scored 15 points, grabbed five rebounds, and had another three steals. However, his jump shot wasn't falling at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. If it had been, you could see what type of monster game performance he is capable of having. He is an extremely skilled player who, when clicking on all cylinders, can carry his Wildcat team to victories.

January 7th

Big Ten Blog

Player of the Week

Cody Zeller, Indiana freshman

Cody ZellerCody ZellerZeller looked like a freshman in his Big Ten debut at Michigan State, looking lost the majority of 40 minutes with a few exceptions. The Hoosiers bounced back with two impressive home wins since then, knocking off No. 2 Ohio State 74-70 on Saturday and No. 16 Michigan 73-71 on Thursday. Both games displayed the Hoosiers’ tendency to allow games to become too close at the end, and Assembly Hall won’t be around to bail them out all season. But Zeller looked good in both games, making all the right moves down low to get open, high-percentage shots. He averaged 16 points and four rebounds in the Hoosiers’ two wins, making 14-of-19 shots from the field despite fouling out of the Ohio State game.

Who’s Hot

Aaron White, Iowa freshman

The 6-foot-8 freshman forward certainly helped the Hawkeyes to one of their best weeks in years. It started Saturday in Madison, Wis., when White came off the bench to score 16 of his 18 points in the second half as Iowa took down No. 11 Wisconsin 72-65 on the Badgers’ home floor, breaking a 23-game winning streak against unranked teams. White’s dunking and spot-up shooting abilities remained on display Wednesday in a 64-62 victory at Minnesota, when he put up 10 points including a dunk down the stretch that extended the Hawkeyes’ lead to five. He’s a mismatch for slower forwards but still can go down low, averaging five rebounds in the two games. He shot 10-of-14 (71.4 percent) from the field in the pair of games, including 2-of-3 from long range. White, from Strongsville, Ohio, now is firmly in the discussion for Big Ten freshman of the year.

Matt Gatens, Iowa senior

The senior leader put up 19 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals at Minnesota on 7-of-11 shooting. The 6-5 Iowa City native is one of the Big Ten’s leading rebounding guards at 4.3 per game this season; this week he more than doubled that at nine per game, including 12 at Wisconsin. He shot just 2-of-9 against the Badgers for six points but was key defensively along with Devyn Marble on the perimeter against Jordan Taylor and the Badgers.

January 6th

Mid Major Blog

Player of the Week

Gerardo Suero, Albany, SG, Junior, 6-4 205 lbs.

Gerardo SueroGerardo SueroThe Dominican Republic-born Suero has led Albany to a 10-6 record on the season, including three consecutive victories. For the season, Suero is posting a respectable stat line of 22.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.1 SPG and shooting 50.7 FG%, 35.3 3P%, and 81.7 FT%. In Albany’s most recent game against a clearly inferior opponent, UMBC (2-12), Suero finished with 22 points (8-14 shooting) and 7 rebounds. Prior to that game, Suero posted 24 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists against another inferior opponent, Hartford (1-13). Earlier in the season against Syracuse (currently ranked #1 in the nation), Suero finished with 31 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

Who’s Hot?


Temple Owls (10-3)

Temple beat #3 Duke this week, 78-73, led by Khalif Wyatt’s 22 points (8-12 shooting, 3-5 three-pointers), 4 rebounds and 5 steals. The Owls played efficiently on offense (56.4 FG%) and held Duke’s freshman phenom, Austin Rivers, to 12 points on 3-11 shooting. Temple has won four consecutive games and currently ranks 27th in the nation for APG (15.8). Although this team does not dominate games, it shows efficient offensive strategies and plays solid defense.

January 4th

ACC Blog

Player of the Week

Alex Len

Alex LenAlex LenThe Maryland Terrapins have won seven games in a row, and even though the opposition hasn't been great during that stretch, playing undefeated basketball for over a month should earn you a little recognition. Explosive scorer Terrell Stoglin has been doing most of the work so far this season, but help may have finally arrived, and it's in a 7'1" Ukrainian package. Freshman center Alex Len has finished serving his mysterious ten-game NCAA suspension, and is playing extremely well. In his first three career games, Len is averaging 14.0 points on 78.9% shooting along with 8.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. He also looks comfortable from the stripe, shooting a respectable 66.7% on 18 attempts. It's been suggested that Len could be a first-round pick when he decides to leave Maryland and it's not hard to see why. He's a more than decent athlete for a plus-seven footer. While he's raw offensively, he runs the court well and displays good instincts around the rim. Maryland is a lot more exciting with Len in the post, and he'll fit in well with Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard (who also returned to the team recently). Other teams can no longer sleep on the Terps.

Hot

Travis McKie

Wake Forest is not likely to be challenging for the ACC championship this season, but they are much-improved from a season ago, and a lot of that is forward Travis McKie. McKie has polished his offensive ability, not having to rely so much on his athleticism anymore (though he still scores a lot of points off of cuts and transition opportunities). He's clearly more comfortable than he used to be on the perimeter, where he makes 1.1 threes per game on 39.0% shooting (up from 0.5 threes made on 30.4% shooting in 2010-2011). But unlike many players who become better outside shooters, McKie is still a physical player on both ends of the court. He uses his strength a lot better when posting up smaller players, and aggressively pursues contact. He's shooting more free-throws per game (5.9 attempts this year), and it has improved his efficiency across the board. Over the course of his sophomore season, he's averaging 17.9 points per game and he should only get better in time.

January 3rd

Big East Blog

Player of the Week:

Eli Carter, G, Rutgers

Eli CarterEli CarterCarter gets the nod based solely off his performance against Florida, where he lead his 9-point underdog Scarlett Knights in a double OT win over 10 ranked Florida. It was a gutsy effort by Carter, who lit up the Gators for 31 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and only 2 turnovers in 46 hard fought minutes. Carter was prolific off the dribble, making plays both for himself and his teammates. He stepped up and drained a game-tying three in the closing seconds of the first overtime, and has emerged as Rutgers' top scoring threat in his freshman year. He followed his career best game against Florida with a 23 point, 5 steal line in a loss to South Florida.

Heatin' Up

Jerian Grant, 6'5 G, Notre Dame

Prospect alert. He showed true pro potential in his 15 point, 9 assist game against Pittsburgh, posing as a 6'5 combo guard who can beat you off the dribble or stroke it from deep. With good length, size, range and versatility, Grant has emerged as one of the budding prospects in the conference.

Fab Melo 7'0 C, Syracuse

Melo put up a 12 point, 10 block 7 rebound game against Seton Hall, and finished with 12 points, 6 blocks and 5 boards against DePaul. It's amazing what one year of adjusting and conditioning can do for a 7 foot defensive game changer. He's the anchor of one of the most devastating and swarming defenses in all of college basketball.

Sean Kilpatrick 6'4 G, Cincinnati

He's hit at least four three-pointers in three consecutive games, including five in Cincy's three-point win over Pittsburgh. Cincy has been tough since the brawl, and Kilpatrick's emergence as a first or second option is a large reason why.

Russ Smith 6'0 G, Louisville

He's averaging 20 a game on almost 15 shot attempts over his last five games. He plays 150 miles per hour, and generally is forced to considering his teammates' inability to create themselves. If down 1 with 10 seconds, Russ should get the call for Louisville.

Mo Harkless 6'8 F, St. Johns

He went for 32 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks in a blowout over Providence. Harkless' length, athleticism, activity level and ability to be effective without having to demand the ball extend the list of potential suitors for him at the next level.

Jeremy Lamb 6'5 SG, UConn

18 for his last 33 from downtown (54%). Keep letting them fly my man. Lamb has first overall pick potential with star-like qualities based on his overall package. He just has to assert himself and gain the mentality of a high volume scorer.