Player of the Week
Brooks set the all time Big East scoring record Wednesday night, scoring 52 points on 20-28 shooting in a one point loss to the Irish. He was impossible to defend, hitting contested three pointers and off balance fade-aways as if he were practicing alone in the gym. He scored 27 in an off-night earlier in the week, and is finally getting the national attention a 25 point per game scorer deserves, especially one coming from the deepest and toughest of leagues.
Ben Hansbrough, G, Notre Dame – Another strong week for the fiery guard from Notre Dame. Hansbrough dropped 32 in a win over Providence, increasing his scoring average to 18 a game on 42% from downtown.
Yancy Gates, F, Cincinnati – With the Bearcats winners of their last three, Yancy Gates deserves some love. He put up 21 and 8 at Providence and followed with 17 and 11 at Georgetown.
Austin Freeman, G, Georgetown – 8 for his last 37 (21%) from downtown. Freeman’s going to have to shoot a lot better in order to make up for the lost production from Chris Wright, who will miss the next four weeks with a broken bone in his hand.
Jeremy Lamb, G/F, UConn - After a great stretch in January, Lamb has fallen back to Earth hitting just 14 of his last 48 shots (29%) in his last five games. With a target on Kemba Walker's head, Lamb will need to make some shots in order to give his team a chance at making a run late into March.
Top Five Biggest Surprises
1. Dwight Hardy and St. Johns Basketball
Hardy has had quite the run over the course of his senior season, averaging 17 points per game while leading the Johnny's to a top 25 ranking for the first time since November of 2000. With seniors Justin Brownlee and D.J. Kennedy playing at high levels, the Red Storm have the ability to cause teams trouble with their toughness and experience. For most, this will be the last opportunity at playing competitive basketball, which looks to be a strong motivating tool for this senior squad. St. Johns has taken care of five top 13 teams, and have made Steve Lavin look like a basketball genius.
2. Marshon Brooks
Brooks is currently the second leading scorer in the country, and has transformed into one of the most entertaining basketball players in the game today. Possessing all the tools necessary for building an NBA career, his 52 point performance alone should push his name into first round considerations.
3. Kemba Walker and Connecticut
Walker went from questionable point guard prospect to "who cares what position he plays because he’s simply too good". He’s 7th in the country in scoring, and what’s more impressive is that his team has been ranked in the top 15 all season. An early candidate for college basketball’s Player of the Year award, no player in the country has single handedly stolen his team wins more frequently than Kemba Walker has for the Huskies.
4. Louisville Cardinals
Louisville had earned themselves an early top 25 ranking, and never really looked back. Without any true go-to scorers, Pitino’s pressure defense has made the Cardinals awfully tough team to score on- just ask Rutgers, who put up a total of 37 points on them the other night. Peyton Siva has established himself as the team’s unquestioned leader and orchestrator, while three year role player Preston Knowles has transformed into the primary shot-maker.
5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Along with losing point guard Tory Jackson and face-of-the-program Luke Harangody, the Irish also lost the respect of a lot of teams in the Big East. Props go out to Coach Mike Brey, who has found a way to win big games without the help of any true low post scorers or defenders. Ben Hansbrough has been the ultimate competitor, while Carleton Scott and Tim Abromaitis have stepped up and provided invaluable support for this easy to root for group.
- Like that friend who wears way too much cologne, Marquette went out Thursday night with a sense of desperation. They came up with a huge win at Connecticut, making a strong bid as the 11th team in the conference to join the madness in March.
- It will be interesting to see how Georgetown performs without their primary facilitator. Out of all the hands on the Georgetown roster, Chris Wright's might have been the most valuable.
- Will the Big East really get 11 teams into the NCAA tournament? Hard to argue against it.