Player of the Week
Donte Poole, Murray State, SG, Senior, 6-3 190 lbs.
This unsung hero for Murray State has been playing under the shadow of talented point guard, Isaiah Cannan, for much of the season. Cannan – largely considered to be a late second round prospect for the NBA Draft – leads the Racers in scoring and handles most of the ball-handling duties for the team. But this past Sunday, Poole stepped out from beneath Canaan’s shadow and drained six three-pointers in Murray State’s victory over the #20 Memphis Tigers (5-3). For the game, Poole finished with 20 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist on 7-11 shooting and 6-8 on three-pointers. In Murray State’s next game against Lipscomb (6-6), Poole only scored 7 points (2-8 shooting), but had 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. Still, his game changing performance against Memphis earns Poole this spot as the Mid-Major Player of the Week.
Murray State Racers (11-0)
Through one-third of the 2011-12 season, Murray State sits atop the Ohio Valley Conference for overall win-loss records and has legitimized itself as one of the best mid-major schools in the country. Sunday’s impressive 76-72 victory on the road against #20 Memphis (5-3) shows that the Racers are ready to compete against very quality competition. Through 11 games, Murray State has beaten UAB (2-6) of Conference USA, Southern Miss (7-2) of Conference USA, Dayton (7-3) of the Atlantic 10, and now Memphis (5-3) of Conference USA. The backcourt tandem of Isaiah Canaan and Donte Poole poses a tough challenge for opponents, especially considering that both players are shooting over 45 percent from three-point land, and 6’7” post player, Ivan Aska, provides some tenacity in the frontcourt. Murray State’s only significant weaknesses are the team’s lack of height in the frontcourt and consequently its mediocre team rebounding averages (31.7 RPG as a team).
Elias Harris, Gonzaga, F, Junior, 6-7 240 lbs.
Harris has played well throughout Gonzaga’s eight games this season, but his performance against Michigan State (8-2) this past week left much to be desired from this potential NBA Draft prospect. For the game, he finished with 6 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and shot 2-11 for field goals and 0-2 from three-point land. He spent much of the game guarding Michigan State’s stud forward, Draymond Green, as Green posted 34 points (11-13 shooting, 4-5 three-pointers), 2 rebounds and 3 assists. Granted, Green played an excellent game and Harris did keep him off of the boards better than other teams have done in previous games against Michigan State; however, Harris did not contribute much on offense and he couldn’t find a way to stop Green from scoring.
Top 25 Teams
8. Xavier (8-0)
The Musketeers have the best team among all the mid-major schools in 2011-12. This recognition is legitimized by the team’s 76-53 victory over Cincinnati (6-3) last Saturday on Xavier’s home court in a heated contest that ended in a bench-clearing brawl where Cincinnati forward, Yancy Gates, connected on a “sucker punch” to the head of Xavier center, Kenny Frease. The catalyst for the incident was a claim by a Cincinnati player that singled out Xavier’s All-American point guard, Tu Holloway, saying that Holloway would not start on Cincinnati’s team. Holloway took exception to that comment and started talking smack with Cincinnati players near the end of the game. The situation quickly turned sour as Cincinnati players left the bench and the two teams started shoving and pushing each other. Gates escalated the situation by punching Frease, and once Frease was on the ground, he was stomped on by another Cincinnati player. The brawl between the two teams was embarrassing and suspensions on both sides have been issued.
23. Murray State (11-0)
See “Who’s Hot”
24. Creighton (7-1)
The Blue Jays suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of Saint Joseph’s (7-3), 80-71. The glaring statistic of the game was Creighton being outrebounded by Saint Joseph’s, 37-24, which was the greatest contributor to Creighton’s defeat. Star wingman, Doug McDermott, led Creighton in scoring and rebounding after finishing the game with 26 points (10-16 shooting) and 10 rebounds. Creighton did not have an answer for Carl Jones of Saint Joseph’s as Jones poured in 29 points and collected 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
Mid-Major Power Rankings
1. Xavier (8-0)
2. Murray State (11-0)
3. Memphis (5-3)
4. Creighton (7-1)
5. UNLV (10-2)
6. San Diego State (9-2)
7. Gonzaga (5-2)
8. Harvard (9-1)
9. BYU (8-2)
10. Northern Iowa (9-1)
Top 5 Passers
1. Scott Machado, Iona, PG, Senior, 6-1 180 lbs.
The Queens, NY product leads the nation in assists per game (10.9) and has lit up the stat sheet in the assists column throughout the season. On the road against Richmond (6-4) on Wednesday, Machado finished with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 15 assists and led Iona to an 88-79 victory. Against Saint Joseph’s (7-3) on November 23, Machado dished out 10 assists to go with his 33 points (10-18 shooting) in Iona’s 104-99 win. Against Maryland (6-3) on November 20, Machado collected 15 assists and scored 15 points as Iona thumped Maryland, 89-63. On November 17 against Purdue (9-2), Machado finished with 14 points and 11 assists in a losing effort (91-90 loss). For the season, his numbers are impressive: 15.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 10.9 APG and 1.8 SPG. He’s quick, he can handle the ball with ease, he knows how to get to the hoop, and he should definitely be considered a second round draft prospect for the 2012 NBA Draft. Iona is 8-2 for the season.
2. D.J. Cooper, Ohio, PG, Junior, 5-11 165 lbs.
Cooper plays like former Cleveland Cavaliers guard, Terrell Brandon, by not letting his shorter stature affect his ability to impact games on offense or on defense. Cooper, a product of Chicago, IL, has led Ohio to an 8-1 record and the team appears to be one of the top teams in the MAC. This past Saturday, Cooper had a triple-double in Ohio’s victory over Portland (72-54). Cooper finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Against Marshall on November 30, he posted 11 points and 11 assists as Ohio beat Marshall, 70-68, on the road. For the season, Cooper is averaging 14.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 6.8 APG and 2.6 SPG. Cooper will likely come back to school for his senior year, but watch for him to continue to be among the top assists per game players.
3. Jesse Sanders, Liberty, SG, Senior, 6-3 200 lbs.
Sanders is a “poor man’s” version of Tyreke Evans. He can score, he can rebound, and he can pass, but he lacks Evans’ height, athleticism and bolstered skillset. Sanders has played great all-around basketball this season, averaging 12.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 7.6 APG and 1.5 SPG so far. This past Saturday against Virginia Intermont, Sanders scored 12 points, collected 12 rebounds and dished out 9 assists in Liberty’s 78-60 win. Sanders is third on the team in scoring, first in rebounding and first in assists per game. Liberty is 3-8 for the season.
4. Matthew Dellavedova, St. Mary’s, SG, Junior, 6-4 190 lbs.
The Aussie has shown superb passing ability to go along with his knack for scoring in 2011-12. Dellavedova plays much like former Gonzaga guard, Matt Bouldin, although he lacks Bouldin’s smooth shooting stroke and overall court awareness. For the season, Dellavedova is posting a quality stat line of 14.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 6.8 APG and 2.6 SPG, and also several impressive performances throughout the year, including a 25 point, 11 assist game against Weber State on November 28. St. Mary’s in 6-1 for the season.
5. Jake Odum, Indiana State, PG, Sophomore, 6-4 170 lbs.
This wiry guard is not a great shooter (41.4 FG%, 20.0 3P%), but he can pass the ball with the best of them. Only a sophomore, Odum possesses great instincts for getting the ball to teammates when they are open or near the basket. Odum does not have great athleticism or elite defensive skills, but he has a solid feel for the game. For the season, he’s averaging 9.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 6.6 APG and 2.3 SPG and he’s guided Indiana State to a 7-2 record for the year. He will have an opportunity to showcase his ability to play against top-level competition when Indiana State travels to #25 Vanderbilt (6-3) on Saturday.