Player of the Week
Nigel Williams Goss, G, Junior, Gonzaga Bulldogs
Yet again, Gonzaga makes this blog for all the right reasons. The Player of the Week this week is arguably their best and most effective player. Nigel Williams-Goss has been Gonzaga’s rock this whole season and their best facilitator, proving to be possibly the most impactful transfer in the country. He is averaging 15.6 points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game and 4.8 assists per game, all of which lead the Bulldogs. And he is just a guard.
This season he has been consistently padding the stat sheet in each game, some games with more points than anything else and some games with more assists, rebounds and opportunities to set up teammates. In the last three games, though, since conference play began in the West Coast Conference, he has been playing his best basketball. He has a 20.3 points per game click, 7.6 rebounds per game and 4.6 assists per game. His best game came this past Thursday when the Zags traveled to play the San Francisco Dons in their first real road conference matchup and one of their hardest games on the schedule. Williams-Goss played magical, scoring a career high 36 points, securing 11 rebounds, shooting 80 percent from the field and going 9-9 from the free throw line. He became the first player this season with at least 35 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a game. He became just the fifth player in the last 20 years to have 35 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and shoot 80 percent from the field. What was also important from it all? Williams-Goss almost single handedly got Gonzaga to 15-0, the first time in their program history they hit the mark.
Williams-Goss is the real deal and a superstar for the Bulldogs. He can do it all, whether that be score, rebound or get his teammates involved. With Gonzaga seemingly playing 100 percent on all cylinders and looking unstoppable heading into the eventual tournament, Nigel Williams-Goss will be the leader of this team and could give defenses too much to handle. The Zags look like a team that could potentially enter the tourney without a loss.
Jon Elmore, G, Junior, Marshall Thundering Herd
Elmore is having a very impressive season thus far leading the Thundering Herd of Marshall. He is averaging 20.6 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, and 6.3 assists per game and has demonstrated his ability to facilitate a whole offense. He has failed to score less than 10 points all season, eight games with at least 20 and one game with at least 30. He has three double-doubles this season in points and assists, with all three coming in back to back to back games. Elmore has become a great player this season, but he does what really gets noticed and what really gets a player on this list: get your team playing at a high level and near the top of the standings. This is just what Elmore has done for Marshall, leading them to a 10-6 record, 3-0 in Conference USA play so far, and first in the conference. Jon Elmore is one of the best players in Conference USA this season and should he continue his great play to the end of the year and into the conference tournament, the Thundering Herd have a great shot at making the Big Dance and Elmore can show off his abilities to the world.
EC Matthews, G, Junior, Rhode Island Rams
He’s back! Yes, Matthews is back on the list after picking up his play. He began the year off to a blistering start and got the Rams off to 4-0. Then he really cooled off and went four straight with single digits in scoring where the Rams struggled a bit. Ever since the start of December and conference play, Matthews has turned back into the animal we expected him to be and has Rhode Island on a four-game winning streak. In his last six games when he has picked it up, he is averaging 17.6 points per game and is shooting at or near .500 in almost all games. Matthews was predicted to be one of the best players not only in the Atlantic 10, but in the country and he is now showing it in conference play where it matters most. Rhode Island is sitting at 10-4 and 3-0 in conference play and bolsters arguably the best offense in the conference. With Matthews rolling and his supporting cast playing well, don’t expect this red-hot machine or Matthews to be stopped soon.
Temple and UCONN
Remember when those Temple Owls and UCONN Huskies made the NCAA Tournament last year, with UCONN even winning their first-round game? Don’t expect those situations to happen again to these teams, barring unforeseen events taking place. And this is personally a little tough, since I am from Philadelphia and always have a soft spot for Temple. Temple is 9-7 and 0-3 to start conference play. Their longtime coach Fran Dunphy usually puts out a solid Owl squad year in and year out, ones that compete for a tournament berth. This season looks like it’s almost out of hand though, already being in a 0-3 hole in conference play. UCONN, on the other hand, is in a much harder position and seems to be teetered too far off the edge. With a below .500 record and an 0-3 conference record, it doesn’t seem they can fully recover to beat out VCU, Dayton or Rhode Island at the end. It’s unfortunate to see these 2016 NCAA Tournament teams in such dire straits and in danger of missing out on the Big Dance, but it looks like that’s the path they are leading.
Top 5 Mid-Major Home-court Advantages
5. McKeon Pavilion (St. Mary’s Gaels)
McKeon Pavilion is where the dominant St. Mary’s plays and they play extremely well there. They only have one home loss on the year this season and only lost two games at home last season, with one coming to Gonzaga. The Gaels play extremely well overall no matter home or away, but their team chemistry and performance elevates in front of their 3,500-seat arena.
4. Fifth Third Arena (Cincinnati Bearcats)
Mick Cronin’s Bearcat squads have always been known for their tenacious and aggressive defense. They always play their best in front of the raucous 13,000-person arena and give the visiting team fits. Cincinnati is 19th in the country in points allowed and fourth in adjusted defensive efficiency. No matter who they are playing, the Bearcat’s hard strung defense and rattling crowd will make it tough for anyone who enters.
3. University Arena (New Mexico)
From what I have learned, New Mexico doesn’t really call their home University Arena. It is commonly referred to as “The Pit” because players on the court feel that the thousands of emphatic Lobos fans put them in a literal pit of ear shattering noise. The Lobos have won over 80 percent of their games at “The Pit” and make non-conference opponents shake in their kicks.
2. Charles Koch Arena and Intrust Bank Arena (Wichita State)
The Shockers have been one of the most consistent teams under head coach Gregg Marshall for the last 10 years. This also can be said for their performances at their home-courts. Their usual home-court is Charles Koch Arena (formerly known as Levitt Arena) where they have been playing since 1955. They also play a couple of games at the larger and newer Intrust Bank Center. Since the Shockers have been playing at Charles Koch, they have accumulated a whopping 630-217 record, a nice 74 percent winning percentage. The odds of the Shockers winning at their longtime home are and have always been extraordinarily high in their favor and shouldn’t stop anytime soon.
1. McCarthey Athletic Center (Gonzaga)
The Zags have made the tournament for almost two decades and their eight-year-old arena has a lot to do with it. The most amazing stat to consider is, as of last season, the Bulldogs own the best home-court winning percentage in ALL of college basketball. Their sturdy 93 percent winning percentage at home takes the cake as the best in basketball, posting a 107-8 record. Don’t expect this 2016-2017 squad to drop a game at home this season so that number could be 115-8 by the end of the regular season. Why does Gonzaga do so well each season? Their 8,000-person arena could make the biggest difference.