Player of the Week
Marcus Keene, G, Junior, Central Michigan Chippewas
Marcus Keene will become the fourth mid major player this year to make the Player of the Week at least twice and he absolutely deserves it just like the previous three guys. Just this past week, the Wooden Award candidates were shrunk down from 25 to 20. Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss carried over to the new list but a new face was added that had not been on the top 50 or 25 list: Keene! The award committee finally noticed or had good reason to advertise him as one of the top players in the country. Keene has been having one of the greatest scoring seasons in college basketball over the last couple decades and completely deserves the consideration for the top player. He is trying to become the first player in 20 years to average 30 or more points per game in a season and by golly he’s extremely close to accomplishing it.
Each week he has consistently scored at will and been the greatest factor in Central Michigan’s success. Right now, he is averaging a stunning 30.7 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game and 5 assists per game. His season high in points is 50, which he scored on January 21st, and in the last two weeks he has had two separate 41 point games. He has the Chippewas tied for first place in the MAC West division at 16-8 and 6-5 in conference. What is significant about this is that Central Michigan was predicted to finish last in their division. Keene is one of, if not the biggest reason they are in first. It is amazing that, for a guy who hoists up 21 shots a game, he still manages to get five assists a game and fill up the stat sheet. His head coach Keno Davis has called him an unselfish 30-point scorer who does all he can to win the game.
Every week that Keene is showcased on this blog, he somehow finds a way to make it back and play even better than before. If he finishes the season averaging 30 points per game, which he very much can do, his Player of ther Year consideration will only grow larger. I’ve said it before, but if this man gets in the NCAA Tournament…WATCH. OUT.
Semi Ojeleye, F, Junior, SMU Mustangs
The successes of Nigel Williams-Goss have glossed over some of the other quality transfers in college basketball. One of those transfers is Semi Ojeleye, who left Duke for SMU and has paid big dividends for the Mustangs. In the first mid major blog this year, he was a Who’s Hot player and has sizzling to put SMU in the thick of the American Athletic Conference title. He is averaging 18.2 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game and is shooting very high percentages from the floor (48 field goal and 41 from three). Last game against Temple, he had his best game of the season by scoring a season high 30 points and securing 10 rebounds for a double-double. He is a dangerous double threat, having the ability to shoot from outside or put it on the floor and drive in the lane. The Mustangs have a lone loss in conference play against Cincinnati earlier in the year and they should get the opportunity to avenge that loss at home on Sunday, 2/12. The 21-4, 11-1 Mustangs are in great shape to make the postseason and Ojeleye is their prime facilitator. Should he lead the Mustangs to victory over No. 11 Cincinnati and slide SMU into first place in the American Athletic Conference, he will exert his dominance over the conference lead a hot team into the postseason.
Wichita State Shockers
A couple weeks ago, the Illinois State Redbirds were a Who’s Hot team because they defeated the Shockers in their first of two meetings and rose into first place in the Missouri Valley Conference. It wasn’t long before the Shockers took it back though. On 2/4, Wichita State, at home, overwhelmed Illinois State 86-45 to take back the sole lead in the conference and presumably for the rest of the regular season. Head coach Gregg Marshall got his team to play lights out and take back the conference they had been dominating the last couple of seasons. Wichita State should now be able to coast to the regular season title and should presumably play Illinois State again for the Missouri Valley Tournament title.
This Shocker team, 22-4 and 12-1, is much different than previous ones. After the loss of leaders Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet to graduation, their offense has been much more spread out and with more leaders. They have three players averaging at least 10 points per game, with Markis McDuffie leading with 11.8 per game. They are not a sexy playing style team like they had been with Van Vleet and Baker, but Gregg Marshall is one of the best coaches in the country and has found another way to get the Shockers in control.
Illinois State Redbirds
In going off Wichita State, the Redbirds are the biggest losers from this past week. Now granted, the Redbirds, were most likely going to lose their game to Wichita State anyway. Wichita State is one of the best home teams in the country and wins almost 75 percent of their games there. This is not catastrophic for the Redbirds at all. What this does for Illinois State now is, barring a BIG slip up from Wichita State, they will most likely not win the regular season title in the Missouri Valley Conference. They certainly can win their conference tournament in a couple of weeks and get an auto big to the Big Dance. Right now, Joe Lunardi has them as a 12 seed in a play-in game and they are part of his Last Four In. Illinois State, 20-5 and 12-1, probably needs to win out their regular season and at least get to their conference tournament championship title game to still be in consideration for a postseason berth. Unfortunately, it seems easier for the Shockers to make the Big Dance, since they will probably win their conference regular season. It is certainly possible for these Redbirds to make the postseason and they have been paying extremely well all season. It’s a hit to their season by losing the lead in the Missouri Valley and they will have to remain consistent to go dancing.
Top 5 Mid Major Offensive Teams
5. Marshall Thundering Herd
Marshall comes into this list posting the 7th best scoring offense in the country, averaging 86.8 points per game. They are led by their leading scorer Jon Elmore, who averages 19.5 points per game and dishes out 6.3 assists per game. They also rank 10th in the country in total three-pointers made with 248. While the Thundering Herd have fallen out of contention for their conference, they have a potent offensive attack that in recent games they have been consistently scoring 90+ points.
4. Valparaiso Crusaders
The biggest offensive category Valpo dominates in is free throw percentage, where they rank third in the country at 80.1 percent. Other than that, they don’t excel in any other offensive stats but they have a super weapon in senior Alec Peters who has been nothing short of fantastic for them. He has paced the Crusaders to a 20-5 record and has them leading the Horizon League. He is basically tied for second in the country in points per game with just over 23 and is 4th nationally in total points with 579. He has gotten Wooden Award consideration and provides a lethal spark to the Valparaiso squad.
3. UNC Wilmington Seahawks
The Seahawks have been a consistent offense force this season and it has carried them to a 22-4, 11-2 record and are leading the Colonial Athletic Association. They are ranked 10th in points per game with 86.1. They rely on their sharp free throw shooting, where they place 14th in the nation in total threes made at 243. Their guard Denzel Ingram ranks ninth in country with 84 three-pointers made this season. Their senior forward Devontae Cacok is the sole leader in field goal percentage at 79.6 percent. UNC Wilmington is in prime position to play in the postseason and is led by a plethora of offensively efficient scorers. Their head coach Kevin Keatts, former assistant for Rick Pitino at Louisville, has instilled an offensive philosophy that is leading the Seahawks to the tournament.
2. Central Michigan Chippewas
The overwhelming majority of their offense comes from Marcus Keene, who I explained about before. Keene leads the country in points per game, total points, has the fifth highest free throw percentage in the country, and is second in total three pointers made with 96. Central Michigan as a team is fourth in the country in points per game with 89.9 and third in three pointers made with 304 (one of three teams with over 300 made). When Keene is on, and is almost always is, he electrifies their offense and catapults them to new heights.
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Gonzaga usually places at the top of just about everyone’s list for certain categories and this is just another one of them. Their offense is extremely balanced, having four players average 10 or more points per game and their leader, Nigel Williams-Goss, averaging 15.8. They are 12th in the country in scoring with 85.4 points a game and are the national leaders in scoring margin with a 23.7 points clip. That is a whole three points higher than the next highest team and they are only one of two teams to have a margin at least 20 points or better. They have only trailed in few occasions this year and seem to always be leading a game. They have shown the ability to win in small scoring games or put up large amounts of points. What is also dynamic about their offense is that on any given night, one of their players can step up and score more than their average. Williams-Goss usually carries the brunt of the load, but freshman center Zach Collins, senior center Przemek Karnowski, senior guard Jordan Matthews and junior forward Jonathan Williams have all shown in spurts this season the ability to score much more than their average and influence games. While their offense certainly isn’t the most dynamic or fun to watch, it is certainly one of the most dangerous in the country and can beat defenses in many ways.