Keene on Scoring
Player of the Week
Marcus Keene, G, Junior, Central Michigan Chippewas
Jimmer Fredette. Buddy Hield. Carmelo Anthony. Steph Curry. All some of the best college basketball players of the last two decades in many categories. There was one thing that all of them could not accomplish: average 30 points per game by the end of the season.
One player this year has a real shot at accomplishing this feat for the first time in 20 years. Guard Marcus Keene of Central Michigan is the leading scorer in all of college basketball this season with a 31.9 click. It is truly a shame that Keene has not made this blog sooner this year because every single week he has been on fire. He also has an impressive 5.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. The guy’s stats are just unreal. He AVERAGES 20.7 field goal attempts per game and makes 10.5 per game. He has an incredible 50.8 field goal percentage and averages 42.3 percent from three. Keene played two seasons at Youngstown State, where he 15.9 points per game in his sophomore season, before transferring to the Chippewas this year. What is also great is he is leading his team to first place in their division, the West, of the Mid-American Conference with a record of 9-3. Just to get an idea of how good a scorer he is: He has yet to score less than 23 in a game, he has 11 games with at least 30 points, and two games with at least 40. He shoots the three ball incredibly well, having six games with at least five threes and his game high with eight. He can score at will, whether on the dribble, mid-range shot, deep three or at the free throw line. Just his last game on 12/21, he scored 44 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Keene could have been the Player of the Week every single week based on his excellent play for Central Michigan and the position he has the Chippewas in going into conference play. By the end of the season, it would be astounding if he still averages 30 points per game and he should be a high candidate for player of the year, especially if he leads Central Michigan to the NCAA Tournament. Who wouldn’t want to see Keene in the Big Dance?
Jaylen Adams, G, Junior, St Bonaventure Bonnies
Adams is establishing himself as one of the best players in the Atlantic 10 Conference this season and he has been getting better and better every season he has been with the Bonnies. This season he averages a great 23.0 points per game, which is tied for sixth in the country, and 6.6 assists per game, good for 11th in the country. He is one of the most dangerous dual threat players in the country with great ability to put the ball on the floor or kick it to others for great scoring opportunities. In the games this season where he has scored over 20 points and has a high number of assists, his team has been victorious. In the last two weeks, he has been very hot for the Bonnies. He has averaged 23.6 points per game with 8.3 assists per game and led St Bonaventure to a 2-1 record. He has one double-double on the season but has come one or two assists shy of others in four other games. The scoring and passing are there for Adams and in games when he is fully on with both, his team usually wins. As conference play starts and the Bonnies sit at 8-4 in a vulnerable Atlantic 10, Adams has all the potential to lead his team to the top or dominate in the conference tournament at season’s end.
Marquise Moore, G, Senior, George Mason Patriots
Marquise Moore is a senior who has started as a role player on his team and ended up now as their star. Moore has been a four-year player at George Mason and is a unique guard. He averages a double-double, with 18.1 points per game and an awesome 11.1 rebounds per game. He has scored in double figures in every game but one and has a whopping EIGHT double-doubles in points and rebounds. In his last four games, he is averaging about 19.7 points per game and 14.7 rebounds per game. It’s always something special to get a 6’2” guard who can rebound so well, like a Russell Westbrook of college basketball. Moore also has his Patriots as one of the hottest teams in the country and certainly in the Atlantic 10. After starting off the year at 1-3, they have rattled off 9 consecutive wins to sit tied atop the Atlantic 10 standings. Moore arguably had his best game of the year against my Penn State Nittany Lions two weeks ago, scoring a season high 25 points and adding 13 rebounds in a Big Ten win. With conference play starting up, George Mason is riding high thanks to the stellar play from Marquise Moore. We will see how well he plays in conference play and how close he keeps his Patriots to the top of the standings, but he is certainly playing his best basketball now and should keep it going when it matters most.
Northern Iowa Panthers (5-7)
The disappointing season by Northern Iowa has been steady and unappealing so far, especially considering the success they had last year. Last season, the Panthers finished the regular season strong and upset the 6 seed Texas Longhorns in the NCAA Tournament on a half court buzzer beater. The expectations this season were supposed to be very high, especially considering that in-conference power house Wichita State was losing their best players in Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker. Instead, the Panthers have underperformed and are sitting in dead least in the Missouri Valley Conference. Earlier in the season, they suffered a four-game losing streak and are currently in the midst of a three-game losing streak and have already lost their first conference game to Missouri State. A glimmer of hope for Northern Iowa is that they were in a similar position last year when they were 10-11 and proceeded to rip through their conference play and go into the tournament hot. If the Panthers hope for that to happen this season, they will need to snap out of their funks and get back to what made them successful last season in a conference that is still for the taking.
Top Conference Games to Watch
5. Gonzaga @ San Francisco (January 5th)
Gonzaga has been sensational so far this season, remaining 12-0 and rolling through the competition. The San Francisco Dons have been a pleasant surprise so far this season, going 11-3 and remaining up there at the top of the West Coast Conference. When the Bulldogs travel to San Fran for their third conference game of the season, they better be careful. This has trap game written all over it, even if this has been called Mark Few’s best team to date.
4. St Mary’s @ Gonzaga (January 14th)
The St Mary’s/Gonzaga matchup is going to be one of the best in-conference matchups in all of college basketball this season and this will be the first of two this season. The 19th ranked St Mary’s Gaels are probably going to be the hardest remaining team for Gonzaga for two reasons. One is they are the best overall team left this regular season for the Bulldogs to play. Second is that St Mary’s is probably the best team in the country at playing Gonzaga because they know Gonzaga so well from playing them every year and know the best ways to beat them, which they are so good at. This matchup could be the decider to who ends up winning the West Coast Conference.
3. VCU @ George Mason (December 30th)
As I write this on Friday afternoon, this huge matchup will take place tonight in the opening Atlantic 10 matchups for both teams. It couldn’t be a bigger matchup either. Both teams are tied at 10-3 and tied for first in the conference. They do not meet again until the last day of the regular season on March 4th so the winner of this matchup will head into the rest of conference play already with a large step up on the other.
2. SMU @ Cincinnati (January 12th)
This game is huge for a couple of reasons. One is the 23rd ranked Bearcats are one and the Mustangs are two in the American Athletic Conference standings and one of these two teams is expected to come out of the conference as the champ. The other is that they are two of the best defensive teams in all the country. Cincy coach Mick Cronin has always preached and enforced a strong defensive mentality, with the Bearcats always being known for their great defensive play. They are ranked 25th nationally in points allowed (62.1). SMU however is just as if not better this season on defense, ranking 12th nationally in points allowed (59.4). This will be a battle for standings in a huge conference matchup that will pit two of the best defenses against each other. Expect a lot of physicality.
1. Gonzaga @ St Mary’s (February 11th)
I know, I put the same matchup in here again with a new location it’s being played in. This matchup will be much more important though. Assuming the Zags handle the Gaels in their first matchup, which I think they will, this will be their most important game of the regular season. Gonzaga will be going into St Mary’s house against a team that knows how to beat them and play them better than anyone in the country. Not to mention, this will be the last major hurdle separating Gonzaga from most likely a perfect regular season.
Big Game Honorable Mention
Santa Clara 87, Valparaiso 80 (December 22nd)
This game took place last Thursday and pitted two of the best Mid Major players in the country against each other. The Broncos came into Valparaiso and defeated the Crusaders in a thrilling double overtime game. Santa Clara’s Jared Brownridge and Valpo’s Alec Peters, both who have been Players of the Week on this blog, dueled against each other and they put on a show. Brownridge scored 30 points with 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Peters knocked in 35 points and put in 13 rebounds. They also COMBINED for 12 three pointers and played 99 minutes combined. In a matchup of two Mid Major Player of the Year candidates, this game did not fail to live up to expectations.
Mid Major Ranked Teams (as of 12/30)
7. Gonzaga (12-0)
19. St Mary’s (10-1)
23. Cincinnati (10-2)