Player of the Week
Marcus Marshall, G, Senior, Nevada Wolf Pack
The first-year Wolf and off season transfer has been a force for Nevada this season. Usually I talk about their star forward Cam Oliver on this blog, but this week it’s time to give recognition to Marshall. This season, he is averaging 19.7 points per game, 2.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists. He has paced the Pack to a six-game win streak to win the Mountain West Conference. Prior to Saturday, he had scored at least 20 points in his previos four games and has 17 games this season with at least 20 points.
While Cam Oliver provides the force down low under the basket, Marshall gives Nevada an outer presence and can stretch the floor. For a long time this season, Nevada was cruising in first place in the Mountain West, but Colorado State made a surge late season to tie them setting up Saturday's showdown, which Nevada won 85-72. Marshall is the leader scoring on this Nevada squad and gives them their pop from outside the paint. With him and Oliver helping Nevada in defeating Colorado State to win the regular season title, getting into the Big Dance will be much easier. Marshall and Oliver could wreak havoc on any team they play in the NCAA Tourney and Marshall could facilitate some upsets.
Jimmy Hall, F, Senior, Kent State Golden Flashes
In the last couple of weeks, the MAC has been getting some more recognition for all the right reasons. This week, Kent State forward Jimmy Hall has impressed. He has the Golden Flashes on a five-game winning streak at the end of the regular season, sitting 18-12 overall and 10-7 in conference. Hall is averaging a double-double this season, with 18.3 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per contest. He has an astounding 17 double-doubles on the season and three in a row and has 15 games of 20 or more points this season. Kent State had been inconsistent most of the year, but recently they have turned it around and have been playing excellent, holding opponents to an average of just under 70 points. Jimmy Hall can be looked at as one of the biggest contributing factors behind their late season surge. With one game remaining on the regular season docket, they plan to host the MAC East leading Akron Zips, who Kent State beat on the road a few weeks back. If they beat Akron, take sole possession of second place in the East and establish themselves as the hottest team in the MAC going into their conference tournament, look out! Jimmy Hall could be a hero if he can get the Golden Flashes dancin’ and with the way he and the team are playing, they have a good shot to pull it off.
Many will say they are shocked the Flyers came back in the Atlantic Ten and took back first place. Many will say it was business as usual for Dayton. While I won’t pick a side, I will say that this looked predictable with the way they have been playing lately. Back at the end of January, Dayton traveled to play VCU and lost a tough game 73-68 and VCU gained sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Ten. For the next five weeks, VCU held that title, but by the slimmest of margins. What did Dayton do after the loss? Only got better, that’s what! They ripped off eight consecutive wins leading up to their next rematch with VCU and looked like the most dominant team in the conference, like Dayton usually had been under head coach Archie Miller. On 3/1, they hosted VCU in a battle of first place and held on to win 79-72 and claim first place back in the Atlantic Ten. Now if they hold on to beat George Washington to end the season, they will win at least a share of the Atlantic Ten for the second straight season and have great chances to head to the NCAA Tournament again. Archie Miller is a great coach of this team and year after year, he gets his team playing their best basketball at the end and into the postseason. They seemed primed to do just that again.
Alec Peters, F, Senior, Valparaiso Crusaders
This is truly a terrible place to end up for such a star player, but unfortunately this is the situation he is in now. Peters had been a dominant, forceful presence all season long when he played. He was averaging 23 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game and leading the Crusaders in the Horizon League Conference. Peters had missed the last couple games at the end of the season with a lower body injury. Upon further evaluation, it was confirmed that he had a stress fracture in his leg and would be forced to miss the rest of the season.
This is one of the worst stories in college basketball this season. In his senior year, Peters had set the Valparaiso records for career points and rebounds and was having the best season of his career. He was leading the Crusaders to first place in the Horizon League and his high level of play was projecting him to be drafted this off season. Now, he will be forced to watch and hope his team can hang on and win their conference or conference tournament or receive an at-large bid to the Big Dance. It’s a terrible way to end a greatly successful college career and in a season that was looking so promising to get to the post season. It will be very interesting to see how Valpo finishes the season without Peters and if they can make it to the NCAA Tournament without him.
Top Mid Major Conference Tournaments To Watch
5. West Coast Conference
The regular season title is going to be won by the fourth ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs, that is not in question. The conference tournament really should not be that interesting until the title game when Gonzaga will presumably play Saint Mary’s. Saint Mary’s is one of the toughest opponents Gonzaga plays every year, especially for the third time each year. If and when they presumably meet in the conference title game, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. Gonzaga will probably only have one loss still and will have beaten the Gaels twice this season. Will Gonzaga finish them off a third time and win the regular and conference titles or will the Gaels find a way to finally beat them and make it “third time’s a charm”?
4. Missouri Valley Conference
Both teams are tied with a 17-1 in conference record heading into the conference tournament, with each team’s losses coming to the other on the road. Both squads are the far more dominant teams in the conference and are the heavy favorites to make it to the conference title game. This would bring a third game this season between the two teams to decide who gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Both teams are very good and it’s anyone’s guess who could win on a neutral court.
3. Mountain West Conference
As mentioned before, the regular season title will come down to Nevada or Colorado State and decide the number one and two seeds for the conference tournament. These conference is much closer than the other two conference in that there are more teams near the top of the standings and that pose bigger threats than just the top two teams. The conference tournament could go many ways, but if it goes per plan, Nevada and Colorado State will have another rematch on a neutral site for the title.
2. Atlantic Ten Conference
On 3/4, the one and two seed will be decided for the conference tournament between VCU and Dayton. The Atlantic Ten is much more talented than any of the previous three mentioned and their conference tournament could go any which way. VCU or Dayton or both could easily get knocked off early and not get an auto bid into the Big Dance. As much as a VCU/Dayton rematch in the title game would be sweet, just how the rest of the conference plays out could be just as entertaining.
1. American Athletic Conference
After an epic regular season that saw SMU and Cincinnati both battle it out in two intense games, SMU took the conference lead with two games to go at the end of the regular season. If they hold on to win both, they will secure the number one seed heading into the conference tournament. Outside of the Mustangs and Bearcats, the rest of the conference is a couple notches down. SMU and Cincinnati have both been ranked teams most of the year (SMU is 14 and Cincinnati is 18 right now). The odds of them getting to the conference title game are very high (unless UCONN finds some March magic they have had so many times). Let’s be honest: we WANT another rematch between these two teams. Both two of the top defenses in the whole country (both in the top 10 in points allowed) and have put on shows in both match ups this season. Both teams will be dancin’ in March regardless and both have great potential to go pretty far. The teams that have the best chance of beating them in March: themselves.