In the 40 Club

Player of the Week

Tra Holder, Guard, Arizona State

Tra HolderTra HolderArizona State was expected to be much improved this season in Bobby Hurley’s third season. With an abundance of returning talent and improved depth, they have the tools to compete in the Pac-12 at a higher level this year. Who would have expected though that they’d be off to a 6-0 start and knock off one of the top teams in the country by double digits? On Friday the Sun Devils ran through Xavier by a score of 102-86 in a statement non-conference win. Tra Holder singlehandedly outperformed one of the best backcourts in the country for Xavier, scoring 40 points on 14-22 shooting and 5-8 from behind the arc.

Holder has shown moments of offensive explosion over the past couple of seasons, and it seemed to be only a matter of time before he turned in one of these performances. Arizona State has a lethal offensive backcourt that will give teams problems throughout the year. The difference so far this season has been a deeper bench and improved defense. It is still very early in the season, but Arizona State fans have to be pleased with their early improvements from last season. Holder is not a true point guard and is undersized at 6-1 to generate a ton of NBA Draft buzz, but his scoring instincts and playmaking ability on the offensive end will be key all year for Arizona State. Look out for the Sun Devils!

Who’s Hot

Payton Pritchard, Guard, Oregon

Oregon lost an immense amount of production from last year’s Final Four team. As a result, Pritchard was forced to step into a larger role for the Ducks this season. So far, he has handled the transition quite nicely. He has scored in double figures in four consecutive games and is doing so with excellent efficiency. He is shooting over 52 percent from the field and 47 percent from beyond the arc.

Pritchard has always been known as an excellent shooter, but he has also expanded his game beyond just a spot-up shooter. He looks more comfortable off the dribble and currently has better than a 2.5-1 assist to turnover ratio. Saturday’s overtime win against DePaul was his best game yet. Pritchard scored 29 points, added eight assists and also made seven threes on 13 attempts. Oregon still has a long way to go as a team, but Pritchard’s playmaking ability and experience will be a key cog to this year’s team.

Who’s Not

Arizona Wildcats

What is going on with Arizona? The Wildcats came into this week poised for a Battle 4 Atlantis championship game matchup against Villanova, but instead they lost three games in a row in the Bahamas. Now they are not even guaranteed to be ranked in next week’s AP Poll. This was supposed to be arguably Sean Miller’s most talented and deepest team in his entire tenure at Arizona, but it is clear after this week that they have a long way to go still.

Allonzo Trier and DeAndre Ayton have been as good as advertised, combining for 44.8 points per game. However, the offensive production tails off monumentally after those two. Their next highest scorer is Dusan Ristic as 9.8 points per game. It is possible that Rawle Alkins absence is one of the main issues. Alkins is their best perimeter defender and another versatile offensive option. A team as talented as Arizona should not be struggling this much without just him through. Fellow freshmen Emmanuel Akot and Brandon Randolph are both very raw offensively and have struggled to make any lasting impact so far this season. The first loss to NC State was surprising but nothing to agonize over, as NC State has talent and should be much improved this season. SMU is another quality team, but two straight losses to unranked teams was a concerning sign. Then the third loss, by 25 points, to an excellent Purdue showed a complete lack of heart and discipline from the Wildcats. Despite being supremely talented, this team has a lot of visible wholes already. Miller has his work cut out for him.

Top Five Upperclassmen

1. Allonzo Trier, Forward, Arizona

Arizona’s early season struggles have been well documented, but Trier has been one of the few bright spots through six games. His versatile scoring arsenal has been on full display. He is averaging 24.5 points per game on 56 percent shooting from the field on 39 percent on his threes. Trier last season proved to be one of the top offensive guards in the nation, and he looks to be even better so far this year. He is undersized for an NBA two-guard and does not have the characteristics of an NBA point guard. However, he could carve out a solid pro career as a scoring specialist off the bench if he keeps up his play.

2. Reid Travis, Forward, Stanford

Travis just seems to get better and better every year for the Cardinal. The former McDonald’s All-American has always been a double-double machine, but now he is averaging a career-high 20.4 points per game in his final season. He has also increased his free-throw percentage up to 73 percent and even has shown flashes of an added three-point shot. If Travis can be a threat from the outside, good luck defending him.

3. Chimezie Metu, Forward, USC

Metu is another guy that seems to add a new dimension to his game every season. He has always been a physical specimen a 6-11 with excellent length and fluidity, but his skills are starting to catch up some. Metu will be valued in the NBA as a rim protector and lob target offensively, but he has shown flashes of back to the basket post moves and an improving jumper as well. Metu is currently averaging 17.5 points per game, 8.5 rebounds and two blocks per contest as well. Look for him to have a huge year and be one of the key pieces in leading USC to their best season under Andy Enfield.

4. Bennie Boatwright, Forward, USC

Boatwright provides the perfect frontcourt complement to Metu, which is one of the reasons they could be one of the most dynamic duos up front in all of college basketball. Boatwright is a reliable stretch-four man at 6-10 and has some enticing ball skills to go along with it. He has an ideal fit for today’s modern NBA, and his draft stock could soar if he can continue to show consistency from the outside. Boatwright is also a solid rebounder for a guy who does most of his damage from the perimeter. The Trojans have a pair of very talented frontcourt players to work with in these two guys.

5. Aaron Holiday, Guard, UCLA

Holiday did not really have the opportunity to showcase how good he is last year, as he came off the bench behind some excellent guards. However, the scoring and playmaking ability was obvious, and we are starting to see how good he really is this season. Holiday leads UCLA so far in both points (17.2 PPG) and assists (5.6 APG) so far. His efficiency could be better, but he has been asked to do a lot with a young team this season. Expect Holiday and UCLA to pick things up and be a serious challenger in the Pac-12 as the season progresses.

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