Player of the Week
Jalen Adams, G, Sophomore, UCONN
Even though the Connecticut Huskies have struggled to begin the season (2-4), Jalen Adams has been a lone bright spot. Adams is averaging 19.4 points per game, a solid 5 rebounds and a strong 5.7 assists per game. In UCONN’s last three games since last Saturday, Adams has gone for 37, 25 and 27 points. He was up there leading the team in assists and getting a share of rebounds. Adams play is keeping the Huskies close in the games, even the losses. His teammates need to step up and help deliver to get UCONN more wins. He is quickly becoming one of the best players in the American Athletic Conference this season, let alone the country. In a conference with such good guards, watch out for Adams to make some noise.
Zach Collins, C, Freshman, Gonzaga
Zach Collins came into this season as one of the top young centers in college basketball. He was one of the top players recruited out of Nevada and has made an immediate impact with the Bulldogs. On the season, he is averaging 14 points and 6 rebounds per game. In the two games since last week, he went for 18 and 13 points. Head coach Mark Few has praised Collins for bringing intensity and energy off the bench, and this has earned him a solid 18 minutes per game. It’s hard to think about the Bulldogs being even better than they are right now at #11, but they may be soon. They have three players averaging in double figures in points per game and Collins great play should earn him more minutes off the bench, maybe even starting sometime. Collins is a great, young phenom in the West Coast Conference, let alone all of college, and soon in the future he will be a star.
Dedric Lawson, G, Sophomore, Memphis
Lawson enjoyed a nice freshman campaign last season with the Tigers, averaging 15.4 points per game and an impressive 9.3 rebounds per game. The 6’9” rebounding guard is off to a great start this season, averaging 20.8 points per game and 12.3 rebounds per game. In his two games since last week in points and rebounds, he has gone for 21/14 and 20/10. His impact on both scoring and the glass are extremely impactful to this team in their early 4-0 success. He has reached at least 19 points and at least 10 rebounds in all games so far this season. To average a double-double, even so early in the season, is very hard to do. Lawson will be able to show his special skills against Big East foe Providence on Friday and broaden his name recognition.
Amidah Brimah, C, Senior, UCONN
Brimah was one of the last returning members for the 2014 UCONN National Championship team returning this year for his senior season. The Huskies has high expectations going in and they have failed to deliver so far. Brimah was supposed to be one of the team leaders for this season, with his veteran experience and pedigree leading the way. So far this season, the 7-foot center has averaged just 6.7 points per game and 6 rebounds per game. He has hit double figure points or rebounds just once so far and had a minimal impact on the games UCONN played since last week. UCONN is off on the wrong foot in the American Athletic Conference and veteran leaders like Brimah are looked on for guidance and leadership. Brimah will need to improve his play significantly to lead by example and get his Huskies back in contention for the conference.
Top 5 Out-of-Conference Games to Watch For
1. Xavier @ Cincinnati (January 26th)
The Crosstown Classic will be renewed in the heated rivalry between the Big East Musketeers and the American Athletic Conference Bearcats. The Musketeers are undoubtedly one of the top teams in the country, coming in ranked at #9. The Bearcats fell out of the top 25 since last week, but have continued to improve. This matchup always provides sparks. Xavier won this matchup last season 65-55.
2. Gonzaga vs Arizona (December 3rd)
The Bulldogs will battle with the 8th ranked Wildcats at the Staples Center in Los Angeles at the beginning of December. The always dangerous and explosive Arizona Wildcats will battle the high-flying Mark Few coached Gonzaga Bulldogs on a huge stage in the home of the Lakers and Clippers. Oh boy!
3. Rhode Island @ Valparaiso (November 29th)
The 23rd ranked Rhode Island Rams will travel to Valparaiso, Indiana to take on the Horizon League leading Crusaders. Valpo is led by star senior forward Alec Peters and the Rams are led by star junior forward E.C. Matthews. This will be a battle of high scoring conference leaders and player of the year candidates.
4. Valparaiso @ Kentucky (December 7th)
How will Valparaiso follow up their game against Rhode Island? By visiting the number 1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats in Rupp Arena. Alec Peters and the Crusaders will have their hands full against the top team in the SEC, but it will be a great chance to showcase Peters on primetime television.
5. Temple @ Villanova (December 12th)
One of the closest matchups to my heart personally (I am from outside Philadelphia and I grew up rooting on these teams). The 2nd ranked Nova Wildcats and their post-championship team are looking dominant to start the season. Temple is fighting hard in the American Athletic Conference with a 3-2 record. Always one of the hardest fought college basketball matchups between two of the hardest playing teams. It may not be an upset inside The Pavilion, but it certainly may have fireworks.
Mid-Major Ranked Teams
9. Xavier Musketeers
15. St. Mary’s
23. Rhode Island