Week 8 Mid Major Blog
Player of the Week
Jock Landale – C – Saint Mary’s
The 7-foot Australian native Landale is off to a great start in conference play for the Gaels. Against Loyala, he scored 21 points on 9-15 shooting to go with 9 rebounds. In an OT win against BYU, he played 44 minutes and took advantage of the extra time. He scored 31 points and hauled in 13 rebounds to go with 2 blocks and 2 steals. He shot 13-15 from the field. That efficiency is remarkable.
Saint Mary’s, who has had Patrick Mills and Mathew Dellavodova come from Australia and go on the play in the NBA, has won eight games in a row now, and is sitting at 13-2 to go with a 2-0 conference record. Look for the Gaels to challenge Gonzaga for the WCC championship this year.
Kellan Grady – G – Davidson
Over his past three games, Grady has demonstrated his elite scoring ability. The 6’5 freshman shot 7-14 from the field to score 16 points against Hawai’i. He then went 12-19, including 5-9 from three, to score 30 points in a win over Akron. In his most recent game, he scored 25 points on 9-17 shooting, including 4-7 from deep.
What impressed me most about this three-game stretch is the fact that he had zero turnovers throughout it. He has been able to handle the ball frequently in the Wildcats’ offense while being smart. This is a great trait for a guard to have. I would like to see Grady distribute the ball more, but an assist to turnover ratio of 2.0:0.7 is impressive nonetheless.
Rui Hachimura – F – Gonzaga
Hachimura has turned in two fantastic games of late. Against Pacific, he shot 6-8 from the field and 7-7 from the free throw line, scoring 19 points. The following game, he was 4-4 from the field and scored 11 points to go with two steals. He also grabbed three rebounds in each game.
Like Grady, Hachimura had zero turnovers in those two games. This is very impressive, especially for someone who is playing his first conference games.
Kevin Hervey – F – UT Arlington
Hervey, who is having a great season and is an interesting 3-and-D prospect at the next level, has really struggled in his last two games. In a loss to Central Carolina, he shot 3-11 to score 7 points. The 6’9 senior followed that up with an abysmal 5-20 shooting performance in which he scored 12 points and fouled out. He was 1-5 from three in both games. Before these games, he was having a fantastic stretch of play. He should get back into his groove over the next few games.
Markis McDuffie – F – Wichita State
McDuffie was certainly hoping for a stronger return to the Shockers. While he has only played 25 total minutes in two games, he has yet to find a groove. He was 0-2 against FGCU and shot 2-8 against UConn, scoring 3 and 4 points respectively. He has yet to hit a three.
After averaging 11.5 points per game last year, the return was hopefully going to give the Shockers a much-needed boost on offense. It remains to be seen if that will happen, although fans should be patient. Wichita State could really use him getting back to his play from last season to succeed in their first season in the AAC.
1) Wichita State (11-2, 1-0)
I have some concerns about whether or not Wichita State can beat elite teams. Their two losses are to Notre Dame and Oklahoma. None of their wins stick out as particularly impressive to me. With that said, they are a well put together team that plays good defense. Landry Shamet has continued to play well, but they lack a true second option. We will see how they play as they start to play some of the better teams within their conference.
2) Gonzaga Bulldogs (12-3, 2-0)
The Bulldogs have been impressive of late, outside of a bad 72-70 road loss at SDSU. This is one of the best offenses in the nation, scoring over 90 points per game while allowing just over 70. They have six players averaging double figures in points per game. While they may lack a true superstar, they have a number of players that can score 20 on any given night, which makes them difficult to defend and unpredictable offensively. The WCC is not the most difficult conference, and they have missed out on some of their best chances to record quality wins. However, they should continue to grow as a team, and by the end of the season, be able to threaten any team in the country.
3) Cincinnati Bearcats (12-2, 1-0)
The Bearcats had an impressive win over UCLA, and demolished a solid Memphis team in their first game of conference play. They seem to be coming together as a team. Allowing under 60 points a game to opponents is certainly a recipe for success. Now that conference play has begun, they will have a more consistently difficult schedule, which will show how good this team truly is. There is no doubt they are elite defensively, but we will have to see if they can keep up with some of the more high-octane offenses in the country.
4) Saint Mary’s Gaels (13-2, 2-0)
I have touched on some of the Gaels’ issues earlier in the year, including their lack of key contributors outside of Landale, Emmett Naar and Calvin Hermanson. However, Jordan Ford has stepped up of late, and they have looked fantastic since losing two games in a row. Now on an eight-game winning streak, they have started conference play off right, 2-0. This includes an overtime win against a good BYU team. While they will not be tested too much outside of their games against Gonzaga, the team will continue to mesh and get better and better by the time March rolls around. I feel that this team could make a big statement in the tournament.
5) Nevada Wolf Pack (14-3, 3-0)
Off to a 3-0 start in conference play, the Wolf Pack have started well. They defeated a good Wyoming team 92-83 last night behind the play of their starting five. However, their reliance on the starting five could be a concern. They scored 88 of 92 points, and the bench only played 35 minutes total. While all members of the starting unit scored 13 or more, if any of them go down, they suddenly lose significant production.
6) SMU Mustangs (12-3, 2-0)
SMU is another team that is on a hot streak, and has won five games in a row. They have the third best defense in the nation, allowing 59 points per game to opponents. People are not picking them to win the American, but it would not be a huge shock if they did. Shake Milton has continued to have a great season, averaging 16.7 points and over 4.5 rebounds and assists.
7) Houston Cougars (12-2, 2-0)
Houston is playing arguably its biggest game of the season tonight at Wichita State. They have won four games in a row including solid wins over Providence and Temple. Rob Gray will go head to head with Landry Shamet and we will see who comes out on top. If the Cougars can win, they will shoot up these rankings.
8) Rhode Island Rams (10-3, 2-0)
E.C. Matthews has gotten back on track after returning from injury, and so have the Rams. Winners of five straight, Matthews and Jared Terrell have led the charge offensively. They have overcome injury issues and early-season struggles to be the early leaders in the A-10, a conference they should be heavy favorites in.
9) Boise State Broncos (13-2, 3-0)
The Broncos already have a great in-conference win, with an 83-74 victory at UNLV. They have continued to be led by Chandler Hutchison and Justinian Jessup and have gotten off to a fantastic start on the season. This is a team that relies heavily on its star players, which has paid off thus far. We will see if they can continue to play this well in a relatively easy conference.
10) UNLV Running Rebels (12-3, 1-1)
The Running Rebels have one of the best offenses in the nation, coming in 7th in points per game. They are also top 10 in rebounds per game, and top 25 in assists. However, they had a bad home loss to Boise State, and will need to improve if they have any hopes of winning the MWC.
Predicted Winners of Top 5 Mid-Major Conferences
1) American: Cincinnati – While many people will put Wichita State here, I will take the Bearcats due to my lack of faith in the Shockers. I do not think they can beat some of the better teams in the nation, such as Cincinnati.
2) WCC: Gonzaga – I had some faith in Saint Mary’s earlier in the season, but the depth of the Bulldogs will outlast the Gaels in conference play. Gonzaga has too many players that can make key contributions when the starters are not at their best.
3) MWC: Nevada – The Wolf Pack are not the deepest team, but they are the most talented in this conference. The Martin twins and Jordan Caroline lead the charge. If they are able to stay healthy, the team should be the favorite.
4) A10: Rhode Island – While they do not have the best record right now, the return of E.C. Matthews should allow this team to take charge in the conference. He returned just in time to a team that is gaining momentum, and should play well for the rest of the season.
5) WAC: New Mexico State – After a big win against Miami, the Aggies suddenly look much more impressive. They have beaten some good teams this year, and are led by Zach Lofton. They should dominate the conference this year.
Freshamn Spotlight: Kostas Antetokounmpo – F – Dayton
While he has not gotten a ton of minutes, the Greek Freak’s younger brother has had some interesting flashes in limited time. He shoots 58% from the field and averages 5.3 points per game. The 6’10 forward has a 7-foot wingspan. Like Giannis, he may need some time to develop, but he is definitely a prospect worth keeping an eye on. If he can improve his coordination and basketball IQ, he has the physical tools to be a similarly dominant player as his brother, at least at the college level. He will need to cut down on his fouls and turnovers, however, as he commits 3 fouls and 1.5 turnovers in 16 minutes per game.