Player of the WeekTravon Woodall
Woodall has really excelled with the ball in his hands, not only as a playmaker but as a scorer alongside Ashton Gibbs. He dropped 29 points, 6 boards and 5 assists in a win over Villanova after finishing with 24 in a huge win over West Virginia.
And how about this for accuracy (Remember, he’s listed as 5’11): Over the last two he’s 15 for 24 from the floor, 6 for 11 from downtown and 17 for 17 from the line. And while those numbers won’t rock your world, consider his career percentages over the past three years: 36% FG, 26% from downtown, 70% FT
It’s almost as if the rim’s circumference expanded this year for Woodall, who is shooting 49% from the floor, 44% from three and 90% from the line. Sometimes it just takes a few years before everything starts to click (Kevin Jones, Marshon Brooks). With Woodall back playing the point, he’s made Gibbs’ life easier as a scorer, and has rejuvenated a team that lost 8 consecutive league contests. Pittsburgh is now on a 4-game winning steak, and own strong wins over Georgetown and West Virginia.
LaDontae Henton SF, Providence
Henton has been a pleasant surprise for Providence, and frankly hasn’t received the appropriate coverage thanks to his team’s lackluster record.
Henton is averaging 8.8 rebounds per game, an awesome number for a 6’6 forward who’s built like a slasher or wing. He’s getting heavy minutes at 37 a game, but has produced for the Friars in practically every statistical category that correlates with his role. He’s scored in double figures 20 out of his 24 games played as a freshman, and his currently 21 for his last 29 from the field (72%). He’s also 10 for his last 14 from downtown, and is averaging 13.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
Ashton Gibbs G, Pittsburgh
Gibbs’ improved shooting can be directly related to the return of Woodall, as he’s getting better looks without having to create them himself. He averaged 20 a game this week on 55% shooting.
Shabazz Napier G, Connecticut
This could be the ugliest cold streak of any Big East player this year. He followed up a 35 minute, 0 for 7 performance to Notre Dame with an 0 for 9 showing at Georgetown. He finished 1 for 6 at home vs. Seton Hall on Saturday. That’s 1 for his last 22 if your still counting.
Todd Mayo, G, Marquette
Mayo got caught running full-speed into a freshman wall. How’s this for a slump: He’s converted one field goal over the last four games (1-14, no FGs over past three games). Mayo’s a player who needs rhythm, and with Buzz Williams slashing his minutes, Mayo has struggled to wisely pick and choose his spots.
Top Five Frontcourts
I had to name them all because they all play significant roles. Really nice mix of skills here, covering all grounds outside a consistent offensive post game. Fab Melo’s mobility and protection of the rim, Joseph’s athleticism on the wing, CJ Fair’s versatility and motor, Keita’s strength and Southerland’s range. When no player has to play more than 25 minutes a night, the energy level and activity on the interior never dies. With Syracuse’s depth, opponents will always be competing against fresh legs.
Sims looks great this year after expanding his overall offensive game. We’ve seen him spin baseline on back-to-the-basket opportunities, showing quickness and strong instincts. We’ve seen him knock down open jumpers out to 15 feet. And of course his ability to facilitate out of the post means open jumpers for guys like Hollis Thompson. Thompson has NBA range and athletic ability he doesn’t use nearly as much as he should. With Otto Porter contributing both inside and out, the Hoyas’ front court is diverse, productive and efficient.
While this group certainly hasn’t been consistent, they’re as intimidating as any front court in the conference when on their game. Drummond’s athleticism in terms of finishing and protecting the rim will always be unmatched. His soft touch facing up from midrange makes him that much tougher to defend. Olander and Smith are admirable "dirty work" type of guys who give the Huskies needed minutes from their bench. The key to this line is Oriakhi, who just hasn’t yet figured it out. With great size, length and mobility, he’s an effective post defender but struggles to get easy buckets. Generally when he’s good, so is UConn.
4. West Virginia ( Deniz Kilici, Kevin Jones)
That’s all you need to make the top five front court list in this guard-heavy conference. Jones has been arguably the best player in the Big East, hurting opponents from practically every spot on the floor. Kilicli on the other hand has been a really nice compliment as a grizzly forward who can operate out of the post. Both of these two are tough, hard-working competitors who bring it every night. I can assure you that opposing front courts do not look forward to visiting West Virginia.
5. St. Johns (God’sGift Achiuwa, Moe Harkless, Sir’Dominic Pointer)
I like this young trio, and expect them all to improve as individuals moving forward. Pointer was the most highly-touted recruit coming in, but took a backseat in terms of scoring to more ball-dominant players like Nurideen Lindsey and Moe Harkless. But as a role player I like his potential once he fully adjusts as a sophomore or junior. Harkless (and Drummond if he stays) has the potential to be the best player in the conference next year, thanks to a unique skill-set and physical tools. Achiuwa had some nice moments playing in the middle, and should only get better with a rise in reps, comfort and confidence. Between his size, Harkless’ talent and length, and Pointer’s athleticism, St. John’s has a lot to look forward to next year.
– Notre Dame coach Mike Brey is a damn genius. Gets the best out of what he has, which was reflective after the Irish smoked a more talented and athletic Marquette team off the floor. Shout-out to freshman Pat Connaughton, who finished with 23 points and 11 boards. Notre Dame spaces the floor extremely well, which allow guys like Connaughton to get open looks on a regular basis.
– Kevin Jones now has 9 straight games scoring over 20 points. He’s currently driving the Big East Player of the Year bus.
– Jeremy Lamb could have had his worst game of the season at Georgetown. 4 for 18, 2 for 11 from downtown. Whether it’s laziness, indifference or a lack of understanding, Lamb needs to make some adjustments. If UConn doesn’t reach the tournament it will be a reflection on him.
– If there was a statistic for shots altered, Fab Melo would be at the top. I can’t emphasize how much his interior presence means to the Orange, both on offense and defense.
*Follow Jonathan Wasserman on twitter @NBADraftnetWass