Player of the Week

Jae Crowder

Crowder has made a late season push for conference player of the year honors, after scoring 29 in a road win over UConn, 27 in a blowout over Rutgers, and just recently 26 in Marquette’s best conference road-win of the year at West Virginia.

He’s 36 for his last 58 (62%) from the floor, contributing both on the interior and the perimeter. He plays a lot bigger than he is, with a similar physical mold to Larry Johnson (without the athleticism)- a small power forward who appears larger than he is. Crowder’s been the ideal sidekick to Darius Johnson-Odom, and has helped make up for the production lost when Chris Otule went down with a knee injury months ago.

Heatin’ Up

D’Angelo Harrison, St Johns

Harrison dropped 22 in a win over UCLA, 23 in a win over DePaul and 15 in a win over Notre Dame. He got to the line (20 for 24), looking aggressive and prolific scoring the ball. Really nice three game winning steak for Harrison and St. Johns.

Coolin’ Off

Travon Woodall, Pittsburgh

He’s shooting 26% over the last five games, all of which in losses. Woodall hasn’t hit a three over his last three games. Against Louisville he was a liability, shooting 2-10 with 6 turnovers. Woodall was hot for most of the year, but that flame has been diminished. Or completely doused.

Top Five Conference Player of the Year Candidates

1. Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette

He’s been the rock for a team that has separated itself from the slush accumulating under Syracuse. Arguably the most consistent scorer in the conference, DJO has scored 17 or more in 20 of his 28 games played, averaging 18 on the year and 45% from downtown. And he’s been at his best down the stretch, averaging over 22 a game in four consecutive convincing wins, two of which on the road. His sense of floor-leadership and reliability have helped to eliminate some of the mystery involved with predicting how a college basketball team is going to perform. With West Virginia winning only 2 of their last 9 games, I think the weight has shifted towards Johnson-Odom. The Golden Eagles are 13-3 in conference.

2. Kevin Jones, West Virginia

Jones has had a spectacular season when you consider his production as a junior. He’s averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds, improving dramatically in both facets of the game. As Jones numbers increased, so did his confidence, which showed late in games as a shooter on the perimeter. I had him as the favorite throughout the year, but with West Virginia’s collapse and Jones’ declining production, I feel obligated to go with a more frequent winner. Still, he’s put himself back on the NBA draft radar, and has helped keep the Mountaineers relevant in the process.

3. Herb Pope, Seton Hall

Pope entered the year with a rejuvenated spring, even taking his game out to the perimeter. He’s become a more dynamic scorer, complimenting his ferocious interior pursuit with some nimble mobility facing up. Pope’s resurgence, or emergence, has given life to a Seton Hall team that looked destined for the NIT. He’s averaging 15 and 10 while shooting 35% from downtown, and has Seton Hall in position to dance with a strong conference tournament performance.

4. Fab Melo, Syracuse

He’s simply been the MVP for the best team in the conference. That’s the only argument here. Without Melo, Syracuse looked vulnerable. Their only loss of the season came with him out of the lineup. He’s become a defensive game-changer, disrupting offenses while negating teammates’ defensive mistakes. Offensively is no different. A constant alley-oop threat off guard-penetration, he’s made himself a threat and challenge for opposing defenses. He cleaned up a CJ Fair miss in the closing seconds to take the lead over UConn, which metaphorically reflects his overall impact on the team’s success.

5. Jae Crowder, Marquette

He’s been just as important to Marquette as Johnson-Odom, but hasn’t been as consistent. Still, 17 and 7 while contributing in crunch time for the second best team in the conference gets your name on the ballot.

Weekly Thoughts

– Notre Dame shot 61% from the floor and 9-16 from downtown in a blowout win over West Virginia. They followed by shooting 37% from the floor and 4-31 from downtown in a loss to St. Johns. Make em’ you win, miss em’ you lose. Simple game.

– Congratulations to South Florida, who with a win over Cincinnati looked to have penetrated the bubble. They close the year on the road at Louisville and at home at WV. A win over either would be HUGE.

– Andre Drummond was excellent against Syracuse. 17 points, 14 boards, 3 blocks head to head with Melo. Promising sign moving forward.

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