Player of the Week
Chandler Hutchison – G – Boise State
Hutchison had one of the more impressive performances of the season, scoring 44 points on 15-21 shooting against SDSU. They needed all of his points to eke out an 83-80 win at home. Hutchison was 7-10 from three and 7-9 at the stripe. He also hauled in 8 rebounds.
Against Utah State, Hutchison bounced back from a rough first half to finish with 16 points on 7-15 shooting. He has really claimed full control of the team as of late, and it has led to great results for the Broncos. He is currently averaging 19.6 points per game on 47% shooting, 41% from deep. He also averages 8 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal.
Landry Shamet – G – Wichita State
Shamet has been fantastic in conference play. He has continued his hot shooting to the point that he now averages 16 points a game on 55% from the field and 52% from three. He also has been gradually upping his assists numbers, which now sit at 6 per game to just 2 turnovers. In the loss to SMU, he recorded his second double-double of the week, with 20 points and 10 assists.
Shamet is a smart plyer who does not force his shot. He lets the game come to him, and it has led to results for him in this fantastic season he is having. If he wants to improve, he may need to take on more of an alpha role for the Shockers, who lack a true lead scoring option.
Shake Milton – G – SMU
Milton has increased his scoring and efficiency of late, generally a great combination. Against Temple, he scored 25 on 8-12 shooting. He was 4-7 from three and 5-6 from the line. He also was able to get 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. Against Wichita State, he scored 33 on 11-14 shooting with 3 rebounds and 5 assists.
Milton now averages 18 points a game on efficient shooting. He also gets 4.5 rebounds and assists while keeping turnovers low at 2.3 per game. He gets 1.5 steals per game as well. This team will go as far as Shake can take them.
Brandon McCoy – C – UNLV
McCoy has recently found himself in foul trouble and not making the contributions he was once making. He had 8 points and 5 rebounds before fouling out against Air Force, and followed that up with 9 points and 6 rebounds against New Mexico. He had four fouls that game, and only played 19 minutes per game as a result.
McCoy’s game leaves more to be desired. There has been a lack of development outside the paint in his play, leaving scouts to wonder what his role could be at the next level. His stock has been falling throughout the season, and while he could very well still make a good backup center, I need to see more athleticism and shooting to really consider him a lottery talent.
UCF Knights (12-6, 3-3)
Outside of Tacko Fall, who is shooting 77% from the field on the year and averaging 11 points per game, the Knights lack an offense. They scored 38 points against Cincinnati. While they have the third-best defense in the nation in terms of scoring allowed, their offense is very close to the absolute bottom (343rd). If the Knights want to make a run in the American, and they have a defense to do it, they need to find legitimate scoring options and run a better offense.
1) Cincinnati Bearcats (16-2, 5-0)
The Bearcats have been excellent in conference play. Their defense has continued to dominate, allowing 57.2 points per game, the second lowest in all of division one basketball. Gary Clark recorded 14 rebounds to go with 17 points against UCF, which had a final score of 49-38. As long as Cincinnati can get enough points, which they have shown the ability to do, they fare very well in low-scoring games with a slower pace. Jacob Evans has been able to showcase his diverse skillset this season, with impressive numbers across the board. While many people picked Wichita State over them in preseason rankings, the Bearcats have looked fantastic in the early parts of their conference schedule, and have continued to come together as a well-rounded, defensive-minded team. They have also shown an ability to perform well on the road, something that was in question a month ago.
2) Gonzaga Bulldogs (16-3, 6-0)
It becomes harder to judge some of these mid-major teams as their competition level declines, but Gonzaga has continued to impress with a wide array of players who can make positive contributions. Both Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie have gotten up to double digit scoring averages, and Josh Perkins is still shooting the deep ball at an impressive rate of 45%. While they may not face a ton of quality competition in conference play, they have already faced a number of very good teams earlier in the season. The schedule will also allow coach Mark Few to see what he has in all of his players, and know that he is running the best possible lineups come March.
3) Wichita State Shockers (15-3, 5-1)
The Shockers have had an interesting season. To me, they have been somewhat overhyped as the great mid-major hope. Yes, Landry Shamet is excellent and has only been improving of late. However, I see a lack of top-end talent, and a relatively unimpressive resume up to this point. Their early season road win against Baylor looks less impressive considering the Bears are now 12-6 and 7th in the Big 12. The same can be said for the one-point loss to Notre Dame, who were undefeated at the time and now stand at 13-6. While Wichita State has a plethora of solid role players, Shamet would at best be the second-best player on a championship-caliber team. The loss against SMU reaffirmed my suspicions about this team, and we will see how they rebound from it.
4) Saint Mary’s Gaels (17-2, 6-0)
Saint Mary’s has now won 12 games in a row. As with Gonzaga, the quality of competition has dropped off for the Gaels. That is what makes their impending matchup tomorrow so huge for both teams. It could easily make the difference of at least one seed. Saint Mary’s is still looking for a signature win, and going into Gonzaga and defeating them would be exactly that. I believe that Saint Mary’s will have the best player in the game, Jock Landale, but it may ultimately come down to depth, something they have been lacking all year.
5) Boise State Broncos (16-3, 6-1)
Led by Chandler Hutchison, who scored 44 points against SDSU in a huge game, the Broncos are looking tournament-bound. They have had a very similar season to Nevada, and the upcoming matchup between the two for early supremacy of the MWC should be a very competitive game. The Broncos’ one in-conference loss came on the road by one point to Wyoming. This is a team that has played very well in crunch time overall, and has won a much more close games than they have lost.
6) Nevada Wolf Pack (17-3, 6-0)
The Wolf Pack rebounded well following a loss going into conference play. Along with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline, Kendall Stephens has emerged as a great fourth scoring option. My main concern with this team is the lack of size. They do not have a true big man, rather a number of players who are around 6’7 and can do a variety of things. This has worked to this point very effectively, but I wonder how they will fare against the likes of Brandon McCoy when they meet UNLV on 2/7. Until then, they should be fully focused on their next game against Boise State.
7) Rhode Island Rams (14-3, 6-0)
The Rams have won 9 games straight. Jared Terrell has maintained his impressive season, averaging 17.6 points on 46/40/85 shooting splits. When E.C. Matthews returned, there was no drop off for Terrell. Both guards have been able to play off one another and it has led to fantastic results. Rhode Island should be viewed as the heavy favorites in the A10 at the moment. They played some good teams earlier in the season, and when that is combined with their impressive record, this is a team that will likely end up with a very respectable resume.
8) SMU Mustangs (13-6, 3-3)
SMU lost three games in a row, leading to some questions about how strong of a team they truly were. Then they beat Wichita State 83-78 on the road. Shake Milton scored 33 points on 11-14 shooting, which includes 5-6 from deep. In the previous game, Milton scored 25 on 8-12. He is having a very impressive junior season, at 17.5 points to go with 4.5 rebounds and assists per game. Due to their lack of consistency, the Mustangs may end up as a bubble team that could compete with the best on any given night. They have some phenomenal wins, but the bad losses are beginning to pile up.
9) Houston Cougars (14-4, 4-2)
Despite not putting forth their greatest effort in a road loss to Wichita State, I have still been impressed with Rob Gray and the Cougars. Their point differential is +13. If Houston can beat the teams they are supposed to and hang in the conference with the Shockers and Cincinnati, they will have a good chance of playing in March. The American is extremely underrated, and can definitely compete with weaker power five conferences team-for-team.
10) Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (13-5, 5-0)
WKU has won six games in a row behind the strong play of Darius Thompson, who had a 33-point triple double in a win over Marshall. Conference USA has a number of good teams, but WKU is my choice as the best of the bunch at the moment, mainly due to their early season wins against Purdue and SMU. If they can continue to beat lower-level teams and compete with the best of them, this Hilltoppers team is good.
Top 5 Freshmen Watch
1) Brandon McCoy – C – UNLV
Despite my earlier comments, McCoy is still the best freshman getting consistent minutes for a mid-major program. He is averaging just under 19 points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes per game. He is at 60% from the field and a respectable 69% from the line. He is also at 1.5 blocks per game. Look for McCoy to continue to dominate smaller big men down low.
2) Kellan Grady – G – Davidson
The 6’5 guard immediately took control of the offense upon coming to Davidson. He is averaging 16 points per game on 50% from the field and 40% from deep. He also averages 3 rebounds and 2 assists while having only 0.6 turnovers per game. These levels of efficiency for a freshman is very impressive. Grady has looked like a veteran all season long, and has the numbers to show for it.
3) Jordan Goodwin – G – Saint Louis
The 6’3 guard has had a very interesting season. He is starting to shoot better, now at 35% from the field and 20% from three. In his past two games, he has stuffed the stat sheet. He had 9 points, 9 rebounds, 11 assists and 2 blocks against George Mason with 0 turnovers. He then had a triple double with 15 rebounds and 4 blocks against Duquesne. If he continues to shoot better than he was early on, he is a very intriguing prospect.
4) Ethan Chargois – F – SMU
Chargois has been very impressive as a freshman, with shooting splits of 51/42/65. He is averaging 12 points and 5 rebounds for a good SMU team. He was also impressive last night in the win against Wichita State, a team that is loaded with good forwards. Chargois is a great player to have, someone who can do a little of everything while maintaining good efficiency.
5) Josh Anderson – G – WKU
After finally being cleared by the NCAA, Anderson if off to a strong start finding his groove in college basketball. The 6’6 guard is shooting 69% from the field, albeit a small sample size. He also averages 2 rebounds a steal. With more minutes and practice, I am confident that Anderson will continue to show signs of improvement. This is a big addition for this team, and their upcoming play should reflect that. They are undefeated since his return, at 3-0.