Player of the Week
Landry Shamet – G – Wichita State
Shamet has been very impressive over these past two games in the Maui Invitational for the Shockers. Against Cal, the team was off to a surprisingly slow start and was having trouble dealing with the full court press, with a lot of early game turnovers.
Shamet gave Wichita State a much-needed spark by hitting a few first half threes on the way to finishing with 23 points on 8-10 shooting. Shaquille Morris added 25 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks.
In the following game against Marquette, it was once again Shamet who led the Shockers to victory. He shot 7-12 and scored 19 points, adding 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He had one turnover in each of the two games, impressive for someone who handles the ball as much as he does.
On the season, his shooting splits are 65/62/94. He has seen his scoring increase 6 points a game from last year despite taking almost the same amount of shots per game. One thing I would like to see from him is more steals. He went from averaging 1.7 per game as a freshman to now having one in four games as a junior.
Temple opened their season Thursday and played three games in four nights. The short rest seemed to have no effect on their 3-0 start, including two impressive out-of-conference wins against Auburn and Clemson.
Throughout these games, junior guard Shizz Alston Jr has been averaging 18.3 points a game shooting 57% from the field and 56% from deep. He has yet to miss a free throw in his 14 attempts this season. Additionally, he has 4.7 rebounds a game to go with 3 assists. He has only 2 turnovers all season.
The Owls have also been receiving contributions from sophomore guard Quinton Rose. The 6-8 guard has shown the ability to rebound, push the ball, and get to the line. In their first game of the season against Old Dominion, he took 11 free throws, making 7. Although he only scored 10 points against Clemson, he was able to pull in 11 rebounds.
Overall on the season, Rose is averaging 16.3 points a game with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. A 4-15 shooting night dropped his field goal percentage to 40, but shooting 5-8 from deep against Auburn is very encouraging. He is also averaging 1.7 steals a game. If Rose can keep his turnovers down (3.7 a game), he is a very interesting prospect as a 6-8 player that is comfortable with the ball.
Killian Tillie – F – Gonzaga
The sophomore forward led Gonzaga to a 79-66 win over Utah State with a new career high of 20 points. Tillie shot 8-11 from the field, including 8-9 from inside the arc. He was 4-4 from the stripe.
The French forward also had 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and a steal in 35 minutes. He did this all without a turnover. Tillie saw his minutes significantly increase in this game, as coach Mark Few appears to be gaining confidence in him. The departure of many of Gonzaga’s key players from last year’s amazing run leaves many minutes and shots open, and so far, Tillie appears to be the benefactor.
For a 6-10 forward, Tillie has impressive ball handling skills. If he can improve on the defensive end, this is an elite prospect that all NBA teams with have on their radar.
Shakur Juiston – F – UNLV
While most people have been, rightfully, talking about Center Brandon McCoy, Juiston has shown an elite ability to rebound the ball. The 6-7 forward recorded 12, 18 and 19 rebounds in the Rebels’ three games this week. He has also been able to distribute, averaging 3.8 assists on the year to go with 13.3 points and 14.8 rebounds. He is shooting 65% from the field, while having only 1.3 turnovers a game.
Juiston, a JUCO recruit, has been very impressive in the early going for UNLV. He has been able to keep his fouls and turnovers down, which is key for a big man. Pairing him with McCoy has made their frontcourt a force to be reckoned with.
McCoy has continued to light up his opponents as well, making 7 shots in each of his three games this week. He is now averaging 20 points a game on 59% shooting to go with 11.8 rebounds a game.
One thing that still remains to be determined on McCoy is his free throw shooting. Against PV A&M, he shot 1-7 from the stripe, DeAndre Jordan numbers. However, in the game against Rice, McCoy was 9-10 from the line. Overall, he is at 62%, but I am interested to see whether that will go up or down with an increased sample size.
Conner Frankamp – G – Wichita State
There were high expectations going into the season for the senior guard, and he has yet to deliver. Against Cal he was simply awful, scoring 3 points on 1-11 shooting from the field. The supposed three-point marksman was 1-8 from downtown. Although he was able to pick things up against Marquette to score 13 points on 5-10 shooting, Frankamp has yet to make a big impact on this Shockers team like expected.
The guard had one assist in two games this week, and was unable to get to the line to attempt a single free throw. On the season, he has been there once (2-2). If he is not distributing the ball and not hitting his threes, the 6-1 guard is effectively useless.
While he has seen the volume of his shot attempts increase, it has not led to success. On the season, he is shooting 38% from the field and only 30% from deep. If Wichita State hopes to make a deep tournament run in March, they will need more from their sharpshooter.
Atlantic 10 Conference
One of the few conferences to have no undefeated teams left, the A-10 finishes a tough week in which their teams were unable to win résumé-building out-of-conference games. Nevada continued their destruction of the A-10 with an 81-68 victory over Davidson last night. Senior forward and leading scorer Peyton Aldridge was not up to the task for Davidson, following up his 37-point performance by shooting 4-11 and finishing with 13 points.
Saint Louis was able to get an impressive win with a 77-71 victory over Virginia Tech, but got absolutely destroyed the following day in a 90-63 blowout against Providence. Top-100 recruit Jordan Goodwin has yet to find a way to score the ball, shooting an abysmal 21% from the field and 6% from deep. He averaged 9.3 points a game on 12 attempts. He has been able to contribute in other ways with 7.3 rebounds, 5 assists and 3.3 steals per game, but if the Billikens want to be a good team, he will have to score the ball. VCU lost to both Marquette and UVA before beating Cal, another team that could have used the wins. The A-10 will need to take advantage of games like these in the future, and come ready to play.
The Top 5 Mid-Major Conferences
1) AAC: Adding Wichita State made this already elite conference the clear top of the class. The Shockers, along with Cincinnati, are the top two mid-major teams in the nation as of now. Throw in other good teams such as UConn, Temple, SMU and UCF and you have a legitimately good conference, one that could even compete against a down power conference such as the Pac-12.
2) WCC: Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s do most of the heavy lifting for this conference, but two top-25 teams are enough to slot them at number two. If BYU were to improve, that would also help their case. While the conference championship game is essentially already locked in, it will be interesting to follow these teams as they have some talented players.
3) MWC: There are a lot of good teams in this conference, albeit no great ones. Nevada appears to be the top of the class, followed by SDSU, UNLV, and Boise State. This conference tournament should be very interesting, as it is hard to predict a winner or even the finalists, unlike the previous two listed.
4) A-10: Despite the A-10 blowing some great opportunities, this is still a conference filled with talent. Rhode Island, Davidson, VCU, St. Bonaventure and St. Joseph’s are all talented teams. If the conference as a whole can start to win some of their games against the major 6 conferences, it will reflect positively for all of them.
5) MVC: The MVC was hurt badly by the departure of Wichita State, but they still are just barely able to crack my top five. Loyola-Chicago and Valparaiso are the class of the conference, but honestly, do not expect any of these teams to make it past the first weekend in March, if they even make it to Saturday.