Player of the Week
Filip Petrusev, PF/C, Gonzaga Bulldogs
When Killian Tillie went down a week ago, all seemed grim over the Gonzaga campus in Spokane, Washington. The seasoned veteran leads the way for the Bulldogs making his injury that much more demoralizing. Thankfully for the Gonzaga faithful, Filip Petrusev took the reins and the Zags have not skipped a beat. On the most balanced team in the country, Petrusev has recently emerged out of the pack as the leading scorer and main offensive threat. A 25-point average over the past three games without Tillie is a remarkable feat and the main reason why Gonzaga’s long 16 game winning streak has prevailed.
The 6’11 sophomore is not just emerging as the leading scorer for the Zags, but he is also emerging as a top prospect for the NBA. His silky, smooth touch around the basket, to go along with his decent talent off the dribble to back down and get past defenders, capped off by his excellent ability to gain and retain great positioning on his opponents is what makes this young talent so special.
Jalen Harris, PG/SG, Nevada Wolfpack
Jalen Harris might just be one of the hottest players in the nation with the run he is on in his last three contests. In the absence of senior point guard Jazz Johnson, Harris is putting on shooting clinics in an effort to keep Nevada afloat in their NCAA Tournament push. Even though the Wolfpack have lost two of three, Harris has scored 30+ in each and is shooting 48% from distance in that span.
After a transfer a transfer from Louisiana Tech and sitting out the 2018-19 season, Harris has flourished in his new role as the premier scorer and playmaker for Nevada. To go along with his 20 points, Harris also collects six rebounds and four assists per game. The 6’5 junior is easily the most complete player on the team and his versatile skillset may just grab the attention of scouts for this upcoming draft or the one to follow.
Anthony Lamb, SF, Vermont Catamounts
When you think about some of the best four-year stars in the mid-major conferences, Anthony Lamb has to come to mind. Lamb is a four-year starter who has reached the big dance twice already in his illustrious career. The reigning America East player of the year and all-defensive first team player is surging on both sides of the ball as of late.
Lamb has scored 19, 33, and 17 points in his last three games respectively and has also picked up both a block and a steal in each game, which is right on his average defensively. Looking ahead, Lamb could be a great pickup for an NBA team as he can shoot from all over the floor and can play suffocating defense to earn himself some minutes early on in his career.
Orlando Robinson, PF/C, Fresno State Bulldogs
One of the surprise breakout players among the mid-major teams is Orlando Robinson of Fresno State. The 6’10 true freshman averages 12 points and seven rebounds on a below average Fresno State team, but he is showing promise to move on to the next level. The three-star prospect came in relatively unnoticed, but a breakout campaign has him on NBA scouts’ radars.
In his latest game, however, Robinson struggled against Nico Carvacho, a physical big man on the Colorado State Rams. This is not the first time Carvacho has held him in check either. In two games against the Rams this season, Robinson has scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds in total. This struggle against a relatively unknown big man is a concern for the freshman who will go up against even stronger centers at the next level should he enter the draft this offseason.
New Mexico Lobos, 16-8, Mountain West Conference
Early on, New Mexico looked like a dangerous sleeper team with a tandem of stars that came from powerhouse programs. Jaquan Lyle, an Ohio State transfer, and Carlton Bragg, Jr, a Kansas transfer, were tearing it up at their new home. Unfortunately for the duo, continuous off the court issues have brought them to rock bottom. Bragg has been dismissed from the team and Lyle has missed four consecutive games after a knee injury and a suspension due to a shooting that took place outside of a house he rented last weekend.
Needless to say, there is a lot more going on than just basketball in the lives of these two young men. This troubling season for the both of them has also brought down the Lobos who are nursing a three-game losing streak and a five loss stretch over the past six games. A team that looked promising early on in the season is now clinging to their last breath as their disappointing season winds down.
Top Five Games to Watch This Week
1. #2 Gonzaga Bulldogs at Saint Mary’s Gaels, Saturday February 8, ESPN 10 PM
There are not many games throughout the season that Gonzaga can lose. This is one of those games and whenever they come along, it is imperative to watch and see how Gonzaga can respond to the challenge. Saint Mary’s belongs in the rankings in my opinion as the WCC is as good as it has ever been. If Tillie cannot play, and it looks unlikely that he will be able to, Gonzaga will be on a major upset alert against the Gaels who are carried by a tremendous trio of Jordan Ford, Malik Fitts, and Tanner Krebs.
2. Memphis Tigers at Cincinnati Bearcats, Thursday February 13, ESPN 7 PM
The Cincinnati Bearcats are flying dangerously under the radar in all of college basketball. Jarron Cumberland, the reigning conference player of the year, is leading the Bearcats on a five-game winning streak with their last loss coming at the hands of the Memphis Tigers. Even with three consecutive wins, the Tigers are trending in the opposite direction and could very well be fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. No matter which way you slice it, this is a huge game for both programs.
3. Wichita State Shockers at #25 Houston Cougars, Sunday February 9, ESPN 3 PM
With the Big claiming double-digit spots in the NCAA Tournament, other conferences, such as the American, have fewer spots available. Two teams floating around the enormous bubble that has been created, are the Wichita State Shockers and Houston Cougars. Houston is currently tied for the top spot in the conference while Wichita State is desperately looking for a big win to stamp their ticket to the Big Dance.
4. #4 San Diego State Aztecs at Boise State Broncos, Sunday February 16, CBS Sports, 4 PM
The last remaining undefeated team in all of college basketball is the San Diego State Aztecs. Since they play on the west coast, it is difficult for us on the east coast to catch a glimpse of the surprise team of the year. Fortunately, the scheduling gods have placed them in the 4 PM time slot next Sunday so that we can watch. Top prospect Malachi Flynn going up against a 6’9 point guard in Derrick Alston, Jr. is also a huge matchup to keep in mind.
5. Saint Louis Billikens at #6 Dayton Flyers, CBS Sports, 2 PM
I do not think any further reasoning is required to explain why you should want to watch Obi Toppin. Currently the number four pick in our mock draft, Toppin has taken the country by storm to lead the Flyers into the top 10. The Saint Louis Billikens have put up the greatest challenge in conference play so far, which makes this a very appealing rematch to keep an eye on. If it were not for a late Jalen Crutcher three-pointer, the Flyers would have lost the previous matchup, so hopefully they will not need these heroics again this time around.