Player of the Week
Shabazz Napier Connecticut
The Huskies’ stud point guard was at it again this week as UConn improved to 5-0 with wins over Indiana and Boston College. After playing more of a Distributor role in UConn’s first three games, Napier took scoring matters into his own hands and had a 20- and 27-point performance. It wasn’t the most efficient week for the senior guard, as Napier shot 6/17 against Boston College and turned the ball over 7 times against Indiana, but Napier scored the deciding bucket in the win over Indiana. His cool head and senior savvy played a big role in the Huskies winning their past two games by a total of 3 points. He’s currently my top candidate for Conference Player of the Year.
Danuel House Houston
After a shaky start to the season, House is beginning to cash in on the promise he showed as a freshman last season. He scored 22 against Lehigh and 23 against Howard on a combined 15/31 shooting (5/11 from 3). If he can keep up this production, he’ll be a valuable complement to the post presence of Tashawn Thomas. The Cougars’ first five opponents are a combined 7-20, so it remains to be seen if House can maintain this production against superior opponents. Houston has its first real test Monday against Stanford.
Corey Allen Jr. South Florida
Allen has made an immediate impact for the 4-0 Bulls after transferring from Mt. San Antonio Junior College. He’s averaged 19.7 PPG in the Bulls’ last three contests, on 20/34 shooting (5/9 from 3). He could be the perfect complementary piece in addition to Victor Rudd and Anthony Collins to make the Bulls relevant again this year. South Florida will try to compete with a formidable Oklahoma State team on Monday night.
Terry Rozier Louisville
Rozier, the highly touted recruit out of Hargrave Military Academy, has had an extremely rough start to his college career. He’s shot 7/25 (28%) in his first six games and, despite shooting five shots per game, he’s yet to break 7 points in one game. Rozier shot 1-11 in two games in the Hall of Fame Tip-off Tournament. He simply needs to start letting the game come to him. Louisville has the talent to win a lot of games this year without Rozier trying to do too much, but he would be a great piece off the bench if he can find his comfort zone for the Cardinals.
Ryan Boatright Connecticut
Part of the reason behind Shabazz Napier’s scoring explosion that I mentioned above is due to the recent struggles of Napier’s backcourt mate. In UConn’s two games this week, against Indiana and Boston College, Boatright shot 4/17. He’s been getting to the line, with 6 attempts in each game, but his jumper has been off. This was a large part of why the past two games were so close for the Huskies. Boatright’s 38% field goal percentage is not where he wants it to be.
Top 5 Stat Sheet Stuffers
In honor of Thanksgiving, here are five guys who will be stuffing stat sheets all season long.
1. Shabazz Napier Connecticut
In a feat that no other player in the conference is close to matching, Napier is in the conference top 10 in scoring, rebounding, assists, and three-point percentage. He follows in a long line of UConn point guards (El-Amin, Williams, Price, Walker) who put the team on their backs. As the pieces around him develop, the Huskies’ undefeated streak will be a difficult one to end.
2. Calvin Newell Central Florida
After being a supporting character to Isaiah Sykes last season, Newell was expected to once again play second fiddle to Sykes, a preseason all-conference selection. And though Sykes is having a good year thus far, Newell has put up some seriously impressive numbers. He’s second in the league in scoring (18.8 PPG), and has averaged 4.5 assists per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, and 2.5 steals per game, to go along with 56% shooting. He’s been a key part of the Knights 3-1 start and it remains to be seen if he can continue putting up these kinds of numbers.
3. Tashawn Thomas Houston
Thomas continues to be a stud for the Cougars on both ends of the court as they have racked up their first five victories. His rebounding and blocks numbers (11.6 and 4.6 per game, respectively), each lead the conference by a significant margin and he’s scoring 16.8 points per game on 66% shooting. There’s not a lot this guy hasn’t excelled at so far in the season, but Houston is about to hit the meatier part of its non-conference schedule, which means that it’s time for Thomas to shine on a bigger stage.
4 Montrezl Harrell Louisville
Harrell is seeing minutes like he never saw at any point last season and he is making them count. The athletic power forward is seeing the floor for 27 minutes per game and has been incredibly efficient. His 14 points per game have come on 63% shooting, and his 9.8 rebounds per game are second in the AAC only to Thomas. He’s even chipping in over a steal-and-a-half, as he’s a valuable part of Coach Pitino’s pressure defense. Harrell has developed over the summer and he’s the type of player who is key in winning those rugged, scrappy games come March.
5. Chris Crawford Memphis
With the return of star point guard Joe Jackson and the arrival of transfer Michael Dixon Jr. and an incredible freshman class, it would be easy for a supporting guy like Crawford to get lost in the shuffle. And though Crawford’s scoring has decreased a point from last year, he’s making an impact on every game for Memphis. His per game averages look like this: 9.3 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game, 3.3 assists per game, and 3.3 steals per game. He played hard throughout the crushing loss to Oklahoma State and thus received more minutes than any of his teammates that game. The Tigers will need him this season as a talented player and a senior leader helping to keep the new guys cohesive.