On a Crusade

Player of the Week

Alec Peters, F, Senior, Valparaiso

Alec PetersAlec PetersPeters made this list as a “Who’s Hot” pick a couple weeks back and he has earned his spot as the top player this week. Peters has been nothing short of fantastic to start this season, averaging a stunning 25.1 points per game and 9 rebounds per game. Peters is the clear-cut leader of this Crusader squad, being a fourth year senior and having been a leading force for the last three seasons. Peters had led his Crusader team to a 7-2 record and one game behind Oakland for first place in the Horizon League Conference. Valpo’s only two losses came in two away games against #4 Oregon at the time and #6 Kentucky, both extremely hard games and not bad losses. In those games, Peters did his part going for 24 and 23 points to pace the Crusaders. Probably the biggest accolade to Peters blistering start is he hasn’t been held under 20 points in any game, even notching 36 in an early game back in November. Alec Peters leads this team, in scoring, rebounding and leading by example. The Crusaders success will entirely depend on him, since he takes the most shots on the team and scores the most. Regardless, Peters is showing America that he is just as good, if not better, then he has been the last three years and is ready to take on anyone. If the Crusaders make the NCAA Tournament, watch out for Peters and Valparaiso to make noise and put teams on upset alert. All it takes is one hot player in the tournament to ignite a run… Peters is a star.

Who’s Hot

Chris Flemmings, G, Senior, UNC Wilmington

Flemmings is one of the most underrated guards in all the country. He plays for a UNC Wilmington Seahawks team that is in first place in the Colonial Athletic Association at 8-1. Their only loss came to Middle Tennessee, who is also in first place in the Conference USA. Flemmings has been leading this team since the start of the season. He averages 19.8 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game and he is shooting 48.6% from the field. Flemmings is the scoring leader on one of the top scoring teams in college basketball, with the Seahawks ranking 12th in points per game with 88.6. Flemmings has been one of the premier scorers in the country. He has scored at least 14 points in every game, including 34 points last Saturday against Pfeiffer in a whopping 126-113 win. He is also a great rebounding guard, getting in double figures in rebounding in three games this season. Flemmings and the Seahawks schedule will get tougher as the season goes along, including a meeting with Saint Bonaventure this Saturday. If Flemmings and his team can continue to perform at a high level and score at high rates, Flemmings will receive more attention from the rest of the country for his great play and get his team on the map.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

There has not been a better mid major team to start the season than Gonzaga. The Zags were predicted before the season to be one of the best mid major teams in the country and they have not disappointed. Starting out the 9-0, 1st place in the West Coast Conference and already with quality wins over Florida, 21th ranked Iowa State and a dominant win over the 16th ranked, Sean Miller coached Arizona at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. How are they doing it? All around great team play. Their offense is so balanced and well run, with them sharing the ball so perfectly. At one point in the season, just a week or so back, the Bulldogs had seven players on their team averaging double figures. They are one of the best teams in the nation at shooting the three with great guard play, but they are also led down low by talented big men. Nigel Williams Goss and Josh Perkins are their best guards, who can score and dish the rock at high levels. In the paint, they are led by the senior and 7’1” Polish animal Przemek Karnowski. They also have freshman seven-footer Zach Collins, one of the top center recruits out of high school, who brings a strong down low presence but can stretch the floor and shoot the three. This squad has comfortably beaten all the teams they were supposed to beat and taken care of business against much tougher opponents that look good on a resume. This Mark Few coached team has been called by some as the best team he has ever had. If that is the case, then they will be making noise come March and showing college basketball just what a complete monster looks and plays like.

Who’s Not

EC Matthews, G, Junior, Rhode Island

Matthews makes this list only because he has been fairly quiet as of the last three weeks. To start the season, he was averaging 19.5 points per game and was our player of the week to start. Coming back from a torn ACL, he looked awesome and looked to be back in form. These last three weeks, he has been a shell of his former self. Until last Tuesday, he had gone four straight games under 10 points and made no more than three field goal attempts in all of them. In three of those four games, the Rams lost by an average of 5.3 points and if Matthews was playing at his normal, explosive level they may very well could have been victories. The Rams are sitting at 6-3 now and have fallen out of the top 25. His struggles have opened the scoring chances for Hassan Martin and Jared Terrell and if Matthews gets out of his slump, the three of them could lead a potent and dangerous attack. Matthews is probably going through a slump now, maybe adjustment back to playing full time now since he is averaging 30 minutes per game. Watch for him to eventually break out of this and have Rhode Island back firing on all cylinders.

Saint Mary’s Gaels

Panic! Panic! No, no, don’t panic over the Gaels losing their first game last night to UT Arlington 65-51. They make this list because yes it was a tough loss at home and has now set them to third in the West Coast Conference behind Gonzaga and San Francisco. The loss will move them back in the top 25 rankings soon and the loss steals some mojo that was building around the team. This loss is not devastating for them though. UT Arlington was a very good team who came in and earned the win, forcing 10 steals and shooting 49% from the field. Plus, this could be a good loss for the Gaels in a way. This will help them rebound (no pun intended) and learn from mistakes and be better as the season goes on, especially when they get to playing top level teams in BYU, San Fran and of course Gonzaga. They have also beaten some quality teams this year in Nevada and Dayton. It’s a setback for Sant Mary’s and will make more people think less of them for the time being. It is something that they can overcome and get better from.

Top 5 Mid Major Upsets/Surprised So Far

5. UCONN 52, Syracuse 50 (12/5)

If you have been a college basketball fan for a while now, you know that a UCONN/Syracuse matchup at Madison Square Garden is going to be good (2009 Big East Tournament…6 overtimes…). The Huskies defeated the Orange in a hard-fought game 52-50. UCONN came into this game at 3-4 and in need of a spark to ignite their season. With the game tied at 50, Huskie Christian Vital was fouled with just over two seconds to play and made both free throws to clinch the game. UCONN was led by Rodney Purvis with 21 points. Syracuse fell to 5-3. Both teams didn’t look good all game, but it was the Huskies who had the last laugh and will look to build off the win and recover.

4. Dayton 78, Nebraska 80 (11/24)

A Thanksgiving duel between the Flyers and the Cornhuskers came out with Nebraska surprising Dayton 80-78 in the first round of the Wooden Legacy. Nebraska was led by Glynn Watson Jr. with 20 points and three assists, with Watson sinking the deciding two free throws win 8.8 seconds to play. This is certainly an upset, with Dayton a heavy favorite to win the Atlantic 10 and Nebraska at the bottom of the Big Ten and not predicted to finish high. The Flyers moved to 2-2 and the Huskers to 4-0 at the time.

3. (16) Butler 71, Indiana State 72 (12/7)

On Larry Bird’s 60th birthday, his alma mater had some magic in them. The Sycamores defeated the 16th ranked and undefeated Bulldogs 72-1 thanks to Brenton Scott hitting one of two free throws with 0.8 seconds left to secure the upset. Brenton Scott played great this game, finishing with 25 points on 9/18 shooting. Brenton Scott has been playing fantastic all year long and he and his Indiana State team secured a huge win to move to 5-4 on the year.

2. UT Arlington 65, (12) Saint Mary’s 51 (12/8)

This is the freshest loss on this list and it certainly stings if you’re a Gaels fan. The unranked Mavericks came in and handled the Gaels 65-51, forcing 10 steals and playing stout defense. It was a talented Maverick team that was ready to play. Kevin Hervey led UT Arlington with 15 points and seven rebounds. There is a decent chance that Saint Mary’s becomes unranked after this and they will certainly need to bounce back in time to play better teams like Gonzaga and BYU.

1. (3) Indiana 68, Fort Wayne 71

In what could be one of the biggest upset of the college basketball season, the Fort Wayne Mastodons of the Summit League Conference shocked the #3 Indiana Hoosiers at home 71-68 in overtime. Indiana was previously 3-0 and dominating. Fort Wayne was 2-2 coming in. The Mastodons were led by Bryson Scott with 18 points and 12 rebounds. NBA prospect Thomas Bryant of Indiana also finished with 18 and 12. Fort Wayne won with great ball movement and stingy defense, including a steal in the last nine seconds of overtime to go to the free throw line and make it a three-point game. Ever since the win, Fort Wayne has won and is now 7-3 and leading the Summit League. Indiana has fallen back to #9 and is back to looking dominant.

Mid Major Ranked Teams (as of 12/9)

8. Gonzaga (8-0)

12. Saint Mary’s (6-1)

22. Cincinnati (7-1)

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