Pride of a Nation

Player of the Week

Rui Hachimura, Junior, F, Gonzaga Bulldogs

Rui HachimuraRui HachimuraWho doesn’t love some Rui, "pronounced Ru-E"? Hachimura has been the best "mid-major" college player this season to date. A model of consistency, Hachimura has scored 17 or more points in every game this season, reaching seven out of eleven with at least 20 points and opened the season with 33 points.

The 6'8 junior and the Bulldogs have slipped from their perch at number one following losses to both Tennessee and North Carolina. But those are legitimate title contenders and no one has played as tough a schedule as the Bulldogs.

He has embraced the role of team leader and gives great effort on both ends of the floor. He has also proven to be very clutch hitting big shots in the final moments against Duke to help them win the Maui Invitational and a game winner against Washington. Overall, he is averaging 21.7 ppg, 6.5 rbg, is shooting a solid 54.7 percent from the floor and 43.9 from beyond the arc.

The junior from Japan was a baseball star in Asia and had full aspirations to chase a career with a bat and glove. He came to Spokane in 2016 after being discovered at the U17 FIBA World Championships in 2014 in Dubai. Being so far away from home, learning a new language and culture and playing just under five minutes a game, Hachimura was a part of a team that came within a few possessions of winning a national championship.

He has continually worked hard, improving last year and receiving 20 minutes per contest and set himself up this year to be a star. And not just a star but quickly becoming an international superstar. He's a projected top 5 pick with potentially a very lucrative endorsement shoe deal waiting for him. Rui figures to become one of Japan's most well known exports in the near future.

Who’s Hot

Chris Clemons, G, Senior, Campbell Fighting Camels

Campbell is a tough school in a tough Big South conference, sitting at 5-4 and middle of the pack. But they have a star and have had one. That’s Chris Clemons.

Clemons has been with the program for three plus seasons and is embarking on his senior season. The first thing to know about him is he can score A lot. Quick. He was the fourth leading scorer in the nation last season at 24.9 ppg and the leading scorer from last year returning to college basketball.

So far this season, he has been nothing short of magnificent. He is averaging a NCAA high 31 ppg, almost seven more than last year. He has yet to score below 22 points in any game this season. In fact, he has six games in the 20s, a 34-point outing, a 44-point outing to open the season and a season high 45 points in a loss to Georgetown. That 45 was the second highest of his career, only to 51 he had as a sophomore.

Clemons has been scoring all his years. His ppg totals have been rising, going from 18.5, to 25.1, to 24.9 and now over 30 on the season. So far this season, he is shooting over 50 percent from the field and has knocked down 32 3-pointers.

Who’s Not

Jalen McDaniels, F, Sophomore, San Diego State Aztecs

McDaniels is the second leading scorer for the Aztecs and his overall statistics look good to start the season with 14.7 ppg and 7.6 rpg (and a not too shabby 2.8 apg).

McDaniels has struggled with consistency this year. He has a strong effort where he is the best player on the floor, but often regresses back to having a subpar follow up game where he disappears for much of the game. He's also facing some legal troubles due to "past indisgressions" in high school that could be derailing his focus. He has a lot of NBA interest, so it will be imparitive for him to pull things together over the next few months in order to maximize his NBA outlook.

Top 5 Mid-Major Teams Thus Far

5. Houston Cougars

This spot could go to a number of teams, but we settled on a 9-0 Houston team that comes in ranked No. 24. Houston defeated a talented, though young LSU team at home recently, showing that they can play an defeat a top SEC team.

4. Furman Paladins (12-0)

Furman has a serious shot at walking into conference play in the Southern Conference undefeated. With big wins this season over Loyola-Chicago and Villanova on the road (two Final Four teams from last year), Furman is looking strong. Coming in ranked No. 24, they are led by Jordan Lyons (54 points earlier this season) and his 18.4 ppg.

3. Buffalo Bulls (10-0)

One of the few undefeated teams remaining in college basketball. The Bulls followed up on their NCAA Tournament run last year, defeating Arizona convincingly in the first round, with a hot start. Coming into the week ranked No. 14 in the nation, they are led by CJ Massinburg with 17.5 ppg. They have a tough test with in state Syracuse on Tuesday.

2. Gonzaga Bulldogs (9-2)

After two losses in a row, the Zags have slipped from number one in the nation to second on this list. However they remain the strongest of all non-power conference teams in their chance to win the NCAA title. Gonzaga usually is the crème de la crème of mid-major teams and they are still right in the mix. Hachimura and company are taking the West Coast Conference by storm again. Their only losses are to third ranked Tennessee and ninth ranked North Carolina and they still have one of their best players, junior marksman Killian Tillie coming back at mid-season.

1. Nevada Wolfpack (11-0)

Nevada was hyped up coming into the season and they haven’t failed to deliver. A Wolfpack team under head coach Eric Musselman that ran to the Sweet Sixteen last season, returned not one, not two, but three of their top seniors from last year. Jordan Caroline (18.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg) and the Martin twins in Cody (10.4) and Caleb (18.8) all are back and doing work. Those three with their point contributions (48 ppg of 84 team ppg) are dominating opponents. They were tested against 20th ranked Arizona State, but pulled out a close win. They should begin conference play in the Mountain West looking great. Ranked No. 6 in the nation.