Jacob's Ladder

Player of the Week

Jacob Evans, G, Sophomore, Cincinnati Bearcats

Jacob EvansJacob EvansTroy Caupian was the front runner to win Player of the Year in the American Athletic Conference going into this season. If you were to pick a candidate today, Caupain’s teammate Jacob Evans would probably get the nod over Caupain. Evans has been spectacular, consistent and especially clutch for the Bearcats this season. While Caupain may be their leader, Evans is their spark. Evans is averaging 17.8 points per game, shooting a blistering 59% from the field and 46.4% from three. He has scored in double figures every game this season and has chipped in solid rebounding numbers every game as a lengthy 6’6” guard. Evans has also been key in Cincinnati sitting at 6-1 and tied for first in their conference. On Thursday night Cincinnati traveled to #19 ranked Iowa State, always a dangerous place to play. The game was tight the whole time and went into a slugfest of an overtime. With the Bearcats down 53-54 with 20 seconds left in overtime, Evans was fouled and made two immensely clutch free throws to put the Bearcats up 55-54. Cincinnati was originally ranked at the start of the season until they lost to Rhode Island, but Jacob Evans and his stellar play to start the year should get the Bearcats back in the polls soon enough.

Who’s Hot

Jared Brownridge, G, Senior, Santa Clara Broncos

Brownridge is not from a major conference or even a major school at that. But he is for real and…HE. CAN. BALL. Brownridge is a four-year senior who has always averaged 33+ minutes per game and has seen his points per game increase every year. Last year while playing the always talented Arizona Wildcats, Brownridge exploded for 44 points in a near upset loss. He has picked up right where he left off last year. He is averaging 20.6 points per game, 36.9 minutes per game and he loves to shoot the three; he already has 77 attempts through eight games. The 200-pound sharpshooter from Aurora, IL has gone over 30 points in a game twice already. Just since last Monday, he is averaging 28.2 points per game and is shooting close to 50% on three. His Bronco team is 3-5 in a talented West Coast Conference that includes St. Mary’s, Gonzaga and BYU. Brownridge is establishing himself and not just one of the best back court players in not just the conference but the whole country.

Jared Terrell, G, Junior, Rhode Island Rams

I guess you could say that this week “I went to Jared!” with all the Jareds we have on the list. I try to be funny.

E.C. Matthews was expected to be the undisputed go-to guy for the Rams going into this season and he has not disappointed. Jared Terrell has emerged as another key weapon in the Rhode Island offense. Terrell was one of the focal points last season for Rhode Island when Matthews went down with injury and has continued his efficient play. This season he has average 15.3 points per game and is shooting 48.1% from the field. He is actually averaging more points per game than Matthews (14.1). Terrell arguably had his best game of the season on Tuesday when the Rams traveled to Valparaiso to face the 6-1 Horizon League leading Crusaders. He was their best player all day, making countless plays on offense and defense to make the game competitive all throughout. He finished with 21 points, two steals and went 50% from the field and from three. Terrell is becoming a very integral part of the Rhode Island attack, along with Matthews. If he can sustain this play for the rest of the season, the two of them could make a deadly combination in the postseason.

Jeremy Hemsley, G, Sophomore, San Diego State Aztecs

Last season for the Aztecs, Malik Pope made noise and emerged as a potential NBA player one day. He has gotten off to a slow start this season but making up for his absence has been Jeremy Hemsley. Hemsley has been a breath of fresh air to a San Diego State team that competes in a tough Mountain West Conference. He is averaging 18.2 points per game, is shooting an impressive 52.2% from three and has seen his minutes increased from last season. He has scored no less than 14 points in all his games and is a great dual threat player in scoring and passing. He can score over 20 points in a game and in games where he may not lead the team in scoring he contributes in the passing game, leading his team in assists and getting his teammates involved. He is pacing the Aztecs to a 4-1 record, with their only loss coming at the hands of Gonzaga, and playing well. When Malik Pope gets back on track, Hemsley will make this a dynamic duo and a force not to be reckoned with.

Who’s Not

Terry Larrier, G, Sophomore, UCONN Huskies

How often has UCONN or a UCONN player been on this list so far this season? Yes, I know it’s been too much and I promise that I don’t have it out for the Huskies. But the loss of Terry Larrier to UCONN is devastating. Larrier is a sophomore transfer from VCU who had to sit out last season due to transfer eligibility rules. This season, he was supposed to be one of the leaders for the Huskies and he lived up to those expectations early on. He scored a whopping 50 combined points through the Huskies first three games and was averaging 13.5 points per game. But in their fourth game against Oklahoma State, Larrier went down awkwardly on his leg just eight minutes in and left the game. Days later, it was confirmed he tore his ACL and he was out for the season. UCONN has already has an abysmal and underachieving start to the season and this news has not helped them one bit. Larrier was supposed to have a strong season for the Huskies and help get them back into the NCAA Tournament. Now UCONN must find even more ways to overcome an unlucky start to the season.

Malik Pope, F, Junior, San Diego State Aztecs

Another Aztec makes the list and not for a good reason. Pope, who was supposed to have a stellar season in the Mountain West Conference and become a potential lottery pick in the NBA draft, has not had a great start. He has only played in two games so far this season after sitting out the first three games with injury. Now that he is back, it seems that he is being eased back into the starting lineup with a minute restriction and he has had foul trouble (he fouled out in his first game). He is only averaging 11 points after two games and 20 minutes per game and has not found his groove yet. It is still so early in the college basketball season and he was injured for the first couple of games so things can change. After two games though, Pope looks rusty and needs to find the spark that ignites his team and makes him look valuable to the NBA.

Top 5 Mid-Major Coaches

This is a list of the top mid-major coaches overall. This encapsulates the best coaches throughout the years and their history.

5. Phil Martelli, Saint Joeseph’s

Phil Martelli is one of the most underrated coaches not just in the Atlantic 10, but in all of college basketball. Martelli has been at the helm of the Hawks since 1995 and has a 403-273 record. He is one of the most respected, well liked, and longest tenured coaches in the country. He has took his Hawks to the NCAA Tournament seven times, winning the Atlantic 10 regular season title four times and won the Atlantic 10 Tournament three times. His best season came in 2003-2004, where his Hawks were led by Player of the Year Jameer Nelson and finished with an extremely rare undefeated regular season at 27-0 but lost in the Elite Eight.

4. Kevin Ollie, UCONN

Ollie is one of the youngest coaches in the mid-major conferences, but he has what the overwhelming majority don’t have: a national championship. Ollie has been the coach of UCONN since legendary Coach Jim Calhoun left in 2012. He has compiled a 100-48 record in 4+ seasons and has made and missed the NCAA Tournament in his years. Ollie will be known for taking a UCONN Huskies team in his second season as coach, a team that finished third in their conference, to the tournament and winning the national championship over Kentucky. It was one of the best Cinderella stories in NCAA Tournament history, as the #7 seed UCONN knocked off the #8 seed Kentucky in the title game. Ollie is still so young and will be a coach for a very long time with great success.

3. Gregg Marshall, Wichita State

Marshall has been the coach of the Shockers since 2007 and before that he was the coach at Winthrop from 1998 – 2007. He has composed a 427-168 record overall and has led his teams to the NCAA Tournament 12 times. Marshall transformed Winthrop into a consistent tournament team in his years there and his success led him to Wichita State. He has been spectacular for the Shockers program in his 9+ seasons. He has led them to the last five tournaments. His best work came in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, when he took his at-large bid Shockers to the Final Four as a #9 seed. Star players like Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker have some from his programs and moved on to the NBA. He has been able to keep a consistent program that not only dominates the Missouri Valley Conference, but makes serious noise out of conference and in the postseason.

2. Steve Fisher, San Diego State

Fisher has been coaching college basketball for over 25 seasons. What makes him stand out is that he came from a power conference school before going to a mid-major program when usually it is the opposite for coaches. He coached at Michigan for nine seasons and led his teams to the tournament seven times. He made three Final Fours, three national championship games, and won the title in 1989. What he may be best known for was coaching the “Fab Five”, which consisted of the 1991-1993 National Champion Runner-Up teams that included Chris Webber and Jalen Rose. After the great success at Michigan, Fisher began coaching at San Diego State in 1999 and has been there ever since. He had made eight tournament appearances, making the Sweet Sixteen twice. The Aztecs have always been a powerful team in the Mountain West Conference under Fisher. He has produced players to the NBA, most notably NBA Finals MVP and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard. Fisher has the pedigree and among the most experience in all of college basketball and especially in mid-major basketball.

1. Mark Few, Gonzaga

This spot as the top mid-major coach is so hard to pick. The thinking I had in creating it was: on a neutral site, with a random team against a random opponent, who is the best coach to get that squad to win?

When Mark Few became the coach for the Bulldogs in 1999, he was 36. He is still the coach there at age 53 and soon to be 54 in December. Few has displayed consistency in a basketball program like no other in the sport. Since he became the coach in 1999, he has led the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament every single season (17 straight seasons). The last time Gonzaga didn’t make the Tournament, modern cell phones, laptops and flat screen televisions were not a thing. I was two years old!

Few is a special coach for many different reasons. He has changed the basketball program from obscurity to a consistent force in the post season. He has compiled a 427-111 record and produced some of the most disciplined and dangerous teams in the country. The fact that he has not and probably will never accept a higher job from a power conference shows his dedication to Gonzaga. The season that his Bulldogs don’t make the postseason (maybe never) will cement a feat of consistency that may never be matched again by a coach.

Mid-Major Ranked Teams

7. Xavier (6-0)

8. Gonzaga (6-0)

12. Saint Mary’s (5-0)

21. Rhode Island (5-1)

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