On the Mark Again

Player of the Week

Lauri Markkanen, Forward (Arizona)

Lauri MarkkanenLauri MarkkanenIt was only a couple weeks ago that Markkanen went on a two weeklong cold stretch following a hot start to conference play. The seven-foot Finnish man got back on track this week with two impressive double doubles on the road against Washington State and Washington. Against UW, Markkanen began his week with a 19 point, 11 rebound effort. Two days later against WSU, he was even more impressive with 26 points and 13 rebounds. In both of these games he also made over half of his shots from the field. He was only 1-6 from beyond the arc in the two games combined, but these two games show that he has the ability to score in a variety of ways even on days when his jump shot isn’t at its best. He also made 12-13 free throws during the two game span. Markkanen’s rebounding numbers especially stand out this week as he averages only 7.5 per game. Many scouts have questioned his physicality and ability to be a consistent force on the glass. He clearly has the ability to be a factor rebounding the ball, but the question is if whether he can put up those numbers with regularity. We are already well aware of his advanced offensive skillset. However, his production on the glass will be key to both how far Arizona can advance into the postseason, as well as where he will be drafted this June.

Who’s Hot?

Dillon Brooks, Forward (Oregon)

Brooks has arguably been the best player in the Pac-12 in the second half of the season. This week he posted two more 20 point games, leading the Ducks to comfortable wins over Utah and Colorado. Like much of the second half of the season, the efficiency in both games were tremendous again. In the two games, Brooks combined for 43 points, but he also shot 9-13 and 9-16 in each game in less than 30 minutes. He continues to show the nation why he was selected as a preseason All-American with this kind of consistency. The Ducks have been a better team with him at full strength, and they still have a great chance to win the conference title. A lot of people would agree with the statement that Oregon is one of the most complete teams in college basketball. They are excellent defensively and Brooks is the go-to scorer they need to carry them deep into March. If Brooks can continue to produce in this manner, Oregon will have a great chance to repeat as the conference champions and be the final-four team that many expected in the preseason.

Lonzo Ball, Guard (UCLA)

In case you weren’t aware, Lonzo Ball has scored in double figures in every conference game this season. Ball’s most coveted ability is his vision, but it is hard to ignore his ability to score as well. His shooting mechanics are unorthodox, but he converts 43% of his attempts beyond the arc. He’s also a much better athlete than given credit for as he has frequently shown the ability to break down defenders and get to the basket, where he is an excellent finisher with his size and length. Ball has filled the stat sheet in his last two games with 22 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds against Oregon State, and then 15 points, 8 assists, and 8 rebounds against USC. There is not a guard in college basketball who is more versatile than Ball, which is one of the main reasons why he will likely be a top-3 pick in the draft.

Who’s Not?

Jordan McLaughlin, Guard (USC)

USC has some work left to do if they would like to solidify a spot for themselves in the NCAA Tournament. They are in the midst of a brutal three game stretch against the three top teams in the Pac-12. Saturday against UCLA was simply a poor showing and one that will not bode well for them for the remainder of the season. Improvement, however, has got to start with their point guard in McLaughlin. He has failed to score in double figures in four games in a row now, while also making no more than a third of his shots in any of those outings. The assist to turnover ratio also needs to be better; over his last four games that ratio has been only at 16 to 11. McLaughlin has shown that he is an excellent player, but he is one of the biggest keys to USC’s success, and he needs to play better for the Trojans to have a shot at the tournament.

Under the Radar

Josh Hawkinson, Forward (Washington State)

Washington State has been overmatched again this season to say the least. There is not much talent on their roster, but Hawkinson has been a bright spot. He is one of the most underrated players in the Pac-12 and would absolutely receive more recognition if not for his team’s poor play. Hawkinson averages 15.3 points per game and 10.2 rebounds, which both lead the team. He also shoots almost 37% from beyond the arc, showing the ability to score in numerous ways. On Saturday against Arizona State, Hawkinson scored 14 points and was a force on the glass with 15 rebounds. There are not many great things to say about his team, but Hawkinson’s skillset and production throughout his career could land him a spot on an NBA roster in the future.

Projected Bracketology:

Oregon – 2 seed
Arizona – 3 seed
UCLA – 4 seed
USC – 8 seed
California – 11 seed
Utah – NIT

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