Righting the Ship

Player of the Week

Ryan Boatright, Connecticut

Ryan BoatrightRyan BoatrightFor a team fighting for its postseason lives, the dominance of their best player has been vitally important. Ryan Boatright continues to make the case for why he is the most talented player in the league, and he led the Huskies to two very, very good wins this week, the first a gritty road win over Tulane, and the second a 25-point drubbing of the then-conference leader, Tulsa. In those two games, Boatright totaled 41 points, 14 rebounds, and 13 assists on 14/26 (54%) shooting. Boatright’s defense was equally impressive, as he hounded the talented guards of both Tulane and Tulsa, in particular, holding Tulsa’s stud point guard Shaquille Harrison to 6 points on 3/9 shooting, his second-lowest scoring output in conference play.

The Huskies still need to win out or nearly win out to be in the running for the tournament, but they are starting to look like a team that could win the conference tournament as AAC frontrunners Tulsa and SMU have each looked a bit shaky lately. One thing is for certain: Ryan Boatright is a phenomenal player, one of the best guards in the country, and he isn’t likely to be done winning Player of the Week honors just yet, especially with his team with its back against the wall.

Who’s Hot

Nic Moore, Southern Methodist

After a couple down weeks that included a trio of 7-, 8-, and 8-point performances and a disappointing home loss to Cincinnati, Nic Moore is back on track. He has shown once again why he’s the catalyst on the only ranked team in the conference. SMU had to go on the road twice this week, but took care of business as they defeated Houston and knocked off Tulsa to take a share of the lead in the conference title race. Moore had 15 and 23 points in these games, respectively, on 12/19 (63%) shooting. SMU has a top 25 RPI and appears to be the frontrunner to win the conference tournament in March as their talented trio of Markus Kennedy, Yanick Moreira, and most importantly, Moore, is overpowering teams. Moore now has averages of 14.6 PPG, 5.4 APG, and 1.4 SPG, along with a very healthy 46% FG rate. The Mustangs are efficient and dangerous and have the talent to compete with most teams in the nation.

Will Cummings, Temple

And here come the Owls, charging back into NCAA Tournament bubble contention as they have won six straight games. Cummings hit a go-ahead free throw in the final minute of an impressive road win against Memphis, then assisted on the game-winning bucket. He finished with 13 points, 5 assists, and 4 steals. Then, on Tuesday, he led all players with 21 points in a resounding 16-point victory over Cincinnati and recorded another 5 assists and 4 steals. Cummings now has solid averages of 13.5 PPG, 4 APG, 4.2 RPG, and 1.8 SPG, and the senior point guard’s team is now squarely on the bubble. It’s been two years since the Owls made the tournament, but Cummings, along with backcourt mates Jesse Morgan and Quentin DeCosey, may have them in position to return.

BJ Tyson, East Carolina

It was one of the better weeks the Pirates have had this season, as they put together only their second winning streak of the season, and their first of conference play. First, they manhandled Central Florida in an 18-point victory, and then they beat a fairly talented, but dysfunctional Memphis team by 11. Against Memphis, they were led by their freshman guard, BJ Tyson, who scored 23 off the bench. He scored 20 in the second half and shot 10/14 (71%) in the game. Against Central Florida, he only played 21 minutes as the Pirates ran away with the game, but he scored another 10 points on 4/8 shooting. Tyson is scoring 12.8 points per game off the bench and is perhaps the most effective sixth man in the conference. He might be the best player for these Pirates, and he certainly took the lead role against Central Florida. ECU has plenty of hope for future seasons with this guy in the fold.

Who’s Not

James Woodard, Tulsa

No good news this week for James Woodard. His team’s 10-game winning steak to start play in its new conference came to a crashing halt with an 11-point loss to SMU at home, followed by a 25-point blowout defeat at UConn. Woodard shot 5/16 (31%; including 0/4 from inside the arc) against SMU for a sloppy, inefficient 15 points, but that was nothing compared to an ugly 0/7 performance from the field against UConn, his first scoring goose egg since his freshman season two years ago. The play of his wingman, point guard Shaquille Harrison, wasn’t much better, as Harrison scored a total of 16 on 29% shooting, and it all added up to a pair of non-competitive losses. Woodard is the leader of this team, and a turnaround is going to start with him. They get a free weekend, then East Carolina at home this week, a game they essentially must win to stay alive for the conference title and a tournament bid, and then they host a hot Temple team, a matchup in which a win would be huge over a fellow tournament bubble dweller.

Memphis Guards

It’s no surprise. The anchors of this Memphis team are the guys inside, the talented and tenacious big man tandem of Austin Nichols, who could be in the running for first team All-Conference, and Shaq Goodwin, who pulled down 35 rebounds in two games this week, including 23 against Temple. The perimeter players, on the other hand, are a cadre of question marks. Against East Carolina, the Tigers played without Nichols, and while Goodwin did his part with 13 points and 12 boards, starting guards Markel Crawford, Avery Woodson, and Kedren Johnson combined for a mere 19 points on 6/21 (29%) shooting (with only 3 total free throw attempts), and the Tigers lost to an inferior ECU team. Against Temple, the trio combined for 27 points on 9/23 shooting (38%) and only made it to the line 5 times. These three are not creating a lot of offense and, on defense, Temple’s three starting guards lit them up for a combined 39 points. This is a weaker backcourt than perhaps any that Josh Pastner has ever had in his time at Memphis and it’s probably the main reason why the Tigers are struggling to keep their heads above that .500 watermark.

Top 5 Names

5) Pookie Powell, Memphis

10 points for alliteration. 10 more points for the general fun-ness of the name “Pookie”. That’s 20 points right there. That’s more than enough to make the list

4) Octavius Ellis, Cincinnati

Maybe this selection is more of a matter of personal preference, but I just think Octavius is a cool name. I think the name is bolstered by the fact that Octavius Ellis is a long-armed, imposing post defender who patrols the paint with no mercy. I would much rather try to drive to the hoop on a 6’10”, 230-lb. Bob Smith than a 6’10”, 230-lb. Octavius Ellis.

3) Cannen Cunningham, Southern Methodist

A name like Cannen Cunningham would probably have topped this list if not for two things: 1) he was on the list last year and 2) Cunningham is a post player who hasn’t made a three-pointer in two seasons. It’d be a much more appropriate name if a player named Cannen was a long-range bomber, but alas, he is not. But the Cannen combined with the Cunningham is still cool, and you can’t go wrong with alliterative names.

2) Coreontae DeBerry, Cincinnati

Another Cincinnati big man makes the list. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what makes the name “Coreontae DeBerry” so cool, but I don’t think many people would disagree that it is indeed a cool name. It just feels right. Saying it just puts a smile on your heart. And it helps that DeBerry is a 270-lb. teddy bear of a player. Check out this picture as evidence of his teddy bear-ness:


Let’s give a hand to Coreontae DeBerry.

1)Dinero Mercurius, South Florida

What could beat our last entry, Coreontae DeBerry (I’m taking some liberties now, just so I can write it as many times as possible)? Well, let me hit you with some etymological minutiae regarding the name of the USF freshman guard. First of all, his first name is literally the Spanish word for “money”. You can’t go wrong with a guard named “Money”. But that’s not all. “Mercurius” comes from the root “mercury”, a substance that (as evidenced by the word “mercurial”) has always been associated with sudden, unpredictable mood swings. “Mercurial” is basically interchangeable with “volatile” or “unpredicatable”. So basically, when you break down the name Dinero Mercurius (which just sounds cool in the first place), you get a name that contains “money” and “could go off at any moment”. I’d say that’s a pretty appropriate name for a talented young shooting guard.

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