Tuesday, December 27, 2011

College Hoops Week in Review: Doug McDermott and Kansas State

Player of the Week: Doug McDermott, Creighton

Doug McDermott shouldn't have been a secret coming into the season, but if you didn't know about him back in October you certainly should by now. If the season ended today, he'd be a first-team all-american. Arguing that he should be the National Player of the Year would actually have some merit. In fact, he's been so good as a sophomore that its fair to say that Harrison Barnes played on McDermott's high school team. Not the other way around.

Considering how well McDermott has played this season, its a difficult task taking him into consideration for Player of the Week simply because it takes so much for him to do something that is more than just par for the course. But that is exactly what he did this week. In an overpowering win at Tulsa, McDermott showcased his back-to-the-basket game, scoring 35 points while shooting 16-23 from the floor. The majority of those shots came on post-ups, and McDermott only went to the line once. That should tell you something about how fundamentally sound he is inside.

In a win against Northwestern later in the week, however, McDermott was back out on the perimeter. And not only was he knocking down jumper and jumper, he also handed out a season-high five assists (he had nine on the year heading into the game). All told, McDermott averaged 31.0 ppg and 6.0 rpg, hitting 26-37 from the field and 5-7 from three.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:

- G: Matt Carlino, BYU: Carlino has been a difference-maker for BYU since he suited up three games ago. Just a sophomore, he's not he second-coming of The Jimmer (yet?), but he is a point guard that is capable of scoring, hitting threes and finding assists, the perfect kind of playmaker for a team with a pair of big men and a handful of shooters. In two wins last week, he averaged 16.0 ppg and 8.5 apg.

- G: Jordan Theodore, Seton Hall: Seton Hall has been one of the biggest surprises of the young season, jumping out to 11-1 on the season. Perhaps their most impressive win on the year came this week when the Pirates visited Dayton. Theodore has sensational all year, but he shined this past week, averaging 20.0 ppg, 7.0 apg and 4.0 rpg in two wins.

- F: Wendell McKines, New Mexico State: McKines has become a star for the 8-4 Aggies this season. While he's already averaging a double-double, this past week really showed the nation what McKines is capable of. In two games, McKines averaged 21.5 ppg and 16.5 rpg.

- F: Kevin Jones, West Virginia: So this is the Kevin Jones everyone thought that we would see last season. The senior has been nothing short of sensational this year, averaging 21.0 ppg and 11.9 rpg for a Mountaineer team that has proven as scrappy and competitive as, well, every Bob Huggins team ever. This past week, Jones averaged 23.0 ppg and 14.7 rpg in three games, including 28 points and 17 boards (six offensive) in an overtime loss to Baylor that saw KJ completely outplay Perry Jones III.

- C: Meyers Leonard, Illinois: Leonard has been terrific this season, but this past week was as well as we have ever seen the seven-foot sophomore play. He averaged 16.5 ppg and 14.5 rpg in two games. But he also blocked five shots and shot 15-24 from the field. Perhaps the most impressive thing Leonard did this week was hand out seven assists, five of which came against Missouri.

- Bench: Ike Azotam, Quinnipiac (32 pts, 9 rbs, 2 stls, W vs. Niagara); Harrison Barnes, UNC (26 pts, 10 rbs, W vs. Texas); Tyler Bernadini, Penn (30 pts, 8-11 3's, W vs. Marist); Darien Brothers, Richmond (31.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 12-21 3's); Darnell Dodson, Southern Miss (14.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg, W's vs. South Florida, Arizona State); Keith Gabriel, VMI (34 pts vs. Old Dominion); Solomon Hill, Arizona (18.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 3.5 apg); Zane Johnson, Hawaii (19.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 12 3's); Kenny Kadji, Miami (18 pts, 10 rbs, 2 blks, W vs. Charlotte); DeAndre Kane, Marshall (29 pts, 4 rbs, 4 asts, 2 stls, W vs. Belmont); Kevin Olekaibe, Fresno State (29.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, W vs. Arizona State); Mike Scott, Virginia (33 pts, 14 rbs, W vs. Seattle); Russ Smith, Louisville (17.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.5 spg, 2-0 week); Evan Smotrycz, Michigan (20 pts, 10 rbs, 5-7 3's, W vs. Bradley); Scott Thomas, Bowling Green (18 pts, 11 rbs, 7 asts, 4 stls, W vs. FIU); Alex Young, IUPUI (24.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.5 apg. 2.0 bpg, 2.0 spg, 2-0 week)

Team of the Week: Kansas State

The Wildcats are a team to keep an eye on this season. Coming off of a season that was more about what they lost -- four players to transfer and Jacob Pullen to graduation -- than what they won, no one really expected Kansas State to be much more than a bubble team. But fast-forward to December, and Frank Martin's club has put together some impressive wins. They won at Virginia Tech. They knocked off Alabama at home. Their only loss on the season was in double-overtime to West Virginia.

And that doesn't include K-State's run through the field at the Diamondhead Classic, either. While the tournament wasn't exactly loaded with Final Four contenders, the Wildcats did manage to knocked off both UTEP -- who is underrated this season -- and Long Beach State. There isn't really a star on this team, but there are plenty of pieces to like Rodney McGruder showed what he is capable of with 28 points on 10-11 shooting in the win over LBSU. The three games prior to that, Angel Rodriguez was averaging 14.7 ppg and 4.0 apg. Will Spradling is as underrated as any guard in the Big 12. Jamar Samuels, Thomas Gibson and Jordan Henriquez? There may not be a front line better than that in the Big 12 beyond Baylor's.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of this group is how physical, defensive-minded and competitive they are. They'll be in every games they play this season.

Teams deserving a shout out:

Creighton: The Bluejays put together two solid wins this week as they went into Tulsa and knocked off the Golden Hurricane by 19 points, following that up with a very solid home win over Northwestern, a team that could very well end up earning an at-large bid before the year is over. We mentioned Doug McDermott above, but how about Grant Gibbs? He averaged 11.0 apg and 7.5 rpg on the week.

Davidson: Yeah, I know, the Wildcats lost at UMass on Thursday night, but that's a game that Davidson is supposed to lose. So why is it noteworthy that it happened? Because just three days earlier the Wildcats had gone into Phog Allen Fieldhouse and beaten Kansas 80-74. More impressive still? Davidson didn't turn the ball over the entire second half against the Jayhawks.

Georgetown: The Hoyas are going to be a serious factor in the Big East this season. Heading into the start of league play, Georgetown is 10-1 on the season, with their only loss coming to Kansas by four out in Maui. Most recently, Georgetown is coming off of a beatdown that they laid on the backs of Memphis in the Verizon Center. The thing I like the most about this Georgetown team is their length. They have a lot of kids on this roster that are tall with impressive athleticism, versatility and wingspans.

LSU: The Tiger's win over Marquette on Monday night was impressive in-and-of-itself. They handled the No. 10 team in the country playing the way that the No. 10 team in the country usually plays. LSU followed that up by winning on the road at a North Texas team that is much better than their record indicates now that Tony Mitchell is eligible. The top five in the SEC is all-but set in stone. Could LSU really make a push to be the sixth-best team in the league?

New Mexico: The Lobos started out the season slowly, with an embarrassing performance out in the 76 Classic that resulted in many people writing this team off. But UNM hasn't lost since, and they continued that streak with two wins this past week. Kendall Williams and Hugh Greenwood have seemingly found a nice rhythm sharing the ball-handling duties while Tony Snell is helping make up for the fact that Drew Gordon has yet to put it all together offensively.

Ohio: There is an argument to be made that the Bobcats are the best mid-major team in the country. After roughing up Northern Iowa on the road last week, OU is sitting pretty at 11-1 on the season with wins at Marshall and Oakland. Their only loss is a five point defeat that came at Louisville. DJ Cooper may be the most exciting point guard in the country to watch.

Oral Roberts: Just five days after they whooped up on short-handed Xavier by 22 points on the road, the Golden Eagles got 26 points out of leading scorer Dominique Morrison as they knocked off Billy Gillispie's Texas Tech team by 16 points at home.

Seton Hall: The Pirates look like they just might be for real this season. With Big East play around the corner, Kevin Willard's club is 11-1 on the season with a couple of solid wins -- VCU, St. Joe's, at Dayton. With Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope both playing the best basketball of their career, it will be interesting to see just how far this team is able to go this season. They head to Syracuse on Wednesday night, which will be a chance for us to see if they are 'for real'.

UNLV: The Runnin' Rebels continue to put together one of the more impressive resumes in the country. After knocking off Illinois by 16 last week, UNLV's most impressive performance this week came against Cal, as the Rebels led by as much as 27 in their 85-68 win. More importantly, Anthony Marshall looks like he is finally starting to come around. Many people (myself included) had him pegged as a breakout player this season, but he has had a bit of an up-and-down year.

Utah State: After starting the year out just 4-5, the Aggies have now won four straight games and, seemingly, have righted the ship as they get ready for WAC play. The most impressive of those four wins came against Kent State, a game Utah State won by 19 points and led by as much as 29. Kyisean Reed had 27 on 12-13 shooting.

Wagner: Everyone had Wagner pegged as a program that would develop into a mid-major powerhouse under Danny Hurley, and they proved it on Friday night as the Seahawks were into the Peterson Events Center and knocked off the Panthers, 59-54. Its an impressive win, one that all but assures that the NEC race between CCSU, LIU, Robert Morris and Quinnipiac will be a fun one to watch.

Five Thoughts:

- Does Long Beach State deserve an at-large bid?: From a talent perspective, yes. They do. There is no doubt in my mind that, if the 49ers don't happen to win the automatic bid out of the Big West, they will be one of the 34 best at-large candidates. The issue is that getting to the dance in that situation is going to depend on their resume and not their ability on the court. That win at Pitt looks less impressive thanks to Wagner. The win over Xavier comes with an asterisk as Mark Lyons and Dez Wells weren't available. LBSU then got worked by Kansas State in the finals of the Diamondhead Classic. My advice? Win the auto-bid. Do away with the guess work. Simply put -- their resume may not be strong enough otherwise.

- Is Kenny Kadji the answer in Miami?: The Hurricanes just got Reggie Johnson back, which means that they now have the powerful double-double presence on the block that they had been missing all season long. When you combine Johnson on the interior with the loaded back court that Jim Larranaga has at his disposal, its easy to see why many folks had Miami pegged as the third best team in the league heading into the season. But Kadji may be just an important to the Miami team. The 6'10" forward has found his shooting touch from the perimeter. After not hitting a single three-pointer in his career heading into the Dec. 10th game against West Virginia, the junior has now hit eight straight threes. His presence allows Miami to spread the floor and creates pace in the paint for both Johnson and the Canes' backcourt.

- Kyle Weems has struggled this year: Weems is having a rough start to the season. His scoring is down from last season (16.2 ppg to 14.3 ppg), his shooting numbers are down across the board and his efficiency rating is below 100 for the first time in the collegiate career. What's wrong? Its simple -- Weems is putting too much pressure on himself to carry the Bears. Playing with a brand-new roster and a retooled coaching staff is not an easy thing to do for the reigning MVC Player of the Year.

- Tough loss for Stanford: The Cardinal were the team that everyone was talking about heading into Pac-12 play. Their only loss on the season came against Syracuse in MSG when Stanford led for the first 36 minutes of the game. That was prior to Thursday's tilt with Butler, when Stanford lost 71-66 at home to a rebuilding Bulldog team that struggles to score. The loss isn't going to look as bad on paper -- Butler's name has some prestige attached to it -- as it will in the computers.

So who is your pick for the Pac-12? I'm going with Oregon State.

- What's wrong with the Panthers?: Coming into the season, Pitt had lost one non-conference games in the Peterson Events Center. After losing to Wagner on Friday night, the Panthers have now lost two this season. What's wrong? Its simple -- they can't stop anyone. The idea that Pitt has been a dominant defensive team in the Jamie Dixon era is a fallacy; they have never forced enough turnovers. But they have always been somewhere within the top 25 to 50 teams in defensive efficiency according to Kenpom. This season? They are 149th.

In the past, Pitt would make their opponents take tough shots and limit them to one shot per possession. They are still rebounding the ball well this year (they lead the country in offensive rebounding percentage and are top 30 in defensive rebounding percentage) but there are simply fewer defensive rebounds this year; opponents are getting more open looks and missing fewer jumpers this season. If Pitt wants to turn this thing around, it starts with their defense.

Games of the Week:

No. 7 Baylor 83, West Virginia 81 OT:

No. 8 Missouri 78, Illinois 74: Missouri jumped out to a big first half lead on the Illini in the Braggin' Rights game, but seldom-used wing Joseph Bertrand led Illinois on the comeback trail. He scored 19 points in the second half on 9-9 shooting, and the Illini erased what had been a 13 point lead with 13 minutes left. But Missouri went on a late 7-0 run -- to turn a 70-68 deficit into a 75-70 lead with under a minute left -- to hold on for the win. Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon combined for 36 points in the win.

West Virginia 60, Missouri State 58 OT: West Virginia was down by five with just 45 seconds left in regulation, but freshman Gary Browne capped the comeback with a tough, fall away three with 1.6 seconds left on the clock. The 'Eers took the early lead in OT, and Nathan Scheer missed a jumper in the lane as time expired. Kevin Jones had 16 points and 13 boards in the win.

Matchups of the Week:

- 12/28 7:00 pm: No. 12 Georgetown @ No. 4 Louisville
- 12/28 7:30 pm: No. 15 Indiana @ No. 17 Michigan State
- 12/28 8:00 pm: Missouri State @ No. 19 Creighton
- 12/28 9:00 pm: No. 14 Mississippi State @ No. 7 Baylor
- 12/29 9:00 pm: Vanderbilt @ No. 13 Marquette
- 12/29 11:00 pm: BYU @ St. Mary's
- 12/30 8:00 pm: Oakland @ South Dakota State
- 12/31 12:00 pm: No. 4 Louisville @ No. 3 Kentucky
- 12/31 6:00 pm: No. 2 Ohio State @ No. 15 Indiana
- 12/31 6:00 pm: No. 19 Creighton @ Wichita State
- 12/31 6:00 pm: St. Louis @ New Mexico
- 12/31 8:00 pm: Gonzaga @ Xavier

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