College basketball's best: Weekly superlatives for Dec. 11
It's Monday, which means it's time for the weekly honors. The best of an eventful week in college basketball:
Team of the week
The Arizona State Sun Devils beat St. John’s on Friday in Los Angeles at the Staples Center, and then turned around and beat back Kansas in Phog Allen. If anyone had a doubt about the Sun Devils’ staying power, Sunday’s win should quiet that chatter. The victory over Xavier in Las Vegas was the first indication, but the manner in which the Sun Devils continue to dominate at the offensive end with Tra Holder and Shannon Evans should cause concern for every opposing coach. The contributions from Romello White and Kodi Justice are constant, too. This squad looks like it’s absolutely loving playing the game this season. And Bobby Hurley has been rewarded with his hard work by a team that truly is all in.
Player of the week
Trae Young, Fr., G, Oklahoma. He’s not just the top freshman guard in the country: he may be right in line with Marvin Bagley of Duke as one of the top candidates for national player of the year. Young scored 29 on 9-of-18 shooting with nine assists and four threes in a win over USC at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Earlier in the week, he put up 28 on UT-San Antonio, dishing out eight assists and adding three steals. Committing nine turnovers in the two games is a concern, but not as much when the wins continue to pile up.
...and the postgame celebration in the locker room pic.twitter.com/OL7cfCzMOB— BC Men's Basketball (@BCMBB) December 10, 2017
Boston College over Duke. Jim Christian has longed for this type of win, over a No. 1 team and in front of a crowd that was rocking at Conte Forum. The easy thing was to say the Eagles weren’t going to be decent when Deontae Hawkins went down for the season, since he was the team's top rebounder. But Ky Bowman (30 points) and Jerome Robinson (24 points) are two of the best guards in the conference. Toss in Jordan Chatman, who scored 22 of his own, and the Eagles have enough to warrant serious consideration for a team that will be a tougher out in the ACC than previously expected.
Win with a lasting shelf life
Washington over Kansas in Kansas City. Mike Hopkins wasn’t the obvious choice to take over the Huskies. But if he needed to convince those in Seattle that he can make a difference, then he got the right win. Sure, the Huskies were disappointed in the home loss to Gonzaga on Sunday night. But the win over Kansas will be used all season and into the offseason as an indication that he can succeed.
Best in-season turnaround, Pt. 1
The Arizona Wildcats were tossed out of the top 25 after losing three in a row in the Bahamas. Now, the Wildcats look the part of a Pac-12 title contender (at least, behind Arizona State) after beating Texas A&M and Alabama in the past week. Freshman center Deandre Ayton has been sensational the past week. He scored 29 points and grabbed 18 boards in the win over the Tide. He scored 13 and grabbed 10 in the win over the Aggies. Ayton will continue to be the reason Arizona can be playing for a conference title in early March.
Best in-season turnaround, Pt. 2
Ball State started out 1-4. Now, the Cardinals are 6-4 after two improbable wins the past week. Ball State beat Notre Dame behind Tayler Persons' three-pointer with 1.7 seconds left, and then with 3.3 seconds left he did it again to knock off Valparaiso. Ball State’s win at Notre Dame was the Cardinals' first-ever win over a top 10 team on the road. Persons had quite a week, averaging 23.5 points in the two games.
Game a team will want to forget
Providence's loss at UMass. The Friars are better than the Minutemen. And this was a game that PC needed to have after going into overtime to beat Brown. It’s been a rough week for the Friars after losing a rivalry game at Rhode Island. They'll still be a factor in the Big East, but the schedule is loaded up, with Houston on tap later in the month.
Best buzzer beater
Liberty’s Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz drained a three-pointer to win at Georgia State. I had a chance to meet him when I covered the Paradise Jam last month. He has become one of Ritchie McKay’s favorites, and with good reason. He’s so dedicated and passionate about playing for Liberty. He’s from Ponce, Puerto Rico, and his family was without electricity for over 40 days after Hurricane Maria. He went a week without speaking to them since they had no ability to contact him. Getting a game winner isn’t just a great story for a Flames team that will be in the race for the Big South title; it's also a much-needed good news item for his hometown.
Don’t sleep on...
The Albany Great Danes are off to a 10-1 start. Now, normally teams in the America East have to go on the road a ton in the non-conference and don’t have impressive records. Albany did go on the road five times and won four. Of course, all of these games were against similar teams. Still, Albany can score (81.8 points a game) and Joe Cremo is averaging 18.1 per game. The real test will be how Albany fares on the road at Memphis Tuesday, and again at Louisville on Dec. 20 as part of the Gotham Classic.
The biggest unknown
The Mississippi State Bulldogs are 8-0. Ben Howland has coached in multiple Final Fours, so there’s no reason to challenge whether the Bulldogs can be competitive at a high level. But the schedule was hardly daunting, with Dayton the only team on the list so far that is nationally recognizable. Now comes a road game at Cincinnati Tuesday for a measuring stick.