Teams of the Week
Syracuse - Regardless of the circumstances, anytime you can go into Cameron Indoor Stadium and knock off the Duke Blue Devils it is a memorable experience. And that certainly holds true for the Syracuse Orange after their 95-91 stunning overtime win last Monday night in Durham. Duke people will tell you that Cam Reddish sat out with an illness and probably even worse, Tre Jones left after just six minutes with a potentially serious shoulder injury. But this award isn’t about Duke, it’s about a Syracuse team that really needed a shot in the arm after questionable losses to Old Dominion, Georgia Tech, and UConn this year. Tyus Battle had a big performance at Duke with 32 points and Paschal Chukwu came off the bench to grab 18 Rebounds and 10 points. Amazing performances for both. Later in the week, Syracuse hosted a pretty hot Pittsburgh team in a game at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse rode the momentum from Monday and took care of the Panthers 74-63. Chukwu was elevated to the starting lineup and grabbed 11 more Rebounds. Battle added 22 Points. Heck of a week for those two individuals and for the Orange.
Baylor - Prior to this week, Baylor was in serious trouble. They had just lost one of their best players, 6-9 240 lb. Sophomore Tristan Clark for the season and were well outside of the projected bubble due to losses against Texas Southern, Stephen F. Austin, and Wichita State. There is nothing Baylor can do about those losses now, but the Bears needed a big week in a bad way. Senior King McClure really stepped up during Monday’s win at Oklahoma State with 29 points in a virtual must win for the Bears. That set the stage for an intriguing visit from highly rated Texas Tech. This time it was a complete Baylor team effort to find the path to a 73-62 statement victory over the Red Raiders. Frosh Jared Butler had 19, Senior transfer from Yale, Makai Mason had 16, and the Baylor defense forced 17 Red Raider turnovers. Seven different Bears scored at least six points. Sharing the rock seemed to keep the vaunted Texas Tech defense on their heels. Great week for Baylor.
Grambling St.- When Texas Southern went to Baylor, Oregon, and Texas A&M and beat all three of them on the road during Non-Conference play, everyone (including myself) penciled the Tigers in as the projected SWAC champions and by a large margin. So when Grambling traveled to Houston to face TSU last Saturday, not many were expecting a close game. Texas Southern controlled the majority of the game. Late in the contest, Irv Smith of Grambling began to take over. Smith scored the final four points in regulation, including a layup with two seconds left, to force overtime. After trailing during most of the Overtime period, Grambling mounted another comeback and trailed by one, and had the bal for a final possessionl. Then Smith hit the game winning jumper for the stunning 88-87 victory. Head Coach Donte Jackson has done an amazing job since taking over as Grambling’s coach last season. They went 13-5 in SWAC play last year while on probation. Now, with full tournament eligibility he is getting them in position to make a run to the NCAA’s. Also last week, Grambling defeated Alcorn State in a blowout 77-42.
LSU -We are going to stay in the great state of Louisiana for our next award, and tell you about what LSU did last week. The Tigers headed to Oxford on Tuesday night to face a red hot Ole Miss team that won last week’s award for Team of the Week. LSU came in with a superb gameplan to keep Ole Miss off balance and had seven players score six points or more. Tremont Waters did his usual thing for the Tigers by scoring 20 points and adding nine assists as LSU won in very impressive fashion 83-69, effectively bringing Ole Miss back down to Planet Earth. By Saturday, it was time to cool off the other surprise team in the SEC - the South Carolina Gamecocks. South Carolina came into Baton Rouge a very surprising 4-0 in league play. LSU did a tremendous job not allowing the upset-minded Gamecocks to have much of a chance in this one as the Tigers controlled the game from the onset. Freshman Emmitt Williams came off the bench in a big way with 15 Points, 13 Rebounds. And it was again a balanced effort with six Tigers scoring in double-figures. LSU cruised to a 89-67 victory in wrapping up a highly successful week.
UNC Greensboro - Another week, another SoCon team recieving TOTW honors. This time it’s the Spartans of UNC Greensboro. Quite frankly, I am surprised they did it and here is why. The Spartans had a fantastic 15-3 record entering last week, but had really played poorly in a blowout home loss against Wofford and some were beginning to question if this team should be considered a contender still. Well UNCG answered that question somewhat by holding off Furman two Saturdays ago and set themselves up with some confidence entering this road swing to WCU and ETSU. In the WCU game on Thursday, UNC Greensboro looked real shaky for much of the game, trailing by four points late in the game. But UNCG closed strong and came away with a 69-60 victory. Demetrius Troy had a highly efficient game leading the Spartn offense with seven assists and zero turnovers. Then came Saturday’s difficult test in Johnson City, TN against ETSU. The surging Buccaneers came into the game winning their last eight in a row. The Bucs also were a perfect 10-0 at home. Given the recent struggles of UNCG, many expected the Bucs to cruise in this one. The Spartans had other plans. A couple of unlikely heroes really stepped up in a 75-68 win for UNCG. Freshman Angelo Allegri came off the bench and hit five three pointers and added two steals. Junior Center James Dickey had 10 points, nine Rebounds, and 4 Blocks. And UNCG’s defense held ETSU to 31% 3 Pt shooting and forced 17 turnovers. Huge win for UNCG.
Kentucky - Won a big time road game against Auburn, also won at Georgia
Monmouth - Won three times last week: at Siena, versus rival Iona, and over Fairifield. Major turnaround after 1-13 start to season.
Iowa State - Huge win at Texas Tech, and held serve vs. Oklahoma State
Jacksonville St. - Finished the season sweep over Belmont in OT and beat Tennessee Tech, now 6-0 in OVC play.
Maryland - Maybe the hottest team out there. Dominated Ohio State on the road, beat Wisconsin at home. Another tremendous week.
Pennsylvania (Beat bubble team and rival Temple in their building), Arizona State (Entered the week with doubts, left with two impressive wins over the Oregon schools), Bucknell (big wins at rival Lehigh and against Holy Cross), Kansas State (Big win at Oklahoma and took care of home business vs. TCU), Middle Tennessee (Knocked off top CUSA team UTSA and beat UTEP) Michigan State (won at Nebraska in big matchup), Canisius (Two crucial road wins. At Fairfield and at Quinnipiac), Bowling Green (Stayed unbeaten in MAC play with wins over Ball State and WMU), Houston (two road conference wins at SMU and at USF), UMass-Lowell (wins at Hartford and vs. Albany), Oakland (knocked off rival and previous first place Detroit on the road), Mount St. Mary’s (won on the road at first place Wagner), Loyola (MD) (Won at Holy Cross and vs. BU), Milwaukee (low ranked Panthers impressively swept UIC and IUPUI).
Ja Morant of Murray State is having a season for the ages and his draft stock has skyrocketed. In Sunday’s win at SIUE, Morant had 40 Points, 11 Assists, 5 Steals and went a perfect 21-21 from the Free throw line. In Thursday’s win over EIU, Morant had 27 Points and 9 Assists. Make sure to watch a Racers game or two this season.
Andrew Kostecka of Loyola (MD) had himself an exciting and successful week. Andrew had 28 points in an overtime win over Boston University and added 26 more points plus the game winning shot in another overtime win over Holy Cross. Tremendous individual and team week for Andrew and the Greyhounds.
George Mason is fighting their tails off to turn around their season after a disappointing non-conference slate combined with some lofty preseason expectations. The Patriots are off to a 5-1 start in Atlantic 10 play thanks in large part to 6-4 Junior, Justin Kier. Kier has been named MVP in their last four games in a row, according to Ken Pomeroy and has now won Atlantic 10 Player of the week honors in back to back weeks. Kier had 40 points, 18 Rebounds total in the two wins over UMass and Fordham last week. Up next, Kier and the Patriots head to Dayton for a key matchup on Wednesday evening.