Teams of the Week
Belmont - At the beginning of the week, all of the hype in the OVC was surrounding Ja Morant and the Racers of Murray State. After all, they were a dominant 6-0 in conference and only had two narrow losses (At Bama and At Auburn). The Belmont Bruins entered the week behind the 8-ball a bit in the OVC. Having already been swept by Jacksonville State and tasked with travlelling to two of the toufhest places in the conference, Murray State and Austin Peay. More than 40 NBA scouts came to witness Morant, only to see him go down with an early ankle injury that would bother him most of the game. Meanwhile the Bruins did a fantastic job on the defensive end to frustrate the Racers and limit them to a season low 32.3 percent shooting. After opening up a large lead, Belmont would go on to an emphatic 79-66 victory. With a day off in between, it was then time to play another team above them in the standings - Austin Peay. This game would go much differently for the Bruins. Austin Peay led 50-40 at Halftime, and the Governors held as large as a 14-point lead in the second half. Belmont’s Dylan Windler sparked a major comeback, scoring 22 of his 33 points in the second half and actually scoring 20 straight Belmont points during a single stretch. Kevin McClain’s layup put the Bruins up for good after breaking an 85-85 tie with 1:25 left. Bruins have now added a couple of quality road wins to a sneaky resume. Odds of them getting at-large remain slim, but for today they can be included in that conversation. Regardless, Belmont is a team that most do not want to face come March.
Purdue - In terms of projected seeding for the NCAA’s, nobody made a bigger move than Purdue. Last week at this time, I had Purdue 24th on the Seed list - good for the final #6 seed. Today? The Boilers are all the way up to 12th and have the final #3 seed. How? Purdue had an outstanding weekend to say the least. First it was a road game in Columbus against a tournament caliber Ohio State team. Carson Edwards led the way it in this game with 27 points, 5 steals, 4 assists and sinking 11 free throws. Boilermakers then had to turn around and get ready to host a red hot Michigan State (9-0 B10) team. This was a complete team effort by Purdue. Ryan Cline knocked down five treys, Nojel Eastern had eight free throws, and Matt Haarms had 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks off the bench. Despite a late rally from Michigan State, Purdue dominated most of the game and won handily, 73-63. Heck of a week for the Boilermakers.
Miami (OH) - I’ll admit this was an unlikely candidate to win this award before play began last week. The Redhawks were 9-9, 1-4 in MAC play and had only one road win all season. That quickly changed last Tuesday night when the Redhawks went to Ball State and stunned the Cardinals 71-65. Senior Darrian Ringo was sensational, pouring in 15 points to go with 6 assists and 5 steals. That gave the Redhawks confidence with First Place 6-0 Bowling Green coming to visit Millett Hall. The Redhawks really brought it defensively, holding the Falcons to 19-52 shooting and 15 turnovers. Meanwhile, Sophomore Nike Sibande had a 25 point, 7 rebound night to lead the way in a 67-53 victory. Redhawks look poised to threaten the MAC for the reamainder of the season.
Rutgers - Another unlikely selection, and a first time selection. You cannot tell me that you had the Scarlet Knights penciled in to beat Nebraska and win a road game last week. But that is exactly what happened! In Monday nights win over the struggling Huskers, Rutgers got great scoring efforts out of Montez Morris (20) and Geo Baker (16) as the Scarlet Knights sent Nebraska packing with a 76-69 win. Then it was off to face a regional rival in Penn State. Rutgers came ready to play. In a mostly tight game, and not exactly pretty, Rutgers grinded out a 64-60 triumph. Geo Baker hit a clutch three around the three minute mark to put the Scarlet Knights up for good. If anything, Rutgers is not a team to be overlooked over the next six weeks.
UMBC - We all know what happened with the Retrievers last March, unforgettable. However the majority of the 2018-19 campaign has been pretty forgettable. UMBC was sitting at 11-9, 3-2 in league and still yet to knock off a quality opponent. That all changed last Wednesday night. As the Retrievers prepared to face the league leading Vermont Catamounts, they found out star player Anthony Lamb for Vermont would be unavailable. And remember, Patrick Gymnasium is at the same location as last year’s stunning American East Championship win for UMBC. After a very competitive first half, UMBC opened the second half on a 17-3 run and never looked back. Retrievers stunned the Vermont faithful once again, 74-61. This gives UMBC a legitimate shot in the arm heading into the back half of the season. They completed the mountain road sweep by knocking off New Hampshire on Saturday 59-51. Watch out for UMBC down the stretch.
Washington - Another big-time road sweep in conference over Oregon and Oregon St. to get to 7-0.
UAB - Suddenly in the drivers seat of Conference USA after winning at North Texas and at Rice.
Kentucky - Statement home wins over Kansas and Mississippi State.
Missouri St. - Demolished league leader Loyola Chi and beat Bradley.
USC - With a healthy Kevin Porter Jr, turned things around by sweeping the Arizona schools at home.
San Diego (Huge win over USF and beat LMU), American (big wins over Bucknell and at Boston U.), George Mason (won at Dayton and beat GW), Pepperdine (Big win over St. Mary’s), Baylor (Knocked off Alabama and won at OK State) UTSA (crazy comeback win to beat ODU and beat Charlotte), Davidson (Road win at SLU and beat GW), Louisiana Tech (Beat WKU and Marshall at Home), Drake (won at Valpo and took care of Evansville), CS-Fullerton (big win over UCSB and won at Cal Poly), BYU (knocked off Saint Mary’s), Penn (Completed the Big 5 Sweep!), Siena (Won at Fairfield and vs. Manhattan), Western Illinois (Stunning win at South Dakota), Coastal Carolina (Two Road wins at Little Rock and at Arkansas St.), Robert Morris (Stayed hot with wins over Wagner and Sacred Heart).
Grant Williams of Tennessee was a man amongst boys last week. Williams averaged 31 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.5 blocks and 2.0 steals per game last week for the nation's top-ranked team (18-1, 6-0 in SEC). Williams finished with a career-high 43 points on 10-for-15 shooting when the Vols' top-ranking was put to the test in overtime at Vanderbilt last week, adding eight rebounds, four blocks and two assists
We’ve been waiting for South Dakota State to get rolling. It looks like the Jackrabbits have hit their stride of late. Mike Daum had a monster week. Scoring a combined 63 Points and adding 33 Rebounds as SDSU cruised to wins over Omaha and NDSU.
UNC Wilmington has had their struggles this season, But a beautiful bright spot has been the Senior season that Devontae Cacok is putting together. Last week was a big one for Cook. He put up 22 Points, 16 Rebounds in a vicotry over William & Mary. Then followed that up with a 20 Point, 19 Rebound performance in a losing cause vs. Elon.