College basketball All-Week team: Big Sky standouts lead the charge
Team basketball is a sight to behold, but when an individual player is in a zone, sometimes the best strategy is simply to get the heck out of his way and let him dominate.
Across the country, we see these kind of epic performances on a nightly basis. It’s part of what makes college basketball so great — talented student-athletes showing off their spectacular abilities in front of millions.
Each week at NCAA.com, we’ll select a college basketball All-Week team. Comprised of five positions, the squad is selected based on games and performances from the week prior. Let’s get to this week's edition.
ICYMI: Last week's team
G Chris Chiozza, Florida
Arguably the biggest upset win in a week where six of the top 10 teams in the AP Top 25 fell (No. 2, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9) comes to the college basketball world courtesy of the Florida Gators. More on that later, but junior guard Chris Chiozza was right in the thick of things this week as the Memphis native helped lead the way in the team’s midweek romp over Missouri, 93-54. He tallied the fourth triple-double (12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists) in school history in the process, joining Corey Brewer and Nick Calathes in a select group. It was just the third game of the year where the 6-foot guard scored more than 10 points, but that’s not so surprising given his averages on the year. As the team’s second-leading assist man (4.0 assists per game), Chiozza’s ability to spell Kasey Hill as the primary ball handler and distributor on offense is often more important than the scoring he provides to the lineup.
Case in point, the point guard’s line in the big upset win over Kentucky, 88-66. Two points (on 1-of-7 shooting) is certainly nothing to write home about, but nine boards, nine assists and two steals helped Chiozza put his stamp on this ballgame. Simply put, if you flirt with a double-double without scoring in double figures you deserve at least a modicum of attention from the college basketball world. It just goes to show that when a player’s shot is not going down, they can still make an impact in a number of ways. The pair of wins in the SEC helped Florida runs its conference record to 8-2, and with the tiebreaker over Kentucky already in hand, the Gators just might be thinking that an SEC regular-season title is within their grasp too. A battle with South Carolina (9-1 in the SEC) and a rematch with Kentucky loom before the end of the month, so fans will learn plenty about this Florida team before March rolls around.
G Thomas Wilder, Western Michigan
It’s been a tough year so far for the Broncos of Western Michigan (7-15, 3-7 in the MAC), but that’s not to say there’s any quit in this club. And the team’s lead guard Thomas Wilder has been showing out of late. A pair of bouts in the MAC saw Western Michigan triumph at home over Ohio (90-85) on Tuesday thanks to a huge second-half comeback, then follow that with a hard-fought loss on the road at Central Michigan (86-82) on Friday. Wilder tallied a game-high 29 points in Tuesday’s win — including 22 of the team’s 52 points after the halftime buzzer — to go along with seven boards and three dimes. A season-high 10 made free throws helped pace Wilder’s best scoring effort of the season, which helped snap the squad’s second four-game losing streak of the year. Fun fact: The only game this season where Wilder failed to reach double figures in the scoring column was the earlier meeting between Ohio and Western Michigan, an 89-58 victory for the Bobcats.
On Friday, Wilder’s near triple-double of 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists led things for the visiting Broncos. And if not for a late, tie breaking 3-pointer from Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene — AKA the leading scorer in DI college basketball — the Broncos might have had their second winning streak of the year. Wilder drew the assignment of sticking Keene on the game-winning possession, but came up just short. Granted the team has now lost five of its last six games, it’s worth noting the fine play from the Illinois native. Winning isn’t everything, but outstanding play always reigns supreme.
G Victor Sanders, Idaho
After an unsteady go of things in the nonconference slate, the Vandals of Idaho have found their legs in the Big Sky conference, thanks to the scoring (21.4 ppg, third in the Big Sky) and leadership of junior guard Victor Sanders. A career-high 40-point effort punctuated a win over Portland State (89-72), which included Sanders scoring 14 of his team’s first 17 points to begin the game. He became the fifth Vandals players in school history to top 40 points in a ballgame, doing so on just 16 shots from the floor. A few nights later, Sanders was at it again as the focus of the offense when he scored 31 points to go along with six assists in a 14-point win over Sacramento State, 81-67. In the win Sanders became the 16th member of the school's 1,000-point club.
The 6-foot-5 guard from Portland, Oregon, has shown better playmaking potential this year (1.9 assists per game in 2015-16, 3.4 assists per game in 2016-17), which has made him more of a threat on the offensive end. More to the point, he’s scoring more points and shooting better from the field, while still making more plays for his teammates. One thing that potentially bodes well for the Vandals going forward, they have one game remaining with each of the three teams ahead of them in the conference race (Weber State, Eastern Washington, North Dakota). That’s by no means a guarantee that the ball will bounce Idaho’s way in any of those matchups, but it seems the Vandals will at least be playing meaningful basketball through the end of the regular season.
F Jacob Wiley, Eastern Washington
It was too busy a week in the Big Sky conference not to highlight another ballplayer out west. And with the performances turned in by Eastern Washington’s (EWU) Jacob Wiley, there’s plenty of reason to feature the 6-foot-7 forward. A pair of huge double-doubles in two close wins over Sacramento State (77-72) and Portland State (130-124, 3OT) grabbed the headlines in a week where head coach Jim Hayford earned his 100th victory at EWU. First off, Wiley did a little bit of everything in a five-point victory over the Hornets of Sacramento State. His final stat line read: 38 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks, three assists and a steal. If only his week ended there.
EWU’s second game of the week might be a candidate for Game of the Year in the Big Sky as Eastern Washington knocked off Portland State in triple overtime, 130-124. Wiley and teammate Bogdan Bliznyuk combined to score 90 points in the ballgame (45 a piece), just two total points shy of the NCAA single-game scoring record for a pair of teammates, according to EWU athletics. Not a bad night for the highest-scoring tandem in the Big Sky. Wiley also added 17 boards to his cause, helping him secure his fifth double-double of the season. The game broke a slew of conference and school records in the process, not to mention marking the fifth time Wiley reached 30 or more points in the team’s last seven games. A battle for supremacy in the Big Sky is set to unfold in the coming weeks and EWU is going to need as much of a contribution as it can get from Wiley.
RELATED: Jacob Wiley | Player of the Week
F Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
Another week and another set of double-doubles from the nation’s leader in that category (20 in 24 games so far this year). A pair of ranked matchups saw Purdue earn two victories in the Big Ten thanks in large part to the team’s defensive efforts. First off, the Boilermakers dumped Northwestern (80-59) behind 24 points and 16 boards from the 6-foot-9 sophomore forward. Northwestern — enjoying its first taste of life in the AP Top 25 —was held to just 35 percent shooting from the field in this one. A few days later the Boilermakers took their show on the road to visit the Terrapins. In a battle of contrasting styles, the big man play down low for Purdue overshadowed the guard-heavy Maryland attack as Swanigan totaled a game-high 26 points to go along with his 10 caroms in a 73-72 win. Maryland went without a field goal for the final seven minutes of the game in this one. Head coach Matt Painter and company have a lot to be proud of so far, and the going only gets easier for Purdue with all seven of the team's remaining games set to come against unranked opponents.