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 all five positions, the squad is selected based on games and performances from the week prior. Let’s get to the inaugural edition.
PG: Frank Mason III, Kansas
What else needs to be said?
When you're about to knock off No. 1. pic.twitter.com/mhTE92xNHc— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) November 16, 2016
Now that’s how you start a senior campaign, Mr. Mason. Kansas’ fearless point guard led the Jayhawks to a win over No. 1 Duke in the Champions Classic on Tuesday night, and as the clock ticked down in the second half, he simply wouldn’t be denied:
Mason has always been a good player in Lawrence, but he’s on another level early in 2016-17. The Jayhawks’ floor general is averaging 23 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game; he was a beacon of efficiency against Duke, scoring 21 points on just 13 shot attempts.
Kansas doesn’t have the most talented backcourt in America, but it probably has the most effective one. Mason is the primary factor in that equation. He’s made it a point to live at the free-throw line this season – he’s averaging a whopping 10 foul shot attempts per game, and perimeter foes have no answer for his fury of crossovers, hesitation dribbles and deceptive strength. That figure will drop, but an aggressive Mason is precisely what Kansas needs.
Mason has sparkled on the defensive side of the ball, as well. He had the Grayson Allen assignment against Duke, and he held the reigning All-American to 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting. What can’t this guy do?
SG: James Blackmon Jr., Indiana
Hoo Hoo Hoo... Hoosiers!— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) November 20, 2016
No. 6 Indiana dominates on the boards (55-20) and on the scoreboard (87-48) vs. Liberty. pic.twitter.com/rQX7Vmv3To
Skeptics wondered aloud whether or not Blackmon could fill Yogi Ferrell’s shoes in Bloomington. Early on, he’s doing that and then some.
The explosive Hoosiers’ shooting guard is averaging 23 points per game on 56.1 percent shooting from the floor while nailing more than half of his 3-point attempts. You think this guy was itching to return after missing much of last season due to injury?
Blackmon’s in such a groove right now that it doesn’t really matter if you contest his looks. Chances are, they’ll still scorch the net regardless. Mason and Devonte’ Graham hounded Blackmon all night long at the Armed Forces Classic, and he still carved up the Jayhawks to the tune of 26 points and four made 3’s.
Sometimes, basketball is complicated. We live in a hoops environment in which silly acronyms like BLOBS, SLOBS and ATO actually carry a lot of importance.
Other times, it’s not. Shot-makers score points. Points win games. Blackmon is making shots of all shapes and sizes at an exquisite rate, and that’s why he’s been so effective.
SF: Peter Jok, Iowa
The Hawkeyes are undoubtedly Jok’s team in 2016-17, and if he continues to play like this, Iowa could sneak up on people this year.The senior wing scored 27 points in just 19 minutes of action on Sunday, and on the season, he’s averaging 24.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Iowa dropped a tough one against Seton Hall on Thursday night, but Jok still shined – he dropped 30 points and snared 11 rebounds. He’s scored 27 points or more in three of his four outings this season.
At this rate, Jok looks like he could be in the Big Ten Player of the Year discussion by season’s end. Frankly, the Hawkeyes don’t have much else. That is often a recipe for monster individual numbers for a player who is more than capable of creating his own shot, so Iowa will be worth watching this season.
Next up for Jok and the Hawkeyes is Virginia. A win over the Cavaliers would cement his status as a bona fide star.
PF: Alec Peters, Valparaiso
Valparaiso was stoked that Peters opted to return this season, and it’s easy to see why. This dude is on another level.
On the season, Peters is averaging 25.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, highlighted by a 36-point, 15-rebound effort against Trinity. The scary thing? It’s reasonable to think his scoring could rise.
For how great his raw numbers are, Peters hasn’t been very efficient thus far by his standards. The big man is only shooting 42 percent from the floor; in 2015-16, he made 50.5 percent of his field goal attempts. Peters is averaging 20.3 (!) shot attempts per game this season; to say that he has the greenest of lights is an understatement.
If Peters maintains this workload while upping his efficiency to career norms, look out. Actually, you should probably look out anyway. Valparaiso is always a fun team to watch, but Peters is can’t-miss these days.
C: Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
The state of Indiana has some great players this season. Swanigan was good as a freshman, but he looks like a completely different guy as a sophomore; Purdue’s bruising big man is averaging 20.7 points, 13 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game early on.
His scoring and rebounding numbers are superb, but how about those assist totals? Most college basketball point guards don’t average 4.3 dimes per game. Swanigan commands double and triple teams on a regular basis, and he’s beating those in a multitude of ways. Sometimes, he just overpowers you. Others, he kills you with his fleet feet. Now, he’s whipping laser passes all over the court to his Purdue teammates. Players Swanigan's size shouldn't be able to do this:
Clearly, this was a point of emphasis for Swanigan this offseason; he averaged 1.8 helpers per game as a freshman. These stats are Blake Griffin-like, and a quality opponent (Villanova) had no answer for him in the post.
With all of that said, Swanigan has room to improve as a defender. He fouls too much, and Josh Hart exploited some of his lazy pick-and-roll defense habits in the Boilermakers’ loss to the Wildcats -- Swanigan shows on screens too early; a perceptive player like Hart picks up on that, repeatedly ditches the pick and has an open lane to the cup. Still, if Swanigan continues to post these kind of offensive numbers, few will grumble about his defense.