These days, college basketball is dominated by guards. Gone is the day when back-to-the-basket play reigned supreme. Given the impact and the allure of the 3-point arc, it may be some time before we see that day again.
Justin Tuoyo, senior, 6-foot-10, 235 lbs, Chattanooga Mocs (10-4)
27.4 minutes, 13.6 pts, 7.4 reb, 0.9 ast, 3.8 blk, 63.3 FG percentage
Tuoyo has been relaibly consistent in the New Year, a good sign for second-year head coach Matt McCall. In order for the Mocs to be in the mix come season's end, a lot is riding on Tuoyo's shoulders.
His patience in the post is evident when he works out of a pick-and-roll setup. He does much of his damage off feeds around the rim, but there's an occasional drop-step move with his back to the basket or a left-hand hook in his repertoire, too. Although not known for his passing ability, Tuoyo's athleticism enables him to catch, turn and look at the other side of the court without running through defenders trying to take a charge. It helps make him the team's go-to guy in plays that call for screening action.
Thoughts when he has the rock: Like flaming saganaki, he's good as at room temperature, but get him warmed up and watch out. Opa!
Justin Patton, freshman, 7-foot, 230 lbs, Creighton Bluejays (13-1)
24.9 minutes, 13.1 pts, 6.4 reb, 1.1 ast, 1.6 blk; 74.3 FG percentage
Having the country's leading assist man in Watson Jr. is a nice plus for the baby-faced big man, but that shouldn't overshadow the talent that Patton brings to the table. Length and athleticism aside, Patton has a bevy of post moves, and he uses both hands on either block. Just ask Seton Hall or Villanova how they handled him. (They didn't). This team likes to run in the open court, too, and its young, athletic big man can catch and finish in traffic.
If this is how good the guard-to-big connection has been through 14 games, what's it going to look like come the end of the season? One thing is for sure: Patton — who has scored double figures in all but two games (he scored nine points in those two other games) —will figure in heavily for Creighton.
Thoughts when he has the rock: A fine wine betters as it ages; fans just need to wait and see Patton mature.
Justin Alston, senior, 6-foot-8, 230 lbs, Boston University Terriers (7-7)
23.2 minutes, 11.3 pts, 6.0 reb, 0.6 ast, 0.5 blk; 54.0 FG percentage
On Monday, BU linked up with preseason Patriot League favorite Lehigh. Alston's 14 points and nine rebounds basically canceled out the performance from his counterpart, Lehigh's Tim Kempton Jr., the two-time reigning Patriot League Player of the Year. It might seem odd to highlight Alston's defense on a night when Kempton, who ranks 29th in the nation in scoring (20.9 ppg) had a near double-double (16 points and eight rebounds), but forcing a star player into a fairly pedestrian night is a defensive victory.
Alston blends a well-built frame with good instincts to position himself around the basket for rebounds, an undervalued skill in the college game. A so-so start to the year for BU has been offset by a 2-0 start in the Patriot League. Now, the Terriers will be looking for even more solid two-way play from their big man.
Thoughts when he has the rock: A good bowl of chili looks simple enough, but beneath the surface big flavor is brewing.