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 Keon Johnson, Winthrop
Winthrop, at 79.1 points per game, leads the conference in scoring, and Johnson (21.3 ppg) has been on a scoring tear of late — four straight games of 20 or more points (10 such games on the year). Johnson's running mate, Xavier Cooks (16.1 ppg), has been keyed in offensively as well, as the Eagles are off to a 3-1 start in conference. The lone Big South loss came in an 82-80 battle with Radford, a game in which Johnson scored 37 points. Johnson and Cooks are the highest-scoring duo in the Big South, but there's little reason for a sense of entitlement. Given the defense — or relative lack thereof — that the Eagles play, most teams can knock off Winthrop with good solid execution. And maybe a little defense of their own is the recipe the doctor ordered for Winthrop's postseason blues.
As NCAA.com's Brian Mull noted in his October preview of the Big South conference:
With two of the best players in the conference on its roster, Winthrop is the obvious choice to make its first NCAA tournament appearance under coach Pat Kelsey. The former Wake Forest and Xavier assistant led the program to a 35-17 conference record the last three seasons but each one ended with a loss in the tournament title game. Better defense could be the key to reaching the ultimate goal. In conference games, Winthrop was fifth in adjusted defensive efficiency (104.6), and allowed 1.08 points per possession or more in seven of nine overall losses.
G Joel Berry II, North Carolina
G/F Josh Jackson, Kansas
In a pair of wins this week against Kansas State and Texas Tech, Jackson flirted with a triple-double (22 points, nine rebounds, six assists) and notched his third double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) of the year. He also displayed some of his playmaking ability and a bit of a stroke from the 3-point line in the two wins, but the athleticism was consistently front and center.
F Eric Mika, BYU
Well, the team has welcomed him back with open arms, and things are going swimmingly for the Utah native. He's currently averaging more than 20 points a game to go along with just over nine boards a night, but his toughness is the aspect of his game that sticks out. It's no secret that BYU tends to go smaller with its lineups than most opponents, which puts the onus on the big man to shoulder the duties in the middle. Against Saint Mary's (Calif.) on Thursday, Mika was one of only two BYU players to reach double figures. Unfortuantely, Mika's double-double (28 points and 10 rebounds) was not enough in the 81-68 loss to the Gaels. Nonetheless, Mika has shown a knack for controlling the paint on both ends at times this year. It's clear that he's enjoying a return to the game that he missed for two years, and he's playing like he's making up for lost time.
F Ivan Rabb, California
However, the 6-foot-11 sophomore atoned by putting his stamp all over Sunday night's win against USC. Rabb converted on a pair of late free throws with just about five seconds left to give his team a one-point lead, and then came up with the block on the other end as time expired to preserve the win (17 points, eight rebounds, two blocks). The sophomore's play in the Pac-12 is showing the benefit of the experience he earned in conference play a year ago, as he doesn't shy away from contact in the paint. Case in point, on Cal's final possession Rabb took USC's forward Chimezie Metu down to the left block for a post-up touch before drawing the foul on a left-handed jump hook. That confidence carried over to the free-throw line, as Rabb calmly stroked two makes to give his team the final lead of the night. He has upped his per game averages to 17.5 points and nearly 15 rebounds a night in conference, which will certainly be a boon to the Bears' fortunes going forward.