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 Jack Gibbs, DavidsonThere’s something about having Davidson alumni and two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors in the house that brings out the best in the Wildcats senior guard Jack Gibbs. Sure, the two share the same alma mater, a relatively diminutive frame and a penchant for filling it up from the point guard spot, but few at Davidson have done it as consistently as Gibbs since Curry donned the red and white duds. That said, Gibbs showed off his entire offensive repertoire in a pair of wins against Duquesne and Fordham, which included a number of pull-up jumpers, spot-up 3-pointers and a bevy of finishes with both hands around the rim. Mix in a quick release on his jump shot, and the more you watch Gibbs on offense the more you begin to see elements that have been transliterated from Curry — the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Just over a year ago, Curry showed up for a matchup between Davidson and Charlotte. The end result: Gibbs dropped a career-high 41 points on the night. Flash back to 2017: With Curry in the house on Tuesday, Gibbs had himself another stellar night from the field as he put together a game-high 32 points to go along with seven boards in a win over Duquesne. On Saturday, Gibbs was back at it again in another victory on the road at Fordham where he pumped in 28 points (7-of-11 on field goals, 5-of-5 on 3-point attempts) to go along with seven assists. In the pair of wins, the 6-foot senior showed off his skill set while shooting a commendable 62.5 percent from the field. Gibbs, who leads the conference in scoring (22.7 ppg), while also boasting the league’s fourth-best 3-point percentage (41.3 percent), will need to keep his hot streak going if the Wildcats are going to make a run in the A10 conference.
G Donovan Mitchell, LouisvilleThings haven’t been perfect for Louisville so far in the 2016-17 season, but an 18-4 record should be enough to keep most Louisville faithful happy. More to the point, it should also get the Cardinals back to the NCAA tournament. If they do get back, a key part of that run will be sophomore guard and leading scorer Donovan Mitchell (14.8 ppg). The 6-foot-3 guard from Connecticut has doubled his scoring output from a year ago (7.4 ppg) and taken control of this team with his backcourt mate Quentin Snider. However, Snider has been out for the last few games, which has given Mitchell the sole possession of the spotlight.
In a pair of wins in ACC bouts against Pittsburgh and NC State, Mitchell showed off his scoring prowess to the tune of 29 and 28 points, respectively. Shooting 60 percent (18-of-30) from the field in those two games speaks for itself, but Mitchell really made some headway from the 3-point line (12-of-18; 67 percent). This kind of a stretch shooting the ball it’s likely just what the doctor ordered for Mitchell after a tough outing in a loss to Florida State on Jan. 21. But there’s one saving grace for the Cardinals: The team’s four losses have come against clubs that have been fixtures in the AP Top 25 all year (Baylor, Virginia, Notre Dame and Florida State). That may not explain away all the hiccups this team has by season’s end, but it will definitely weigh heavily in people’s minds come Selection Sunday.
G/F Trevon Bluiett, XavierNetting yourself a 40-point game these days is a surefire way to get some attention in the college game — just ask Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett. Even though the Musketeers fell by eight (86-78) in an early-week clash with Cincinnati, the junior’s performance stole the show. The game certainly lived up to the billing of the Crosstown Shootout as Bluiett’s career-high night was punctuated by hitting his first 10 shots from the field — including eight 3-pointers and a buzzer-beater to cap a 26-point first half. Unfortunately for the Musketeers, a big run after the intermission would ultimately give the Bearcats the win. But the outburst marked the first time a Xavier player tallied 40 or more points in a game since 2003 (David West, 47).
Xavier would get back in the win column on Sunday against St. John’s behind a double-double and some more hot shooting from Bluiett (21 points, 10 rebounds, 7-of-12 on field goals) — who passed the 20-point mark for the 11th time this season. The Xavier wingman went a combined 19-for-27 (70.4 percent) from the field in his team’s two games against Cincy and St. John’s. Even though the Musketeers have lost four of their last six games, including a three-game road losing streak prior to the victory at St. John’s, things might be looking up with Bluiett tickling the twine at such a high rate.
F Braxton Key, AlabamaThis time a year ago, Alabama’s freshman forward Braxton Key was still cutting his teeth as a standout senior at Oak Hill Academy. But, oh, what a difference a year makes. The Charlotte native is now the leading scorer (11.9 ppg) and rebounder (6.0 rpg) for head coach Avery Johnson and the Alabama Crimson Tide — who are tied for third in the SEC standings (6-2 in conference, 13-7 overall). Though Key has yet to record a double-double in his first year at school, his play this past week in wins against Georgia and Mississippi State showed off the comfort level he’s operating with right now.
Key tallied a career-high 26 points to go along with nine boards in a 20-point romp (80-60) on the road at Georgia. The freshman forward knocked down seven of his 11 field goals attempts on the night, including three of four tries from 3-point range. On Saturday against Mississippi State, Key managed a near double-double (19 points, nine rebounds) despite a rough shooting night from the field (4-of-13). Nonetheless, his strong performance at the charity stripe (10-of-14) proved to be a nice lift. Key has made a habit of getting opportunities to score with the clock stopped, as he has now converted 26 of 37 attempts from the free-throw line in the last three games (70.3 percent). The adjustment to the speed of the college game takes time for every freshman and scoring from the free-throw line can be a great equalizer for a player looking to make the jump. A tough stretch looms for this squad in the first few weeks of February —including meetings with South Carolina and Kentucky within the same week — and that slate of games should tell the country a little more about where this Alabama team stands. Needless to say, the Tide will need Key to be an integral part of any potential upsets.
F Steve Taylor Jr., ToledoWhat a wild week for the Toledo Rockets and Chicago native Steve Taylor Jr. The senior big man, who is averaging a double-double on the year (15.2 ppg, 12.2 rpg) had an all-encompassing week in the stat column amid a pair of tight contests that were sure to have any fan of MAC-tion on the edge of his or her seat. On Tuesday, Taylor had a massive night (25 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and two steals) in a three-point win at Ohio (79-76). The Rockets’ plus-8 margin on the backboards proved to be a key stat in helping Toledo take the victory over their intrastate rival, but a 53.6 percent shooting night for the Rockets can’t be overlooked. The hometown Bobcats also shot better than 50 percent from the field in this one, so fans who were in attendance got to see a heck of a ballgame.
On Saturday in a two-point loss to Northern Illinois (74-72), Taylor tallied his lowest scoring output of the season. In fact, the seven points he scored on 3-of-5 shooting from the field is only the second time he has failed to reach double figures in 20 games this season. Nonetheless, Taylor found a way to make an impact elsewhere on the stat sheet. In other words: Scoring isn't everything, y'all. Case in point, the 6-foot-9 big man added 17 rebounds, nine assists and two blocks to go along with his seven points in the losing effort. Remember this name because by season’s end he just might find a way to sneak in and unseat Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan for the nationwide lead in double-doubles (Swanigan has 18; Taylor is tied for third with 15).