Oh, it’s Monday again? That means it's time for the weekly honors:
Team of the Week:
Xavier. The Musketeers had one of the toughest schedules of any team this week, regardless of location. The Musketeers beat Baylor by 13 and and then were out front on Cincinnati for an 89-76 win. The Musketeers are a physical lot, and while J.P. Macura can clearly get under people’s skin (see: Wisconsin fans and now Mick Cronin), he still gets things done when he’s on the floor. But the Musketeers wouldn’t have a chance to unseat Villanova for the Big East title or create an elite resume if they didn’t have Trevon Bluiett. He’s averaging 20.8 points and is every bit the player the Musketeers need in that role.
Player of the Week:
Kansas senior guard Devonte Graham. Graham has clearly established himself as the go-to player for the Final Four contender. Graham was sensational against Syracuse in Miami, scoring 35 points, five assists and two steals (yes he did have five turnovers but he played all 40 minutes). He was 7 of 13 on 3s, made all 8 free-throw attempts. He was the zone buster for the Jayhawks. Earlier in the week, he torched Toledo for 35 in nearly as productive a game across his entire stat line. Graham has embraced his leadership role.
Most impressive win:
Miami 86, Minnesota 81. The ‘Canes had played a soft schedule prior to the ACC-Big Ten Challenge game against the Gophers. Minnesota had been hot, winning a true road game at Providence and over Alabama on a neutral court. The Gophers were without Dupree McBrayer for the game, but that’s not an excuse. Miami earned every inch of this road win and it sent a strong signal to the ACC that the ‘Canes will be a factor in the race.
Most important win:
Arizona 91, UNLV 88 in overtime. The Wildcats had been reeling after going 0-3 at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Sure, they came home and dismantled Long Beach State. But Arizona desperately needed a confidence boost and taking out a previously surging UNLV on the road qualifies. Why? Look what is next: Texas A&M and Alabama this week. Arizona has to re-establish itself as a contender and getting through this stretch unscathed or at least 2-1 would do wonders for its self-esteem, as well as national perception.
Most perplexing loss:
Washington State falling, 81-67, to UC Davis in Pullman. The Cougars were 6-0 after winning the Wooden Legacy in Fullerton. The Cougs earned a No. 36 spot in our Power 36. Washington State went cold from the 3-point line. Look, they weren’t going to run the table but this did sort of stun the momentum the Cougars earned over Thanksgiving week.
Welcome back of the week:
St. Bonaventure senior Jaylen Adams. The senior guard had been sidelined for the first six games with an ankle injury. The Bonnies needed him back to show their potential. Adams returned to score nine points, dish out two assists, pick up two steals and grab four boards in 28 minutes of a win at Buffalo. The Bonnies may have beaten Niagara with Adams, but there is no guarantee they would have taken out TCU with him in the lineup. Still, the Bonnies can now move forward with the team they envisioned.
Gonzaga basketball: Zags' team manager earns walk-on spot after four years
Boise State with the buzzer-beater to knock off Oregon in Eugene. Lexus Williams hit a 3-pointer from half court to end a 46-game Oregon win streak, the longest in the country. And this is no fluke. Boise State is off to an 8-1 start.
Making a good impression:
Valparaiso is in its first season in the Missouri Valley, replacing the departed Wichita State. The Crusaders are off to an 8-0 start after beating Utah State. The Crusaders have a couple of scorers who can go off in Tevonn Walker and Bakari Evelyn, who scored 25 and 30, respectively, in the last two games. Valpo will get to prove itself on a more national stage this week at nearby Purdue.
Something you may not have known:
Towson has won eight in a row, the longest win streak for the program since 1993. The 8-1 start is the best since 1979 and this comes after playing seven games in 15 days on two continents, winning the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida Nov. 20-22 and then taking the inaugural Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic in Northern Ireland. Remember, Towson was 1-31 in Pat Skerry’s first year inn 2011-12.
Nothing to see here:
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin chose not to discuss his postgame actions with Xavier’s Macura in the handshake line. But he did go over what the Bearcats did wrong in the loss to the Musketeers. Cronin told NCAA.com Sunday that Xavier played great, Cincinnati didn’t early and it was “too much to overcome on the road. We never had our defense in a good place in the half court. We never really got our gameplay in effect because of the poor start. We got exposed on the backboard, which doesn’t happen to us very often and that was my biggest disappointment.
Xavier basketball: How Chris Mack prepped his Musketeers for Cincinnati Week
“Playing someone who plays really well against you early exposes weaknesses and gives you a chance to improve,’’ Cronin said. “It also allows you to find out how much character you have on your team by how you react to what happened. So I’m interested to see how we respond.’’