College basketball: Weekly honors led by Oklahoma's Trae Young, Wofford's upset and more
It's Tuesday, which means it's time for the weekly honors. The best of yet another eventful week in college basketball:
Team of the week: Wofford
Did you think I could give it to any other team? Come on. The Terriers had a historic win at North Carolina. And they earned it. This was no fluke. Wofford was the better team for the final 20 minutes. That doesn’t mean Carolina wouldn’t win every other matchup if they were to play another nine times. But on this night the Terriers were the more efficient team. Mike Young had his crew prepared, confident and poised down the stretch. The Terriers have won five in a row and will be in the mix in a very competitive Southern Conference. This win won’t top winning the SoCon conference tournament, but it was a memory maker for each one of those players and every member of the staff for the small liberal arts school in Spartanburg, S.C.
When you beat the #5 UNC Tar Heels on the road... pic.twitter.com/JBCLdHa94K— Wofford Basketball (@WoffordMBB) December 21, 2017
Player of the week: Trae Young, Oklahoma
This is starting to get repetitive. But Young deserves it. Young was simply ridiculous in the two games last week against Northwestern and Northwestern State. He scored 26 points and dished out 22 assists in 29 minutes in the win over Northwestern State. He was unguardable against the Wildcats, scoring 31 points and handing out a dozen assists. He made eight 3s against Northwestern, many from DEEP range. He’s averaging 28.7 points, 10.4 assists and only 3.8 turnovers a game. He is THE LEADER for national player of the year. I know. I know it’s early. But it’s not close right now. This is his race to lose. Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger is doing a fantastic job of letting Trae be Trae. And the team clearly is feeding off of it with the Sooners at 10-1 heading into the Big 12 opener against undefeated TCU on Saturday.
Breakthrough for the Bonnies:
St. Bonaventure won at Syracuse. That may not seem like a big deal in the national picture with the Orange probably being a middling ACC team. But this was HUGE. All you had to do was see the reaction from coach Mark Schmidt while waiting for his players to leave the floor and then in the locker room. The devoted Bonnies alumni, many in the media and/or working for schools in media relations, couldn’t hold back their euphoria, either. The Bonnies have traditionally been searching for attention in upstate New York. The institution is small in remote Olean and hardly is the first school that comes to mind when discussing the A-10. But Schmidt is the perfect coach for the Bonnies. He loves it. He has said he fits. Picking up a win against Syracuse will do wonders for this team’s self-esteem. More importantly, the Bonnies with a win over Maryland on a neutral court can go into the A-10 with an at-large resume. Remember, star Jaylen Adams was hurt when the Bonnies lost to Niagara and TCU.
Welcome back to the national scene UCLA:
The Bruins were starting to trend in the wrong direction — as in out of the NCAA tournament contention before the Pac-12 began with a road loss at Michigan and a home loss to Cincinnati. The Bruins desperately needed not just something positive to happen, but a real win against an NCAA-bound team and preferably on a road or neutral court. They got exactly what they needed by beating Kentucky in New Orleans. Now, UCLA can go into the Pac-12 with confidence and start piling up wins. The Bruins open up with four of their first six at home.
San Diego State over Gonzaga. The Aztecs don’t have the at-large resume, but do now have something to show to challenge Nevada, UNLV and Boise State for the Mountain West regular-season title. The win came after a disheartening one-point loss to Cal. Now, the key for the Aztecs will be to see if they can actually build off the win over the Zags. Starting the conference at Wyoming on Wednesday will challenge this group mightily.
Highlights from tonight's win over No. 12/15 Gonzaga. pic.twitter.com/CvttGzPV3h— Aztec M. Basketball (@Aztec_MBB) December 22, 2017
Banner week for the Big 12:
Oklahoma’s Trae Young is the best player in the country and continues to be unstoppable (see above); Texas beat Alabama by 16 in Birmingham; Kansas won at Stanford and found out big man Silvio De Sousa can now practice with the team and may soon be eligible to play in games; TCU remains undefeated; West Virginia continues to roll with 11-straight wins; Kansas State picked up a true road win at Washington State; Iowa State has won nine in a row; Baylor’s Jo-Lual Acuil had monopoly numbers with 31 points and 21 rebounds in a win over Savannah State; Texas Tech is 11-1 and while the competition wasn’t strong last week they scoring margins were by a combined 63 points in two games; Oklahoma State didn’t fold after beating Florida State by crushing Tulsa.
The resume win:
Tennessee over Wake Forest. The Vols crushed Wake on the road by 19. That gives Tennessee two true road wins (Georgia Tech) over ACC teams and four total road/neutral wins after beating Purdue and NC State in the Bahamas. The SEC begins at Arkansas on Saturday but no one will fault the Vols if they take a loss there, especially the committee.
Start paying attention to… Auburn:
Bruce Pearl is down on numbers but it hasn’t affected the Tigers’ ability to score or produce quality results. Auburn entered the holiday at 11-1 after smashing UConn at home by 25. Auburn won at Murray State earlier in the week. The Tigers also have a win at Dayton and beat Middle Tennessee State at home, a quality win over a decent Conference USA squad. Auburn gets Cornell at home before opening the SEC at Tennessee on Jan. 2 for a true barometer of where this team stands.
Illinois gets it over Mizzou. This is significant because the Illini desperately needed something positive after losing to New Mexico State in Chicago and starting the Big Ten 0-2 in early December. Brad Underwood can only teach/preach so much without getting some results. He got them in one of the most important games on his schedule. Why was this so critical? After playing Grand Canyon, the Big Ten resumes with Illinois going to Minnesota and Michigan and starting with four of the first five conference games on the road. Ouch.
Ball State and BYU. Ball State started 1-4 and have won seven in a row, including at Notre Dame. The Cardinals start the MAC with four of six on the road. BYU was just 3-2 but has won eight in a row, including taking out in-state rival Utah.