Conference champions are being crowned, the bubble is shrinking and Selection Sunday is less than two weeks away.
Let’s get to the weekly honors.
Team of the Week
The Kansas Jayhawks won their 14th straight Big 12 title after beating Texas Tech in Lubbock and knocking off Oklahoma earlier in the week. The easy thing to do was dismiss the Jayhawks as an outright champ after they lost at home to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Silly. All or any of us who actually thought this could be the season the Jayhawks don’t win the Big 12 should admit how foolish that was to consider.
And don’t think for one second that the conference title doesn’t mean anything to Bill Self and the Jayhawks. Just check out the video of Self hoisting the conference trophy in the locker room in Lubbock. The Big 12 title does mean more because of the true round-robin. And it is arguably the toughest to capture because of the schedule and homecourts that could make a case as the toughest in the country. Bravo.
Player of the Week
Carsen Edwards, 6-1, So., G, Purdue: Edwards has vaulted himself into the position of possible Big Ten player of the year and first-team all-American status. He also may just be the national player of the year, or at least could make a strong case.
Edwards scored 40 points, making four 3s, in a road win at Illinois and then finished off the regular season with 18 and seven assists in a home win over Minnesota. Edwards ends the regular season averaging 18.2 points a game. He’s getting hot at the right time and that means the Boilermakers are back being a contender for the title.
The Backup Five
Brad Davison, 6-3, Fr., G, Wisconsin: Normally, this space is reserved for players who led their teams to a win. But the rules don’t have to apply in this case. Davison was simply sensational in a five-point loss to Michigan State Sunday, scoring 30 points, after popping out his shoulder for the fifth time this season. Davison didn’t miss a beat after he left the court to have it popped back in. He returned to bury big shots and kept the Badgers in step with the Spartans down to the final possession.
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Kendrick Nunn, 6-3, Sr., G, Oakland: Nunn is averaging 26.4 points a game after sitting out last season once he transferred from Illinois. Nunn scored 37 in a win over Milwaukee. He started the week with 29 in a loss at IUPUI before dropping 39 in a loss to Green Bay. The Grizzlies will be the fourth seed in the upcoming Horizon League tournament.
Marcus Foster, 6-3, Sr., G, Creighton: Foster scored 28 in 43 minutes in the overtime win over Villanova. Earlier in the week, he put up 13 in a loss at Butler. Foster’s game control in the win over the Wildcats should put the Bluejays safely in the field. And when they get into the tournament, having a guard like Foster could be a difference maker.
Ian Boyd, 6-4, So., G, George Mason: Boyd hit a game-winning, buzzer-beating layup to knock off UMass in overtime. Oh, but that was not the only game-winning shot of the week. He buried a 3-pointer to beat Saint Joseph’s earlier in the week. Boyd hit two game-winners at the buzzer in the same week. Let that digest for a minute. Most players never hit one.
Mike Daum, 6-9, Jr., F, South Dakota State: Daum came up huge, as he always does, in the Summit showdown game against South Dakota with 20 points and then at Fort Wayne he deposited 31, making 8 of 12 3-pointers. If you’re looking for a hot hand to ride in the NCAAs from a one-bid league, hope for the Jackrabbits to make the field and then bank on Daum to create a tough first-round out.
Was there even a second choice? The Drexel Dragons were down 34 points Thursday night to Delaware and stormed back to win, 85-83. The comeback was the biggest in NCAA Division I history among all men’s basketball teams.
Unfortunately for the Dragons, they weren’t able to keep the momentum and finished up the week by losing to UNCW 83-82. Zach Spiker has had yet another injury-riddled season, but he has kept this crew together and they enter the CAA tournament as a threat to at least be a pest, and maybe win a game or two.
Most impressive road week
The Michigan Wolverines beat Penn State 72-63, and then took apart Maryland 85-61. Michigan may be the No. 5 seed entering the Big Ten tournament but they should be considered as much a favorite as the top seed Michigan State. Michigan has momentum, is playing as well defensively as any team in the conference, and has found a diversity of scoring options. Oh, and this is John Beilein time when things click more so than at any time for him.
Most significant conference champ
The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers claimed the Valley title — by four games! Porter Moser’s crew has been incredibly impressive this season, including a non-conference win at Florida.Loyola has the goods to be a tough out in the first round of the NCAA tournament if they can win the Valley tournament in St. Louis next weekend. But the Valley has to be thrilled with this title. Loyola joined the Valley in 2013, replacing Creighton when the Bluejays left for the Big East.
The Valley needed this program to be relevant and try to crack a small sliver of Chicago. Who knows if it has resonated much in the city, but having Loyola be a champion in this league is a major positive for its health going forward.
Most dominant conference title
The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns have two games left this week in the Sun Belt, but have already clinched the conference championship. Louisiana has a four-game lead, with a 15-1 record, 25-4. Bob Marlin has done a great job building a big-time winner in the Sun Belt.
This league has had great success as a spoiler in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Look out for the Cajuns, assuming they get the automatic qualifier, in the NCAA tournament.
Conference title that should be celebrated more
Virginia winning the ACC is big. Yes, the official champ of the ACC is the conference tournament title. But that’s just one week. It should change. Sure, the conference schedule is unbalanced. And not everyone gets a chance to play teams home-and-home.
But it’s still a grind. And Virginia won the league title — with the key win being at Duke. Virginia has a three-game lead on Duke with two games left this week.
Classiest tweet of the week
Villanova's Jay Wright tweeted this after the Wildcats lost at Creighton in overtime Saturday:
There is no better advocate and ambassador for the Big East than Wright. He gets it. And more should follow his lead.
It's gotta be Gonzaga. The Zags have won 11 in a row and are peaking at the right time, sweeping a final road swing at San Diego and BYU. Gonzaga has the experience and is defending well enough to make another deep run in March. The Zags lost a ton off last season’s national runner-up team. Yet, Mark Few and his staff have this team prepared to be a contender again.