Conference champions Murray State, Radford, Lipscomb headline college basketball weekly honors
Conference tournaments are being won, the bubble is shrinking and Selection Sunday is six days away. It's college basketball season.
Let’s get to the weekly honors.
Team of the Week
The Michigan Wolverines won the Big Ten tournament by beating Iowa in OT, Nebraska, Michigan State and Purdue, going through the toughest teams in the league. They defended. They made big shots when they needed to most. They finished when they had to at the rim, and had a diversity of scorers with plenty of contributions from the bench.
Nothing fazed this crew in any of the games, even when Iowa pushed them in their first game. The Wolverines crushed Nebraska’s tournament hopes in the second game. And quite simply Michigan was the better team against the Spartans and Boilermakers.
Michigan doesn’t have the overall resume to be a 1- or a 2-seed in the NCAA tournament. But the Wolverines are playing as well as any team in the country. The extra week off should give the NCAA tournament selection committee extra time to evaluate the Wolverines against the field. And they should see that Michigan is worthy of a No. 3 seed.
The committee may put them at a No. 4, but likely no lower. Had the Big Ten tournament been in its regular Selection Sunday spot the Wolverines would have already been slotted, possibly as a No. 5. But seeding may not matter. This team has all the tools, especially sensational coaching by John Beilein and staff, to make a run to San Antonio.
Player of the Week
Jonathan Stark, 6-0, Sr., Murray State: Stark led the Racers to an impressive Ohio Valley Conference tournament title and the first bid in the NCAA tournament. The Racers knocked off fellow favorite Belmont in convincing fashion, 68-51, behind Stark’s 24 points, making 10 of 21 shots.
Stark also scored 22 in the win over Jacksonville State. He played 79 out of a possible 80 minutes in the back-to-back tournament games. Murray State finished 26-5 overall and will be one of those tough outs in the first round. If Stark can go off in an NCAA game then there is hope. He has been averaging 21 a game for the season. Smaller, scoring, quicker guards in the NCAAs can be the type of hot hand to ride in a possible upset.
Mo Wagner, 6-11, Jr., Michigan: Wagner was named the MOP of the Big Ten tournament for his consistent play on the perimeter and in the post during the Wolverines title run. He scored 17 in the win over Purdue and 15 in the win over Michigan State. He scored 20 in the win over Nebraska and 11 against Iowa. But he also seemed to be in the right place at the right time. And his enthusiasm and joy for the game and his teammates is contagious.
Deandre Ayton, 7-1, Fr., Arizona: Ayton was crazy good against Cal with 26 points and 20 boards in the final regular-season game. He put up a mere mortal 12 and 10 in a home win over Stanford. Ayton’s dominance in the post will be a make or break for the Wildcats this week in Las Vegas at the Pac-12 tournament and in the NCAA tournament. If he can control the paint then the Wildcats have a legit shot to make a deep run.
Marvin Bagley III, 6-11, Fr., Duke: Bagley didn’t have the necessary performance needed against Virginia Tech in a road loss earlier in the week with 12 and seven. But he came up when it mattered most in the comeback win against North Carolina. He put up 21 and 15 and was a beast when he needed to deliver. He must duplicate that show in the ACC tournament this week and the NCAAs next week for the Blue Devils to reach their potential.
Peyton Aldridge, 6-8, Sr., Davidson: Aldridge has been on an unbelievable tear of late and should be given his due. He scored 18 and grabbed 12 boards in a 63-61 regular-season finale home win over Rhode Island. He played all 40 minutes and was efficient every time he touched the ball. The previous week, in a crazy 117-113 triple overtime loss at St. Bonaventure, Aldridge scored 45 in 51 minutes. Aldridge could end up as the MVP of the A-10 tournament this week in DC. Why? Because the Wildcats have as much of a chance to win the event as the Rams and the Bonnies.
Jacob Evans, 6-6, Jr., Cincinnati: Evans scored 19 and grabbed seven boards in the Bearcats 62-61 win at Wichita State in a crazed environment. The Bearcats win assured Cincinnati that it would win the American outright. Wichita State pushed Cincinnati by winning at the Bearcats’ adopted home in Northern Kentucky. The Bearcats were up to the challenge and won in Wichita. This rivalry should be the event in the AAC each season.
Shot of the Week
Carlik Jones' winner for Radford. (Was there any other choice?)
Jones buried a 3-pointer to win the Big South title over Liberty. He calmly delivered the shot, stunning the Flames. The game was at Radford because the Highlanders were the top remaining seed. And that’s exactly what the one-bid leagues should all do (most but not all). Getting that type of environment makes championship week special. And it puts importance on the regular season, which it should. The 18 games should matter for something.
Most improbable ending
Virginia beating Louisville: De’Andre Hunter buried a 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds left off a great inbounds pass. The freshman has been one of the reasons the Cavaliers won the ACC regular-season handily. Louisville was up by four with five seconds left. But two free throws by Virginia and a traveling violation gave the ball to Virginia and set up the game-ending play.
Wildest tournament game
Lipscomb over Florida Gulf Coast: Lipscomb was up by 29 at the half, held a 32-point lead and then had to hold off Gulf Coast on the Eagles home floor when the game got to five to win 108-96 and claim the Atlantic Sun tournament title. Lipscomb needed each one of Garrison Mathews’ 33 points to lead the Bisons to the win. The crazy stat broken down was Lipscomb shot 87 percent on 2s and took 47 free throws.
Most stunning score
Oklahoma State 82, Kansas 64: The Cowboys got the sweep of Kansas and kept their NCAA tournament hopes alive.
The Cowboys were led by Kendall Smith’s 25. Kansas had already clinched the Big 12 title outright. Still, this was hard to imagine. Oklahoma State did win in Lawrence, so it would make sense that the Jayhawks would be ready to get one back. They were flat and the Cowboys steamrolled them to finish 8-10, five games behind the first-place Jayhawks.
Most entertaining team of the week
Rutgers? Yes, Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights were balling at Madison Square Garden. They had the joint jumping with Jersey flare. Corey Sanders, Geo Baker and Deshawn Williams were having a blast as the Scarlet Knights knocked off Minnesota, Indiana and then pushed Purdue for a half.
|MARCH MADNESS SHOP|
The other Porter
Jontay Porter, 6-11, Fr., Missouri: This skyscraper of a Missouri freshman needs to get his due. He scored 19 points and grabbed eight boards in a win over Arkansas. Earlier in the week at Vanderbilt, Jontay scored 24 and grabbed six. All the chatter about Michael Porter Jr., has created a stir: will he or won’t he play? Well, pay attention to the Porter who is playing, and delivering, for Missouri.
Best story of the week
Loyola-Chicago. The Ramblers are in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 33 seasons. Chicago got an incredible story last season with Northwestern. This March it’s Loyola’s turn. Porter Moser, a disciple of the late-great Rick Majerus, has quietly turned Loyola into the Missouri Valley’s best.
The addition of Loyola was a coup for the Valley to get into Chicago, but only if the Ramblers could deliver. They have and they did. This is the same team that won at Florida. So, don’t be surprised if Loyola busts up a few brackets next week in the first round.