Who Won the Week? Doug McD, Alex Francis, and a Group of Lumberjacks…Posted by rtmsf on January 18th, 2013
Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.
Sorry about the hiatus. Let’s get on with the show.
Winner: Doug McDermott
After coming into the season as one of the top NPOY candidates, the Creighton forward has backed that up on the court. He took that to the next level in the Jays’ convincing wins over Missouri State and Northern Iowa last week. McDermott had a season-high 39 points on the road against the Bears, shooting 15-of-19 from the field and 3-of-4 from three-point range, while also grabbing 10 rebounds. He then turned around and went for 31 points against the Panthers, getting back-to-back 30-point games for the second time this season. For Creighton, tomorrow’s game against fellow conference undefeated Wichita State will be the first of two (and hopefully three, if the MVC Tournament breaks right) match-ups between the two elite teams in the Missouri Valley. And no player is a bigger part of what the Bluejays do than McDermott, whose 24 points per game is second best in the country.
(Related winners: Creighton. Related losers: Nets, because McDermott keeps burning them up; the MVC, in which the Jays are 6-0 so far.)
The Cowboys were one of the darlings of the non-conference season, remaining as one of the last four unbeatens before leading scorer Luke Martinez broke a bone in his hand during an altercation at a bar in late December. Since then, the wheels have started to fall off the cart for coach Larry Shyatt’s bunch. Wyoming started out Mountain West play by losing on a buzzer-beater to Boise State, and it didn’t get much better last week. The Cowboys went on the road to beat Nevada in Reno, but didn’t put up a point per possession in the 59-48 win. Meanwhile, police reports were released about Martinez’s fight, which said the guard admitted to kicking a defenseless man in the head as he was knocked out on the ground. Then the Cowboys capped off their week by producing one of the most unwatchable games of the season, a 49-36 snooze-fest of a loss at a mediocre Fresno State, in which they shot 24 percent from the field, 5-of-27 from three-point range and an abysmal 7-of-20 from the free throw line. Wyoming has gone from aspiring to get to the NCAA Tournament to a team that needs to quickly right its ship.
(Related winners: The top of the Mountain West, which will benefit from Wyoming’s heretofore nice computer numbers; Fresno State, for shooting 52 percent against what was one of the best defenses in the country. Related losers: Martinez, who is at risk of serving jail time.)
Winner: Alex Francis
The junior forward from Harlem has had a great season for Bryant in its first season eligible for a postseason bid. The Bulldogs lead the Northeast Conference at 5-0, and Francis is the lone inside threat on a guard-heavy squad. (Bryant’s other top four scorers are all guards.) And Francis did some heavy lifting this past week, putting up 26 points and grabbing 18 rebounds against Central Connecticut State before scoring 25 and grabbing seven rebounds against Mount St. Mary’s. Francis has had at least 16 points and seven rebounds in each of Bryant’s five NEC games, each time with three fouls or fewer.
(Related winners: Bryant, which is on track to take the conference. Related losers: None.)
Loser: Grambling State
The Tigers, hamstrung with Academic Progress Rating-related NCAA sanctions, are on track to become the worst team in recent memory. With just eight scholarship players and two players taller than 6’5″, and the nature of program funding in the SWAC, Grambling State was always going to be fighting an uphill battle. I don’t think anyone realized that they’d be trying to summit Mount Everest with lead weights tied around their ankles. Only one player averages more than eight points per game (freshman guard Terry Rose at 15.4 PPG), and the Tigers, now 0-16 and 0-6 in conference, have been punching bags for everybody who has played them. Only twice have they kept their margin of defeat within 20 points. But on the bright side, one of those times was this week, as they lost at Prairie View A&M 60-44 before losing at Texas Southern 95-50. (Mind you, Texas Southern is 5-13.) And Grambling State has its best two shots at wins coming in the next week and a half, with one-win teams Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State coming to Grambling. (The Tigers will play the two again in late February.)
(Related winners: Everybody who has played Grambling State so far. Related losers: Everybody at the Grambling State program who has had to go through this season.)
Winner: Stephen F. Austin
The Lumberjacks have run out to a 6-0 record in the Southland after a non-conference schedule that saw them lose just once, at Texas A&M, while taking down Oklahoma. Forward Taylor Smith continues to lead his team in scoring, rebounding and blocks, and would be nationally known if Stephen F. Austin didn’t play at one of the slowest tempos in the country, keeping his stats down. But to put his performance in perspective, he’s second in the country in field goal shooting at 69.9 percent, 33rd nationally in rebounding rate, and 15th in block rate. The Lumberjacks beat conference newcomer Oral Roberts, which was one of the preseason favorites, 61-50, despite an off game from Smith, before he bounced back to put up 15 points on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting from the field, grab eight rebounds and block six shots in a 52-40 win over Southeastern Louisiana. (Smith’s free-throw shooting is a major bugaboo, as his 39.2 percent showing from the line ranks 1,763rd in the country.) Given that the Lumberjacks have won all but one game by double figures in the last month, they have an outside shot at sweeping the conference and getting in position for an at-large NCAA Tournament berth if they slip up in the Southland Tournament.
(Related winners: Smith; Texas A&M, whose win looks better and better. Related losers: The rest of the Southland, because they’re fighting for second.)
Yes, Buffaloes, we get that you should have won at Arizona when Sabatino Chen’s buzzer-beating three-pointer was judged to have not in fact beaten the buzzer, but the overtime loss and resultant meltdown in Boulder has been U-G-L-Y. Since then, the Buffaloes have lost at Arizona State, beat USC at home, lost to UCLA at home and lost to Washington on the road. Those teams have lost to such luminaries as DePaul, UC Irvine, Cal Poly and Albany. That’s not good. All of a sudden, Colorado is 1-4 in the Pac-12 and squandering what was a strong non-conference showing.
(Related winners: The Pac-12, because the Buffaloes’ non-conference numbers still look good. Related losers: Wyoming, whose best win loses more of its luster at a time when the Cowboys need any break they can get.)