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Player of the Week: Deandre Ayton, Arizona

Arizona State v Arizona

TUCSON, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Mickey Mitchell #3 of the Arizona State Sun Devils defends Deandre Ayton #13 of the Arizona Wildcats during the first half of the college basketball game at McKale Center on December 30, 2017 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

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There are so many quality options to pick from this week, but for me, Ayton is the pick.

As good as Trae Young, as dominant as Marvin Bagley III was, as impressive as Ty Jerome’s performance was, the win that Arizona earned on Saturday was by far the most important win of the weekend.

Let’s start with the basics: An Arizona team that scuffled their way to an 0-3 record in the Battle 4 Atlantis landed a win over the undefeated No. 3 team in the country at home. It was a statement win, a sign that the Wildcats are back from whatever ailed them early on this season, as well as being a win that they really needed if they wanted to feel good about their chances of winning the Pac-12 regular season title.

But that buries the lede: Arizona landed this win over their in-state rival, Arizona State.

I shouldn’t have to explain the Big Brother, Little Brother dynamics at play here. The Sun Devils are a legitimate contender - Pac-12, Final Four, National Title - for the first time in ... well, it’s a long enough time that I’d have to go look it up. The specifics aren’t what matter. The point is that Arizona State was on their way to stealing the title of State’s Best Basketball Team, and the Wildcats ended that pipe dream, temporarily at the very least.

And Ayton was the reason why.

He finished with 23 points, 19 boards, three blocks and three assists. He was the dominant presence in the paint that Sean Miller needed to overwhelm a smaller opponent. He looked every bit the part of the best player in the sport not named Trae Young on a night when he team needed him to be for reasons that go beyond a simple win or loss.


  • TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma: Young had 39 points and 14 assists as Oklahoma beat an undefeated top ten team on the road in come-from-behind fashion in the first Big 12 game of the freshman’s career. He also made the game-winning free throws. And to get a sense of how good that dude is, it all seemed pretty normal. Yeesh.
  • MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke: Bagley was absolutely dominant in Duke’s win over No. 24 Florida State on Saturday, finishing with 32 points and 21 boards, 11 on the offensive end.
  • TY JEROME, Virginia: Jerome popped off for 31 points in a 59-58 win for the Wahoos. Not a bad way to kick off ACC play.
  • SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER, Kentucky: SGA had his two best offensive performances of the season this week. He averaged 22.5 points, 5.0 boards, 4.0 assists, 3.0 steals and 1.0 blocks in a blowout win over Louisville and a win in their SEC opener over Georgia.
  • KHADEEN CARRINGTON, Seton Hall: Carrington had a rough start to the year transitioning to the point. Since the Rutgers loss two weeks ago, he’s averaging 20.8 points and shooting 15-for-25 from three. He had 24 on Sunday in a gritty rivalry win over St. John’s and 17 points in a win over No. 25 Creighton.