WEEKLY AWARDS: Javan Felix’s big shot, Wichita State’s bigger week
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Javan Felix, Texas
Before we get into what it means, let’s talk for a minute about what actually happened. Texas upset No. 3 North Carolina, 84-82, in a game where their defense didn’t do all that much to slow down the Tar Heels. They won because they were able to keep UNC’s big men in check -- specifically off the offensive glass -- and because they shot the lights out, no one more so than Felix. He finished with 25 points on 9-for-14 shooting, hitting 5-for-7 from beyond the arc, but his biggest shot of the day may or may not have come with time left on the clock. A missed Isaiah Taylor jumper happened to bounce out to Felix who buried an 18-footer than came a split-second before the buzzer.
This is a critical win for the Longhorns for a couple reasons. For starters, it’s the kind of non-conference victory that is going to look really good on their résumé come tournament time. I still think North Carolina is the best team in the country, but at the very least, the Tar Heels now have a win over a team that is going to be in the top ten range all year long. That’s the difference between a 10 seed and the NIT.
But this was also the most visible non-conference game that Texas was playing. It came at home, on ESPN, against a blue-blood program on the first Saturday after yet another disappointing football season. It was always a struggle for Rick Barnes to get Texas fans fully committed to supporting the basketball team, and Shaka Smart is likely to have some of those same issues. But for a fan base desperate for a good team to root for, the timing of this win in this fashion could not have been more perfect.
THE ‘ALL THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM
- Kelan Martin, Butler: Martin had 25 points and 11 boards in 20 minutes off the bench in a come-from-behind win over Tennessee on Saturday, which followed up a 20-points, eight-rebound performance -- also in just 20 minutes -- on Monday against Indiana State. Martin is averaging 23.0 points over his last three games.
- Isaiah Cousins, Oklahoma: Buddy Hield is the guy that gets all the attention for Oklahoma, but Cousins was the best player on the floor in their blowout win over No. 9 Villanova, finishing with 19 points, 10 assists and six boards. He followed that up with 15 points, five assists and five boards against Oral Roberts.
- Jameel McKay, Iowa State: Iowa State came back from 20 points down to beat Iowa at home on Thursday night, and McKay was the hero in that game. He finished with 20 points, 12 boards and a pair of blocks, but it was his energy -- eight of those rebounds were offensive -- that changed the course of the game.
- Isaac Hamilton, UCLA: Hamilton looks like he is finally living up to his billing as a top 20 recruit in the country. He scored a career-high 21 points to help the Bruins avoid an upset against LBSU and followed that up with 20 points in UCLA’s win at No. 20 Gonzaga. He also added seven assists and seven steals this week.
- Rodney Bullock, Providence: Bullock came up huge for Providence this week, scoring 15 second half points in the win over Boston College and following that up with 14 points, 13 boards, four steals and three blocks in a win over Bryant. Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil both missed the second half against BC and Dunn didn’t play against Bryant.
- BENCH: Melo Trimble (Maryland), Josh Scott (Colorado), Allonzo Trier (Arizona), London Perrantes (Virginia)
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Wichita State Shockers
This week was the most important week of the regular season for the Shockers. Having lost four of their first six games, Wichita State was in a position where they not only needed to prove -- to themselves, to their fans, to the media -- that their early season losses were a direct result of injuries to the likes of Fred VanVleet and Anton Grady, but they needed to start building a résumé that would give them a chance to play in the NCAA tournament this season if they don’t happen to win the Missouri Valley’s at-large bid.
And they did just that.
On Wednesday, the Shockers beat a talented UNLV team and followed that up by blowing out No. 25 Utah. In total, the Shockers gave up 100 points on the week, playing the kind of physical half court defense that we’ve become accustomed to from Gregg Marshall coached teams. VanVleet doesn’t quite look like he’s totally himself yet, but he had bursts in both games where it was quite obvious his hamstring is feeling better than it did prior to the Advocare Invitational in Orlando.
As of this moment, Wichita State is probably back to being one of the top 15-20 teams in the country, particularly if guys like Zach Brown and Markus McDuffie are going to play the way they did on Saturday.
THEY WERE GOOD, TOO
- Xavier Musketeers: Did anyone make a bigger statement this weekend than Xavier? The Musketeers totally blew the doors off of arch-rival Cincinnati, a pretty good team in their own right this season. The Muskies look like a legitimate title contender.
- UCLA Bruins: The Bruins may be the most confounding team in the country. They lost to Monmouth at home, lost to Wake Forest in Maui and got their doors blown off by Kansas. They also beat then-No. 1 Kentucky and, on Saturday, went into Spokane and beat No. 20 Gonzaga at the Kennel. Are you buying them yet?
- Marquette Golden Eagles: Even if Marquette misses the NCAA tournament this season, their season will be considered somewhat of a success as the Golden Eagles picked off in-state rival Wisconsin in the Kohl Center on Saturday. They seem to have made a renewed commitment to getting the ball into the paint.
- Boise State Broncos: It’s been tough-sledding for Boise State early on this season, but the Broncos picked up two big wins this week. It started when they avoided getting upset by Loyola Marymount and ended with a win over No. 24 Oregon in Boise, a win that is only going to look better as the season progresses.
- Chattanooga Moccasins: Not only did the Mocs go into Dayton Arena and knock off the Flyers on Saturday, they did it without their best player, Casey Jones. In his first season as head coach, Matt McCall has now landed wins over Georgia, Illinois and Dayton. Not bad.
- SMU Mustangs: In their only game this week, the Mustangs pounded Michigan. It really is a shame this team is banned from the tournament, because they are certainly capable of getting to a Final Four this year.
SET YOUR DVR
- No. 25 Utah vs. No. 8 Duke, Sat. 12:00
- No. 9 Villanova at No. 10 Virginia, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
- No. 1 Michigan State at Northeastern, 12:00 p.m.
- No. 3 North Carolina vs. UCLA, Sat. 1:00 p.m.
- Indiana vs. Notre Dame, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
- No. 23 Cincinnati at VCU, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
- No. 18 Butler vs. No. 11 Purdue, Sat. 5:00 p.m.
- No. 16 Baylor at Texas A&M, 9:00 p.m.
- UNLV at No. 13 Arizona, Sat. 9:30 p.m.