WEEKLY AWARDS: Providence isn’t a one-man show, and Saint Mary’s is for real
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Ben Bentil, Providence
As good as Kris Dunn has been this season -- and he’s been good, I have the Friar star at No. 2 in my Player of the Year Power Rankings -- he’s not the leading scorer for Providence, nor was he their best player in their biggest week of the season. Both of those titles go to Ben Bentil, who is the nation’s most improved player and arguably one of the five best big men in college basketball.
He certainly looked the part on Saturday, when the Friars went into snowy Philadelphia and handed Villanova their first Big East loss in more than a year. Bentil had 31 points and 13 boards in that game, which followed four days after he popped off for 20 points as Providence knocked off Butler at home.
What made his performances that much more valuable is that the Friars had struggled in recent weeks, losing at home to Marquette and Seton Hall with an ugly win at Creighton mixed in the middle. I’ve written about this plenty of times before, but if Providence is going to be as successful as they should be, it’s going to be the result of Dunn’s supporting cast showing up to play. They did last week, and it was Bentil that led the charge.
THE ‘ALL THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM
- Brice Johnson, North Carolina: Johnson continued his push for National Player of the Year, as he averaged 23.0 points and 14.0 boards in two wins for the Tar Heels this week.
- Jakob Poeltl, Utah: Poeltl was just OK in a blow out win at Washington State but he followed that up with 29 points, 10 boards and four assists as the Utes knocked off Pac-12 leaders Washington on Sunday night. Utah has now won three in a row.
- Jalen Jones, Texas A&M: Jones went for 20 points twice last week as the Aggies grabbed total control of the SEC regular season race.
- JeQuan Lewis, VCU: There are many teams in the country that are hotter than VCU right now, as the Rams are currently sitting at 7-0 atop the Atlantic 10. Lewis was the star this week, averaging 18.5 points and 7.5 assists with just a single turnover in two wins.
- Elgin Cook, Oregon: Oregon steamrolled their way back into the Pac-12 discussion with a sweep of UCLA and USC this weekend. Cook played the starring role, averaging 21.5 points, 5.0 boards and 5.0 assists in the two wins.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Saint Mary’s
This was supposed to be a down year for the Gaels. That’s what usually happens when you’re coming off of a less-than-stellar season and losing five starters. But as of today, the Gaels are in sole possession of first place in the WCC, sitting at 18-2 on the season with an offense that ranks in the top ten in efficiency, according to KenPom, and a 1-0 record against Gonzaga.
That win came on Thursday, as Saint Mary’s rallied from 15 points down in the second half to knock off the Zags, their first win in the last nine games against the WCC’s resident power. They followed that up with a win over Portland over the weekend, and all of a sudden, the Gaels are back in the at-large bid conversation. Who knows how long that will last, but with a pair of talented lead guards in their back court, a couple of quality post scorers and more shooters than Randy Bennett knows what to do with, it’s safe to say at this point that the Gaels are for real.
THEY WERE GOOD, TOO
- Oregon: The Ducks stormed their way back into the Pac-12 race with a pair of wins over the LA schools this weekend.
- Iowa State: No coach in college basketball needed a win worse than Steve Prohm needed the win over Oklahoma on Monday night. He answered the ‘What Would Hoiberg Do?’ question with a statement win over the No. 1 team in the country, and landing another one over Kansas on Monday night would certainly help as well.
- Temple: The Owls handed SMU their first loss of the season on Sunday afternoon in emphatic fashion, taking a 19 point second half lead and cruising to a win in snowy Philly.
- Iowa: The Hawkeyes are now sitting at 7-0 in the Big Ten with a sweep of Purdue, a sweep of Michigan State and a win over Michigan. They are the hottest team in college basketball.
- Cal: Tyrone who? The Golden Bears landed a critical 2-0 week, including a win over Arizona, despite playing without their star point guard.
SET YOUR DVR
No. 20 Duke at No. 15 Miami, Mon. 7:00 p.m.
No. 3 Kansas at No. 19 Iowa State, Mon. 9:00 p.m.
No. 5 Xavier at No. 16 Providence, Tue. 8:30 p.m.
No. 9 Iowa at No. 7 Maryland, Thu. 7:00 p.m.
No. 13 Virginia at No. 17 Louisville, Sat. 1:00 p.m.
No. 19 Iowa State at No. 10 Texas A&M, Sat. 2:00 p.m.