College Hoops Extra: Week 8

Opening Tip
The player you should be watching
In his brief stint with Kentucky, Patrick Sparks has already developed into a Wildcats legend, making an immediate impact with his willingness to take and make the big shot.

Sparks is the kind of big-game player that Kentucky needs if it hopes to go far this season. This is a squad that doesn't have an overwhelming go-to player, so it needs someone like Sparks to step up.

He did so earlier this season, with 25 points, including the game-winning free throws against Louisville, and hit the shot that clinched the Wildcats' most recent win over Arkansas.

Sparks, a transfer from Western Kentucky, has blended in quite well with his new teammates. He should become only the fifth player in team history to average at least 10 points per game in his first season after transferring to the school:

Source: http://www.ukfans.net/jps/uk/wildcats.html

Rocking the Rim
Spotlight on team trends
As some of the nation's best teams are also its highest scoring, we thought it would be worth a look to see how those squads pile up the points.

We checked out the scoring manner for four of them -- North Carolina, Washington, Wake Forest and Louisville -- and found three different methods to the madness.

While all four tended to get approximately the same contributions from their free throw shooting (regardless of the team's success rate there), there were differences in their reliance on the 3-pointer.

Washington is a sharp contrast to Louisville, which is much more reliant on the trifecta, as almost all Rick Pitino teams have been. (The Cardinals, though, pale in comparison to the nation's usual scoring leader, D-III Grinnell College, whose unique style of play -- full-court pressure defense, five-at-a-time subbing -- has succeeded because the team regularly gets half its points from long-range shooting.)

Matchup note of the week
A closer look at a key game
Stanford has its swagger back, or so it says on the team's Web site, as the Cardinal head to Arizona for a pair of games potentially pivotal to their regular-season finish.

The Cardinals have Arizona State on Thursday, and then a big matchup with Arizona on Saturday. Stanford has won at the McKale Center in each of the last four seasons and has won four of the last five meetings overall.

The Cardinal, for whatever reason, have had the Wildcats' number.

In the bonus
A look at some of college basketball's hidden gems
The name's a neat one, perhaps better suited for another sport, but Pele Paelay, a junior guard at Coastal Carolina, has things going pretty well on the hardwood.

Paelay has emerged from out of nowhere to become a Player of the Year candidate in the Big South.

Paelay has a couple of unique statistical distinctions that warranted his inclusion in this column. According to research done by conference SID Mark Simpson, Paelay entered the week of January 31 as one of only eight players (all in mid-majors) to be ranked in the top 10 in their conference in points, rebounds, assists and steals.

That kind of versatility is rare, but so is finding a player who has improved as much as Paelay has this season, short of Stanford's Dan Grunfeld. Paelay's scoring average has increased from 5.5 to 18.3 ppg (21.0 through his first eight conference games).

"The thing that's been able to help me this season is being able to really think the game," said Paelay, who is also netting 6.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 2.5 steals per contest for the 7-13 (4-4 Big South) Chanticleers. "I knew before that I could shoot, score or pass, but I didn't really think out what was going to happen on the next play. I've always tried to be an all-around player."

Though Paelay was a soccer star in high school growing up in Derwood, Md., he was not named after the sports legend best known by that moniker. Paelay was originally born in Liberia, where that name is common. Paelay's father had that name, as did his grandfather. His play is what is allowing him to now make a name for himself in basketball.

"I'm happy that things are going the way that I've planned them," Paelay said. "I've always tried to be an all-around player."

Mark Simon is a researcher for ESPN's college basketball coverage and "Baseball Tonight."