PLAYER OF THE WEEK: A.J. GRAVES
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AP Photo/Darron CummingsGraves' scoring exploits helped send Butler to NYC.
By Andy Katz
Graves played two of the best games so far this season with 28 points in a win over Notre Dame and then 20 in a victory over Indiana to help advance the Bulldogs to the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals in New York. The 6-foot-1 guard is averaging 17.8 points through four games.
Graves buried the eventual game-winning 3-pointer with a minute left to beat the Irish and then delivered an impressive encore with a banked-in 3-pointer with five seconds left for the decisive bucket against the Hoosiers at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Graves may not be an All-American, but he certainly was the most valuable player in the first week of the season.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: MARYLAND
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
D.J. Strawberry's move to two-guard has helped the Terps.
By Andy Katz
The Terps are on a mission to get back to the NCAA Tournament after missing out the past two seasons.
Gary Williams has the Terps believing in his style of ball and truly has a commitment from these players. Ekene Ibekwe's leadership and prowess on the defensive end, as well as the finishing touches by James Gist, the shooting of D.J. Strawberry and Mike Jones, and the point play of Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes make the Terps more complete than they have been in three years.
The wins over St. John's and Michigan State aren't season-changing, but they are significant. Maryland proved it can play Williams' way and should be a team to reckon with throughout the season.
Winthrop is very good and can beat people. Last year, before making Tennessee hit a buzzer shot to beat them in the NCAA Tournament, the Eagles beat Marquette and took Alabama, Auburn and Memphis to the wire. All of those games were on the road, which is to be expected -- nobody in their right mind would play Winthrop at its place.
This season, Winthrop has taken North Carolina deep into the second half and went on the road and beat Mississippi State. Gregg Marshall has built a terrific program in Rock Hill, S.C., and he has some outstanding players and some really good kids.
Torrell Martin has NBA ability. He is a good shooter and a very good athlete who can take those skills to the next level. The only thing I question about Martin is his ability to put the ball on the floor and create off the dribble. Phillip Williams, who had 22 points and 11 rebounds against Mississippi State, is a good big man who can step away, has great hands, and understands how to play. Craig Bradshaw is a face-up big man who is now going into the post very effectively. Michael Jenkins can shoot it and drive it. Chris Gaynor is a winner at the point.
Winthrop could be working toward a higher seed with these performances, which is key. Last year, Winthrop was no 15th seed, but Tennessee was no second seed, either. The Big South is 0-15 in NCAA first-round games, so a higher seed would give the Eagles a better chance to win. And they can win.
Fresno State is off to a 4-0 start thanks to the addition of 6-foot-8 Cal transfer Dominic McGuire, who is averaging 14 points, nine rebounds, 3.5 blocks and three assists a game. In fact, the Bulldogs' coaching staff believes he can play point guard, if needed, this season. McGuire joins sharpshooter Ja'Vance Coleman and rebounding machine Quinton Hosley, to give Steve Cleveland a team that can contend with Nevada at the top of the WAC.
UC Santa Barbara coach Bob Williams won a national title in D-II at UC Davis, but has struggled with injuries to his players throughout his tenure with the Gauchos. Those struggles may finally be behind him this year. UCSB is 3-0 for the first time since 1994, thanks in large part to Chris Devine and Alex Harris. The Gauchos beat UNLV in Vegas and are looking forward to a Saturday home tilt against unbeaten San Diego State. Devine has been just that, averaging 17 points and six rebounds per game as the Alaskan has finally rounded into the prospect he seemed destined to be. Harris has yet to miss a free throw (14-for-14), is shooting over 50 percent from 3 (10-for-18) and is averaging 22 points per game.
For more of our experts' 3-point shots, click here.
By Andy Katz
BC loses to Vermont at home: Eagles don't show up and get burned.
Duquesne wins first two games: Can't measure how meaningful this is to the program after five players were shot in the fall.
Arizona State loses two home games to Big Sky schools: NAU may win the Big Sky. Portland State won't. Herb Sendek is quoted as saying ASU isn't very good right now.
Belmont beats Fordham: A-10 is taking a hit after St. Bonaventure lost to Chicago State last week.
DePaul started out 0-2 before beating Eastern Illinois: The Blue Demons weren't ready for the road swing to Bradley and Northwestern and still are an erratic bunch.
Wake Forest wins at Bucknell in overtime: This is what you call a quality win and a job well done by Skip Prosser for taking on the challenge.
Western Kentucky wins at Georgia: The Hilltoppers were one of the last at-large teams excluded from the NCAA field last season. Beating Georgia, even though the Bulldogs may not be an NCAA team, has shelf life. So, too, does the All-American candidacy of Courtney Lee, leading WKU with 22 points a game.
Winthrop wins at Mississippi State: This is just another example of why Winthrop is legit this season and will again have a chance to win a game in March if it makes the NCAAs.
Oral Roberts wins at Kansas: A hot hand by Marchello Vealy (seven 3s) gives credence to the claim that ORU has enough balance with Ken Tutt and Caleb Green to win a game in the NCAAs if it gets there.
Drew Lavender leads Xavier to wins over VCU and Villanova: Just a reminder of what happened to the former Oklahoma point guard who has found a new home in Cincinnati.
Miami wins at Evansville but loses to Buffalo and Cleveland State: Frank Haith gets credit for taking his ACC team on the road to Evansville for a three-day tournament. He actually beat the home team -- a Missouri Valley team -- for a true road win, but neutral-site losses to Buffalo and Cleveland State could haunt the Canes come March.
Oregon has another big-time scorer: The Ducks leaned on 5-6 Tajuan Porter the first three games and then turned to Chamberlain Oguchi against UC-Irvine (which had just beaten South Carolina). Oguchi scored 25 points as the undefeated Ducks still wait for Malik Hairston to get healthy. The Ducks embark on a two-game swing to Rice and Georgetown for a true barometer.
Hofstra loses at Manhattan: OK, so it came down to the final possession. Still, this is the game Hofstra had to have after losing at Charlotte. Hofstra is in a bit of a situation right now with Greg Washington being ruled ineligible for the season. The Pride are off to the Great Alaska Shootout, where Hawaii and possibly Cal are next.
Nebraska beats Creighton: You can't underestimate the importance of point guard Josh Dotzler to the Bluejays. He played only eight minutes as he continued to nurse an injury. Until he's ready to go, Creighton may struggle.
Fairleigh Dickinson wins at Seton Hall: Just another example of how much of a down season it might be for New York-area teams in the Big East after Rutgers' woeful shooting game against Kansas State and St. John's undressing by Maryland in the Garden.
Drexel wins at Vermont: Drexel, not Hofstra or George Mason, should be the team to beat in the CAA. Unless it's
Old Dominion wins at Georgetown: Sharp-shooting second half gets it done, breaks Hoyas' 24-year streak at McDonough.
Wichita State wins at George Mason: We love Sean Ogirri's hair and his shot. The Shockers were waiting for this game for months, and had to get this win with three straight Saturday road games upcoming at LSU, Syracuse and Wyoming.