A&M's Big 12 revival, Willis' scoring honored
Editor's note: This edition is for games played from Monday, Feb. 1, through Sunday, Feb. 7.
Team Of The Week: Texas A&M
Last week: Won at Missouri 77-74; beat No. 24 Baylor 78-71
The Aggies appeared to be heading toward mediocrity in the Big 12 after Derrick Roland suffered a horrific broken leg in a loss at Washington. Roland was the Aggies' best defender, the second-leading scorer and quite an inspirational locker room presence.
But the Aggies have found their identity in the Big 12, ensuring that they're one of the toughest outs in the conference. They put together an impressive week with a 77-74 road win at Missouri and a 78-71 home win over Baylor, as Donald Sloan, Roland's best friend, continues to lead this squad. He's getting help from B.J. Holmes on the perimeter, and David Loubeau and Bryan Davis are doing a solid job up front.
The Aggies are 8-3 since Roland was injured Dec. 22. At home, A&M has won 16 consecutive games and is 29-2 since the start of the 2008-09 campaign.
The Aggies (6-3) are in second place, tied with Kansas State and ahead of Texas and Missouri in the Big 12 standings. The overall 17-6 record is pointing toward a solid NCAA seed yet again. And I wouldn't be shocked if the Aggies were to give Kansas and Texas losses in College Station.
Gonzaga: The Zags re-established themselves as the supreme entities in the WCC with an easy win over Portland, and less than 48 hours later outlasted Memphis on the road.
Wisconsin: The Badgers swept through the state of Michigan with a home win over Michigan State, in a game in which Kalin Lucas got hurt, and then won rather handily at Michigan.
UNLV: BYU has been the team to beat for weeks in the MWC, but the Runnin' Rebels were the only team to manhandle the Cougars this season. The win places UNLV squarely in the title race. Earlier in the week, a victory at Wyoming was a necessity to continue to stay with BYU and New Mexico.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies won two home games, which in itself shouldn't be that significant, but beating North Carolina and Clemson put the Hokies (18-4, 5-3) closer to being an NCAA team than either one of them.
Duke: The Blue Devils beat Georgia Tech at home, which has become the norm in the ACC, but followed it up with a significant true road win at Boston College on Saturday. Duke had to prove it can win away from Cameron. The Blue Devils did it against Clemson, and the win over BC was something Mike Krzyzewski said was a needed victory. The numbers back up the home-road disparity for Duke. That didn't change much Saturday, but the W did.
Wake Forest: Beating Miami and winning at Virginia wouldn't normally be cause for celebration and praise. But the Demon Deacons were able to win on the road, in overtime at UVa, to creep within a game of first-place Duke. In the preseason, the Demon Deacons kept telling me that Ish Smith was as much if not more of a leader than Jeff Teague last season. He's proving that to be true.
Maryland: Won at Florida State, came home to "Snowmageddon" and blitzed North Carolina on Sunday at the Comcast Center. Maryland and Duke atop the ACC. Is this the early 2000s again? Where are Juan Dixon and Jay Williams on the court for these two?
Player Of The Week: Tre'Von Willis
Tre'Von Willis, the Runnin' Rebels' leading scorer (18 ppg), served notice that the race for the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year is not over yet.
While Jimmer Fredette is the overwhelming favorite to earn the honor, Willis was the star of Saturday's game against the Cougars. Fredette scored 21 points but was 2-of-7 on 3s, and the Cougars lost by 14. Willis scored 33 points, making 11 of 20 shots and 4 of 7 3s. It was his second 30-plus-point game of the season. Earlier in the week, he scored 15 in a win at Wyoming.
The Runnin' Rebels have won five straight and seven of eight with the only loss an odd home defeat to erratic Utah. Willis' play pushed the Rebels to 19-4 overall, 7-2 in the MWC, tied with BYU and UNM as the three teams start to separate from the rest of the league, making it clearer that all three should be in the field of 65.
The Rest Of The Rotation
Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia: It's hard to ignore Butler's week. The senior hit seven 3s in seven attempts, scoring 33 points in a comeback win at St. John's, and also added a solid 18 against Pitt. Butler is making it hard to ignore him for All-American status.
Denis Clemente, Kansas State: The Wildcats continue to prove they are hardly a fluke and that Clemente isn't a subordinate to Jacob Pullen. Clemente scored 30 against Iowa State and 23 in a win at Nebraska.
Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech: Delaney had a bit of a statistically strange week. He put up significant numbers with a total of 51 points and was a stellar 27-of-30 at the free throw line. But he hoisted a lot of shots, going a combined 11-of-31. The only thing that matters is that Virginia Tech beat North Carolina and Clemson at home.
Wayne Chism, Tennessee: Chism scored a career-high 30 in a win over South Carolina and tossed in 20 in a win over LSU. He was pretty efficient, going 20-of-32 from the field. The Vols' win over the Gamecocks served notice that they're still the team of record behind Kentucky.
Hellos And Goodbyes
• OU revival: The Sooners aren't going to make the NCAAs, but Jeff Capel finally has his arms around this crew. OU beat Texas with limited time from Willie Warren (16 minutes with sprained ankle).
• Michigan gone? Hard to see the Wolverines making the NCAAs after losing at home to Wisconsin, barring a run in the Big Ten tournament. Who would have thought the Badgers would win eight straight over Michigan and three straight in Ann Arbor? An even stranger stat was Michigan shooting 2-of-11 on 3s and Wisconsin hitting 11-of-21.
• Six A-10 teams dancing? That's what Dayton coach Brian Gregory told me after the Flyers rocked Xavier on Saturday and Richmond took out Temple. It's hard to argue at this point with the SEC West a mess, the Pac-10 in flux and the ACC hardly living up to its original hype.
• Off the bandwagon: For me it's probably Clemson and Oklahoma State, as the Tigers slid to under .500 in the ACC and Oklahoma State lost three straight games after that win over Texas A&M.
• Your new SEC West leader: Arkansas. The Hogs have won four straight games, and a big reason for that is point guard Courtney Fortson. Fortson scored 27 points in the win at Georgia and made 12 of 16 free throws and put in a solid 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the win over Auburn.
• Devan Downey is human: He was 5-of-20 against Tennessee. Come on, did you think he could do everything for South Carolina? At some point the run was going to come to a close.
Places To Be This Week
Austin, Texas, Monday: Well, this was supposed to be the game of the year. But Texas has lowered the expectations by losing yet again, this time to Oklahoma. Kansas probably only has three more chances to lose in the regular season. This is one of them, with the other two being at Texas A&M and at Missouri. So that's something to see.
Morgantown, W.Va., Monday: Villanova got rocked by Georgetown on Saturday while West Virginia rolled St. John's in the second half. It's quite simple. If the Mountaineers want to be serious players for the Big East title, they must beat Nova at home.
East Lansing, Mich., Tuesday: Suddenly, the Spartans aren't dominating the Big Ten. The reason is Kalin Lucas got hurt at Wisconsin and didn't play at Illinois. If he's not able to go against Purdue, the Boilermakers have a real shot at climbing back into the race.
Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday: Vandy won at Tennessee but has slumped since, with losses at Kentucky and at Georgia. Tennessee has righted itself with a win over South Carolina. Winner can stay on Kentucky's heels.
Madison, Wis., Tuesday: Wisconsin has been on a mini-roll with wins over Michigan State and at Michigan, while Illinois feels good about itself again after the win over Sparty. That could end quickly if the Badgers get their way again.
Chapel Hill, N.C., Wednesday: I don't care what the records are for either side. This is Duke at North Carolina. This will be a highly competitive, intense, decided-by-a-late-game-possession contest. Book it.
Las Vegas, Wednesday: UNLV played its best game of the season against BYU on Saturday to even the standings. New Mexico squeaked out a home win in OT over San Diego State. There is revenge on the Lobos' minds after losing at home to the Rebels earlier this season.
Spokane, Wash., Thursday: Saint Mary's has one blip on its résumé since New Year's, against Gonzaga at home. The Zags are coming off an impressive road win at Memphis, but San Francisco proved the Zags aren't unbeatable in the WCC this season. SMC will have to play its best game to win, making perimeter shots and keeping Omar Samhan out of foul trouble. But it's doable.
Berkeley, Calif., Thursday: The last time the perceived two best teams in the Pac-10 met in Seattle it wasn't close. Washington is hot again after a midseason dip, while the Bears survived L.A. with a split.
Pittsburgh, Friday: The last time Pitt played West Virginia the game got chippy, the fans got ugly and the Mountaineers ran away with the game late. Let's see what the sequel provides.
Lexington, Ky., Saturday: The Bruce Pearl-John Calipari rivalry was good theater when Cal was at Memphis. This should be even more entertaining in the SEC as Kentucky hosts Tennessee with GameDay in town.
Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday: Georgia Tech ran away from Wake the most recent time the two teams met, but the Demon Deacons are playing at a much crispier clip and are in the chase for the ACC title too.
Princeton, N.J., Saturday: I thought Cornell at Harvard was supposed to be the game of the year in the Ivy? Oops. I didn't anticipate Princeton still being undefeated as it prepared to host Cornell.
7 p.m.: Villanova at West Virginia (ESPN)
9 p.m.: Kansas at Texas (ESPN)
7 p.m.: Tennessee at Vanderbilt (ESPN)
7 p.m.: VCU at George Mason (ESPNU)
7 p.m.: Illinois at Wisconsin (BTN)
9 p.m.: Purdue at Michigan State (ESPN)
7 p.m.: UConn at Syracuse (ESPN)
7 p.m.: Virginia at Maryland (ESPNU)
7 p.m.: Richmond at Rhode Island (Cox Sports)
7 p.m.: Charlotte at Dayton
9 p.m.: Duke at North Carolina (ESPN)
11 p.m.: New Mexico at UNLV (CBS-CS)
9 p.m.: Washington at Cal (ESPN2)
9 p.m.: Ole Miss at Mississippi State (ESPN)
11 p.m.: Saint Mary's at Gonzaga (ESPN2)
9 p.m.: West Virginia at Pitt (ESPN)
Noon.: Cincinnati at Connecticut (ESPN360)
1 p.m.: Maryland at Duke (CBS)
1:45 p.m.: Missouri at Baylor (ESPN360)
2 p.m.: Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (ESPN)
4 p.m.: Rhode Island at Temple (Cox Sports)
4 p.m.: UNLV at San Diego State (Versus)
4 p.m.: George Mason at ODU (Comcast SportsNet)
5 p.m.: Texas A&M at Texas Tech (ESPN2)
6 p.m.: Xavier at Florida (ESPN)
6 p.m.: Cornell at Princeton
7 p.m.: Memphis at Tulsa (ESPN2)
7 p.m.: Northeastern at William & Mary
8 p.m.: Georgia Tech at Wake Forest (ESPN360)
8 p.m.: Virginia at Virginia Tech (ESPN360)
9 p.m.: Tennessee at Kentucky (ESPN)
1 p.m.: Louisville at Syracuse (ESPN)
1 p.m.: Ohio State at Illinois (CBS)
5 p.m.: Minnesota at Northwestern (BTN)
10 p.m.: UCLA at USC (FSN)
Best In The Biz
• Big man: It's hard to argue against DeMarcus Cousins right now. The Kentucky freshman had another double-double in the win over LSU, with 19 points and 13 boards. He has had six in a row.
• Phog or Cameron: I'm not sure why, but teams come into the Phog with more confidence than they do at Cameron. They don't win (see: Nebraska, Cornell and Baylor), but they certainly hang around a lot longer than teams do at Duke.
• Conference run: It's not as impressive as Memphis' 64-game streak in Conference USA, but Butler has won 41 of 43 Horizon League games. And with the Bulldogs bringing back the core of their team, the Horizon run will continue in 2010-11.
• C-USA: I'm back on board with my original sleeper in UTEP. The Miners were impressive this week, beating Houston and taking out league leader Tulsa. I said from the beginning that the Miners had the most talent in the league, and they're living up to the hype. Tulsa, meanwhile, must beat Duke on the road -- unless it gains the regular-season title -- to get an at-large berth. But Tulsa can still get to the NCAAs through the conference tournament, which is at home in March.
Highlight: Michigan State-Illinois
Providing A Lift
• Solid debut: West Virginia's Deniz Kilicli gives the Mountaineers the big man they needed in the previous 20 games. He averaged seven minutes but scored seven points a game in the two wins for the Mountaineers this past week against Pitt and St. John's.
• No pub: Syracuse sophomore forward Kris Joseph doesn't get the hype, yet he's second on the team in scoring (11 ppg). The Montreal native scored 23 with efficient 9-of-11 shooting in a win over Providence, and he added 17 on 6-of-9 shooting in a victory at Cincinnati.
• Remember the name: Darington Hobson. Hobson could be a difference-maker for New Mexico in the NCAAs. He scored 29 points and grabbed 12 boards, his sixth double-double of the season in an overtime home win over San Diego State.
More From The Weekend
• Who had Marcus Morris as Mr. Reliable: The thought on Kansas was Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins, Xavier Henry and Tyshawn Taylor would lead the Jayhawks, but Morris might be the most consistent player for KU. He scored 20 and had 11 rebounds in the win over Nebraska.
• Fluid Hoyas: Forget about the stereotypes on the Georgetown offense. Watch the way the Hoyas played against Villanova; it was clear that if the good shot was there, they took it. Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark don't hesitate to stop and pop on the break, and Greg Monroe can run the break quite effectively. Dare I say G'town is a good watch? Well, they sure are.
• Duke vs. BC: If the game is at Conte Forum or in the ACC tournament, these games are a grind. It was no surprise to see the game come down to a final possession. Brian Zoubek's decision to jump out on Joe Trapani's 3-pointer was another experienced move from the senior big man.
• Keep playing: The Gonzaga-Memphis series has been one of the more entertaining nonconference matchups. There was some chatter once John Calipari left for Kentucky of canceling it, but that shouldn't occur.
• You can count on : Northern Iowa scoring in the 50s and winning. That's what we've learned about the Panthers. They won again (over Southern Illinois) to move to 12-1 in the MVC on the season, but it was the third straight game in which they didn't reach 60 points. UNI is 21-2 overall.
• Who wants to win the Pac-10? I'll still say Cal, although the 25-0 run USC went on Thursday night doesn't make it any more comforting. Cal did rebound with a rather easy win at UCLA. But Cal is 7-4 followed by USC, Arizona, UCLA, Washington and Arizona State are all tied at 6-5. Washington State smacked Arizona, while Oregon State crushed Oregon, making it even harder to figure out. USC coach Kevin O'Neill told me he thought Cal and Arizona, because of Jerome Randle and Nic Wise, respectively, can win three games to claim the Pac-10 tournament title. I'd add Washington and only now UCLA if the Bruins play as the home team. I'm not so sure the Bruins faithful will stick with this crew to pack Staples Center as the lone home team.
• Ivy League multiple-bid scenario dead: I had to have Harvard win out, save a loss at Cornell. But Princeton won at Harvard to cancel that theory. Now it's up to Cornell to ensure it outlasts the Tigers to earn the bid.