Editor's note: Charlie Creme, Graham Hays, Michelle Smith and Mechelle Voepel each vote to determine espnW's national player of the week, which is awarded every Monday of the women's college basketball season.
Who needs turkey when basketball opportunities await in such non-traditional hoop hotbeds like San Juan, St. Thomas, Cancun and the Bahamas? These vacation hot spots have become regular stops on the schedule this time of year as sun, sand and surf provide the backdrop while some important basketball is played.
Perhaps it was the thrill of being away from the chill of central New York, but no team did more to take advantage and build its profile than Syracuse. And no player did more to make that happen than guard Brianna Butler, espnW's national player of the week after helping the Orange win three games at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas.
Syracuse dominated the solid competition in the Reef Division of the Paradise Jam (Duke won the Island Division), winning all three games by double figures. Butler led Syracuse in scoring in each, and behind her play, the Orange laid the foundation for a solid March résumé, especially with games against Iowa, Temple and Saint Joseph's still to come before the Syracuse's initial ACC season begins.
Butler capped her tournament MVP performance with 29 points, highlighted by 7-of-12 shooting from 3-point distance, in Syracuse's 78-63 upset of No. 12 Texas A&M on Saturday, one of the biggest wins in program history. A trio of those 3-pointers fueled a decisive 11-2 run midway through the second half after the Aggies had fought back within nine.
The 29 points were a career high -- just one day after Butler matched her previous best with 23 in a 77-58 win over Memphis. She also scored 18 points Thursday as the Orange set the tone for the trip, dominating Texas 77-65.
The 5-foot-11 Butler hit 14-of-26 3-point attempts for the tournament. The King of Prussia, Pa., native is averaging 3.9 3-point field goals per game, putting her in the top 10 in the country. Syracuse is 8-0, joining Duke as the only other unbeaten team in the ACC.
Butler's performance capped a great two-year run for the Orange on Thanksgiving weekend. In fact, Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman might want to consider moving Syracuse's home games to somewhere south of Florida. After beating Georgia Tech and Virginia at last November's San Juan Shootout, the Orange are now 5-0 outside the continental United States this time of year.
Certainly, Butler is no stranger to success. She was a McDonald's All-American in her final prep season at Nazareth Regional High School (N.Y.) and was on the Big East all-freshman team a season ago. But this weekend marked the most prolific run of her young college career. She is averaging more than 17 points a game, up 10 points from her rookie campaign, and along with fellow sophomore guard Brittney Sykes, has certainly become the backbone of a Syracuse team whose modest expectations for this season (picked seventh in the ACC) have now elevated thanks to her Paradise Jam performance.
Also considered: Melissa Dixon, Iowa; Amanda Hyde, IPFW; Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford