PLAYER OF THE WEEK: QUINCY DOUBY
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/>AP/Frank Franklin IIDouby lit up the Owls and the Gaels.
By Andy Katz, ESPN.com
This was a tough week to pick a winner. We ached over players like Duke's J.J. Redick, Cal's Leon Powe, Houston's Oliver Lafayette, Wake Forest's Justin Gray and Nevada's Nick Fazekas. But Douby got the edge because the good vibes the Scarlet Knights are having in football (going bowling) is carrying over to the hoops team.
Rutgers beat Temple by 14 and then won at Saint Mary's by six with Douby leading the way. He played 40 minutes in each of the two games, scoring 27 in the win over the Owls and then 36 in a victory over the Gaels. He made 6-of-16 3s and was 20-of-37 overall from the field. He also was 17-of-20 from the free-throw line, proving that the junior guard is getting into the lane.
Douby also had 11 boards against Saint Mary's along with three steals. If he keeps this up, the suddenly surging Scarlet Knights (5-1, with the only loss to Illinois in the South Padre Island tournament) could be a player all year long in the Big East.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: HOUSTON
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AP/Tim JohnsonLafayette had a half to remember against LSU.
By Andy Katz, ESPN.com
Tom Penders has never been shy about boasting. When he worked at ESPN, he had his no-spin top 10. Well, there is plenty to spin with the Cougars this season without any of it sounding falsely positive.
Self-described "Turnaround Tom" is at it again with the Cougars looking like Memphis' and UAB's toughest competition in Conference USA this season. Houston grabbed wins over two ranked teams by stunning LSU on the road and then taking out Arizona at home.
Almost-player-of-the-week Oliver Lafayette, who is averaging 22.5 points a game, scored 27 of his 32 points against the Tigers in the second half and then lit up the Wildcats for 28.
The key now for the Cougars (3-1, with the only loss to VCU) is to stay away from losing games like at South Alabama or at Centenary as they forge ahead. Houston deserves Top 25 consideration with the week it just had.
1) Just as many college football fans missed Reggie Bush's spectacular performance against Fresno State, so too did college hoops junkies miss their chance to see Adam Morrison serve Washington with 43 in a losing effort. A 10:30 p.m. ET start time on a Sunday just did not give this game its due respect. Is anyone not on board yet with the Morrison bandwagon? And by the way, Washington's Bank of America Arena might be the best college atmosphere on the West Coast.
In that game, Dave Libby called an unneeded technical foul on Lorenzo Romar that completely changed the momentum of the game in the second half. Since coaches are cautious about refs sticking up for other refs, I will say what everyone in college hoops knows -- Libby thinks the ticket reads "Gonzaga vs. Washington starring Dave Libby as head official." Please stop putting him on big West Coast games. He ruins the flow and puts both teams on edge with his "say one more thing and you are gone" attitude.
2) Major issues in the Big 12: Kansas is struggling, Oklahoma lost at Villanova, Nebraska lost at home to UAB by one, Kansas State dropped a heartbreaker at Washington State, Iowa State lost at home ... again, and Texas Tech was blown out by San Francisco.
As an aside, don't be surprised if Cal beats Kansas at Kemper Arena in Kansas City. Not only does Cal have the best power forward in the country in Leon Powe, but the interior of the Bears will continue to improve as Jordan Wilkes comes back from a sprained ankle and Rod Benson returns from a stress fracture in his heel. DeVon Hardin was Pac-10 Player of the Week after averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds.
3) Some miscellaneous player notes: La Salle's Steven Smith, quite frankly, is a beast. He had 26 points and 15 rebounds in a "Big 6" win over Drexel. With a little luck during two more road games, the Explorers could be undefeated before taking on Villanova on Dec. 22. ... How deep is Memphis? Rodney Carney only played 11 uninspired minutes in the Tigers' road win at Cincinnati. How'd they win? Antonio Anderson had 32 points on 7 of 9 shooting from behind the 3-point line. Credit Coach Cal -- he is demanding effort at the defensive end, and with his bevy of talented Tigers, he is using it. ... Yemi Nicholson of Denver is a 6-foot-11, 260-pound senior averaging 19 points and eight boards for the Pioneers. He only played one year of high school ball (was in the band instead) at Overland H.S. in Aurora, barely played at Fort Lewis College, and last year he was Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. He has actually won more awards for his jazz saxophone than playing basketball. He is a load inside with soft hands and a solid low-post game.
1) I witnessed Nick Fazekas' impressive performance Thursday night at Kansas, as did representatives of 17 NBA teams. He's another example that the recruiting services often get it wrong. While the four "Baby Jayhawks" (all of whom were ranked in the top 50 last year out of high school) are going to be good college players, the lightly recruited Fazekas was the best player on the court.
Fazekas, who was only 205 pounds as a freshman, got a chance to play from Day 1 at Nevada and has become an outstanding scorer from inside the paint and out to the 3-point line. In his first season at Nevada, he was a second or third option behind future Utah Jazz first-round pick Kirk Snyder. Last year, he came into his own as the WAC Player of the Year. This season, he is surrounded by a veteran cast that has won three NCAA games in the last two years, including the Sweet 16 run in 2004.
While NBA people will have to ask themselves if Fazekas is either strong enough to play power forward or quick enough to guard small forwards, he is playing himself into position to make someone's All-America team at the end of the year. Not too shabby for a guy from Arvada, Colo., that the recruiting experts missed on.
2) When Duke got the ball out of bounds Sunday night with 1.6 seconds to go, trailing Virginia Tech by one, my coaching instincts were telling me "one dribble per second."
I used to tell my teams that if we had to go the length of the court, we had at least one dribble to use per second remaining on the clock. So, with 1.6 seconds to go, Sean Dockery was able to catch the ball just over the half-court line and use one dribble to get about 10 feet closer before launching the 40-footer that stunned Virginia Tech at the buzzer.
Of course, Coach K has been in that situation numerous times in his career. Was some luck involved? Maybe, but a coach's job in that situation is to give his team a chance to win. While last-second plays usually yield a desperation shot that is missed, it is those times that a play is executed under pressure that we remember.
3) Seconding Doug's mentions of Morrison and Powe for those who don't see much West Coast hoops. For those of us who have compared Morrison to Larry Bird since his freshman year, it's not hyperbole. The comparison at the college level certainly fits: Morrison will be among the nation's scoring leaders and he will do it off the beaten path once conference play gets under way.
In the meantime, he is headed toward Wooden/Naismith Award status as the best player in the country. Let's enjoy him while we can because it's likely he'll be trying to make the comparison to his idol at this time next year in the NBA.
Meanwhile, Powe is headed quickly to All-American status. He reminds me a lot of Wayne Simien but has better ball skills away from the basket and is more physically imposing inside. The third-year sophomore can play both the high and low post and will team with a much-improved DeVon Hardin, Rod Benson and Jordan Wilkes to form the best inside attack in the Pac-10.
Unfortunately, if Powe keeps playing like this, there is a good chance he won't be around next season.
FIVE GAMES TO WATCH
By Andy Katz, ESPN.com
Maryland vs. George Washington, BB&T Classic, Monday: The Colonials haven't been tested yet. The Terps want a bit of payback after last season's Colonials win.
Michigan State vs. Boston College, Jimmy V Classic, Tuesday (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET): The Eagles have a solid win over Oklahoma State in Las Vegas, but no one saw it nationally. As is the case almost every year with this group, the nation is waiting to see if the Eagles are for real. A win over Sparty would qualify.
Georgetown at Illinois, Thursday: The Hoyas got clipped by Vandy (which will turn out to be a quality loss) but then went out to Oregon and beat back the Ducks. Illinois continues to plow ahead, beating North Carolina in Chapel Hill and Xavier in Chicago. The fact that the Hoyas are even playing another big-time game this early in the season, let alone on the road, shows just how much the program has changed.
Texas vs. Duke, Meadowlands, Saturday: This remains the most anticipated nonconference game of the season. The 1 vs. 2 matchup hasn't happened too often and getting it on a neutral court makes it even better (although the Blue Devils will have the crowd advantage). This should be a Final Four preview with the nation's top point guard (Daniel Gibson), shooting guard (J.J. Redick), center (LaMarcus Aldridge) and power forward (Shelden Williams) all in one game. The role players aren't too shabby, either.
Kentucky vs. Indiana, RCA Dome, Saturday: If there is ever a year for Mike Davis and the Hoosiers to beat the Wildcats, this is the one. Indiana hung with Duke and has been steamrolling everyone else. Kentucky is about as erratic as it has ever been under Tubby Smith. Indiana's Marco Killingsworth should have a field day with whomever the Wildcats throw out in the post.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
By Mark Simon, Special to ESPN.com
Skeptics would have told you prior to the season's start that Florida wasn't going to be anything close to what it was without the trifecta of Anthony Roberson, Matt Walsh and David Lee.
Well, now those same people will tell you that Florida is a legitimate top-15 team, one that is off to its first 7-0 start since 1984-85.
Billy Donovan seems to have a knack for finding capable replacements, and he has two in his backcourt: sophomore Taurean Green and junior Lee Humphrey. Green has shown the ability to score by getting to the foul line while Humphrey has had an astounding run of success from 3-point range.
If the two can maintain their current paces (and that's not going to be easy), they'll be more efficient than their predecessors.
Rocking The Rim
We'll get a good look at how much Paul Davis has elevated his game this season when Michigan State takes on Boston College in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday night.
Despite the Spartans' sluggish start, Davis has shown signs of finally living up to his potential. He has put up big numbers through Michigan State's first seven games, picking up in scoring and rebounding where he left off during the Final Four run last season (while greatly increasing his field goal percentage).
If you had asked last season who would be the best player in this game, it would have been a no-brainer to pick Eagles forward Craig Smith. However, it's Davis who has impressed more this season and who will get the chance to show his stuff again on the national stage.
Matchup of the week
Those who tuned in last year to watch the expected Connecticut rout of Massachusetts got a pleasant surprise when the Minutemen not only made it a game, but pulled out a win in the final seconds.
We don't endorse what Rashaun Freeman did after making the eventual game-winning shot (he ran into the crowd to celebrate, giving the Huskies a 5-on-4 chance for a buzzer beater), but it made for unique viewing.
There have been some odd doings in this rivalry and Thursday we'll get another good look.
In the bonus
The comeback of the week wasn't Manhattan's in the second half against Syracuse, or for that matter Syracuse's in the final 2½ minutes of regulation against Manhattan. Instead, how about a vote for Belmont's stunner at East Tennessee State?
It's going to be hard for any team to top what the Bruins did Thursday night, erasing an eight-point deficit in the final 42 seconds, then winning 88-85 in overtime. Belmont, in its sixth season playing Division I, scored 11 points in that frantic final spurt, utilizing its best offensive weapon: the 3-pointer. The Bruins have one of the nation's top sharpshooters, Josh Goodwin, who drained a conference record-tying 11 trifectas in the win.
"He's making a case for being one of the best," said 25th-year head coach Rick Byrd. "I don't know if I would have said that before [this game], but he was prolific."
Belmont, located in Nashville, Tenn., is a haven for some great 3-point shooting. In its brief tenure in Division I, this former NAIA squad has frequently been atop the charts in 3s made per night.
Sometimes the strategy works, while other times it doesn't (such as in a loss to Kennesaw State on Saturday). But it makes for an intriguing way of playing and allows for the possibility of entertaining comebacks.
"We either get the ball inside or we shoot a 3-pointer," Byrd said. "We play four-out, one-in. You won't see us shoot a lot of 15-footers. We recruit shooters and post feeders, people who understand passing and screening. We've always had lots of good shooters."