Editor's note: Charlie Creme, Graham Hays and Mechelle Voepel each vote to determine espnW's national player of the week, which is awarded every week of the women's college basketball season.
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley suggested that Sunday's chaotic win against Texas A&M accomplished its objective, assuming the objective was to stress out the coaches.
But Staley said the game -- the Gamecocks surrendered a game-tying basket on a full-court pass with a little more than a second to play and still won in regulation -- was an important teaching tool. She meant, of course, a teaching tool for her players, who are looking not just to return to the Final Four but win a game or two while there, no matter what adversity comes their way.
She could have been speaking of the lesson about A'ja Wilson available to the rest of us.
It was a week that was less about how good Wilson will be than how good she is.
Putting together arguably the best back-to-back performances of her career, certainly her most statistically prolific back-to-back performances, Wilson was unstoppable in games in which her team was anything but invincible. In Thursday's stressful victory over Kentucky, Wilson totaled 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks. She blocked more shots on defense than she missed on offense. On national television Sunday against the Aggies, she provided a distinctly similar encore of 26 points, eight rebounds and eight more blocks.
For averaging 26 points, 10.5 rebounds and eight blocks in two wins against ranked opponents to keep her team unbeaten, Wilson is espnW's national player of the week.
There weren't just nice numbers, either. They were consequential. Against the Wildcats, Wilson scored the points that put the Gamecocks in front for good with a little more than seven minutes to play. Then for good measure, she either scored or assisted on the next seven points, as well.
Against the Aggies, Bianca Cuevas erased South Carolina's final deficit with a three-point play midway through the fourth quarter, and Khadijah Sessions hit the free throw to win it with less than a second remaining. But Wilson accounted for nearly half of her team's points, most in the first three quarters, when it seemed no one else on the roster could find the rim with a compass.
Wilson wasn't just good this past week; she was as good as the team with the best chance to make this season something other than a foregone conclusion needed her to be.
And when one of the most talented young players in the sports comes up with the best week of her college career, the rest of the country will have to settle for second.
Also nominated: Rachel Banham, Minnesota; Kristen Confroy, Maryland; Alexis Jones, Baylor; Shereesha Richards, Albany; and Nicole Seekamp, South Dakota
Previous winners: Kelsey Mitchell (Nov. 29) | Courtney Walker (Nov. 22) | Vanessa Panousis (Dec. 6) | Makayla Epps (Dec. 13) | Megan Podkowa (Dec. 20) | Kelsey Mitchell (Jan. 4) | Stephanie Brunner (Jan. 11)