It’s Monday here at NCAA.com, which means it’s time for my college basketball team and player of the week. We’ll do these every Monday during the season and I’ll always lead with my pick for the team and player of the week. These will be quick and to-the-point top-10 lists.
1. Team of the Week: Michigan State. The Spartans won the hardest game of the week — winning at Duke, the first time Tom Izzo has won at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Playing at Duke with no Cameron Crazies makes the game less intimidating for any opponent. But it’s still Duke. And the Blue Devils own that building. This was a significant win for the Spartans. Oh, and then they won two other home games besting a gritty Detroit and Western Michigan.
2. Player of the Week: Marquette freshman Justin Lewis. Lewis came off the bench to score 18 points in a two-point win over Wisconsin. The win for the Golden Eagles came a few days after an eight-point home loss to Oklahoma State. Lewis’ last two points were the most important and, potentially, two of the most significant in this heated rivalry. Lewis tapped in a missed DJ Carton free throw and then was at the bottom of a pile up under the basket. He told March Madness later that night he experienced great joy in that moment. We all did. We all needed it.
3. Team on the rise: Texas. The Longhorns won the relocated Maui Invitational in Asheville, N.C., by beating Indiana and North Carolina in the last two games. The latter was on a last-possession shot by Matt Coleman. Texas would have been team of the week had it not been for those pesky Final Four contenders Villanova Wildcats. Nova came in on Sunday and beat Texas by four. Still, Texas has to be considered a legit contender in the Big 12.
4. All-American candidate making his mark: Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis. He scored 31 points in a Maui Invitational win over Stanford in the third-place game. He’s averaging 21.5 points a game and would be a potential favorite for Big Ten Player of the Year after the first two weeks if there wasn’t a player named Luka Garza in his same conference.
5. Military might: Army and Navy. They are the only two Patriot League teams playing non-conference games and they are both making the most of their opportunities. They each have only one loss, won a combined seven games and have wins over teams from the Atlantic 10 (Navy over George Washington and Army over La Salle), the Big East (Navy over Georgetown) and gave an SEC power quite a scare (Army had an eight-point lead at the half over Florida).
6. Craziest travel week: Seton Hall. The Pirates started off with a home win over Iona on Monday, lost at Rhode Island on Wednesday, got beat by Oregon in Omaha on Friday and then took down Penn State in overtime in State College, Pa., Sunday night. The Pirates had to play all four games without their intended starting point guard, Harvard transfer Bryce Aiken (sprained ankle in season-opening loss at Louisville).
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7. Looking like the SEC’s best: Missouri. No one had that at the beginning of the season. SEC favorite Kentucky is 1-3 after losing to Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Tennessee hadn’t played yet. Florida is 3-0 and might be right there with Missouri and maybe Arkansas. But no team has as good a win as Mizzou. The experienced Tigers are 3-0 with a win over Oregon in Omaha, followed up with a road win at Wichita State.
8. Hidden gem: Georgia’s Sahvir Wheeler. He has done something that no other player did last season in the SEC. He has had double-digit assists and point-assist double-doubles in each of the first three games. According to Georgia, no player since 2000-01 season (that’s as far back as they went), has done that in three straight games. Wheeler is averaging 16.7 points (up from 9 as a freshman), 10.7 assists (an increase from 4.5) and 5.3 turnovers (an increase from 2.9).
9. Shelf-life road buzzer-beater: SMU’s Emmanuel Bandoumel. He hit a running floater at the buzzer to win at Dayton. The victory gave the Mustangs a 4-0 start and sent a strong signal that they could be the team to challenge Houston for a top-two finish in the American.
10. Building resumes: Baylor beating Illinois in Indianapolis; Gonzaga knocking off West Virginia in the same doubleheader; San Francisco winning two more road games at Nevada and Cal Poly (already own a neutral-court win over Virginia); UConn over USC at the Mohegan Sun; Xavier over Cincinnati.