Player of the Week:
Vander Blue, Marquette
The athletic two-guard has lifted his game substantially as a junior on an inexperienced roster. Blue scored a career-high 30 points in a home victory over South Florida, knocking down 13 of 20 shots and grabbing six boards. After hitting only 4 three-pointers in conference play last season, he’s hit 10 through seven games in 2012-2013. While he’ll never be mistaken for a pure stroke, his 32% on the season is a stellar upgrade (1.3 makes). The added range dimension to his natural slashing game and ability to thrive in transition has resulted in a 6+ point per game scoring boost. He’s picked up the slack for a first academically ineligible and now struggling to see PT Todd Mayo, leading Marquette to a relatively stunning 6-1 conference standing and top-25 ranking. Blue is undersized but powerfully built, and possesses explosive athleticism in the open floor.
Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova
Yarou, whose production has faded across the board as a senior, reawakened with a pair of terrific efforts this week. He played 40 minutes in a dramatic overtime win over Syracuse in Philadelphia, tying a career-high with 16 rebounds, including a pair of huge offensive boards in the final minute of regulation (led to the tying three-pointer), scoring 14 points and adding a block. He scored 20 points in a road defeat at Notre Dame, connecting on 8/12 field goals with 7 rebounds and 3 blocks (0.7 average). The 255 pound Yarou has fallen in love with the jump shot, which he can make, but a Villanova squad saturated with long range bombers needs more activity on the interior. He shoots nearly 80% from the FT line; your team needs easy points—get there.
Ryan Boatright, Connecticut
Like his backcourt mate Shabazz Napier, the sophomore bears a heavy burden on a game in game out basis. Boatright played 42 minutes in an overtime road victory at Providence (the first for UConn since 2006), scoring 19 points, dishing out 7 assists (5 turnovers), knocking down 3 treys and swiping 2 steals. Earlier in the week he posted a 15/3/3 stat line in a comfortable home win over Rutgers. He’s nearly impossible to keep out of the paint with his electric quickness. If he starts dribbling into three’s, the nightmare matchup becomes even more challenging. Napier receives the lion’s share of national attention and accolades, but Boatright is truly a dynamic playmaker.
Cashmere Wright, Cincinnati
In two games since returning from a sprained knee, Wright has found difficulty finding the range. ‘Range’ being the operative word in this case. He shot 3/19 in games at Syracuse and versus Rutgers, with 13 of those field goal attempts coming from long distance (2 makes). Quite frankly, Wright settles far too often. While his inability to turn the corner is often the root cause for low percentage shot attempts, it appears he has little interest challenging the trees; this despite having a more than adept floater and above average creativity. If Cincinnati is to take that final next step, they need Wright to manufacture cleaner looks for himself and his mates.
Top 5: Freshmen on the brink
1. Jerami Grant, Syracuse- The argument can be made that Grant has already broken out. With James Southerland continuing to serve his suspension, the youngest Grant has averaged 30 minutes per game over his last four. He’s displayed liveliness on the glass, a tendency to get to the stripe and a solid mid-range J. He had a season high 14 points against Notre Dame on Monday.
2. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville- Harrell is built like a beast at 19, finishing with eye-catching ferocity. Combine that power with excellent length and you have a force to be reckoned with. He displays clean shot mechanics as well. Harrell is averaging 6 points and 4 rebounds in 17 minutes, and with Wayne Blackshear not 100%, he should be presented with more opportunities to earn trust.
3. Kris Dunn, Providence- Notching 13 assists in your initial introduction to collegiate basketball is always a good start. However, Dunn has been wildly inconsistent since. He’s failed to record more than one assist in 9 straight games, while accumulating turnovers in bunches and struggling to finish at the rim. His attacking quickness and length defensively will earn him more PT in three-guard sets.
4. Steven Adams, Pittsburgh- Ok, Adams is actually miles away from the cusp. But despite his obvious limitations and total incompetence at the foul line, he brings rare commodities to the table: prolific offensive rebounding (5 apiece in last two games), comfortable mobility at 7-feet and shot blocking prowess (2 BPG). Adams is just beginning to tap the surface of his physical potential.
5. [Player: D’Vauntes SmithRivera], Georgetown- With Greg Whittington sidelined, Smith-Rivera has become a mainstay in the Hoya’s rotation. Shot selection is a work in progress, but his range is apparent. Additionally, he’s a powerful built guard weighing in at nearly 230, and not afraid to mix it up on the boards (over 5 RPG last six).
Honorable mention: Steve Taylor, Marquette and Javontae Hawkins, South Florida
- Davante Gardner was ejected in the second half of Marquette’s win over South Florida, but the big man will not be suspended Sunday at Louisville.
- St. John’s leads the nation in blocked shots (8.1 BPG), led by the individual blocks leader Chris Obekpa (4.6 BPG).
- Jack Cooley averaged 15 rebounds in Notre Dame’s two victories this week. He leads the conference at 11.1 RPG and ranks in the top-10 nationally. His 4.7 offensive rebounds per game is an astounding number.
- Kudos to redshirt senior Tom Knight who took full advantage of his scarce playing time. He exploded for 13.5 points on 68% FG, 5.5 rebounds and 2 blocks in 65 minutes at USF and vs. Villanova.
- Seton Hall committed 24 turnovers against Georgetown and now ranks 298th nationally in that fabled category.
- South Florida finished Saturday’s contest versus Notre Dame with 14 team rebounds (Cooley had 14 on his own). Indeed, that is not a misprint.
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