PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Marcus Denmon, Missouri: If you’re looking for a surprise National Player of the Year candidate, look no further than Denmon.
In a nine-day stretch, the senior scored 81 points, grabbed 14 boards and handed out seven assists for 9-0 and 10th-ranked Missouri.
Denmon followed a 31-point outing in a 90-56 victory over Northwestern State last Friday with 28 points in an 81-71 win over Villanova at Madison Square Garden Tuesday. In the win, Denmon made 10 of his 16 field goal attempts, including 6-of-10 from beyond the 3-point line, and both of his free throws.
In Saturday’s 84-59 triumph over Navy, Denmon scored another 22 points, along with three rebounds and a pair of assists.
For the season, Denmon is averaging 21.3 points per contest, while shooting 53 percent from the field, 49 percent from the 3-point line and 92 percent from the charity stripe.
MID-MAJOR PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Kevin Murphy, Tennessee Tech: With 52 combined points, the junior led the Golden Eagles to wins over East Tennessee State and Lipscomb last week.
Murphy made 10-of-13 shots from the field and scored 23 points in Wednesday’s 83-74 victory over East Tennessee State. Four days later, the Eagles improved to 5-4 behind his 29-point, 7-rebound, 3-assist, 3-steal performance in an 89-87 win over Lipscomb.
For the season, the 6-foot-6 guard is averaging 20.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals. He has also connected on 43 percent of his 3-point shots.
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Indiana: Even before Christian Watford’s 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Hoosiers a 73-72 victory over the top-ranked Wildcats Saturday, it was apparent that Indiana basketball was back.
After Wildcat sophomore Doron Lamb made the second of two free throws, Indiana’s Verdell Jones III drove the length of the floor, kicked the ball out to Watford, whose shot hit nothing but net and induced a floor-rushing celebration at Assembly Hall that was three frustrating years in the making.
After wins over Butler and at North Carolina State the previous week, Indiana legitimized its best start in two decades with the stunner over the nation’s most talented team. The Hoosiers are 9-0 for the first time since 1989-90.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
Murray State 76, Memphis 72: The Racers remained unbeaten (10-0) by knocking off 20th-ranked Memphis on Sunday. Donte Poole hit six 3-pionters and scored 20 points as Murray State shot 45 percent from beyond the arc. The Racers trailed 47-46 with 14:33 left, but they went on a 14-3 run and held off Will Barton and the Tigers.
SHOCK LOSS OF THE WEEK
Austin Peay 74, Tennessee 70: Led by Jordan McRae, Trae Golden and Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee has too much talent to be 3-4. The Volunteers certainly shouldn’t be losing home games to teams like Austin Peay, which entered Saturday’s contest with one victory after losing its first nine contests.
WEEKLY LIST: PLEASANT SURPRISES
Teams that have played above expectations early in the 2011-12 season:
1. Indiana (9-0): The Hoosiers were supposed to be better this year, but no one outside of Bloomington expected a 9-0 start that included wins over Butler, North Carolina State and Kentucky.
2. Stanford (8-1): The Cardinal have one of the best sophomore classes in the nation, so improvement was a given, but how quickly Johnny Dawkins has turned them around has been stunning. Stanford’s lone loss came to No. 3 Syracuse in New York in a game they led most of the way.
3. San Diego State (9-2): After losing four starters, the Aztecs were supposed to fade, but Steve Fisher has SDSU at 9-2 with hard-fought losses to Creighton and Baylor standing between it and a perfect start.
4. Kansas (7-2): With only one starter returning, 2011-12 was expected to be a rebuilding year in Lawrence. The emergence of Thomas Robinson has changed everything and the Jayhawks appear to be contenders to win its eighth straight Big 12 title.
5. Mississippi State (9-1): The Rebels have underachieved the past few years, but it appears Rick Stansbury finally has his squad playing as a team.