The focus won’t necessarily be on statistics, although that will be a factor. I’m looking for guys who came up big in important games and in winning efforts. Dropping 40 in a drubbing of South Florida won’t get you anywhere, dropping 20 in an upset of Florida might. So much has been said about the ridiculous game between Texas and Oklahoma State last Tuesday so for this edition, I’m only considering games from Wednesday night and on. I’m sure Kevin Durant and Mario Boggan’s hearts are broken.
As you might know, there are tons of games. And I have a busy schedule of class and drinking that could prohibit me from seeing/ being able to remember every meaningful game that goes on. So there could be some performances that fall through the cracks, and if you feel someone got slighted, let me know.
1) Aaron Brooks, Oregon - 22 points, six assists, four rebounds in 92-84 win over California Saturday
Out west, he’s kind of a big deal, but we here on the East Coast might have to wait until March to know how great Brooks is. I think you could really make a case for Brooks to be Pac-10 Player of the Year at this point and yet he is largely unheralded (you know with Bristol being like really far from Oregon and all). A week after carrying the Ducks to a win over Arizona that included the game-winner, Brooks put his team on his shoulders again versus the Bears. After Oregon was down eight at half, Brooks came out and hit two threes and a two-pointer to tie the game within three minutes. He ended up with 15 in the second half and 22 overall after not scoring in the first 10 minutes. He was 8-12 from the field, 4-5 from three and had zero turnovers in a remarkably efficient game that kept Oregon on top of the country’s best conference. Apparently Brooks is suspended this Thursday against Washington for a flagrant foul in last year’s conference tourney which seems wildly bogus to me. Somewhere Tony Skinn is laughing deviously.
2) Al Thornton, Florida State - 27 points, 13 rebounds in 82-73 win over Virginia Tech Jan. 17
I knew Thornton was good last year, but I really knew how good he was when I saw this dunk earlier in the year. Anyone who can embarrass another grown man like that simply by jumping in the air gets my utmost respect. But Thornton showed last week that he can do more than just ruin people’s manhoods, and he only needs half the time to do it. All of his 27 came in the second half (including a 30-footer dagger to beat the shot clock buzzer) and if it weren’t for him, the Noles probably would’ve blown a 16-point half-time lead and lost. Instead they stay in the at-large picture and there is still a chance of Gus Johnson announcing one of Thornton’s dunks in March (possibly causing planets to collide) which would change the lives of everyone fortunate enough to hear it.
3) Justin Hawkins, New Mexico State - 29 points, 11 rebounds in 80-73 win over Nevada Saturday
Shawn Siegel picked this up the other day as Hawkins turned in one of the best mid-major performances of the year given the circumstances. For the Aggies, to respond to a bad loss against Louisiana Tech earlier in the week and beat the No. 13 team in the country should show the selection committee a lot. After starting 1-3 New Mexico State is 14-1 and actually on top of the WAC because they are tied with Nevada at 5-1. At just 6-5, Hawkins managed nine offensive rebounds and his 19 first half points kept the Aggies in the game early. In addition to the big win, Hawkins play also seemed to piss off Nevada coach Mark Fox (at least that’s how it sounded in the AP story) and had Nick Fazekas making excuses. Should make for a fun rematch or two.
4) Dominic James, Marquette - 23 points in 77-74 overtime win at Pitt Sunday
Thankfully my roommates and I have two televisions in our living room so while watching the Bears dismantle the Saints Sunday, we were also able to keep tabs on Pitt-Marquette. Every time the Chevy “This Is Our Country” commercial came on, I looked over at the basketball game (while repeatedly punching myself in the ear) and seemed to see James making a spectacular play every time. The play where he stole the ball and froze both of Pitt’s Ivory Towers (Aaron Grey and Levon “Vanilla Ice” Kendall) on way to a reverse lay-up helped reduce the pain of watching Rex Grossman. In addition to dominating Pitt’s guards (who I think are very suspect and could be the Panthers downfall in March) he hit the game-winning free throws with under a second left in overtime and gave Pitt only their second home loss in the last two years. This game should put James in the lead for Big East POY and should cement the Eagles as the Big East’s best team right now.
5) Roderick Wilmont, Indiana - 23 points, five rebounds, in 77-73 win at UCONN Saturday
Clearly Connecticut isn’t as good as everyone thought but it’s still never easy to win at Storrs, especially for an up-and-down Indiana team. Huskies fans will argue he shouldn’t have still been in the game, but Wilmont hit two huge shots down the stretch (including one of his five threes) to give the Hoosiers a win that could secure a spot in the NCAA tourney. I’ve never thought Kelvin Sampson was that great of a coach but in a conference devoid of any good teams besides Wisconsin and Ohio State, Indiana might be the third-best team in the Big Ten despite their warm-up pants.
Greg Oden, Ohio State - 29 points, 10 rebounds on 12-13 shooting in 82-63 win vs. Iowa Saturday
Arron Afflalo, UCLA - 22 points, 3-6 three pointers in 73-69 win vs. Arizona Saturday
Nick Young, USC - 30 points, eight rebounds in 80-73 win vs. Arizona Jan. 18
Jared Jordan, Marist - 26 points, eight assists, seven rebounds in 91-86 win vs. Niagara Jan. 18
Nate Funk, Creighton - 25 points in 65-54 win vs. Bradley Jan. 18
Mark Zoller, Penn - 28 points, 10 rebounds in 93-92 Big Five win at LaSalle Jan. 18
Aaron Nixon, Long Beach State - 27 points, nine rebounds in 95-85 win vs. Cal State Fullerton Jan. 18
Shan Foster, Vanderbilt - 27 points, five assists and five threes in 94-73 win vs. Alabama Jan. 17