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Shurna, Goudelock, Brooks among the nation's most underrated.
By Ken Davis
By the time conference tournaments roll around, players will know the statistics and the tendencies of almost every other player in their own conference. But nonconference games are full of surprises, especially when national powers play teams from smaller, less-publicized conferences.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams understands how it works.
“Last year I asked all our guys if they had ever heard of Andrew Goudelock and nobody had heard of him,” Williams said Monday. “Well, you could probably ask Tennessee the same thing before their game, but he kicked North Carolina’s rear end last year and halfway did it this year. And he kicked Tennessee’s rear end the other day.”
Williams was making the point that there are a lot of players without big-name recognition, guys “without McDonald’s All-American after their name,” who can really play. Today we’ve picked a few of these players who deserve a little more attention than they are getting.
Williams calls them “Guys You’ve Never Heard Of.” There are plenty of good ones out there, but these have moved to the top of our list:
Andrew Goudelock, Charleston: It must feel good to be praised by Williams. He’s a 6-2 senior guard and last Friday he scored 31 in a 91-78 victory over Tennessee. The Cougars are 9-4, but they have made noise, primarily thanks to Goudelock, who has showed steady improved from a 13.2 scoring average as a freshman to 22.9 this season. He also averages 4.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists and is shooting 41.7 from 3-point range. This season he has scored 27 against Maryland, 28 against Carolina, 31 against Tennessee and 33 against Davidson.
John Shurna, Northwestern: In Shurna, the Wildcats trust. He leads Northwestern in scoring (22.2), is second in rebounds (5.2) and second in assists. If this is going to be the year that Northwestern finally makes the NCAA Tournament, Shurna will be leading the way and that’s one great reason to remember his name. He has the great combination of size and perimeter prowess. The 6-8 junior forward is shooting 61.8 percent from 3-point range. He was one of the most improved players in the nation last season and just keeps getting better.
Marshon Brooks, Providence: UConn’s Kemba Walker is the only Big East player with a higher average than Brooks. Brooks ranks 10th in the NCAA national stats with a 23.1 scoring average. He has had a rollercoaster career as a Friar, complete with hot streaks and disappearing acts. But against Sryacuse he proved he is the real deal this season with 27 points against SU’s zone defense. That was his eight consecutive game with at least 25 points. He shoots the three in transition and knows how to get to the rim. He’s making the Friars much better than they should be.
Klay Thompson, Washington State: Despite an 0-2 start in the Pac-10, we really think this is a good, young team. Leading the way is Thompson, a 6-6 junior guard from Ladera Ranch, Calif. Thompson is averaging 22.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, four assists and 1.9 steals. He had a dazzling stretch with 28 against Mississippi State, 20 against Baylor and 31 against Butler. Thompson had 26 in an 80-71 loss at UCLA. Now the Cougars need to bounce back with games against Oregon State and Oregon at home this week.
Lamont “MoMo” Jones, Arizona: Coach Sean Miller has given the Arizona Wildcats a fresh start. Maybe you are just getting comfortable with star player Derrick Williams, who averages 18.6 points and has the pros drooling over his potential. Jones is a sophomore guard from Harlem who may be bringing Miller’s feisty personality to the floor. He is averaging 8.1 points and 2.3 assists and as he gets better, so will Arizona. He had 11 points against Kansas, 20 against BYU and 20 against Oregon. He was originally headed to USC before the O.J.Mayo scandal. Coming from New York, you know Jones has the guts to take the big shot. Watch his role develop at Arizona.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Senior guard Corey Stokes was clutch for Villanova last week and it just feels right to honor a player who has done so much for coach Jay Wright’s program. Stokes had 24 points Dec. 30 in a passionate, emotional Big Five Philly-style battle as the Wildcats defeated Temple 78-74. Then Stokes helped Villanova get off on the right foot in Big East action with 23 points in an 81-65 victory over Rutgers Sunday. Stokes leads Villanova with a 16.9 average but perhaps the best numbers of the week came at the free throw line, where Stokes hit 14- of-16. He is shooting 93.6 percent from the line this season. That’s a guy you want holding the ball at the end of a game.
FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
Forward Cleveland Melvin is making his name known inside the Big East. The DePaul freshman has been Big East Rookie of the Week the past two weeks and it certainly isn’t his fault the Blue Demons are 0-2 in conference play. Last week Melvin averaged 26.5 points and 7.5 rebounds against Cincinnati and Georgetown, two ranked teams that have a combined record of 26-2. Melvin had 24 points and eight rebounds in a 76-60 loss to Cincinnati and followed that with a career-high 29 points along with seven rebounds and two blocks in an 86-75 loss at Georgetown. That was the third consecutive game that his career high in scoring had been improved.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Monday, Jan. 3
Georgetown at St. John’s
Steve Lavin returns to ESPN, this time in the role of coach at St. John’s. It’s still not the good old days when Big John and Louie would wear the same sweater, but the fun might be returning to this series.
Tuesday, Jan. 4
Indiana at Minnesota
Both teams are 0-2 in the Big Ten. Somebody has to get a win. Don't they?
Connecticut at Notre Dame
There are six teams undefeated in Big East play. Then come the Huskies and Irish, tied at 1-1 with Georgetown and Seton Hall. The Huskies rarely enjoy traveling to South Bend.
Wednesday, Jan. 5
Memphis at Tennessee
It’s the last game for Vols coach Bruce Pearl before he begins serving an eight-game SEC suspension. He got a head start on things with that ejection during the 91-78 loss to College of Charleston.
Brigham Young at UNLV
The Mountain West Conference is going to feature more than one “Game of the Season” but this should be a pretty good start. BYU is 14-1, and UNLV enters 12-2. They will meet again Feb. 5, but the opening act will set the stage for much of what happens later.
Thursday, Jan. 6
Xavier at Cincinnati
This is such an intense rivalry, truly one of the best in college basketball. Xavier should be pumped at the thought of knocking the Bearcats from the undefeated ranks. Cincinnati has a thing or two to prove.
Northwestern at Illinois
Expectations were high for this Northwestern team, and there’s still time for the Wildcats to make their move in the Big Ten. The task doesn’t get much tougher than this week, with back-to-back games against Michigan State and Illinois.
Friday, Jan. 7
Cleveland State at Butler
Cleveland State comes to Hinkle Fieldhouse with a 4-0 record and in first place in the Horizon League. Raise your hand if you knew that.
Saturday, Jan. 8
West Virginia at Georgetown
The Mountaineers need some good news after opening the Big East race 0-2. There’s a stop at DePaul before this three-game road trip ends in D.C.
Connecticut at Texas
The Huskies played one of their best games last season when they knocked off the No. 1 ranked Longhorns in Gampel Pavilion. Traveling to Austin for a non-conference game in January isn’t Jim Calhoun’s idea of fun.
St. John’s at Notre Dame
As the week begins, the Irish have only lost to Kentucky, on a neutral court, and at Syracuse. It’s tough to knock off Notre Dame at the Joyce Center.
Sunday, Jan. 9
Kansas at Michigan
The Jayhawks have been up to every task so far and clearly have the more talented team in this contest. But coach Bill Self knows this could be a dangerous trip.
Minnesota at Ohio State
Now is the time for Big Ten teams to line up and take their best shot at the Buckeyes.
Maryland at Duke
Do the Terps have what it takes to knock off Duke this season? Probably not, at least not at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
THEY SAID IT:
“When I walked out and saw it was a full house, and so many Duke fans, I did take a moment to reflect back to when I first got to North Carolina and there weren't very many Duke shirts.” — Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, after beating UNC Greensboro, 108-62, in Greensboro to for his 880th career victory to move past Dean Smith into second-place on the all-time coaching list.
“Of course. I’m the leader of his team. If one of his guys does something like that, then that’s just a reflection of him. Of course he was upset. Of course he told me I couldn’t do that. And I respect that. I never said anything back. I took my punishment, and I just went on with it.” — Kansas junior Marcus Morris, on Bill Self’s decision to remove Morris from the starting lineup after his ejection from the Cal game.
“I was just trying to get Tony Jones some reps, that’s all. I wasn’t talking to the official when I was ejected, so that’s what I was surprised about.” — Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, referring to the Tennessee associate head coach, who will replace him on the bench during an eight-game SEC suspension that begins Saturday for Pearl..
“I really believe that we have a lot of confidence in the bench players. Consistency from the bench is key.” — BYU coach Dave Rose, after the Cougars’ reserves scored 46 points in a 93-57 victory over Fresno Pacific.
Now that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has moved past Dean Smith on the Division I men’s all-time wins list, he is just 21 wins behind his mentor, Bob Knight. Knight is at the top of the list with 902 victories. It will be interesting to see if Coach K can get there during the NCAA Tournament, the way Smith did when he passed Adolph Rupp. One sign in the Charlotte Coliseum last week read, “You’re next, Bobby.”
Missouri was 8-0 last month. That’s the first time the Tigers have gone undefeated in December in 20 years.
At 15-0, Syracuse is off to its best start since it won its first 19 games in 1999-2000.
Tennessee is shooting 24.5 percent from 3-point range in the past six games The Vols have lost four of those games after starting the season 7-0 (and hitting 35.5 percent of their threes).
Duke freshman point guard Kyrie Irving remains out indefinitely with his injured right big toe but was fitted with a new cast Sunday. Doctors are scheduled to perform another scan on Tuesday or Wednesday. “As long as no surgery is needed or it appears that it might not be need, we’re going with this course of action,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. Coach K said Monday that any surgery would mean Irving is lost for the remainder of this season.
Big East home teams have won 11 of the first 13 conference games. St. John’s is 2-0 on the road and the only team to win a Big East game away from home thus far.
Vanderbilt is off to an 11-2 start and coach Kevin Stallings simply doesn’t get enough credit for his work. The Commodores were without two starters Sunday and still defeated Davidson 80-52. Injuries have forced Stallings to juggle his lineup extensively the past six games. Stallings doesn’t get mentioned during discussions of the nation’s top coaches, but he is as solid as they come.
Ken Davis is the author of Basketball Vault books covering the history of the University of Kansas and the University of Connecticut. Both are available through the publisher
(http://www.whitmanvaultbooks.com/) and autographed copies are available at Ken's web page (http://kendavis55.wordpress.com/).