Burlison's Top Players of the Week

UCLA sophomore Arron Afflalo makes Frank Burlison's list of the top national players of the week, and Burlison looks at some of the upcoming week's best matchups...

Kentucky sophomore point guard Rajon Rondo sliced and diced his hometown University of Louisville Cardinals Saturday afternoon in Rupp Arena.

 

His performance in the Wildcats' 73-61 victory in Lexington not only earned him a spot on the Scout.com National Top Five Players of the Week list but also helped move his team back into the Scout.com Top 25 (at No. 23).

 

Next up for Rondo and his Kentucky teammates: 7-0 Iona Friday  night in Rupp Arena.

 

Here is a look at some of the week's best matchups, as well as Scout.com's updated Top 25 and the five Scout.com National Players of the Week:

 

Monday

Indiana at Charlotte: The Hoosiers haven't played since bopping Kentucky around by 26 points on Dec. 10. The 49ers are a disappointing 5-4 (although they've won four of their past five games) and are shooting .380 from the field. Cool matchup: Marco Killingsworth (Indiana) vs. Curtis Withers.

 

Denver at Stanford: On the subject of disappointments . . . Stanford has lost four of its first six games. The NBA will be represented in force, mainly to see Denver's 6-11 Yemi Nicholson (18.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game) vs. the Cardinal's 6-11 Matt Haryasz (18.6 and 10.8).

 

Northern Iowa at LSU: This is another opportunity for a Missouri Valley Conference club to knock off a team from a so-called "power conference". The Panthers beat the Big Ten's Iowa Hawkeyes on Dec. 6 after losing to the Big 12's Iowa State Cyclones on Nov. 29.

 

Tuesday

Louisiana Tech at Memphis: Forward Paul Millsap should cause the Tigers some problems a week before they hook up with another forward of note – Adam Morrison of Gonzaga.

 

Pacific at UTEP: This is a rematch of a Bracket Busters' game of last season, won by the Tigers in Stockton. UOP forward Christian Maraker (18.0 ppg and 8.8 rpg) is one of the most underrated players in the country.

 

Wednesday

Missouri vs. Illinois at St. Louis: This is among the more heated of "rivalry" games. But the 4-3 Tigers, who have yet to win outside of Columbia, will need a lot more going for them than just emotion while facing the 11-0 Illini, who are 5-0 away from Assembly Hall.

 

Wagner at UCLA: The Bruins are coming off of consecutive victories over then-unbeatens Nevada and Michigan but would seem to be primed for a letdown. And that could bite them against a team that is 6-1, most recently winning at Rhode Island. Sophomore forward Josh Shipp, who underwent hip surgery in late September, could make his debut for the Bruins.

 

North Carolina at USC: The Trojans (7-2) have won seven games in a row under Coach Tim Floyd. But they've obviously played no one quite like the Tar Heels, who have three players averaging at least 14 points per game.

 

Georgia at Nevada: The Bulldogs (7-2) suffered a loss to Oregon State Saturday that could bite them come March and NCAA Tournament at-large bid time. The going will be even tougher against a team that has lost to only UCLA and has one of the most offensively skilled big men in Nick Fazekas.

 

Princeton vs. Stanford; Cal vs. DePaul (Pete Newell Challenge, Oakland, Calif.): The Tigers (2-6) and Cardinal (2-4) have had well-documented struggles so far. Cal and DePaul were playing well until losses in their most recent outings (with Kansas and Old Dominion, respectively).

 

Thursday

La Salle at Villanova: Do you think they'll be "Phired" up in Philly for this one? Steven Smith (20.8 ppg and 10.6 rpg) and 6-0 (as of Sunday) La Salle vs. Randy Foye (22.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 3.6 apg) and 7-0 Villanova?

 

Florida at Miami: The 10-0 Gators are already 3-0 (with wins over Florida State, Central Florida and Jacksonville) vs. in-state competition. The Hurricanes have just victory (over 4-3 Birmingham Southern) against a foe with a winning record.

 

West Virginia vs. Oklahoma; Tennessee vs. Oklahoma State (Oklahoma City): This double dip got a lot more enticing following the Volunteers' dismantling of Texas in Austin Saturday afternoon. The Mountaineers (6-3) have won four in a row but against nothing like the challenge that the 6-1 Sooners will offer them.

 

North Carolina State at Alabama: The Crimson Tide is 0-3 (vs. Memphis, Notre Dame and Temple) against the three best teams on the schedule so far. A win in this one would do wonders for the NCAA Tournament at-large bid sturdiness of Alabama.

 

Friday

Iona at Kentucky: The Wildcats better not be suffering from any post-Louisville sluggishness – Iona is off to a 7-0 start, including a 17-point victory at Iowa State.

Players of the Week

(Games Dec. 11-17)

 

*Rajon Rondo (6-foot-1, So., Kentucky): In 35 minutes against then-unbeaten Louisville in Rupp Arena Saturday, Rondo scored 25 points with three rebounds, seven assists and two steals in a 73-61 victory. For the season: 16.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game.

 

*Je'Kel Foster (6-3, Sr., Ohio State): He averaged 19 points in victories over Norfolk State, Belmont and Iowa State (70-67), with 28 points – hitting six of eight 3's – to go with six rebounds and two steals in the road win against the Cyclones Saturday. For the season: 17.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg and 2.0 apg, along with .689 shooting from the field (including .605 on 3's) and .847 from the free-throw line.

 

*Ekene Ibekwe (6-9, Jr., Maryland): He scored 21 points (hitting eight of 13 from the field) with nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot during the Terrapins' 73-71 ACC-opening victory over visiting Boston College on Dec. 11. For the season: 13.8 ppg., 5.9 rpg and 1.2 blocked shots per game, while shooting .575 from the field.

 

*Arron Afflalo (6-5, So., UCLA): One half of a sensational sophomore backcourt (with Jordan Farmar), Afflalo scored 20 points – while hitting six of nine 3-pointers – with two rebounds and a critical steal down the stretch Saturday in Ann Arbor during a 68-61 victory over then-unbeaten Michigan. For the season: 18.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg and 1.9 apg, with a .495 percentage from the field (.443 on 3's).

 

*Devan Downey (5-10, Fr., Cincinnati): Recruited out of Chester, S.C., Downey had 24 points, five assists and four steals Wednesday during a 86-58 victory over Ohio, then three days later had 16 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and three steals as the Bearcats improved to 6-2 by smacking Tennessee Tech, 105-62. For the season: 14.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.4 apg and 2.8 spg, with a .506 shooting percentage.

 

Scout.com's updated Top 25

(with previous ratings; records include games through Dec. 18)

 

1. (1) Duke (10-0)

Next game: vs. St. John's (Wednesday)

2. (2) Connecticut (8-0)

Next game: vs. Morehead State (Friday)

3. (4) Villanova (7-0)

Next game: vs. La Salle (Thursday)

4. (5) Ohio State (7-0)

Next game: vs. Tennessee State (Friday)

5. (6) Illinois (11-0)

Next game: vs. Missouri (Wednesday, St. Louis)

6. (7) Washington (9-0)

Next game: vs. Lehigh (Friday)

7. (8) Gonzaga (7-2)

Next game: vs. Eastern Washington (Monday)

8. (9) Memphis (8-1)

Next game: vs. Louisiana Tech (Tuesday)

9. (11) Oklahoma (6-1)

Next game: vs. West Virginia (Thursday, Oklahoma City)

10. (12) Florida (10-0)

Next game: at Miami (Thursday)

11. (13) Wisconsin (9-1)

Next game: vs. Louisiana Tech (Dec. 28)

12. (14) North Carolina State (8-1)

Next game: at Alabama (Thursday)

13. (15) Michigan State (9-2)

Next game: at Wisconsin-Green Bay (Wednesday)

14. (16) Boston College (7-2)

Next game: vs. Harvard (Thursday)

15. (17) North Carolina (6-1)

Next game: at USC (Wednesday)

16. (18) Indiana (5-2)

Next game: at Charlotte (Monday).

17. (20) George Washington (8-0)

Next game: at North Carolina State (Dec. 30)

18. (22) UCLA (8-1)

Next game: vs. Wagner (Wednesday).

19. (23) Nevada (7-1)

Next game: vs. Georgia (Wednesday)

20. (25) Maryland (7-2)

Next game: vs. American (Friday).

21. (ur) Tennessee (6-0)

Next game: vs. Oklahoma State (Thursday, Oklahoma City)

22. (ur) Arizona (5-3)

Next game: vs. Sam Houston State (Monday)

23. (ur) Kentucky (7-3)

Next game: vs. Iona (Friday)

24. (3) Louisville (6-1)

Next game: vs. Middle Tennessee State (Tuesday)

25. (10) Texas (8-2)

Next game: vs. Texas State (Thursday)

 

Dropped out: Wake Forest (19), Michigan (21) and Houston (24).

 

An April inductee into the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's National Basketball Expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.FrankHoops.com


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