Ohio St. has that guy. That guy who might be the only player in the country who can single-handedly carry his team to a national championship. Evan Turner has bounced back from his early-season back injury to become the favorite for Big Ten Player of the Year and one of the favorites for national player of the year.
Turner is averaging 19.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game. His athleticism makes him a nightmare to guard and his versatility allows him to beat you in so many ways.
The Buckeyes struggled without him, but have won 8 of 10 games since he’s returned. He gives them a presence that can take over a game at any given moment.
Ohio St now only trails Michigan St by a game for the Big Ten lead and with a trip to East Lansing coming up, still have a chance to win the regular season title. Something it probably didn’t think was possible this time a month ago.
Stock Up: New Mexico. If someone asked the casual fan who the best college basketball team out west was, they probably would name Gonzaga, California, or maybe even Washington. However, you might have to go to the Mountain West to find New Mexico. The Lobos lost 3 out of 5 from late Dec. to early Jan., but have been rolling outside of that. They’ve done it on the road and against good competition. This is a team on the rise.
Stock Down: Mississippi St. I’m not sure what to make of the Bulldogs. They started the season losing 2 of their first 5. Then they went on a run where they won nine in a row. They’re 4-5 in their last nine including losing 4 of their last 5. Their wins over Old Dominion and Ole Miss will not be enough to save them on Selection Sunday if they don’t turn it around. Beating Ole Miss and Auburn at home this week would go a long way to saving their season.
Stock up: Richmond. For some reason, the Spiders are getting no love and I don’t know why. They have outstanding out-of-conference wins over Missouri, Old Dominion, and Florida to go along with the rout they gave to Temple on Saturday. The Spider’s schedule toughens up down the stretch, but they may have enough fire power to get their first at-large bid since 2004.
Stock Down: Sun Belt Conference. This is normally one of the better mid-major conferences in the country, but it is struggling this year. Denver has the conferences highest RPI at 148, which is lower than three teams from the Atlantic Sun Conference, which has nowhere near the history of the Sun Belt. For a conference which has won NCAA tournament games the past two seasons, this is definitely a down year in the Sun Belt.
This week’s bracket projections:
Last Four In: Washington, Old Dominion, Wichita St, Maryland
Last Four Out: Clemson, Oklahoma St, South Florida, Louisville
1.Kansas16.Lehigh/Jackson St Oklahoma City
4.New Mexico13.Kent St
6.Vanderbilt11.Dayton New Orleans
3.Michigan St14.Coastal Carolina
7.Georgia Tech10.Siena Buffalo
2.West Virginia15.Weber St
1.Villanova16.Arkansas St Providence
5.Texas A&M12.Wichita St Spokane
6.BYU11.Maryland San Jose
3.Ohio St14.Murray St
7.Pittsburgh10.Florida Oklahoma City
2.Kansas St15.Robert Morris
5.Wake Forest12.Old Dominion New Orleans
4.Butler13.New Mexico St
6.Northern Iowa11.California Jacksonville
3.Georgetown14.College of Charleston
7.Rhode Island10.Florida St Milwaukee
1.Syracuse16.Stony Brook Buffalo
5.UNLV12.UTEP San Jose
6.Baylor11.Virginia Commonwealth Jacksonville
2.Wisconsin15.Sam Houston St