Player of the Week
Yoeli Childs, PF/C, #17 BYU Cougars
BYU pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season on Saturday night and Yoeli Childs was a major reason why. Gonzaga often times enters the NCAA Tournament unscathed in conference play, but BYU ensured this would not be the case this season. Childs led the Cougars to one of their largest wins in program history in a 91-78 victory over the 2nd ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs.
The 6’8 senior forward scored 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a dominating performance over the Zags. He also added two steals and a block on the defensive end. BYU’s star has showcased a versatile skillset that expands the three-point arc, making him an under the radar draft prospect come June.
Obi Toppin, SF/PF, #4 Dayton Flyers
Surprise, surprise. Obi Toppin is still playing well. Consistency has been the key for the potential lottery pick, and it is yet to let him down. Toppin put together his conference play career high for points with 28 in a less than convincing win for the Flyers. The 4th ranked team in the country trailed at half but came away with a victory thanks to Toppin’s career day.
Looking ahead, the Flyers have three remaining regular season games and a date with Rhode Island, the 2nd best team in the conference, on Wednesday. A loss won’t be enough to take away their regular season title, but it could provide the Rams with additional confidence going into the conference tournament and secure a spot in the big dance. But, if Toppin continues to play like he did this week, I wouldn’t give the Rams much of a chance in that matchup.
Jordan Ford, PG, Saint Mary’s Gaels
Malik Fitts grabs most of the NBA headlines for the Gaels, but Jordan Ford also deserves praise for the role he plays for his squad. Fitts may have the brighter NBA future with his athleticism, but Ford does it all for the sleeper team in the WCC. Ford averages a staggering 21 PPG and shoots an impressive 41% from three-point land.
The 6’1 senior guard exceeded these numbers in a huge road win against a desperate Santa Clara team. Ford dropped 33 points on 12-19 shooting, including 3-7 from distance. Saturday night pits the red-hot Gaels up against a Gonzaga team that embarrassed them a short month ago. Ford and Fitts will need to have career nights if they are going to steal a win in Spokane.
In a game that very few people had their eye on, UNLV shocked the college basketball world with a road win against the formerly undefeated San Diego State Aztecs. If there is any good news to come out of this loss for the Aztecs, it would be that there have only been two teams who entered March Madness undefeated this decade. Both lost. There is no question that carrying an undefeated record into the NCAA Tournament warrants additional pressure and a huge target on your back. Maybe this loss will give the Aztecs the Cinderella script they need to win their first NCAA Championship in program history.
Top Five Players with the most to gain from March Madness
1. Malik Fitts, SF/PF, Saint Mary’s Gaels
Part of the reason why Fitts is not near the top of draft boards is because there are so many out there who have not seen this guy play. Having watched him a lot this year, I can personally vouch for his tremendous athleticism that makes him nearly unstoppable when he is in a groove. Against San Diego, the Gaels were struggling down the stretch and were on upset alert. Fitts proceeded to convert three “And-1s” in four possessions to stretch the lead and put the game on ice. One of these included a ferocious dunk that deserved to be all over social media. With the lights shining brighter than ever before, Fitts will catch the eye of many scouts and jump to the top of the second round and possibly even higher.
2. Yoeli Childs, PF/C, #17 BYU Cougars
After a nine-game suspension to start the season and an injury that caused another four-game absence, Yoeli Childs was not on many people’s radars for the majority of the season. But Childs broke out in a huge way with an upset victory over the Gonzaga Bulldogs. As games continue to become more and more important with more national attention, Childs will continue to do what he has done all season outside of the spotlight. This makes me believe that Childs’ NBA stock will continue to grow as the NCAA Tournament approaches.
3. Neemias Queta, C, Utah State Aggies
As a seven-footer, Queta has received some buzz in the NBA world. However, he has seemed to slip out of many mock drafts, including our own, as the season has progressed. Needless to say, an outstanding performance in both the Mountain West Conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament would be just the boost he needs to reenter discussions for the NBA Draft.
4. Precious Achiuwa, SF/PF, Memphis Tigers
Achiuwa was one of the more intriguing recruits coming into the season, but with the departure of James Wiseman, he has become a somewhat forgettable player in a season to forget for the Tigers. But the beauty of college basketball gives every single team a chance to make the NCAA Tournament regardless of your regular season success. If Achiuwa can pull off a memorable tournament run and get the Tigers into the NCAA Tournament, he will be far from forgotten and right back in the mix for a lottery selection.
5. Nathan Knight, PF/C, William & Mary Tribe
Nathan Knight is one of the more underrated prospects in the country in my opinion. I have written about him quite a bit this season and deservingly so. He averages a 20-point double-double and has led the Tribe right into contention in an underrated Colonial Conference. If the Tribe are going to make the tournament, it will take a dominant run in the conference tournament, which will garner more attention for the 6’10 senior. With decent three-point shooting and a great presence in the paint, Knight can dominate his conference, his first-round foe in the NCAA Tournament, and potentially NBA players with a little development.