VCU’s Adrian Baldwin and South Dakota State’s Zeke Mayo were among last week’s top players in college basketball.
We’re one month from March — or “IZZO,” depending on how highly placed your spies are — and excitement around the world of college hoops is hitting a crescendo.
Whether it was guys named Adrian leading their teams into standalone first-place positions in league play, or a guy named Zeke dropping a 40-spot to down a bitter conference rival, mid-major hoops was buzzing this past week. The big names from the big leagues were in on it, too, including a Canadian and a Lithuanian who are well on their way to being named All-Americans.
As we will throughout the season, we are highlighting 15 of college basketball’s top performers from last week. Using our in-house tools, the Gold Star Guide and Arthur awards, we have put together a team full of standout performers from the main attraction to the secret weapon, and everything in between.
We start first with our Gold Star Player of the Week, the latest in long line of “middie” darlings at South Dakota State.
—Bracketology: Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 combine for 23 bids
—Bubble Watch: How every team can reach March Madness
—Rauf Report: Aidan Mahaney is a star; Indiana and Duke climb
GOLD STAR PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Zeke Mayo, South Dakota State
- Scored 104.46 gold points in three games (34.8 per game)
- No. 77 player overall in Gold Star Guide (No. 3 in Summit)
Zeke Mayo has one of the smoothest names around, and he’s also got the game to match. Mayo was already having a good week going into Saturday, putting up 24 points in a 67-66 win over Kansas City and a 14-10-6 line in a romp over North Dakota earlier in the week. The sophomore guard exploded at home against North Dakota State, though, going for a career-high 41 points on 14-of-23 shooting (6-of-9 on 3-pointers) with five assists and zero turnovers. Mayo’s big night helped the Jackrabbits secure a 90-85 win over their rivals at NDSU. Mayo joins Mike Daum, Nate Wolters and David Jenkins Jr. as the only players in the school’s D-I history with four 30-point games.
GOLD STAR PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
Adrian Nelson, Youngstown State
- Scored 55.38 gold points in 3OT win vs. Wright State
- No. 11 performance overall in the Gold Star Guide
Adrian Nelson had quite a week himself, starting with a 53-minute marathon in the Penguins’ triple-overtime win over Wright State on Thursday. Nelson’s 27 points in the victory matched a career-high set earlier this season against Notre Dame, his 15 rebounds tied a season-high, and his six steals were a new high-water mark for the fifth-year player. Nelson got a bit of a breather, relatively speaking, needing just 32 minutes to drop 17 and 12 on his former team, Northern Kentucky, in a 74-56 win. The defeat of NKU not only avenged a loss from Dec. 1, but it also put the Penguins in sole possession of first place in the Horizon as they chase their first-ever Big Dance bid.
GOLD STAR RISER OF THE WEEK
Adrian Baldwin Jr., VCU
- Increased gold point average from 25.30 to 27.34
- Rose from No. 162 overall to No. 87 in Gold Star Guide
Though he missed a few games earlier in the season, Ace Baldwin has hardly sat at all during conference play. This past week, he played 76 of his team’s 80 minutes, showing off his versatility as both a scorer and a distributor in two key contests. In Tuesday’s two-point win at Davidson, Baldwin had 14 points, seven assists and five rebounds, and his jumper with 15 seconds to play proved to be the difference. Then, in a battle for the A10’s top spot, the junior went off for a career-high 37 points on 12-of-15 shooting to lead VCU to a 73-65 road win at Saint Louis. Baldwin also had two steals in each game and ranks 75th nationally in steal rate to go with his 18th-best assist rate.
RayJ Dennis, Toledo
- Thresholds: 75.0 MIN%, 45.0 AST%, 10.0 TO%
- Dennis’ line: 78.8 MIN%, 48.2 AST%, 8.9 TO%
Ever since beginning his career back at Boise State, RayJ Dennis has been a fine guard — but he’s truly become one of the country’s top floor generals this year. Dennis had 14 assists in Toledo’s two wins over Miami (Ohio) and Central Michigan last week, and he tied a career high with 29 points in the Miami game. The fourth-year player is the clear-cut MAC leader in assists per game (5.9) and is tied for ninth nationally, while posting career bests in scoring (19.1 points per game), assist rate (32.4), turnover rate (11.1), usage rate (28.2), offensive rating (116.6) and 3-point percentage (.337). He may be the key to Toledo snapping its 42-year NCAA Tournament drought.
Tony Perkins, Iowa
- Thresholds: .900 FT%, 20 FTA, 100.0 FT rate
- Perkins’ line: .909 FT%, 22 FTA, 122.2 FT rate
Tony Perkins made a nice living at the free-throw line last week, so much so that he rocketed up to No. 4 in the Big Ten rankings for free throw rate. Perkins scored 20 of his 44 points from the charity stripe in the Hawkeyes’ two important wins over Northwestern and Illinois. In the latter of those victories, the junior nickel-and-dimed his way to a career-high 32 points on 15-of-16 shooting from the line. His only miss on the night nearly came in a three-point game with 10 seconds to play, and it almost let the Illini tie the game up. Still, all’s well that ends well. Thanks in large part to Perkins’ big week, the Hawkeyes are now part of the Big Ten’s six-way tie for third place.
Tramon Mark, Houston
- Thresholds: 15.0 USG%, 5.0 ORB%, 10.0 DRB%, 10.0 AST%, 2.0 BLK%, 2.0 STL%
- Mark’s line: 14.3 USG%, 6.4 ORB%, 11.6 DRB%, 12.5 AST%, 4.1 BLK%, 2.8 STL%
After his sophomore season was cut short by injury, Tramon Mark is coming into his own for the Coogs in Year 3. He does a little bit of everything for Houston, ranking fourth on the team in scoring (9.8 points per game), rebounds (4.2), assists (1.7), steals (1.0), made 3-pointers (25), 3-point percentage (.379) and free-throw percentage (.732). None of those numbers jump off the page by themselves, but the whole is more than the sum of Mark’s contributions. Last week, Mark had 12 points, five boards, two steals and a block in a win over Wichita State, and he followed it with six points, five assists, five rebounds, two steals and a block as the Cougars avenged their Jan. 22 loss to Temple.
Ąžuolas Tubelis, Arizona
- Thresholds: 75.0 MIN%, 30.0 USG%, 145.0 ORtg
- Tubelis’ line: 75.0 MIN%, 31.8 USG%, 145.6 ORtg
Ąžuolas Tubelis is making a pretty convincing case for a spot on the All-America first team, with the highlight of the campaign coming Thursday night against Oregon. Tubelis went for a career-high 40 points in the McKale Center, doing it on a ridiculous 16-of-21 shooting and collecting nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block in 36 minutes. On Saturday against Oregon State, he might have gone for similar numbers, but he only played 23 minutes. Nevertheless, he went for 19 points, eight rebounds and two steals in his second-shortest outing of the year. Our next honoree may be the runaway National Player of the Year, but Tubelis is firmly in Tier 2.
Zach Edey, Purdue
- Thresholds: 62.5 MIN%, 30.0 ORB%, 30.0 DRB%
- Edey’s line: 76.3 MIN%, 38.4 ORB%, 31.1 DRB%
As noted above, Zach Edey is the frontrunner for Naismith honors this year. Even as Purdue took a defeat that knocked it from its perch as the country’s No. 1 team, Edey still had 37 points and 18 rebounds against Indiana. The 7-4 phenom may benefit from an otherworldly size advantage, but don’t let that discredit what he is doing on the court. Edey is the national leader in offensive rebound rate (22.8 percent) and tied a career high with 10 against the Hoosiers. Before you assume those were all his own misses, consider that Edey shot 15-of-19 on the day. He also had seven offensive rebounds (13 total) on 7-of-9 shooting in a 20-point win over Penn State on Wednesday.
Terry Collins, Mississippi Valley State
- Thresholds: 40.0 MIN%, 8.0 STL%, 0.0 FC/40
- Collins’ line: 82.5 MIN%, 8.9 STL%, 0.0 FC/40
The Delta Devils only had one game last week, and Terry Collins made sure they seized that singular opportunity. Collins had a career-high five steals in a come-from-behind win over Jackson State — just the third victory of the year for MVSU — and did not commit a foul in 33 minutes on the court. Collins also dropped a game-high 21 points on 5-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc while leading the Devils with six rebounds and four assists. It was the second time this season that Collins has hit five 3-pointers in a game, with the other instance coming in a 27-point outburst against Missouri just before Thanksgiving, and he is averaging 2.3 steals in SWAC play thus far.
Blake Peters, Princeton
- Thresholds: .500 3P%, 10 3PA, 20.0 3PA/100, 100.0 3P rate
- Peters’ line: .600 3P%., 10 3PA, 21.0 3PA/100, 100.0 3P rate
When Ivy League leader Princeton needed a sniper off the bench last week, Blake Peters was there to answer the call. As it happened, the Tigers really only needed him for Friday’s win over Cornell — but boy, did he show up. In just 10 minutes of action, Peters scored a career-high 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting from downtown, including three in the second half to help Princeton build a lead it never gave back. He was quieter in the blowout win over Columbia the following day, but he still managed to knock down one of his three 3-pointers. The sophomore now has 78 3-point attempts on the year (.382 3P%) compared to just eight field goal attempts from inside the arc.
Ben Sheppard, Belmont
- Thresholds: .350 3P%, .500 far 2P%, .650 close 2P%, .800 FT% (min. 8 attempts each)
- Sheppard’s line: .462 3P%, .500 far 2P%, .692 close 2P%, .800 FT%
Speaking of shooters, Belmont’s Ben Sheppard had his stroke working all over the court last week. Sheppard put in a herculean effort in Wednesday’s loss to Murray State, going for a season-high 35 points while shooting 6-of-10 on 2-pointers and 6-of-11 on 3s. In the Bruins’ bounce-back win over Illinois State on Saturday, Sheppard scored 17 on 7-of-13 shooting. Sheppard is shooting a career-best 41.7 percent on from beyond the arc this year, but perhaps the most interesting wrinkle is some self-surgery he has performed. A career 70 percent shooter from the free-throw line, Sheppard is 41-of-49 (.837) in MVC games this year as compared to 24-of-49 (.490) in nonconference action.
Grant Basile, Virginia Tech
- Thresholds: .400 3P%, 5.0 3PA/100, 5.0 BLK%, 15.0 AST%, 6-9 or taller
- Basile’s line: .500 3P%, 7.8 3PA/100, 6.5 BLK%, 24.7 AST%
It was always going to be hard for Virginia Tech to go 2-0 last week, but Grant Basile was pivotal in making sure the Hokies at least clawed out the split. After posting 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a block in Monday’s loss to Miami, Basile had another strong outing in Saturday’s home win over Virginia. The grad transfer put up 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting (2-of-3 on 3s), four rebounds, four assists and three blocks in the win. Only three D-I players — Basile, UNC Asheville’s Drew Pember and American’s Johnny O’Neil— are shooting better than 38 percent on 100 3-point attempts with an assist rate over 10 percent and a block rate over 5.0 percent.
Dereck Lively II, Duke
- Thresholds: 62.5 MIN%, 20.0 BLK%, 5.0 FC/40
- Lively’s line: 67.5 MIN%, 23.4 BLK%, 4.4 FC/40
On the topic of block rates, Dereck Lively II’s took a leap after the freshman’s first taste of the Duke-UNC rivalry. Lively swatted away eight Tar Heel shots in six-point win, continuing a recent trend of dominance down low. He had four blocks in Monday’s win over Wake Forest, too. In a strange split, Lively is averaging 3.5 blocks per game in eight Saturday games this year as compared to 1.5 on all other days. If he can continue that into the midweek games, expect Lively to stay on the floor like he did against UNC (season-high 34 minutes) despite his struggles on the offensive end. He is one of only five players nationwide with a block rate over 14.0 percent (min. 300 minutes).
William Kyle III, South Dakota State
- Thresholds: most dunks in the week
- Kyle’s line: 8 dunks
We normally don’t love doubling up on teams here in the Honor Roll, but William Kyle III forced our hand a bit. The South Dakota State freshman flushed down more dunks than anyone in the country last week, with four in the win over Kansas City and two apiece against the North Dakota schools. It wasn’t just dunks, though; Kyle averaged 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in the three games, while also tallying up three blocks, three steals and zero turnovers. After scoring in double figures five times in the first 18 games, Kyle has done it five more times in the past seven, solidifying his spot in the starting lineup — and raising his chances at ending up on a SportsCenter Top 10 reel.
Oluwasegun Durosinmi, Northern Illinois
- Thresholds: 2 GP, 25.0-40.0 MIN%, 25.0 USG%, 145.0 ORtg
- Durosinmi’s line: 2 GP, 28.8 MIN%, 25.4 USG%, 147.7 ORtg
The Huskies have been on a nice little run, winning six of the past eight games after a 4-11 start to the year. Last week, Oluwasegun Durosinmi was a key contributor to the cause, totaling 16 points, seven rebounds and five blocks across 23 combined minutes in wins over Western Michigan and Bowling Green. Durosinmi may be taking the ‘weapon’ part of this too closely to heart, though. He became the quickest player this season to log a 10-point, five-rebound game while also fouling out, accomplishing the dubious feat in just seven minutes against BGSU. Cutting down on the fouls (15.8 FC/40, four DQs in MAC play) could make him an even more effective weapon.