Jared Sullinger Leads Ohio State Higher in Polls – This Week in College Basketball
Two top five teams – No. 2 Missouri and No. 5 Kansas — were upset victims last week, while No. 11 Murray State remained the nation’s only undefeated team. Here’s what happening in college basketball this week:
Team on the Rise: Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt (16-5, 5-1 SEC) has won 10 of 11 games, with the only blemish being a one-point overtime loss to then-No. 18 Mississippi St. The Commodores stopped Middle Tennessee’s 12-game winning streak with a 84-77 win at home on Saturday. John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor are a formidable scoring duo for Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, whose team still must face No. 1 Kentucky and No. 14 Florida two times each. Their first meeting with the Gators is this Saturday.
Team on the Decline: West Virginia
Though West Virginia (15-7, 5-4 Big East) gave No. 3 Syracuse a stiff test on Saturday before falling 63-61, the Mountaineers have been too uneven to be considered a tournament threat. On Wednesday, WVU lost 78-62 to a St. John’s team that started five freshmen. Coach Bob Huggins needs leading scorers Kevin Jones and Darryl “Truck” Bryant to close out games against better teams like they have while beating lesser opponents. The Mountaineers are 1-4 against teams ranked in the top 25 this season.
Player on the Rise: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
Jared Sullinger scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for No. 4 Ohio State (19-3, 7-2 Big 10) in the Buckeyes’ 78-54 win over Penn State on Wednesday. The sophomore forward added another 13 points and five boards in a 64-49 victory over No. 20 Michigan on Sunday. A national player of the year candidate, Sullinger has the talent level to carry Ohio State deep into March Madness. With No. 2 Missouri’s 79-72 loss to Oklahoma State, the Buckeyes and Sullinger are likely headed upward in the AP poll this week.
Player on the Decline: Maalik Wayns, Villanova
While he’s still the team’s leading scorer with an 18.4 points per game average, Villanova’s Maalik Wayns had a difficult week. With the Wildcats (10-12, 3-7 Big East) leading No. 25 Louisville 44-42 on Wednesday, Wayns got into second-half foul trouble and he mostly watched as the game turned into a 84-74 defeat. On Saturday, the junior guard picked up a key technical foul that helped No. 17 Marquette come back from an 18-point deficit and beat Villanova, 82-78. Wayns had another technical against St. John’s the week before that nearly cost the Wildcats a victory.
Coach on the Hot Seat: Larry Krystkowiak, Utah
Utah (5-16, 2-7 Pac-12) is new to the Pac-12 this year, and the Utes are playing like it. First-year head coach Larry Krystkowiak can’t be pleased with the way his team was clobbered by both struggling Los Angeles schools this week. UCLA manhandled the Utes, 76-49, on Thursday, while USC picked up its first conference win of the year by beating Utah, 62-45, on Saturday. The Utes averaged 16 turnovers in the two games, while falling to 0-11 on the road this season. Krystkowiak must get better play from his front court or this long season could get even longer.
This Week’s Bizarre Stat: Saint Mary’s
Though four of its players committed at least five turnovers — and the team had 24 on the game — No. 21 Saint Mary’s (21-2, 10-0 WCC) still defeated BYU 80-66 on Saturday.