Team basketball is a sight to behold, but when an individual player is in a zone, sometimes the best strategy is simply to get the heck out of his way and let him dominate.
Across the country, we see these kind of epic performances on a nightly basis. It’s part of what makes college basketball so great — talented student-athletes showing off their spectacular abilities in front of millions.
Each week at NCAA.com, we’ll select a college basketball All-Week team. Comprised of five positions, the squad is selected based on games and performances from the week prior. Let’s get to this week’s edition.
RELATED: Last week’s team
G Erick Neal, UT-Arlington
If the Mavericks of UT-Arlington are going to make some noise in the Sun Belt Conference this year, then they are off to one heck of a start behind lead guard Erick Neal. In a 50-point rout of Texas Dallas on Dec. 5, Neal posted a double-double of 15 points and 13 assists in just 23 minutes of game time. Then, three days later in UT-Arlington’s upset win of then-No. 12 Saint Mary’s, Neal was more than happy to continue the passing display as he deferred to frontcourt teammate Kevin Hervey throughout the game against Saint Mary’s. By game’s end, Hervey — the versatile 6-9 junior forward — had 15 points and eight boards to lead the Mavericks to their first win over a Top 25 opponent in the program’s history, 65-51. Neal’s 13 points and eight assists proved just as integral, but his ability to dictate the pace via the pass kept the Gaels at bay all night. His counterpart for Saint Mary’s, Emmett Naar, tallied two points and one assist. UT-Arlington was previously 0-28 against ranked opponents, according to data from the school’s athletic department.
Kyle Terada | USA TODAY Sports Images
UT Arlington Mavericks guard Erick Neal (1) has 13 points and eight assists in the victory over Saint Mary’s.
Neal may not be the leading scorer on this team, but head coach Scott Cross would likely agree he is the engine that makes this proverbial horse run — as he handles the majority of the ball-handling and distributing duties to the tune of about seven helpers a night (good for eighth in the nation). And while he’s certainly not the biggest guard out there (Neal stands 5-10 155 pounds per ESPN), what he lacks in size he more than makes up for with an exceedingly quick first step and determined decision-making in traffic. Having Hervey up front and back in the mix after a knee injury sidelined him a year ago actually makes Neal’s job as a point guard easier, while simultaneously making the job of defending the Mavericks floor general infinitely more difficult. Simply put, the more weapons you have the more dangerous a point guard can be. Guards who know how to get their own shot are a relatively stable commodity in the DI game, but knowing when to take your own shot is that extra tidbit that coaches look for from their point guard.
G Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga
If anyone had a little extra incentive heading into Gonzaga’s battle with Washington on Wednesday it was the Zags 6-3 guard Nigel Williams-Goss. And boy did he show it with 23 points, five rebounds and five assists to lead the Bulldogs in a 27-point romp over the visiting Huskies (98-71). After transferring from Seattle to Spokane and sitting out of this intrastate rivalry a year ago — using his redshirt status in the process — Williams-Goss has shown some real growth and patience on the basketball court. He is currently leading Gonzaga in scoring and assists, while showing marked improvement in his shooting from the field, 3-point range and the free-throw stripe. All of this despite a drop of nearly five minutes a game from his 2014-15 season with the Washington Huskies.
Though Williams-Goss’ numbers may have taken a bit of a dip from his time in Washington, he is arguably playing better basketball because of the increased efficiency. In a win against Akron, Gonzaga showed they can win games in a multitude of ways, especially when the offense is not humming as usual (Williams-Goss tallied 11 points and five assists in the victory). The Zags are one of just a handful of undefeated teams left in college basketball, and could have a pretty clean run of things until a January matchup with Saint Mary’s. Nothing is etched in stone of course, but with Williams-Goss at the helm running the offense, things look pretty good for head coach Mark Few and company.
G/F Derrick White, Colorado
It’s certainly been a long journey for Derrick White to finally don a jersey in Boulder, Colorado, but it’s been worth the wait. After transferring to CU from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, White — the former Division II standout — is now helping lead the charge for Buffaloes and head coach Tad Boyle. Through ten games the Buffs are off to a 7-3 start, with wins over two ranked opponents (Texas, Xavier) and a close, six-point loss to Notre Dame. White performed quite well on all three occasions, but most recently his heroics on both ends against the Musketeers helped preserve what is instantly the team’s signature win (68-66) in the early-season portion of the schedule. His late block thwarted Xavier’s hopes of a comeback, but should not overshadow the overall effort he put into this contest (23 points, six rebounds, four assists).
The Buffs had a bit of a letdown later in the week when they traveled to visit BYU at the friendly confines of the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. The trip didn’t seem to sit well with teammate Josh Fortune (0-8 from the field, 0-6 from 3-point territory), or the rest of the Buffs for that matter as the team shot the rock at a 38.7 percent clip, but White continued his relative hot streak as he put up 21 points on 7-12 shooting in a 79-71 loss. Most fans will have their eyes set on a trio of road games that begin on Jan. 1, so White and company better be ready.
F Amile Jefferson, Duke
It’s been a banner year for the emotional leader of Duke’s frontcourt so far in the 2016-17 campaign as Amile Jefferson is averaging career-highs across the board in everything from points to rebounds to blocked shots. As such, the 6-9 forward figured heavily in Duke’s two wins against Florida and UNLV, on Tuesday and Saturday, respectively. Jefferson’s defense and rebounding are normally a big part of the contribution he makes to Duke’s lineup, but this year the Philadelphia-bred big man is taking it upon himself to show a little scoring flair. And he’s doing so with a good bit of efficiency as well (67.3 percent from the field in just about 31 minutes of floor time)
Noah K. Murray | USA TODAY Sports Images
Duke’s Amile Jefferson (21 in white) put his stamp on the Blue Devils’ 84-74 win over the Florida Gators.
The fifth-year senior had a monster double-double (24 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks) to help lead the Blue Devils past the Gators, 84-74. And boy Duke needed everything it got offensively against Florida, as Jefferson, sophomore Luke Kennard (29) and freshman Jayson Tatum (22) combined to score 75 of the team’s 84 points in the win. The last time three Duke players combined to score 22 points apiece was 2001, when head coach Mike Krzyzewski led his team to a win in the National Championship game. And Jefferson was right in mix of things against UNLV as well, with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists to tie a season-high. Duke already boasts a deep lineup, but the performance from the frontcourt will really prove key as ACC play kicks off.
F John Collins, Wake Forest
Before all the naysayers come out about how gauche it is to have two players from the ACC in this lineup, the numbers don’t lie — Wake Forest’s John Collins is a load in the paint. The Florida native is averaging a double-double (18.0 ppg, 10.7 rpg) as well as a nearly two blocks a night (1.7 bpg) in just over 24 minutes of action in the early going as the Demon Deacons are off to an 8-2 start. Collins helped lift his team over Charlotte and past UNC Greensboro with his fifth and sixth double-doubles of the year. Granted, a late 3-point shot from Bryant Crawford proved to be the decisive bucket in the latter of the team’s two wins, but Collins has been at the top of the statsheet all year long.
Wake Forest has an All-ACC player in sophomore John Collins. 18.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 63.5% from field. Last year: 7.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 54.7%.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) December 9, 2016
The going is about to get tough for this young squad, and with only two seniors on the roster some people will need to get wise to the pace of things in the ACC pretty quick. Collins seems up to the task though, as his scoring average, shooting percentage and rebound rate have jumped precipitously with an extra 10 minutes of run from head coach Danny Manning. The 6-10 sophomore could be a sleeper for an All-ACC nod, at least Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports thinks so.