The transformation Udoka Azubuike made from last season to now was on full display against Baylor. He was purely dominant inside off of lobs to the rim and off-ball screen action all game. Also, his ability to play 36 minutes in the game and be as effective as he was on both ends was very impressive. In addition, Azubuike going for 23 points and 19 rebounds was tremendous with his effort being exceptional. His ability to take over games inside the paint is vital to Kansas’ overall success. If Kansas gets this Udoka Azubuike the rest of the season they will be the National Championship favorites.
Mick Cronin has his UCLA team playing at an all-time high right now as they are 17-11 overall and 10-5 in conference play. They have a great opportunity to win the PAC 12 regular-season title and get an NCAA tournament bid. The point guard play of Tyger Campbell has been exceptional for the freshman, as he initiates the offense at a high level. Also, the play of the frontcourt with Cody Riley and Jalen Hill being extremely effective inside has been key. Chris Smith has become their primary perimeter scorer with his great size and scoring ability. The defensive end of the floor as a whole has constantly gotten better throughout the season. Mick Cronin and UCLA have a massive opportunity to leave a mark on year one.
San Diego State
Brian Dutcher and his team’s undefeated season came to an end with a home loss to T.J. Otzelberger’s UNLV team. Their start to a 26-0 beginning to the season was remarkable and unexpected. However, they’re still in a phenomenal position to achieve major success with winning the conference championship and competing for a top seed in the NCAA tournament. With Malachi Flynn leading the way they have a guy who can take over games and be the best player on the floor. Having great complementary players in K.J. Feagin and Jordan Schakel on the perimeter bringing defense and shot-making gives an added dimension. They also have two mobile forwards in Matt Mitchell and Yanni Wetzel who are key contributors. Lastly, the season is only getting started for San Diego State, as they are capable of making major noise in the NCAA tournament.
Mark Pope and his team got their moment Saturday night against Gonzaga winning a statement game. Furthermore, this is not just vital to their success this year, but moving forward for Mark Pope. Now, this is a high scoring team that opponents will not want to see come NCAA tournament time. The point guard play of T.J. Haws has been exceptional with his great feel and scoring ability. In addition, with the return of Yoeli Childs, which puts them at full strength, it gives them a go-to scorer inside that is a matchup problem for teams. The play of Jake Toolson is vital with his shooting ability and shot-making within their offense. The energy and defensive mentality of Zac Seljaas and the movement of Alex Barcello on offense are key. Kolby Lee has been a huge factor giving them a secondary big next to Yoeli Childs. BYU has a very solid team and with their offensive prowess, they will be a tough out in the NCAA tournament.
Creighton is emerging as one of the best teams in the country. One of the biggest reasons behind Creighton’s success is their defense ability to become more consistent. The ability for them to not have to rely on their offense primarily will keep them in more games. Next, the ability for Marcus Zegarowski to score and consistently make plays makes him the go-to guy for Creighton. Ty-Shon Alexander is still a dynamic scorer off the ball and is defending the perimeter at a very high level. In addition, Mitch Ballock is a pure shooter and scorer that has the ability to go off at any moment. Further, what makes this Creighton team difficult to guard is their bigs are very versatile with Christian Brown and Damien Jefferson’s ability to attack. The bench dynamic of Denzel Mahoney is crucial as it gives Creighton a secondary scorer with size who can also defend. Gregg McDermott has an offensive juggernaut that is becoming a solid defensive team and now a Final Four threat.
Images Courtesy of, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Deseret News
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