Monday musings from the past weekend:
• For all the arguments of how wonderful it is to have one-and-done players, I give you the power of the redshirt season (forced or planned).
Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk purposely redshirted and is stronger, more effective and easily one of the top forwards in the country on a potential Final Four team. Olynyk is averaging 17.1 points and 6.6 rebounds after averaging 5.8 PPG and 3.8 RPG two seasons ago. He scored 33 points in 35 minutes in a road win at Santa Clara on Saturday.
Kansas' Ben McLemore and Arizona State's Jahii Carson weren't academically eligible last season. Yet, they practiced, improved their game, and now both are exceptional in Year 2. McLemore is leading Kansas in scoring (15.6 PPG) and added 13 against Temple Sunday.
Carson leads the Sun Devils with 16.7 points and 5.4 assists. He struggled over the weekend from the field with a combined 6-of-22, but the Sun Devils still swept a homestand versus Utah and Colorado.
• Jeff Withey had nine blocks in a win over Temple Sunday. I'd like to know how many people thought he would be this productive when Withey originally was supposed to be at Arizona and was seen as a project when he arrived at Kansas.
• Bill Self doesn't get enough credit for how well he develops talent at Kansas.
• Oregon could end up as the second- or third-best team in the Pac-12, and one of the main reasons will be freshman Damyean Dotson. He scored 21 in a Civil War win at Oregon State Sunday night, with 15 coming in the second half. Dotson gets to the rim and makes winning plays. He hasn't had much pub nationally, but that should change if he keeps up this pace.
• South Florida may not be a fun watch, but the Bulls make teams play their low-scoring style as well as Virginia does. The Bulls traditionally have found scoring to be challenging, but the game will be played on South Florida's terms more often than not.
• Duke's Quinn Cook had one of the more bizarre lines you'll see with 14 assists and an 0-for-11 effort from the field against Wake Forest. Duke assistant coach Chris Collins said the Blue Devils are fine with Cook taking 10-plus shots a game as long as they are good looks. The staff thinks Cook is a good open shooter but just happened to have an off game.
• Delaware's Jarvis Threatt had almost as remarkable a line in a win at Old Dominion. Threatt was the first player in 15 years to score 19 points -- all on free throws and without making a field goal. He was 0-for-4 from the field and had taken five free throw attempts in each of the previous three games. "He has the unbelievable ability to jump and create contact,'' said Delaware coach Monte Ross. "He has terrific body control and is very hard to stay in front of.''
• Marshall has lost four of its past five games, including three in a row. DeAndre Kane (14.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG) returned to the lineup and played 20 minutes in an ineffective outing (3-of-10 shooting) at Ohio. The Herd were supposed to be a contender to Memphis in Conference USA, but they're 7-8 and have shown no signs of challenging the Tigers. Yet, coach Tom Herrion is still convinced the Herd have a chance. At least he's optimistic.
• Providence is a bit of a train wreck right now. A depleted PC had won six in a row but is now on a four-game losing streak. Heralded freshman point guard Kris Dunn was healthy enough to play against Colgate on Dec. 18, but the Friars haven't won since Dunn's debut. They lost to DePaul Saturday. "We have no game energy, and we are way out of sync,'' said PC coach Ed Cooley. "We've got many team issues. Dunn is in his first two weeks of practice and needs to grow and learn. We don't have any team rhythm right now.''
• Two of the best below-the-radar stories are happening at Towson and Bryant. Towson was 1-31 last season, including 1-17 in the CAA. The Tigers, behind Georgetown transfer Jerrelle Benimon (16.5 PPG, 11.7 RPG), are 7-8 overall and 2-0 in the CAA. Bryant, which finished 2-28 last season (1-17 in the NEC), is already 9-4, 2-0 in the NEC, with road wins at Boston College, Lehigh and NEC favorite Robert Morris.
Everyone has to keep in mind is that there are more angles than the ones made available on the Web. In Dawson's case, there was no attempt by the officials to discipline him. This is another example of being careful before running with one video angle and passing judgment.
• It's hard to ignore the difference Carson and assistant coach Eric Musselman are making at Arizona State. The Sun Devils were painful to watch last season. Now, ASU has multiple options and while it still grinds out wins (see OT game in the 50s to beat Utah), the Sun Devils are 2-0 in the Pac-12 and 13-2 heading to the Oregon schools.
• The Big 12 season just began, but it looks as though it will be a tough one for West Virginia after it dropped a home game to Oklahoma. I was convinced the Mountaineers would flourish in the Big 12 in both men's basketball and football. That doesn't seem to be the case as of now, but I believe it will work out for the school in the long term.
• Utah didn't win at Arizona or Arizona State, but Larry Krystkowiak has the Utes improving and becoming more competitive. He just needs time.
• Creighton's Doug McDermott and Duke's Mason Plumlee are the two clear favorites for national player of the year. This won't be a Jimmer Fredette-Kemba Walker or Adam Morrison-J.J. Redick player-of-the-year-race drama, but we may just have a two-man chase.
• Nate Wolters had an NCAA tournament opportunity last season. To get another one, the Jackrabbits have work to do. South Dakota State hasn't been able to build off the pre-Christmas win at New Mexico, dropping to 2-2 in the Summit after losing to North Dakota State and South Dakota.
• Texas is one of the youngest teams in the league. And the Longhorns are improving daily, pushing Baylor to overtime before losing in Waco on Saturday. Texas needs to stay above water before Myck Kabongo comes back in mid-February so it can be relevant down the stretch.
• It's a new era with so many head coaches being suspended. In the past two weeks, that has been the case at three high-major programs -- Buzz Williams (Marquette), Mike Rice (Rutgers) and Scott Drew (Baylor).
• Illinois put it into another gear when it sprinted past Gonzaga in Spokane in December and then again on Saturday over Ohio State in Champaign. They were two of the Illini's most impressive wins of the season.
• UCLA actually looks as though it is enjoying playing the game now. That wasn't the team's body language a month ago.
• Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall may be doing his best coaching job ever in leading the injury-riddled Shockers to an undefeated start. They are a big threat to the Bluejays in the Valley.
• The more you watch VCU, the easier it is to believe that these Rams could be more dangerous than the team that went to the Final Four two seasons ago. This team forces turnovers and makes shots, and it may be at an easier clip at times.
• Few teams can reach the second gear like Michigan. The Wolverines can speed a team up and have them chasing the transition to no avail. They lack the comparable star power of the Fab Five, but this may be Michigan's best team since the national title runner-up in 1993.
• Memphis is finally clicking, despite playing the past three games without its third-leading scorer in Tarik Black. Memphis is clearly the most talented team in a mediocre (at best) C-USA. Now is the time for the Tigers to create some separation between themselves and the rest of the pack.
• I'll be interested to see how the selection committee ultimately judges the Mountain West. I'm convinced the top teams in this league will beat each other up and lack gaudy conference records.
• Tennessee announced that Jeronne Maymon will redshirt because of a left knee injury and return as a fifth-year senior. If Cuonzo Martin can pull off an NCAA bid without Maymon, he should be coach of the year in the SEC.
• The Bucknell-Missouri game was one of the most entertaining games of the weekend. Too bad it wasn't on the national landscape. If you didn't see it, you missed out on the Mike Muscala show for Bucknell and how the Tigers handled being pushed to the final possession by a likely NCAA tournament pest.
• Colorado struggled against Arizona State three days after a brutal overtime loss at Arizona. The Buffs have to sweep UCLA and USC this week to get their heads right. This is a talented team that can compete for a top-three Pac-12 finish and return to the NCAAs. But it has to play with purpose and not be careless for 40 minutes.
• When the Cincinnati-St. John's game ended Saturday, you had to ask yourself which team was ranked and which one wasn't.