Originally Published: January 4, 2010

Purdue notches top win as Gibbs gets top honor

Katz By Andy Katz
ESPN.com
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Ashton GibbsAP Photo/Kevin RivoliAshton Gibbs is scoring 17 ppg after averaging four points last season.

Editor's note: This edition is for games played from Monday, Dec. 28, through Sunday, Jan. 3.

Team Of The Week: Purdue

Last week: Won at Iowa 67-56; beat West Virginia 77-62

The Boilermakers opened the Big Ten with a soft landing, playing at Iowa, arguably the 11th-place team in the league.

But Purdue hosted West Virginia on New Year's Day in a game between two undefeated and top-six teams; no other title contender played another potential NCAA No. 1-seed this week. The Boilermakers were dominant for most of the game, frustrating the Mountaineers with their tight half-court, in-your-face defense that will be their calling card throughout the season.

Purdue is doing it old-school, with its best players all upperclassmen. The Boilermakers are an elite team this season. No one should think otherwise. Purdue has emerged as the favorite to win the Big Ten, even over Michigan State. The systematic victory over West Virginia is one of the more impressive wins nationwide this season. Purdue is unlikely to lose at Mackey Arena, either. So if you want to get the Boilers, do so on the road.

The schedule is in their favor, with two of their last three games at home to end the Big Ten season, including one against Michigan State.

The Boilers want a No. 1 seed to give them an advantage on their path to pull a Sparty -- be the host school at the Final Four.

Other Contenders

Pitt: The Panthers didn't have Gilbert Brown (academics) or Jermaine Dixon (broken foot) in practice for months. Now that they're healthy and whole, the Panthers have found their offense, beating DePaul as expected and then shocking Syracuse at the Carrier Dome to end the Orange's undefeated season. Pitt is 2-0, and if the Panthers win eight more Big East games, assuming a few are against the upper echelon, Pitt is once again an NCAA tournament team. Never doubt coach Jamie Dixon and pick him ninth again, Big East coaches. Never.

New Mexico: The Lobos were playing at home this week; once again, they have become nearly unbeatable at the Pit. But that shouldn't dismiss what they accomplished as they took out Texas Tech and Dayton. Holding off the Flyers' furious rally (14 points in the final two minutes) especially deserves praise.

Oregon: No other coach has more lives than Ernie Kent. The man is remarkable for constantly staring up from an abyss and finding a ladder to climb out. The Ducks were awful early, even with injuries, but started the Pac-10 with a sweep of Washington State and Washington. The former came with the help of an official's call that gave Tajuan Porter two free throws after Wazzu celebrated on the court; a bucket with 0.3 left on the clock gave the Cougars a lead, but Porter made the free throws to send the game into a second overtime and Oregon got the win in Pullman. The Ducks needed no help at UW, simply outrunning the Huskies in Seattle.

William & Mary: The Tribe won at Maryland to complete a rare Colonial sweep of two ACC road games (William & Mary had already won at Wake Forest). The Tribe then took care of business in the league, winning at Hofstra after trailing for most of the game. William & Mary has as good a profile as any team outside the traditional power-eight conferences (I'm including MWC and A-10 here), save Butler and Gonzaga, in the quest to get an at-large bid.

Player Of The Week: Ashton Gibbs, Pitt

Ashton Gibbs should thank UConn's Kemba Walker for staying home instead of playing for the United States on the Under 19 national team that won gold for the first time since 1991.

Gibbs was tabbed as the starter once Walker decided against returning to the squad for a second summer. Gibbs was the lead playmaker for U-19 (and Pitt) coach Jamie Dixon, and it is paying huge dividends for the Panthers this season.

Replacing Levance Fields was a monster project, yet Gibbs is doing quite fine. He led the Panthers to a comfortable win over DePaul to start the Big East season by scoring 23 points, grabbing seven rebounds, dishing out four assists, making 3 of 4 3s and 6 of 6 free throws. Then, in the stunner of the weekend, Gibbs was the elixir for the Panthers' offense in scoring 24 points (6 of 9 3s) and grabbing eight rebounds in the 82-72 win over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. In the two games, Gibbs made 14 of 22 shots (including 9 of 13 3s).

The Panthers are in the midst of a three-game Big East stretch at Syracuse (win), at Cincinnati on Monday and at Connecticut on Jan. 13. They need Gibbs to produce to have a shot in those games.

The Rest Of The Rotation

[+] Enlarge
AP Photo/Laura RauchJimmer Fredette is averaging over 21 ppg this season for BYU.

Dorenzo Hudson, Virginia Tech: Malcolm Delaney was out for the Seton Hall game in Cancun, Mexico. No problem. Just have Hudson, who was averaging 9.8 points per game, score 41 in an overtime win against the Pirates; Virginia Tech moved to 12-1 on the season. He was 20-of-21 from the free throw line -- talk about clutch.

Jimmer Fredette, BYU: Fredette lit up Arizona for 49 points, a McKale Center record, in a 30-point rout. Give him plenty of credit for one of the best performances of the season. Fredette sat out Saturday's game against Eastern New Mexico, a Division II school, with strep throat.

Scottie Reynolds, Villanova: Reynolds is suddenly the Robert Horry of college basketball. Reynolds made the shot of the NCAA tournament last season with a layup to beat Pitt in the Elite Eight. He's off to quite a Big East start with his shot to beat Marquette in the Big East opener. Reynolds scored 23, making 8 of 12 shots, including 3 of 5 3s. If the game is on the line, let Reynolds create.

DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky: You can debate whether Cousins should have been ejected. But he was given a technical foul, and the officials did review the tape of his scrum within the first minute of the Louisville game. Still, Jared Swopshire also got a technical, so the officials must have seen something on his end, too. What you can't argue against are the results from Cousins. He was a man among boys with 18 points and 18 rebounds, and he was the difference in Kentucky's rivalry win over Louisville.

Artsiom Parakhouski, Radford: In a shockingly easy 80-53 win over George Mason, Parakhouski was 11-of-15 from the field for 34 points and added 12 rebounds and 5 blocks. Then, in a win over UNC Asheville, the 6-foot-11 Belarus native had 31 points (12 of 13 from the field) and 7 boards. So, for the week: 65 points, 19 rebounds, 7 blocks, 23-28 FG (82 percent!) and 19-23 FT (83 percent).

Must Be Hard To Digest ...

• For Michigan that it was completely outplayed in the final minutes by an Indiana team that lost Maurice Creek, its best player, days before the game.

• For Tennessee to beat Memphis in a rivalry game and then 24 hours later for four players, including supposed star senior Tyler Smith, to be busted with two guns and marijuana in a rental car in Knoxville.

• For Connecticut to lose on last-second free throws by Lance Stephenson when Cincinnati's star freshman drew contact on the final possession.

• For Northwestern to be 0-2 in the Big Ten after being ranked; the losses came in an overtime game at Illinois and in a blowout loss to Michigan State at home.

• For Marquette to play so hard and so well, but not be able to finish two Big East games, losing on the road at West Virginia and at home to Villanova in the final possession.

• For Boston College to lack leadership. The Eagles have gotten up for the big names on the jersey -- beating Providence, Michigan, South Carolina and Miami in the ACC opener -- but were completely flat against Harvard and Maine. Yes, the Black Bears beat BC, by far one of the Eagles' most embarrassing losses the last two seasons.

• For Oklahoma to be pushed around so much in Spokane by Gonzaga, even if Tiny Gallon broke the backboard. The Sooners may need to clear NIT dates in March.

• For Old Dominion, once the favorite in the CAA, to get crushed by George Mason 71-55.

• For South Carolina to suddenly be completely askew after getting down by 21 at the half to Boston College and then being handled by 11 at home to Baylor after Gamecocks coach Darrin Horn dismissed forward Mike Holmes.

• For Arkansas to lose again at home by not blocking out Howard Crawford, who dunked UAB to a much-needed 73-72 win (after UAB got humbled earlier in the week at Virginia).

Places To Be This Week

Cincinnati, Monday: Suddenly Pitt is relevant again in the Big East, and this Pitt-Cincinnati game is a showdown between two 2-0 teams.

West Lafayette, Ind., Tuesday: Minnesota is playing well and flying under the radar again, but winning at Purdue will be extremely difficult for any road team this season.

San Diego, Tuesday: The MWC begins in earnest, with new favorite New Mexico going to San Diego State. This is the Aztecs' chance to make their mark.

[+] Enlarge
AP Photo/Kevin RivoliRyan Wittman leads 12-2 Cornell.

Lawrence, Kan., Wednesday: Cornell is as hot as any team in the country. Ryan Wittman went for 34 points in a win at La Salle. I'm interested to see how Kansas handles the Big Red machine. The Jayhawks should win, but this won't be a joke.

Storrs, Conn., Wednesday: Seton Hall could lose four straight if it can't beat Connecticut. The Pirates are reeling.

Knoxville, Tenn., Wednesday: Charlotte caught Louisville without three players and won and now may get Tennessee without four.

Chicago, Wednesday: Iowa State needs a marquee win for everyone to notice. Here is its shot -- Duke at the United Center.

Atlanta, Saturday: Duke continues a rugged week by going to Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets can't afford to lose a second home game after falling to Florida State.

Albuquerque, N.M., Saturday: UNLV goes to the Pit against the Lobos in what should be one of the better MWC games this season.

Madison, Wis., Saturday: This tricky road trip to Wisconsin could be one of the few losses for Purdue.

Portland, Ore., Saturday: Gonzaga opens the WCC at Portland. The Pilots were hot in November, not so much in December, so we'll find out if they're contenders or pretenders in the league with this one.

Oxford, Miss., Saturday: Ole Miss has been more consistent than Mississippi State, but both have found their rhythm. This should be one of the best rivalries within the SEC this season.

Berkeley, Calif., Saturday: USC is in position to challenge for the Pac-10 title, even though it can't advance to the NCAAs now with a self-imposed penalty. How the Trojans play at Cal will tell us a lot about this team going forward.

Knoxville, Tenn., Sunday: This one looked a lot better in the preseason. Kansas goes on the road again for a true road game, but no one knows if Tennessee will have its full compliment of players.

Kingston, R.I., Sunday: Suddenly, Temple at Rhode Island has major implications atop the Atlantic 10 standings.

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