Originally Published: January 31, 2010

Jayhawks, Downey earn plaudits for the week

Katz By Andy Katz
ESPN.com
Sherron CollinsPeter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesSherron Collins kept Kansas unbeaten in the Big 12 with wins over Missouri and Kansas State.

Editor's note: This edition is for games played from Monday, Jan. 25, through Sunday, Jan. 31.

Team Of The Week: Kansas

Last week: Beat Missouri 84-65; beat No. 13 Kansas State 81-79 (OT)

How do you know you're watching a possible title contender? Well, just look at how they handle difficult situations in which poise comes into play.

Rival Missouri came into Phog Allen last Monday and got completely ripped apart by the Jayhawks.

With No. 1 at stake -- but, more importantly, frontrunner status in the Big 12, as well as a chance to create distance from its rival Kansas State -- Kansas beat K-State in rocking Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday. KSU had its chances. Sherron Collins was ailing, but still couldn't be stopped as he finished the game off for the Jayhawks with the game-winning drive to the bucket.

Kansas is clearly the best team in the Big 12 and the top team in the country. I can't see any arguments for Villanova, Syracuse or Kentucky over Kansas -- this week, at least. You can make your plea for either of those three teams if you insist. For now, KU is the best team in the country.

Other Contenders

South Carolina: Why the Gamecocks? Well, I hate to state the obvious, but South Carolina did knock off the last remaining unbeaten team in the country, Kentucky, while it was No. 1. The Gamecocks then followed up that win with a home victory over Georgia to move to 4-3 in the SEC and back within reach of an at-large bid.

Michigan State: You could argue that Sparty should beat Michigan on the road and Northwestern at home, but nothing should be a given. The Spartans are off to a 9-0 start in league play and looking like a lock for the Big Ten title and a possible No. 1 seed.

Rhode Island: The Rams had to split a road swing to Xavier and Dayton to be taken seriously as A-10 contenders and an NCAA team. URI beat Dayton and followed that up with a solid home win over George Washington to move to 5-2 in A-10 play, a game behind Temple, Charlotte and Xavier in the loss column.

Arizona: Think about this for a second. After squashing Stanford on Thursday and then pulling off a thrilling 76-72 win over Cal on Sunday, Arizona is tied with the Bears for first in the Pac-10 (6-3) at the halfway point. For such a young team, that is remarkable. With five of their final eight games coming at home, the Wildcats are contenders for the long haul.

Syracuse: The Orange crushed Georgetown on Big Monday after being down 14-0 to start the game. The final 30 minutes of that game were as impressive a performance as any team has put on this season. It's easy to knock Syracuse for not playing as well in a win at DePaul over the weekend, especially for getting down by 18 at one point. But the Cuse still came back, made the right plays and won the game on the road.

Charlotte: Charlotte upset Louisville in early December, but then faded from the national picture for a month. Beating Temple at home and then following it up with a win at UMass means the 49ers are in a three-way, first-place tie in the loss column and a real threat to win the A-10 and get a bid.

UTEP: The Miners took out Tulane as expected to start the week, but then outlasted UAB on the road in double overtime. The wins put UTEP into a first-place tie in C-USA with UAB and Tulsa.

New Mexico: UNM outlasted BYU in a classic Pit game and then won at TCU to move just a game back of the Cougars in the loss column and even with UNLV in the Mountain West. The win over BYU is yet another reason the Lobos will likely be in the NCAAs.

Arkansas: Are the Razorbacks finally showing some signs of life? They knocked off both the co-SEC West leaders, beating Mississippi State at home and then surprising a top-20 Ole Miss team on the road Sunday night in a game that was delayed a day because of weather.

Player Of The Week: Devan Downey

Could there have been a more obvious choice?

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AP Photo/Mary Ann ChastainThe diminutive Devan Downey came up huge by scoring 63 points in two Gamecock victories.
South Carolina guard Devan Downey scored 30 points in an upset of No. 1 Kentucky in Columbia, S.C., on Tuesday, with 23 of those points coming off the dribble. He drew nine fouls and converted 10 free throws and was the dominant player on the court when there were a few NBA-bound players on the other side.

Downey was driven to get the W and made plays when it mattered most. Of course, that was just one game, and it would have been a shame if he couldn't follow it up later in the week.

He didn't disappoint. It was Downey, of course, who led the Gamecocks to a tight victory over pesky Georgia on Saturday.

Downey scored 33 points in the win over the Bulldogs and once again saved his best for last, scoring 12 of South Carolina's 24 points in the final 10 minutes. Downey's driving hoop with 50 seconds remaining gave the Gamecocks the 78-77 win and kept them in the running for an NCAA bid.

The Rest Of The Rotation

Sherron Collins, Kansas: He hit a floating layup and got fouled to clinch the win over Kansas State in overtime. That was after Collins had been on the sideline nursing back spasms. He finished with 16 points against the Wildcats, but it's when he scored that makes it more relevant. He did struggle against Missouri (2-of-11) but it didn't matter. Collins makes shots when it matters most.

Derrio Green, Charlotte: Green scored 26 in the 49ers' upset of Temple at home, and then poured in 34 in a win at UMass. He made 18 field goals, 12 free throws and 12 3s. Not bad for two games work. And not a bad week for an upstart team.

Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia: What did he do? He wanted the ball, hitting the money shot to beat Louisville and finishing with 27 points, including four 3s, to lead an erratic Mountaineers team over the Cards. He was off against DePaul on the road, going 3-of-13, but still finished with 14 points. The Mountaineers won both games.

Nic Wise, Arizona: Wise scored 30 points in a win over Cal on Sunday, making a pivotal layup after committing a foolish three-shot foul on Jerome Randle that gave Cal a lead. Wise scored seven points in the final minute, including the two clinching free throws. He made all nine free throws he attempted. Earlier in the week, Wise scored 14 in a win over Stanford.

Say Hello To …

Dominique Jones, South Florida: The junior guard scored 46 in an overtime win at Providence on Jan. 23, and this past week he scored 28 in an overtime win against Seton Hall and lit up Pitt for 37 points (14-of-17 at the free throw line) in another home win. It's time to take a closer look at Jones and the Bulls, who have won three in a row.

Papa Dia, SMU: Suddenly, the Mustangs have won four straight games since a disastrous second-half collapse in a loss to UAB. Dia is one reason for that. He scored 21 in a win at Rice and 10 in a win over Central Florida and was the difference in a win over Memphis with 23 points (11-13 FT) and 14 boards. The Mustangs are suddenly relevant in C-USA.

Donald Sloan, Texas A&M: If you weren't paying attention to Sloan, you need to start now. He is the Aggies' leading scorer and is making up for the loss of his close friend Derrick Roland, who's out with a broken leg. Sloan scored 27 points in a loss at Oklahoma State and 28 in a home win over Texas Tech.

Dior Lowhorn, San Francisco: He was the Zag killer with 22 points, making 5 of 7 3s (including back-to-back biggies in OT) and grabbing nine boards in the upset of No. 8 Gonzaga on Saturday. The Dons' victory ended the Zags' 27-game win streak in the WCC.

Sunday Night Shakeup?

Sunday night's game in Chapel Hill, in which Virginia rocked North Carolina 75-60, carried a ton of weight. I thought UNC would struggle in February with road games still to come at Virginia Tech, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. I had no idea the Tar Heels would start the slide at home against Virginia.

UNC is officially in danger of missing the NCAA tournament at 13-8, 2-4 in the ACC. Of course, there are still opportunities to get back on track, but I'm not sure anyone saw this coming. Conversely, Virginia is no joke. Sylven Landesberg, who scored 29 points against the Heels, is one of the top players in the ACC, while Sammy Zeglinski's 19 proved the Cavs have a 1-2 punch (and don't forget Mike Scott).

This win also shows the Cavs' 3-0 league start wasn't a fluke. Sure, Virginia dropped a road game to Wake Forest and lost a tough one in OT to rival Virginia Tech. But winning at UNC puts UVa at 4-2 in the league, tied with Maryland and Duke in the loss column for first with the Cavs coming home for two straight.

Places To Be This Week

Stillwater, Okla., Monday: Texas is in desperate need of a win to halt its recent slide. Getting it at Oklahoma State will be a chore. A loss here and the Longhorns probably can't win the Big 12.

Madison, Wis., Tuesday: If Wisconsin has any shot at catching Michigan State, the Badgers must beat Sparty at home. Purdue and Ohio State would also love it if that occurred.

Morgantown, W.Va., Wednesday: West Virginia big man Deniz Kilicli makes his debut after a 20-game suspension. Bob Huggins has said he will make an impact and have a presence. Pitt gets the first look.

Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday: Two of the best bigs in the SEC that don't play for Kentucky will match up when Mississippi State goes to Vanderbilt in a game that has significance for both. The Commodores are coming off a loss at Kentucky, while Mississippi State had a rough go at Arkansas before beating LSU at home.

Cedar Falls, Iowa, Wednesday: The two best teams in the Valley meet again. The last time Northern Iowa and Wichita State played, the Shockers held the Panthers at bay to hold on for the win. Let's see if Wichita can be as productive on the road against UNI.

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Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesOn Thursday, Jon Scheyer and Duke will look to avenge an earlier loss to Georgia Tech.

Durham, N.C., Thursday: Duke couldn't catch Georgia Tech when the two teams played recently in Atlanta. If the Yellow Jackets have visions of finishing ahead of the Blue Devils in the ACC, a sweep could be the difference-maker.

Tallahassee, Fla., Thursday: Florida State got a much-needed split during a road swing to Duke and BC. If the Seminoles are going to be serious players in the ACC title race, they need to beat Maryland at home.

Washington, D.C., Saturday: Georgetown has its second consecutive monster Saturday home game. The Hoyas dealt Duke a significant defeat. That's good for their NCAA prospects. Beat Villanova at home and the Hoyas could sneak back into the Big East chase.

Las Vegas, Saturday: If BYU wins on the road and completes a sweep of UNLV, the Cougars will be well-positioned for a Mountain West title. The Runnin' Rebels lost by only four in Provo on Jan. 6, but Derrick Jasper sprained his MCL over the weekend and is out five weeks.

Champaign, Ill., Saturday: Illinois is a classic bubble team. Beat Michigan State at home with GameDay in the house and the Illini will at least have something to distinguish themselves from the rest of the Big Ten.

El Paso, Texas, Saturday: UTEP took the first step toward trying to win the C-USA title with a road win at UAB. Take down Tulsa (which lost to UAB) at home and the Miners will clearly be the front-runners.

College Park, Md., Sunday: Maryland hosts North Carolina and the roles are reversed. The Tar Heels need a quality road win, while the Terps could use another home win to hold their turf atop the ACC standings.

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