Originally Published: January 29, 2012

Team of the Week: Notre Dame

Mike Brey is putting together the best coaching job of his career, and that's saying quite a lot for a guy who's won three Big East Coach of the Year awards in the past five years.

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David Butler II/US PresswireNotre Dame players celebrate their win over UConn on Sunday.
Is No. 4 on the way? The Irish were gutted by graduation losses, a surprising early defection to the NBA and then a season-ending injury to their best player, Tim Abromaitis.

There were some humbling defeats early in the season to Missouri, Georgia and Gonzaga. But the season changed Jan. 7 at Louisville. Notre Dame stunned the Big East with a double-overtime win over the then-No. 10 Cardinals. That was followed up by an 11-point win over South Florida.

The Irish fell back to the pack with consecutive losses to UConn and Rutgers, but they had five days to prepare for top-ranked Syracuse and Notre Dame shocked the Fab Melo-less Orange with a nine-point win.

And then came this past week. Notre Dame swept a road swing through Seton Hall and Connecticut by clamping down on defense. Neither the Pirates nor the Huskies scored 50 points as the Irish beat the Pirates 55-42 (the Hall's lowest point total since 2005) and the Huskies 50-48. Notre Dame wasn't tearing it up offensively either, but controlling tempo and the clock worked.

Nine games into the Big East season, the Irish are tied for third with Georgetown and surprising South Florida. The 6-3 record can turn quickly with a game against Marquette and a pair of matchups with West Virginia to come. But the schedule is certainly laid out for Notre Dame to make a run at an NCAA bid. If that happens, you can book Brey for Big East coach of the year honors.

-- Andy Katz

Editor's note: This edition is only for games played from Monday, Jan. 23, to Sunday, Jan. 29.

More teams that impressed us

Florida: The Gators have suddenly won five straight games after losing at Tennessee to open the SEC. The latest pair of wins came at Ole Miss in a comeback victory and at home, where they handled Mississippi State by 12. The Gators are getting the balance necessary to compete for the SEC title.

Iowa State: The Cyclones lost to Texas earlier in the week and that disqualifies them for team of the week. But ISU deserves plenty of praise for the upset of No. 5 Kansas. The win puts Iowa State in position to get an at-large berth if it can take care of business going forward.

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Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireChaz Williams has helped UMass tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 conference.

Marquette: The Golden Eagles have leaned heavily on Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. And it's working since the loss of Chris Otule up front. Marquette is alone in second place in the Big East after sweeping South Florida and winning at Villanova.

Massachusetts: Derek Kellogg survived a difficult stretch at his alma mater and has come through to the top of the standings. The Minutemen, behind Hofstra transfer Chaz Williams, beat Saint Louis and won at Richmond this past week. UMass is in a three-way tie for first in the A-10 with La Salle and St. Bonaventure.

Nevada: The Wolf Pack swept a road swing to New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech for a 7-0 mark atop the WAC. Nevada, winner of 14 straight, could end up making a case for an at-large berth with a gaudy record.

Saint Mary's: The Gaels are the class of the WCC after easily sweeping LMU and BYU on a road trip. SMC still has to go to Gonzaga but that may be the only game standing in the way of an undefeated conference season. Is this finally the year the Zags' reign comes to an end?

Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles are in step with Memphis for the C-USA title and set for a showdown with the Tigers in Hattiesburg on Wednesday. USM got through a road swing at East Carolina and Central Florida to move to 6-1 in the league, 19-3 overall -- easily the best season ever under Larry Eustachy.

UNLV: The Runnin' Rebels had to go to overtime at Boise State and Air Force. But they won both and that's all that matters in a race for the MWC title. UNLV drew even with San Diego State, which lost at Colorado State.

VCU: Guess who is making a move for the CAA title? The Rams are tied for second with Drexel and Old Dominion at 9-2, a game behind George Mason, after sweeping a road trip at Towson and Georgia State.

Wisconsin: The Badgers ended last week with a win at Illinois and had one game this past week -- a home win over Indiana. The defense has been stellar yet again and the Badgers are finding enough scoring to get by. The result has been a five-game win streak to get UW back in a strong position in the Big Ten at 6-3.

Shoutout-worthy: Colorado State, Green Bay, Memphis, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Pittsburgh, St. Francis (NY), Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Washington

-- Andy Katz

Player of the week: Mason Plumlee, Duke

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Mark Dolejs/US PresswireDuke is at its best when Mason Plumlee is a force in the paint.
The Blue Devils had to get back to basics after losing to Florida State at the buzzer. They had to make use of a strength inside, the length and size of Mason Plumlee. This looked like it was going to be a huge advantage in the preseason and it finally materialized this past week.

Plumlee was a dominant presence in the win at Maryland with 23 points and 12 rebounds. He also had four assists and was an efficient 9-of-13 from the field.

And then when St. John's made runs against the Blue Devils in the second half, Plumlee was a steadying force. He finished with a solid 15 points and 17 rebounds against the Red Storm.

If Plumlee plays to his potential down the stretch of the ACC, then Duke has a legitimate chance to compete with North Carolina and Florida State for the title and a high seed. But he can't disappear like he did in the previous two games, scoring six points against FSU and just eight against Wake Forest.

Duke may go as far as Plumlee can take the Blue Devils the rest of the season. More performances like last week will certainly help.

-- Andy Katz

More performances that wowed us

Travis Bader, Oakland: 37 pts (10-14 3-pt FG) in win over South Dakota State
George Beamon, Manhattan: 33 pts, 8 rebs in win at Canisius
Jackie Carmichael, Illinois State: 45 pts (16-27 FG), 27 rebs in wins over Missouri St., SIU
Ramon Galloway, La Salle: 28 pts (11-12 FG, 6-7 3-pt FG), 6 rebs in win over GW
Draymond Green, Michigan State: 22 pts (9-11 FG), 14 rebs, 6 asts in win over Minnesota
Shane Gibson, Sacred Heart: 41 pts (6-13 3-pt FG) in loss to Mount St. Mary's
Moe Harkless, St. John's: 53 pts (24-41 FG), 26 rebs against WVU (win) and Duke (loss)
John Jenkins, Vanderbilt: 26 pts (10-18 FG) in win over MTSU
Terrence Jones, Kentucky: 27 pts (10-16 FG), 9 rebs in win at LSU
Perry Jones III, Baylor: 43 pts (16-27 FG), 26 rebs in wins over Oklahoma, Texas
Doug McDermott, Creighton: 54 pts (20-28 FG), 15 rebs in wins over Drake, Bradley
Tony Mitchell, North Texas: 21 pts (8-11 FG), 15 rebs, 6 blks in win over Arkansas State
Mike Moser, UNLV: 45 pts, 33 rebs in wins at Boise State, Air Force
Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State: 28 pts, 12 rebs in win over LSU
Le'Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State: 27 pts (12-18 FG), 4 asts in win over Missouri
Ryan Pearson, George Mason: 29 pts (11-18 FG), 15 rebs in win over JMU
Mason Plumlee, Duke: 38 pts (14-21 FG), 29 rebs in wins over Maryland, St. John's
Tray Woodall, Pittsburgh: 19 asts in wins over Providence, Georgetown
Tyler Zeller, North Carolina: 21 pts (8-11 FG), 17 rebs in win over NC State

-- Brett Edgerton

King's observations from the week that was

1. Connecticut is college basketball's most disappointing team -- at least so far. I'm basing that statement on expectations. The Huskies entered the season ranked No. 4 in both polls and seemed like a legitimate threat to win a second straight NCAA title. Sure, Kemba Walker was gone. But All-American candidate Jeremy Lamb returned along with the rest of last year's team. And the Huskies added one of the nation's top recruiting classes led by future lottery pick Andre Drummond. In terms of pure talent, only North Carolina, Kentucky and maybe Baylor looked as good as, or better than, Connecticut. It hasn't mattered. Sunday's loss to Notre Dame -- at home, no less -- marked the Huskies' fifth loss in seven games. Each of those defeats came against unranked teams, including perennial Big East bottom-feeders Rutgers and Seton Hall.

2. Perry Jones III is peeved.The Baylor forward apparently took issue with criticisms about him playing "soft" in recent losses to Kansas and Missouri. Jones was as aggressive and physical as he's been all season in this past week's victories over Oklahoma and Texas. He averaged 21.5 points and 13 rebounds in the two wins and made 16 of his 27 field goal attempts. Baylor will have a chance to win its first conference title since 1945 if Jones maintains that type of assertiveness.

3. Long Beach State may end up being one of the best "low" seeds in NCAA tournament history. Think about it. How mad would you be if you were the coach of a No. 3- or No. 4-seeded team and had to play Long Beach State -- likely a No. 13 or No. 14 seed -- in the opening round. It's obvious the 49ers are one of the top 35 or 40 teams in the country. They beat Pittsburgh on the road and lost away games to Kansas, North Carolina and San Diego State by single digits. Saturday's victory over Cal State Fullerton upped Long Beach State's record to 16-6 overall and 9-0 in the Big West Conference.

4. No team is as snakebitten as USC. Before the season ever began, the Trojans lost their leader, Jio Fontan, to a torn ACL. Now forward Dewayne Dedmon is done because of a torn MCL. Dedmon had already been playing with a broken hand and a stress fracture in his foot. That's not all. The Trojans lost leading rebounder Aaron Fuller to a season-ending shoulder injury two weeks ago. Mix in the fact USC lost three of its top players from last year's NCAA tournament team -- Nikola Vucevic to the NBA draft and Donte Smith and Alex Stepheson to graduation -- and it's amazing that the Trojans have been able to win a single game.

5. Marquette could win the Big East. Don't get me wrong. I'm not predicting it will happen. But Buzz Williams' squad has been the league's steadiest team behind Syracuse. The Golden Eagles are 7-2 in conference games; the Orange are 9-1. Marquette, though, appears to have an easier schedule down the stretch. Just two of its final nine games are against ranked opponents (Connecticut and Georgetown), while Syracuse still has to play Connecticut and Louisville two times each along with Georgetown. Again, I'm still predicting Syracuse to win the Big East championship, but Marquette is good enough to make it an interesting race.

--Jason King

They said it (or tweeted it)

""My bad #CyclONENation...I let us down, but believe me I want to make them as bad as you guys want me to...#gettingtowork"
-- Tweet by Iowa State's Royce White (@Highway_30) after he was 1-for-7 from the charity stripe in his team's 62-55 loss at Texas on Tuesday.

"OMG. The biggest wi of my career. Fells sooo good. in ALL black."
-- Tweet by Washington's Tony Wroten (@TWroten14) after he scored 17 points in the Huskies' 69-67 victory at Arizona on Saturday night.

"I'm not saying we're on the road to New Orleans. But as long as you keep fighting. ... They literally come out and play hard -- every day in practice, in every game. You can't give up on kids. These kids are resilient."
-- Towson athletic director Mike Waddell to Sporting News after Towson snapped its Division I-record 41-game losing streak with a victory over UNC-Wilmington on Saturday.

"Do I think it was? No. I know it was. I saw the replay. It's hard. You've got 30 seconds and you're trying to get them refocused and they're all thinking about other things."
-- Bob Huggins on Saturday after West Virginia missed a chance to tie in the closing seconds on a missed goaltending call in a 63-61 loss at Syracuse.

"A lot of them just wanted to know what it was like for the students to run on the floor. My answer's a lot different for them. I'm 5-9. They can see, they can breathe when it happens."
-- Keiton Page on what he told his teammates about court-storming prior to Oklahoma State's 79-72 home win over Missouri on Wednesday.

-- Myron Medcalf

Upset pick of the week: UConn over Georgetown

The Huskies have lost three straight games. Georgetown is at home and the Hoyas are ranked higher. So that might be enough for those skeptics to be convinced this would be deemed an upset if the Huskies won in D.C. Connecticut will have a few days of getting its rotation down and dealing with some intense Jim Calhoun practices. The Huskies are a perplexing bunch but it's hard to see them continuing a free fall. The Hoyas are coming off a 12-point loss at Pitt, so these two teams both have hit a bit of a skid. I'll go with the road team here to snap out of the funk first.

-- Andy Katz


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