EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week, college basketball columnist Kyle Tucker will name a Starting Five — his favorite five players from across the country at that particular moment in time. As guys heat up and cool off, this list will change through the course of the season.
I couldn’t have imagined including a St. John’s player on this list when the season began — heck, when last week began. The Red Storm owned an 11-game losing streak heading into the weekend. So what the heck happened?
Well, yeah, that’s the 2017-18 college basketball season in a nutshell: What. The. Heck. Happened. We’re still not sure, but March should be fun.
G Trae Young, 6-2, Fr., Oklahoma
After dropping 44 and 9 on Baylor in a shootout win, Trae Young was good but not great — 19 points, 14 assists at Texas and 32 points against West Virginia — in consecutive losses for the Sooners. He went 2 for 14 from 3-point range against the Longhorns and managed only 1 assist (with 6 turnovers) against the Mountaineers. Turns out, he can’t just completely change the way he plays because we ask him to, so Young fans must take the good with the bad. And the kid is still on pace to become the first freshman to lead the nation in points (29.9) and assists (9.3) per game.
Trae Young gotta chill….He really be pulling from the Logo. pic.twitter.com/1rHNL2Frh0
— kerrie 🇰🇪 (@KdubSoSolid) February 6, 2018
G Shamorie Ponds, 6-1, So., St. John’s
What an unbelievable story. In the last three games, the Red Storm faced No. 6 Xavier, No. 4 Duke and No. 1 Villanova. Shamorie Ponds averaged 30 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.3 assist and 4 steals as they took the Musketeers to the wire and then, incredibly, snapped an 11-game losing streak by upsetting the Blue Devils and Wildcats back to back. No team in college basketball had a better (or more surprising) week, and no player in America has had a better three-game run this season against the kind of competition faced by Ponds — and he played all 120 minutes in those three games. Don’t call it a fluke, because he’s averaging 20.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.5 steals for the season.
"That's one of the best plays you'll ever see!"- Gus Johnson on Shamorie Ponds pic.twitter.com/gNtXjawMym
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) February 3, 2018
F Miles Bridges, 6-7, So., Michigan State
Miles Bridges put the Spartans on his back in crunch time of a 96-93 escape at Iowa on Tuesday night, hitting two free throws for the lead with 1:02 to go, hitting two more to make it a 3-point advantage with 31 seconds left, and swiping a steal with 5 seconds remaining. Bridges finished with 25 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists as the fourth-ranked Spartans won their seventh straight game — for of them on the road in Big Ten play. And now a league title is within reach as MSU hosts No. 3 Purdue on Saturday.
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) February 1, 2018
F Keita Bates-Diop, 6-7, Jr., Ohio State
Your clear leader for Big Ten Player of the Year, ladies and gentlemen. In the last week, Keita Bates-Diop went for 35 and 13 against Illinois and 18 and 11 at No. 3 Purdue, including the game-winning tip-in to snap the Boilermakers’ 19-game winning streak. That keeps the 14th-ranked Buckeyes in the conference championship hunt and should solidify Bates-Diop as the most impactful player in the league. Against the three best teams OSU has faced — North Carolina, Michigan State and Purdue, all ranked in the top 5 at the time — he’s averaged 25.3 points and 7.7 rebounds.
Let's watch this into the night. Keita Bates-Diop with the put back to snap No. 3 Purdue's 19-game winning streak on the road. pic.twitter.com/QVKAj6zccu
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) February 8, 2018
C Jock Landale, 6-11, Sr., Saint Mary’s
These numbers are getting ridiculous. Jock Landale averaged 30 points and 15 rebounds while hitting 25 of 39 shots in wins over San Francisco and San Diego in the last week. Landale has scored 30-plus seven times this season and has 16 double doubles. The 11th-ranked Gaels (23-2) now have the nation’s longest winning streak (18 games) and Landale is averaging 22.8 points and 10.8 rebounds, shooting 65.8 percent from the field and leading the nation in field goals made (9.2 per game). The rematch Saturday against No. 12 Gonzaga — Saint Mary’s won Round 1 and Landale had 26 and 12 — is a chance to put one final stamp on a special season.
Jock Landale is a footwork god pic.twitter.com/6bM8boKtrV
— Nick Graham (@cultureordie) January 30, 2018
RELATED: Who made this list last week?
On the bench
* Texas freshman Mohamed Bamba had just an OK game in a big win over Oklahoma (13 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block) and solid performance in a narrow loss to Kansas State (18, 12 and 1). The towering big man had made four straight 3-pointers but just 1 of 5 in the last week. Even after consecutive single-block games, he ranks second nationally with 97 rejections.
* Although Texas Tech is still hot, star Keenan Evans cooled (relatively speaking) in the last week. He’d gone for 26, 31 and 38 points in consecutive wins over Oklahoma State, South Carolina and Texas, then a mere 17 and 15 — hitting just 1 of 9 3-pointers — in wins at TCU and against Iowa State. A game next week against Trae Young and Oklahoma will be a huge showcase game for Evans and the 20-win, seventh-ranked Red Raiders.
* Arizona freshman Deandre Ayton played well overall (19 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks) in a buzzer-beating loss to Washington. But he missed a free throw with 21 seconds left that would’ve given the Wildcats a lead.
* Purdue sophomore guard Carsen Edwards scored 28 points on just 13 field-goal attempts in a loss to Ohio State on Wednesday night that snapped a school-record 19-game winning streak. He had just 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting (0 for 4 from 3-point range) in a 2-point escape of lowly Rutgers four days earlier.
* Duke freshman Marvin Bagley was 4 of 14 from the field against Notre Dame, then turned it over six times in a stunning loss to St. John’s on Saturday. He has 17 double doubles this season, but just two in the last five games. A showdown with rival North Carolina offers a chance to get back on track Thursday night.