The player you should be watching
In his sophomore season, Utah center Andrew Bogut has made the transition from an impressive player to a dominant one.
On Monday, he followed up his 24 point, 20 rebound effort against New Mexico with an 11-for-12 shooting performance against Air Force. Bogut has scored in double figures in every game this season, and while there were times in his freshman campaign that it looked like the Australian native hit a wall, this big man has only gotten stronger as the season has progressed.
He has developed into one of the biggest stars on the West Coast and has Utah poised for a return to its status as a major college basketball presence:
Editor's note: Look for a feature story on Bogut next Tuesday.
Rocking the Rim
Spotlight on team trends
Jay Bilas made the point prior to Pittsburgh's win over Connecticut on Saturday that the Panthers needed to significantly better their defense if they wanted to hang in with Connecticut. Pittsburgh was coming off a 3-3 stretch in which every game was a tight one and there were multiple reasons for their struggles.
Not only did the Panthers solve their defensive problems in the second half against the Huskies, they fixed some of the other things that had plagued their play recently, such as their free throw shooting and Carl Krauser's ballhandling woes.
They'll have to maintain these kinds of numbers if they hope to have a chance against the likes of Syracuse, who comes to town next on Saturday.
Matchup note of the week
A closer look at a key game
Georgia Tech is in need of a big win, having dropped three straight, and is facing a Wake Forest team Thursday night that has beaten them in four of the last five meetings.
Normally, being at home is a good thing, but the Yellow Jackets have dropped their last two meetings to the Demon Deacons in the Thrillerdome, and are just 2-5 against Wake Forest when both squads are ranked.
In the bonus
A look at some of college basketball's hidden gems
We know who the nation's top point guards are -- guys like Chris Paul, Raymond Felton, Travis Diener and Aaron Miles -- but the leaderboard for playmakers has many names on it that you probably don't know.
There are a lot of very good point guards in the low/mid-major programs who get very little television exposure. Using stats to guide us, we tracked down three that we would like to introduce to the rest of the college basketball world:
Damitrius Coleman, Mercer
The stats: The junior has led the nation in assists almost every day this season, averaging 7.9 per game, and there's no home cooking to those numbers. He's netting 7.4 per contest on the road as well.
The story: Coleman isn't that flashy, but he has excelled in the open floor for a team that previously relied on the halfcourt game for most of its scoring.
"He is that rare point guard who can spread the wealth," said head coach Mark Slonaker, whose team is 10-6 and contending for the Atlantic Sun title after going 11-18 last season. "He keeps everyone on the team happy. The best thing he does is keep everyone on the team involved in the offense."
Neat note: Damitrius has an identical twin brother, Dominique, whom Slonaker called "the Yin to his Yang." Dominique Coleman should hit the Division-I ranks next season. He is a sophomore at Hillsborough (Fla.) County College and is among the nation's leaders in scoring, having no doubt been helped by taking passes from his brother growing up.
Will Funn, Portland State
The stats: Funn, a senior, is averaging 7.4 assists per game. He is trying to become the first Vikings player to rank in the top 10 nationally in a stat since forward Jason Hartman ranked seventh in the nation at 22.8 points per game in 1998-99. Funn's assist/turnover ratio is at 2.4 -- a dramatic improvement from last season, when he had 104 assists and 101 turnovers.
The story: Heath Schroyer has been a head or assistant coach for nearly a decade, and in his third season at Portland State, working with Funn provided a revelation.
"He's the player who most improved over a summer of any I've coached," said Schroyer, whose team is 12-6 (4-2) and chasing Montana State in the Big Sky. "His maturity on the floor is directly related to his maturity off the floor. He's a point guard who plays on the floor. He's not going to jump out of the gym, but he can pass the ball with either hand. He's played about as well as could be expected."
Neat note: Funn will graduate this spring with a sociology degree and aspires to be a schoolteacher.
"You put him in a room with kids and he lights up like a Christmas tree," Schroyer said.
Javier Mendiburu, Wisconsin-Green Bay
The stats: Mendiburu, a senior, entered Wednesday averaging 11.1 points and 7.3 assists per game and was a preseason All-Horizon League second-team selection. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Mendiburu has unusual size for a point guard, particularly at a mid-major.
The story: You don't have to be a football player to draw comparisons to Brett Favre. If you play basketball in Wisconsin, the comparison can be made as well. Mendiburu is a risk taker who passes the ball with a flare seen typically in European-born big men. He is capable of making special plays as the ball flies out of his hands.
"If Mike Holmgren had held Brett Favre back, we would have lost what is special about him," said UWGB head coach Tod Kowalczyk. "If I tried to hold Javier back, we'd lose his creativity, his excitement and his confidence. If you're not watching the ball (when he's got it), then you're gonna get hit in the nose. He truly is one of the best point guards in the country."
Neat note: Mendiburu has basketball in his genes. His father Javier played professionally in Spain and the hope is that Mendiburu will make the pro ranks somewhere as well.
Mark Simon is a researcher for ESPN's college basketball coverage and "Baseball Tonight."