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Morrison, UConn help Maui live up to billing

12/29/2005

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: ADAM MORRISON

src="http://espn.go.com/media/ncb/2005/1127/photo/a_morrison_195.jpg"
height=272 width=195 alt="Adam Morrison" hspace="0" border="0" vspace="0"> />Scott Clarke/WireImage.comMorrison was the driving force behind the Zags' big week.
By Andy Katz, ESPN.com

Let's start the campaign right now: If Utah's Andrew Bogut can win national player of the year out of the Mountain West, then there's no reason Gonzaga's Adam Morrison can't win the award out of the WCC.

Morrison was sensational in Hawaii. He scored 25 points in 38 minutes in a win over Maryland, then outlasted everyone with 43 points in 52 minutes in the triple-overtime win over Michigan State. He then scored a modest (for him) 18 in the buzzer-beater title game loss to Connecticut.

For the Maui Invitational, Morrison was 32-for-64 from the field, 7-for-13 on 3s and 15-for-19 from the free-throw line, and he grabbed 21 boards in the three games.

Other contenders: Michigan State's Maurice Ager, who scored 23 to beat Chaminade, then had 36 in the Gonzaga game and 20 in the overtime win over Arizona; and Texas center LaMarcus Aldridge, the MVP of the Guardians Classic with double-doubles against West Virginia (15 points, 14 boards), Iowa (18 and 12) and Louisiana-Monroe (21 and 11).

TEAM OF THE WEEK: CONNECTICUT

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height=262 width=195 alt="Denham Brown" hspace="0" border="0" vspace="0">
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesGood things happen for UConn when Brown takes it to the rim.
By Andy Katz, ESPN.com

The Huskies weren't expected to win Maui without Marcus Williams. Yet there they were, celebrating with Denham Brown after his floater beat Gonzaga in the title game.

UConn started its season by beating Pepperdine on the road, then took out Arkansas, Arizona and Gonzaga -- all without Williams.

The Huskies will get their returning point guard back by the time the heart of the Big East schedule picks up (at Marquette on Jan. 3) and have him for a nonconference game against LSU on Jan. 7.

Other contenders: Duke for winning the NIT Season Tip-Off by beating Memphis; Texas for taking the Guardians Classic title with wins over West Virginia and Iowa; Marquette for a Great Alaska Shootout title win over South Carolina, even though the overall field was weak.

3-POINT SHOTS

Doug Gottlieb

Doug Gottlieb

1) Anytime Darius Washington Jr. questions what John Calipari wants from a point guard, Washington should be forced to watch Greg Paulus play against him on tape. Paulus is somewhere between Bobby Hurley (not as quick as Hurley, but a better shooter at this point in his career) and Wojo (far more gifted an athlete but not as tenacious defensively) -- and whether you like him or not, he always delivers a pass in the shooter's or post player's rhythm, which is one of the many things Washington does not do well.

Speaking of PGs, Rudy Gay will become more consistent when Marcus Williams returns. Does anyone remember how ordinary North Carolina looked without Raymond Felton last year. Although Williams' scoring might cut the number of shots Gay and others get, the quality of shots and the transition points will rise rapidly as soon as he returns.

2) Texas is loaded at four positions, but Kenton Paulino must improve if they are going to make it to the Final Four. And has anyone seen Mike Williams' game? It seems to have left him as soon as he arrived in Austin. He was the most dominant force in the interior of any AAU court three summers ago, but he seems to have lost his confidence sitting behind highly underrated Brad Buckman.

3) Want a diamond in the rough? How about a Cartier? Cartier Martin is the best Big 12 player you likely have never heard of. He was recruited by everyone and shocked them all to choose the "Little Apple." Now the junior is averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds per game. Check out the fun this week when K-State meets Bobby Brown and Cal State Fullerton. Brown is a much better pro prospect than UCLA's Jordan Farmar.

Fran Fraschilla

Fran Fraschilla

1) The "new" WAC -- with Nevada, Hawaii, Fresno State, Boise State, New Mexico State and Utah State -- will be a tremendous basketball conference within three seasons because of the great traditions and great coaching the league has.

By the way, the Aggies' Stew Morrill has another gem in guard Jaycee Carroll. The 6-foot-3 guard from Evanston, Wyo., is not your typical second-year player because he served a two-year Mormon mission to Chile. Averaging 18 points a game, Carroll should be in any conversation involving the country's great shooters.

2) Michael Gerrity, Pepperdine's 6-foot freshman point guard, is a blend of Steves (Wojo and Nash). Coming out of one of Southern California's best prep programs (Mater Dei High School), Gerrity is averaging 21 points over his first three games. His 19 points versus UConn in his first collegiate game underscored how impressive a career might lie in front of him.

3) Creighton senior guard Nate Funk already has established himself as an NBA prospect, so his performance Saturday will have more scouts flying to Omaha this year.

Funk dropped in 38 points in a 91-90 double-OT win over Dayton. The 6-3 guard from Sioux City, Iowa -- home of the Bulls' Kirk Hinrich, as well as the Valley's other top guard, Ben Jacobson -- made 15 of 18 free throws in the win. Brian Roberts, the Dayton Flyers' 6-2 sophomore, countered Funk's performance with 34 points of his own.

FIVE GAMES TO WATCH

By Andy Katz, ESPN.com

Illinois at North Carolina, Tuesday (ESPN, 9 ET): This is a title game rematch in name only. Still, the Illini desperately could use a road win and the youthful Tar Heels could use a name win for their confidence.

Duke at Indiana, Wednesday (ESPN, 9 ET): It's really a shame D.J. White is out. If the Hoosiers were at full strength, this could have been a monster matchup in the post with White and Marco Killingsworth against Shelden Williams and Josh McRoberts. Killingsworth will have to handle it on his own. Still, this should be a dandy.

NC State at Iowa, Wednesday (ESPN2, 9:30 ET): This is turning out to be one of the best Big Ten-ACC Challenge games. The Wolfpack had a solid win over Notre Dame in Indianapolis on Saturday, and the Hawkeyes were a few possessions away from knocking off Texas and being undefeated.

Oklahoma at Villanova, Saturday (ESPN, 5 ET): Neither squad had a real struggle before this game. The Sooners will test their road weariness, while the Wildcats should have a barometer as to where they stand after this made-for-TV event.

Gonzaga at Washington, Sunday (10:30 ET): This is a perfect trap game for the Bulldogs. They're feeling good about themselves after a near-miss in the Maui title game. Washington has been beaten by Gonzaga year after year after year and gets the Bulldogs back in Seattle. This could prove to be as tough a game for Gonzaga as the Connecticut one was because of the nature of the rivalry and expected raucous crowd at UW.


INSIDE THE NUMBERS
By Mark Simon, Special to ESPN.com

Opening Tip
There's one regard in which there's no comparison between the ACC and the Big Ten this season: Four ACC teams return a pair of players who each averaged at least 15 points per game last season. Though Iowa and Purdue come close, not one Big Ten team can match that.

A look at the dynamic duos at Duke, Boston College, Wake Forest and Miami shows there's more than one way to do it. The Blue Devils and Demon Deacons go little guy/big guy; the Eagles have two big forwards; and the Hurricanes possess two scoring guards.

Rocking The Rim
It's not surprising that Wisconsin is 4-0, considering whom the Badgers have played this season. The shocker is that the Badgers are both scoring and allowing points at an unusually high rate -- and given that previous years' starts have held pretty constant, the trend might carry on all season.

The Badgers, who averaged 67.4 points last season, have tallied 80 or more points in all four games -- the first time that has happened in four straight games since the 1993-94 season.

The Badgers might turn out the most points for a Bo Ryan squad since Ryan's 1997-98 Division III champs at Wisconsin-Platteville averaged 73.9. They'll need them against a Wake Forest team capable of putting up 80 points without much of an issue.

Matchup of the week
We'll see a rematch of the 2005 NCAA title game, more or less, when Illinois and North Carolina get together Tuesday night. Although this one won't have nearly the buzz of last season's national championship meeting, the last five games between the two teams have been fairly interesting -- and typically favor the Tar Heels.