Morrison, UConn help Maui live up to billing

Updated: December 29, 2005, 4:28 PM ET

Adam Morrison
Scott Clarke/
Morrison was the driving force behind the Zags' big week.

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).

Denham Brown
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Good things happen for UConn when Brown takes it to the rim.

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.

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.


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.


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.

ACC 15/15 returnees
J.J. Redick/Shelden Williams (Duke) 37.3 41.2 Shooting a combined 53.5 percent from the field through five games.
Craig Smith/Jared Dudley (BC) 34.5 33.4 Combined for 40 or more points seven times last season, and BC went 6-1 in those contests.
Justin Gray/Eric Williams (Wake Forest) 32.1 32.5 Trent Strickland actually is Wake's leading scorer this season as Gray is adjusting to the PG role.
Guillermo Diaz/Robert Hite (Miami) 35.9 30.5 Accounted for more than half of team's scoring in 2004-05, but Anthony King has taken off some of the scoring pressure this season.

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.

Points for/against under Ryan
  PPG (1st 4) PPG (season) PA (1st 4) PA (season)
2005-06 87.8 ??? 68.8 ???
2004-05 69.8 67.4 61.0 60.2
2003-04 66.8 68.4 54.0 57.0
2002-03 79.3 70.3 58.8 59.3
2001-02 68.3 67.0 67.3 65.7

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.

Matchup Highlights
4/4/05 UNC, 75-70 (national championship) Sean May scored 26 points on 10-for-11 shooting as North Carolina won its first national title since 1993.
12/2/03 UNC, 88-81 North Carolina wins an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game for the first time in five tries as May scores 23 points and grabs 14 rebounds. Dee Brown shoots 3-for-17 from the field.
12/3/02 Illinois, 92-65 Brian Cook and Sean Harrington combined for 42 points as Illinois ran away late, closing with a 28-8 run.
12/19/87 UNC, 85-74 Paced by 17 points from Ranzino Smith, North Carolina ended Illinois' 22-game nonconference home win streak.
12/20/86 UNC, 90-77 Another Smith hurt the Illini as Kenny scored 22 points in handing Illinois its first loss of the season.

This space isn't reserved for high-major moments, but how can you not pick Denham Brown's floater that pushed UConn past Gonzaga at the buzzer and capped off an incredible Maui Invitational. It's still early, but this is the kind of W (without Marcus Williams) that can give a team a springboard to the national title contender ranks.
-- Andy Katz
Important wins
Boston College: Beat Oklahoma State in the finals of the Las Vegas Holiday tournament and "discovered" reserve guard Tyrese Rice, who scored 21 points in the win over the Cowboys a night after netting 22 in a comeback win against Drake.

Wisconsin: Quality win over Old Dominion to win Paradise Jam.

LSU: Win at West Virginia could do wonders for the Tigers -- maybe the same thing it did for West Virginia when it won at LSU last season.

Bucknell: Win at Syracuse should serve notice. If Bison get in the right bracket, they could cause fits on the opening weekend of the NCAAs.

Southland Conference
Another notch in the Southland's belt as Northwestern State beat Mississippi State in overtime. That gives the conference wins over teams from the Big 12, SEC and Conference USA so far.
Under-the-radar outings
Minnesota's Mo Hargrow: Lit up Chattanooga for 24 much-needed points in absence of Vincent Grier.

La Salle's Steven Smith: Put up 31 points in 38 minutes as the Explorers beat American 75-63 to move to 2-0.

-- Andy Katz
The Warriors were our team of the week last week, but head coach Riley Wallace warned us that they had to win on the road to prove themselves after beating Michigan State by 22 at home. Well, they didn't, losing 67-61 at UNLV. Hawaii rebounded with another home win over Saint Louis over the weekend, but it's looking like a Rainbow team similar to those of years past.
Southern Illinois
The Salukis have been a dominant team in the Missouri Valley from the end of Bruce Weber's reign through Matt Painter and Chris Lowery. But do we sense a bit of rebuilding? That might be the case after the Salukis lost two of three in Alaska, to Monmouth and host Alaska-Anchorage.
Oregon State
Pac-10 coaches hyped the Beavers in the preseason, but they're looking pretty tame so far. Oregon State lost 90-62 at Tennessee Tech, then fell to Fresno State on the road by seven. The only win so far is by 17 over Prairie View A&M.
-- Andy Katz
Coach K gave the Dragons the necessary props and Drexel probably played the most consistent ball of any team in New York but still left winless after failing to close out on a few possessions against Duke and then experiencing a late meltdown against UCLA. The loss at Penn on Saturday just made the week worse. Still, Drexel got plenty of national exposure that will be hard to replicate.
Paul Biancardi
The embattled Wright State coach was named by an NCAA report that stated he knew about Jim O'Brien's $6,700 cash loan to former Ohio State recruit Alex Radojevic and helped set up the transaction. According to the report, he also knew about illicit living arrangements for former Buckeye Boban Savovic.

The report stated that "Biancardi has misrepresented the facts and been less than candid in providing full and accurate information." Biancardi has disputed the allegations.

Ohio State will get its NCAA hearing on Dec. 10. Oh, by the way, Wright State got rocked in its home opener by Ball State, 71-50, and is now 0-3.

-- Andy Katz
Illinois-Chicago 73, Georgia Tech 51: Josh Mayo's 21 points paced the Flames in Atlanta. This is the same UIC team that lost to NAIA St. Xavier last week.

Iona 89, Iowa State 72: Ricky Soliver scored 23 points in the win at Iowa State in the finals of the Cyclone Challenge. Jeff Ruland has the Gaels clicking well early, but this loss should sting Iowa State for some time.

Wofford 81, Toccoa Falls 15: We're not sure where the Toccoa Falls are, but there is a school with this name and Wofford kindly obliterated them/it in Spartanburg, S.C. Toccoa didn't score for more than 15 minutes; no player scored more than three points; and the team had only five field goals. For the record, Toccoa Falls College is in Georgia.

-- Andy Katz
Katz: Williams' fresh look
Duke's Shelden Williams looks even better this season with Josh McRoberts sharing the inside load and Greg Paulus running the show. Story

• The Big Ten/ACC Challenge is here, with 11 games on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU (Monday-Wednesday).

• How did this weekend's action affect the polls? Here are the latest rankings.

• What else is on tap for this week? Here's the schedule.

ESPN/ABC TV schedule