Sunday, December 9, 2007

December 9 Player of the Week: Joe Alexander

Note: This column originally appeared at CollegeHoopsNet.

Many think that March is the only time college basketball matters; look at the past month and try to tell me it was a meaningless opening month. Teams have already knocked themselves out of at-large contention for the most part, while others have primed themselves for a solid seed in March if they can play well during the conference season. This week was no exception: there was one of the best comebacks of the season (LSU vs. Villanova); a down-to-the-wire finish (Washington vs. Pittsburgh); an undefeated team losing (Butler to Wright State); and a variety of major upsets (East Carolina over NC State, Stephen F. Austin over Oklahoma, Dayton over Louisville, etc.). In terms of individual performances, there were several very good outings by a variety of players across the country: Jimmy Baron, Will Daniels and Parfait Bitee from Rhode Island; D.J. White of Indiana; James Anderson of Oklahoma State; South Florida’s Dominique Jones; Vanderbilt’s A.J. Ogilvy; Florida’s Nick Calathes; and, of course, D.J. Augustin of Texas. However, arguably the most impressive team of the week was West Virginia – and the most impressive player on the team was Joe Alexander.

Coming into the year, West Virginia was projected to finish about tenth in the Big East – likely an NIT team, maybe a marginal bubble team late in the season. After this past week, though, many people would probably like to rethink that prediction. The Mountaineers improved to 7-1 on the season, knocking off Auburn on the road and Duquesne at home. Now, those are not the toughest of teams by any stretch, but WVU looked outstanding in the games, winning them by an average of 26.5 points per game. The star of those two games was 6-8 forward Joe Alexander, who averaged 21.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Alexander also shot almost 52% from the field in the two contests. He is excelling in under new coach Bob Huggins, who has kept the same principles that John Beilein used in his tenure in Morgantown, but added more opportunity for players to take their defender to the basket. Alexander has been able to show off his athletic and finishing ability as a result.

Alexander and West Virginia don’t face much of a non-conference schedule the rest of the way, but its last game of 2007 against Oklahoma could prove to be fairly difficult. If the Mountaineers continue to play the way they have so far, though, look out for WVU as a sleeper contender in the Big East. None of the favorites in the conference have looked unbeatable yet, so WVU could sneak in and potentially grab a bye for the Big East Tournament in March. It will be interesting to see how Alexander matches up against some of the other athletic forwards in the Big East, like Terrence Williams and Earl Clark of Louisville; DaJuan Summers of Georgetown; Donte Greene and Paul Harris of Syracuse, etc. Look out for Alexander, and look for the Mountaineers.

Jeff Borzello, founder, editor and lone writer of March Madness All Season, also writes weekly columns for CollegeHoopsNet.

1 comment:

  1. One of the best games of last week was Davidson at Charlotte. Curry and Goldwire, for both teams respectively, traded amazing shot after amazing shot in the heated rivalry game. It was also a statement game for Charlotte as they were picked to be 10th in the A10. But now they've gone 6-2 with 2 close losses and a blowout of SIU and Saturday's game vs Hofstra they'll have Mike Gerrity eligible who averaged over 10ppg at Pepperdine and dropped 20 vs UConn last year. Charlotte could be a team on the rise in the surprising A10, as Xavier, URI and Dayton are looking like at-large contenders.