The Busting Brackets Player of the Week is back but this week it is a little different than it has been in the past. The Player of the Week this week is going to cover the period of December 18th-December 31st. There were two holidays and a holiday break built into that period, so most players only played two total games over a two week stretch. I wanted to give ample time for the players to play enough games to truly make an impact over those two weeks.
The Player of the Week this week will be the same in the aspect that one player from the Mid Major conferences is selected and one player from the power conferences is selected. This week the award goes to a player from the Big South and from the Big Ten. These two players had huge weeks and they both play for teams who had been struggling heading into conference play. These two players are also some of the biggest stars in the game and it was only a matter of time until they stepped up their level of play to help their team win games. Let’s start with the winner from the Big South.
Drew Pember - UNC Asheville Bulldogs
The reigning Big South Player of the Year came into the season as the favorite to win the award again. Pember and his UNC Asheville Bulldogs were the overwhelming favorite to win the Big South again this year after returning nearly everyone from a dominant team in the 2022-2023 season. The reality is that the Bulldogs have not performed up to their expectations and have struggled in some games that they should have won. Pember and the Bulldogs broke out in a big way right before Christmas and continued it before New Year’s. Asheville is playing their best basketball of the season heading into conference play and once again look like they may be the team to beat in the league.
As for Pember, he is a big man who has a reputation for being an elite scorer from all three levels. He is also a guy who is an elite rebounder and passer for his size. He will impact a game in many ways and that is why he is one of the toughest covers in the Big South when he is going right. In a win against Appalachian State, the big man recorded a triple-double with 11 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists. It was also the same game that his teammate Josh Banks scored 30 points in the first half.
Offense was a struggle for the big man against Appalachian State. He went 4-12 from the floor with one three-point basket made. The 10 assists to 3 turnovers helped the Bulldogs out a lot and the 15 rebounds was one of the highest individual totals of the week. I am a sucker for a triple-double, and they are always hard for me to ignore.
Pember did play two other games as well. In a win against Kennesaw State, he followed up his triple double with a 21 point 4 rebound game. Pember took the most free throw attempts in the country last year and he lived at the line in this game. He was only 2-7 from the floor but was 17-8 from the line. Then to close out his great week Pember scored 30 points in a 5 point loss to UAB. In the 30 point game the big man was efficient from the floor and got to the line. He ended at 9-14 from the floor and 12-13 from the line. The senior also went for 6 rebounds and 3 blocks in that contest as well. There are not many other guys who are going to card a triple double and a 30 point game in the same week. It was much deserved for the favorite to win back to back Big South Player of the year awards.
Jahmir Young - Maryland Terrapins
The Big Ten is going to look a little different in the middle and bottom tiers. The middle looks to be comprised of a lot of teams who are usually at the bottom of the league and the bottom of the league appears that it will be made up of a bunch of teams who usually finish in the middle. The Maryland Terrapins are a team who appear to be destined for a bottom of the Big Ten finish. The Terps have not been very impressive this season, but one player has stood out above the rest and that one player won them games by himself. Jahmir Young was already a star at Maryland but over the last few weeks he has taken his game to the next level and helped Maryland win games they otherwise may not have.
In a win over Nicholls the senior guard scored 23 points to go with 11 rebounds and 5 assists. He was fantastic down the stretch and turned it on when Maryland was losing the game and was in danger of losing the game. Then in a win over UCLA, Young scored 37 points to go with 7 rebounds and 3 assists. UCLA had no answer for the star guard, and he was great all night. It was the most points scored by any player this year in a 40 minute game. It is unfortunate that we all had to wait so long for the encore from Young as he was out with the flu in the return game out of the break.
The guard deserved this award because of his ability to score efficiently. He also was the sole reason that Maryland was 2-0 during that stretch. He helped Maryland snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Nicholls and any time UCLA would go on a run and look like the momentum was about to change Young would hit a clutch shot. He was unbelievable in that game. The 37 points may be the best performance of any power five player this season, so he has that going for him. Let’s see how Young performs in the Big Ten.