Busting Brackets

NCAA Basketball: UT Martin and UConn headline the latest Players of the Week

A JUCO transfer has turned into an elite scorer and one of the best guards in the country for the reigning National Champions impacting games all over the floor has earned them player of the week.
Feb 20, 2024; Omaha, Nebraska, USA;  Connecticut Huskies guard Tristen Newton (2) dribbles against
Feb 20, 2024; Omaha, Nebraska, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Tristen Newton (2) dribbles against / Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

It is time again for another Busting Brackets Player of the Week award to be handed out. It is the stretch run of the season and in exactly one week there will be a conference tournament tipping off. There will only be two more Player of the Week awards to hand out before I give out my Player of the Year award. That is in the future, right now let’s focus on who had the best week among all the players in the mid major ranks and all the players in the power conferences. It was a big time week for a lot of guys and we saw some career highs this week. It was hard to pick just one player from each side to win this award.

In the mid major ranks, we head to the Ohio Valley for the second week in a row and look at a forward who has put up some huge games for his team. His team is right in the hunt for the regular season crown and this player have huge weeks is only going to help reach their goals. In the power conferences we go revisit an old friend who is very accustomed to putting up huge weeks. He plays for one of the top teams in the country and is also my pick for the conference player of the year in the league. These two players were very deserving of the award this week. The mid major player is below.

Jacob Crews - UT Martin Skyhawks

Let’s be honest, at the start of the season Crews was nowhere on my radar or likely anyone’s. The wing is a transfer from North Florida who did not have a successful stint in the Atlantic Sun conference. Crews played sparingly and averaged under 5 points per game in his two seasons at North Florida. He decided to transfer to spend a year at Daytona State College where he found something. He earned a JUCO All-American and the conference player of the year in his conference. Crews picked up right where he left off and has turned into one of the elite scorers in the Ohio Valley. He has also been a huge catalyst for the Skyhawks being in first place in the league. Crews saw all his hard work come together last week with one of the best weeks any player has had this year.

In a win over Lindenwood the wing scored 28 points on 9-14 shooting, 3-8 from deep, and 7-8 from the free throw line. He added 12 rebounds and 2 blocks to his line. It was the third straight game over 25 points for the wing and it led to a huge win for the Skyhawks. Crews wasn’t finished this week. He followed up his big with an even bigger game. In a win against Southeast Missouri State, he scored 31 points on 10-16 shooting, 3-6 from deep, and 8-8 from the free throw line. He added 11 rebounds and 1 assist to his line.

Crews isn’t a guy who is going to provide much in the way of assists or steals but he is one of the best rebounders in the Ohio Valley and his value scoring the ball is elite. It has been quite the turnaround for one of the best players in the Ohio Valley that no one knew about. The wing didn’t come into the season on anyone’s radar because the Skyhawks already had one of the best players in the Ohio Valley. The league tournament starts next week, and Crews is going to be a huge factor in that event and is hoping to lead his team to the NCAA tournament. Congratulations to Crews and the UT Martin Skyhawks.

Tristen Newton - Connecticut Huskies

This one may get a few people to scratch their heads given that he didn’t lead his team to two wins and other players may have put up better numbers this week, like Jayden Epps at Georgetown and his two 30-point games. The fact is that no one in the power conferences outside of Zach Edey has as big an impact on games as Newton. He is my vote for the Big East Player of the Year, he is going to be an All-American, and he is going to set all kinds of records when he leaves there.

In a loss to Creighton, the point guard did all he could to keep the Huskies in the game for as long as he could. The guard scored 27 points on 10-21 shooting, 2-8 from deep, and 5-7 from the free throw line. The fact that he took 7 free throws against Creighton, who often doesn’t foul seven times in a game is impressive on its own. He added 12 rebounds and 4 assists to his line. He was the only player who played well at Creighton and the Huskies needed every bit of his scoring that night. They may have gotten beat by 30 if not for the efforts of Newton.

In the next game, a win over Villanova the point guard recorded his 4th triple-double. He is the country's active leader and has the most triple doubles in UConn history. The history of that program is long. Newton recorded 10 points on 3-10 shooting, 2-6 from deep, and 2-2 from the line. The offense wasn’t very efficient, but he also added 16 rebounds and 10 assists. He dominated the game from start to finish and he deserved the award this week.

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UConn did lose so they are no longer number 1 in the country, but they are going to head into the NCAA tournament as a 1 seed and likely will make a deep run into March. Guard play is extremely important in that event and the Huskies have one of the best point guards in the nation. Newton can lead this team to back-to-back titles which would cement his name among the other greats at UConn and get his name in the rafters. Congratulations to Newton and the UConn Basketball program.