Observations: Wisconsin freshman big Ethan Happ off to great start

Wisconsin big man Ethan Happ has officially arrived.

The redshirt freshman has done most of his work in the shadows so far this season, but his performance in Tuesday night’s 82-79 victory over Indiana reiterated that he’s a player to watch moving forward.

The 6-foot-9 Happ torched the Hoosiers for 25 points and eight rebounds all while displaying a nifty array of low post moves that dazzled those in attendance at the Kohl Center. Happ was 10-of-15 from the field and outplayed Indiana freshman Thomas Bryant (16 points, seven rebounds) in the pivot.

Yogi Ferrell and Nigel Hayes were clearly the best two players on the floor, but Happ wasn’t far behind.

This will be a multi-year All-Big Ten player for Wisconsin, who has now won three straight games under interim head coach Greg Gard.

VCU’s JeQuan Lewis has flipped the switch

In just two months VCU junior point guard JeQuan Lewis has gone from question mark to revelation.

Lewis was largely ineffective when the Rams lost back-to-back games against Duke and Wisconsin at Madison Square Garden in November, but he’s bounced back with a vengeance.

The 6-1 floor general hasn’t just become serviceable for VCU — he’s become arguably the best point guard in the Atlantic 10.

Lewis is averaging 22.0 points and 5.4 assists over his last three games, but more importantly has only committed five turnovers in 107 minutes during that span.

Melvin Johnson is clearly the Rams’ best all-around player, but Lewis has quickly showed that he’s the gas in VCU’s engine.

If Will Wade’s team was a snake, Lewis would be the head.

The Rams are 15-5 overall and next travel to Davidson on Friday.

Any team that faces Xavier better have a zone offense ready

If Xavier coach Chris Mack keeps winning he’s going to be mentioned in the same breath as John Beilein and Jim Boeheim before his career is over.

Xavier’s coach has a new best friend: the 1-3-1 zone.

The Musketeers’ length is tailor made for that type of defense and it completely stymied Providence in Tuesday night’s seven-point victory at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

Xavier has tremendous depth and a proven head coach in Mack that’s led Xavier to multiple Sweet 16’s, but the 1-3-1 zone could be a major wrinkle in this team’s arsenal come March.

This won’t be an easy thing to prepare for during a short turnaround in the NCAA Tournament.

This Just In

  • Michigan State’s Tum Tum Nairn (foot) will not play Thursday at Northwestern, Tom Izzo told CBS Sports. Nairn is expected to be out of boot by end of the weekend.
  • Florida’s Justin Leon has been diagnosed with a concussion, according to Gators coach Mike White. Leon is questionable for Saturday’s game against West Virginia.
  • Notre Dame’s Mike Brey said he is planning is to hold Demetrius Jackson (hamstring) out of Thursday night’s game at Syracuse.
  • Ole Miss guard Stefan Moody (hamstring) is a game-time decision for Wednesday’s game against Auburn, according to Rebels coach Andy Kennedy.
  • Louisville’s Mangok Mathiang (foot) is about two weeks away from returning to practice, according to Cardinals coach Rick Pitino.
  • Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said he’s planning for Tyler Davis (foot) to play Wednesday at Arkansas. Davis did not play on Saturday against Missouri.

Wisconsin's Ethan Happ battles for the ball in Tuesday's victory vs. Indiana. (USATSI)
Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ battles for the ball in Tuesday’s victory vs. Indiana. (USATSI)

This and That

  • Amile Jefferson is to this year’s Duke team what Quinn Cook was to last year’s Duke team. He’s not the Blue Devils’ best player or pro prospect, but he means more to this squad than anybody else because of all the things he can do that don’t show up in the box score. Duke is 8-1 with Jefferson in the lineup this season, but have gone just 7-5 since he went down with a foot injury.
  • Iowa State is a different team when Deonte Burton produces off the bench. The Marquette transfer has a combined 19 points and 10 rebounds in his last two games and is 8-of-10 from the floor during that span. The guy is a real wild card for the Cyclones moving forward.
  • Arizona is averaging 82.0 points this season — the most any Wildcats’ team has averaged under Sean Miller. Now the question becomes whether or not this squad will get into people defensively like Miller’s teams have in the past. Arizona next hosts Oregon on Thursday night in Tucson.
  • Something I never thought I’d write: Kansas freshman Cheick Diallo has played a total of four minutes in his last two games. The 6-9 big man was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game last spring, but has really struggled to find a consistent place in the Jayhawks’ rotation.
  • Cincinnati’s Shaquille Thomas has played the last two games like somebody who knows his college career is coming to an end. The 6-7 senior has scored a combined 35 points to go with 10 rebounds the last two times he’s taken the floor. The Bearcats will need all of that and more when they travel to UConn on Thursday night.
  • Washington’s Dejounte Murray continues to be underrated nationally. The 6-5 freshman is averaging 14.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.7 assists for a team that’s exceeded expectations in the Pac-12. If you haven’t watched Murray yet this season than you’re really missing out.
  • Jim Larranaga is now a combined 8-5 against Duke and North Carolina since he became the head coach of Miami. Didn’t this used to be a football school?
  • Syracuse freshman Malachi Richardson is 9-of-16 from 3-point range in his last two games and is shooting 35.0 percent from long distance this season. This kid is a gunner. Richardson is averaging 13.4 points this season and had 23 in Sunday’s loss at Virginia.
  • Russell Turner has UC Irvine at 16-5 overall and 5-0 in Big West play. The Anteaters’ five losses are all against quality competition as well with defeats coming against Boise State and Evansville on a neutral floor as well as Saint Mary’s, Oregon, and Kansas on the road. You won’t want to play this team if it reaches the NCAA Tournament.
  • Has Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff surpassed Fran McCaffery’s expectations this season? Find out here on this week’s edition of the College Hoops Today podcast.

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