The SEC got half its weekly awards right when they named Riley LaChance the league's Freshman of the Week for the third time this year. However, they botched their upperclassman award when the failed to recognize LaChance's talented teammate. James Siakam, the man who played the biggest role in snapping Vanderbilt's seven-game losing streak, got left in the cold despite a truly special performance.
Instead, that SEC Player of the Week award went to Ole Miss's Stefan Moody. Moody had a perfectly nice week. He helped lead a team that was already winning to victories over Texas A&M and Auburn while scoring 17 points per game and adding 4.5 assists. He also fouled out in 24 minutes against the Tigers and committed 3.5 turnovers per contest.
Siakam also led his team to a pair of wins - their first since an early-January victory over Auburn. His statistical bonafides were there in spades. The senior forward led Vanderbilt to back-to-back wins with a pair of double-doubles and an insanely efficient offensive game. He averaged 14 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, and 1.5 steals in that span while shooting 75 percent from the floor and 89 percent from the free throw line. It's tough to find a more impressive performance over any player's two-game span this season, let alone this week.
That hyper efficiency does have its drawbacks, however. Siakam's insane 65.6% shooting percentage would lead the SEC...if he took enough shots to qualify among the leaders. He'd place in the top 10 nationally if he were just a bit more selfish. But the Commodore senior - a player who needed just one field goal attempt to score 12 points in a win against Florida (he made his one shot) - has yet to crack double-digit shot attempts this winter. James Siakam ranks sixth on the team when it comes to taking shots and third when it comes to scoring. He knows his role, and he has played it to perfection in the week.
That efficiency isn't just limited to his offense. "Bamba" has pulled his offensive game to pace without losing the defensive focus and tenacity that put him on the floor as an underdeveloped underclassman in 2012 and 2013. He's cut down the foul rate that plagued him in his first three seasons, dropping from 5.47 fouls per 40 minutes to 4.9 this winter. He's playing fewer minutes thanks to the emergence of Luke Kornet as a seven-foot tall floor-stretching power forward, but he's been undoubtedly more effective when he steps on the court. Despite standing at a generously listed 6'7", he's averaging nearly two blocks per 40 - and that includes an insane five block performance against the Gators this week.
Most importantly, Siakam has been the veteran presence that has held this team together when they've been forced to fight through the downward swings of their opponents' momentum. His big dunks, offensive rebounds, and free throw shooting helped the Commodores rally back from a double-digit deficit in the second half of their win over South Carolina. His composure from the line after helped fend off Florida's early runs after Vandy ran out of gas following their 15-0 start. Without Siakam's play, Vanderbilt would be staring down a nine-game losing streak and dealing with an internal crisis of confidence. With him on the court, they're playing inspired basketball and rekindling hopes of a 2015 postseason appearance.
Sorry, Stefan Moody - but you didn't deserve this week's PotW honors. Not in a week where James Siakam played the best basketball of his life. The Vanderbilt senior pulled Commodores out of a seven-game death spiral that threatened to swallow up their entire season and put up unreal numbers while doing so. While the SEC may not recognize him, we certainly will. Congratulations to James Siakam, Anchor of Gold's Player of the Week for the Milky Way Galaxy and Beyond (PotWftMWGaB). You've earned it, Bamba.