Big Ten Blog
Player of the Week
Cody Zeller, Indiana freshman
Zeller looked like a freshman in his Big Ten debut at Michigan State, looking lost the majority of 40 minutes with a few exceptions. The Hoosiers bounced back with two impressive home wins since then, knocking off No. 2 Ohio State 74-70 on Saturday and No. 16 Michigan 73-71 on Thursday. Both games displayed the Hoosiers’ tendency to allow games to become too close at the end, and Assembly Hall won’t be around to bail them out all season. But Zeller looked good in both games, making all the right moves down low to get open, high-percentage shots. He averaged 16 points and four rebounds in the Hoosiers’ two wins, making 14-of-19 shots from the field despite fouling out of the Ohio State game.
Aaron White, Iowa freshman
The 6-foot-8 freshman forward certainly helped the Hawkeyes to one of their best weeks in years. It started Saturday in Madison, Wis., when White came off the bench to score 16 of his 18 points in the second half as Iowa took down No. 11 Wisconsin 72-65 on the Badgers’ home floor, breaking a 23-game winning streak against unranked teams. White’s dunking and spot-up shooting abilities remained on display Wednesday in a 64-62 victory at Minnesota, when he put up 10 points including a dunk down the stretch that extended the Hawkeyes’ lead to five. He’s a mismatch for slower forwards but still can go down low, averaging five rebounds in the two games. He shot 10-of-14 (71.4 percent) from the field in the pair of games, including 2-of-3 from long range. White, from Strongsville, Ohio, now is firmly in the discussion for Big Ten freshman of the year.
Matt Gatens, Iowa senior
The senior leader put up 19 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals at Minnesota on 7-of-11 shooting. The 6-5 Iowa City native is one of the Big Ten’s leading rebounding guards at 4.3 per game this season; this week he more than doubled that at nine per game, including 12 at Wisconsin. He shot just 2-of-9 against the Badgers for six points but was key defensively along with Devyn Marble on the perimeter against Jordan Taylor and the Badgers.
Jared Berggren, Wisconsin junior
The 6-10 Badgers big man has shot 10 for his last 30 from the field, including a 1-for-11 clip from downtown. He needs to get it going for the Badgers, who lost their Big Ten home opener for the first time since 1998-99 and back-to-back home games for the first time since 2008-09.
Drew Crawford, Northwestern
Still the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 17.3 points per game after teammate John Shurna’s 18.7, the junior guard was hot, then very cold in a matter of two home games in three days. He hit for 21 in a 12-point win over Penn State on Sunday, making 7-of-9, then shot 3-of-12 and got a last-second shot for the win blocked by Meyers Leonard on Wednesday in a 57-56 loss.
Austin Hollins, Minnesota
The Gophers (0-3) were the Big Ten’s only winless team after week two, and a large part comes from needing shooters such as the Hollins to step up. He’s shot just 4-of-15 from the field, including 2-of-11 from 3-point range for just 10 points the past week. He also had four turnovers in a 64-62 home loss against Iowa on Wednesday. The 6-4 sophomore starter is averaging 8.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists this season.
Ralph Sampson III, Minnesota
Minnesota also could use better decision-making from their 6-11 senior center, who turned the ball over six times in the loss against Iowa. His shooting is fine (9-of-13 this week), getting mostly layups because of his size. He averaged nine points and seven rebounds this week, hardly a bad line, but the Gophers need more with Trevor Mbakwe out for the year. Rodney Williams can’t be expected to do everything in his absence.
Quote of the week
“What are you gonna do? Violence is out of the question.”
-- Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan after a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer by Ryan Evans in overtime vs. Michigan State on Tuesday was disallowed because of a discrepancy between the backboard and arena game clocks.
Top 5 Big Ten Freshmen
Not the strongest class we’ve ever seen, but still some immense talent in development:
1. Cody Zeller, Indiana
He’s 6-11, great in transition, physical down low, a solid defender and just occasionally turns the ball over. What more could you want at this point in his career? He’s averaging 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and is shooting 65.6 percent from the field in his first year in Bloomington. He’s within the top six in the conference in blocks, steals and offensive rebounds. Will he stick around long enough to complete Tom Crean’s rebuilding job?
2. Trey Burke, Michigan
Burke is pretty much a coach’s dream. He’s a lightning-quick yet under-control freshman point guard who already is like an extension of coach John Beilein’s though-process. John Beilein has been known to coddle talented freshmen along (i.e. Darius Morris), but with a void in the backcourt, Beilein pretty much had no choice to throw Burke into the fire. With a few exceptions, Burke has been tremendous. He’s second in the Big Ten in assists at 5.2 per game, seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.0, and oh, by the way — he can shoot, too. He makes an average of 1.7 3-pointers a game, which ranks 10th. At 5-11, he’s a little on the small side for the NBA — but he’ll be fine if he can find guys like he has during his first year in Ann Arbor.
3. Branden Dawson, Michigan State
The McDonald’s All-American has shown off his dunking prowess and awareness around the rim off lobs many times already. Dawson, from Gary, Ind., has made 56 of his 100 shot attempts, which ranks seventh in the Big Ten. He grabs 2.1 offensive rebounds per game, which is tied for seventh as well. At 6-6, he’s small for a power forward on the next level but has the body type and physicality that could get it done. He’s averaging 8.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in his first year in East Lansing but also has more turnovers than assists and is only shooting 57.6 percent from the free-throw line.
4. Amir Williams, Ohio State
Thad Matta has said this guy’s a work in progress, but there have been flashes from the No. 2 center coming out of high school. He hasn’t had to play much with Jared Sullinger being back, but the 6-11, 220-pounder has played an average of 8.9 minutes in all but one of the Buckeyes’ games. He’s shown solid rebounding acumen in spurts but needs to put on some muscle before he becomes a big threat in the Big Ten.
5. Trey Lewis, Penn State
An ankle injury slowed Trey Lewis’ development earlier this year, and defensive lapses and problems in practice have kept him on the bench at times. But there’s no denying the 6-1 guard’s potential as a scorer in the conference. He’s great off the dribble and is shooting a respectable 35.8 percent from 3-point range. He’s shied away from contact so far, though, attempting just eight free throws. Since his 17-point debut performance, Lewis has scored in double figures just twice. His natural position in shooting guard despite his 6-1, 175-pound frame. He’ll need to buy into coach Pat Chambers’ philosophy to see more minutes and more scoring opportunities.
Ohio State fell to No. 6 in the AP Top 25 after its loss at Indiana, while the Hoosiers moved up to No. 12. Sandwiched in between is No. 10 Michigan State, which has won 14 consecutive games after it opened the season with losses against North Carolina and Duke. Michigan is next at No. 16, while Wisconsin fell to No. 18 after its loss to Iowa. Purdue was the only other team receiving votes with six.