Big Ten Blog
Player of the Week
Victor Oladipo, Indiana
The junior player of the year frontrunner played through the pain of a sprained ankle on Tuesday night and finished off Michigan State to help the Hoosiers secure the top spot in the Big Ten. He didn’t play after halftime last Saturday against Purdue because of the injury, and coach Tom Crean said his star wasn’t close to being 100 percent in East Lansing. Still, he scored 19 points, grabbed nine rebounds, stole the ball five times and made 7-of-11 from the field. Oladipo scored eight of the Hoosiers’ final 13 points in the final 6 minutes, started by a highlight-reel steal of Keith Appling he saved from going out of bounds. He passed it to Yogi Ferrell, who then hit him in stride for a dunk that put Indiana up 61-60. He then gave Indiana the lead for good on a tip shot with 47 seconds left and secured the signature victory with two free throws with 2 seconds on the clock. Oladipo’s 2.4 steals per game leads the Big Ten, as does his 63.9 percent average from the field. He’s played himself into the first round at the very least, if he decides to bolt Bloomington for June’s draft.
Ben Brust, Wisconsin
The Badgers have won five of their past six games and Brust is the main guy behind it. He’s scored in double figures in each of the games in that stretch, a career best for him. Brust can play inside or out, and is one of the conference’s top shooters, ranking fifth in 3-pointers made per game at 2.3. Despite standing just 6-1, he’s 11th in the Big Ten in defensive rebounding, collecting 4.3 per game. His competitiveness and overall tenacity has willed the Badgers toward the top of the nation’s top conference.
Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
The freshman is averaging 12.3 points per game over the past four while shooting 17-of-30 (56.6 percent), including 7-of-15 from long range. The Badgers have gone 3-1 in that span and are in third place in the standings. He hasn’t turned the ball over in the past four games and the four-game stretch of double-figure scoring is a new career-best. Dekker ranks fifth in the conference in 3-point shooting at 42.9 percent.
Keith Appling, Michigan State
The Spartans easily could’ve beaten No. 1 Indiana on Tuesday if their leading scorer showed up. He shot 1-for-8 from the field, 0-for-4 from 3 and 4-of-7 from the free-throw line, including a crucial miss on the front end of a one-and-one with 1:09 remaining in the game and his team clinging to a one-point lead, 67-66. The Hoosiers closed on a 6-1 run by Victor Oladipo and won 72-68. Appling is now 8-for-33 in the past three games and has seven assists to nine turnovers. The Spartans are 2-1 in that span and have to play at Ohio State on Sunday.
Joe Coleman, Minnesota
The sophomore has really hit a wall in Minnesota’s past five games, in which the Gophers are 1-4. He’s averaging 4.8 points per game over that span on 8-of-31 shooting. He played a season-low 12 minutes in Wednesday’s 71-45 loss at Ohio State after getting into early foul trouble. He’s scored in double figures just twice (in 11 opportunities) since his 29-point effort Jan. 9 at Illinois. He’s continued to put up solid rebounding numbers (4 per game over lst five games) but has just four assists to nine turnovers in the past five games.
Andre Hollins, Minnesota
The sophomore has slumped along with his entire team, shooting just 5-of-21 and 2-of-6 from long range in the last two games. He tied a season low with three points Sunday in a loss at Iowa, then had 11 on 4-of-13 shooting Wednesday at Ohio State. His assist numbers are lagging, too – he’s averaging just 1.8 in the last five games, compared to a 3.7 mark heading into that span.
Tyler Griffey, Illinois
The senior is 3-for-10 from the field in his past two games and scored just one point Thursday against Penn State. He only had seven against Northwestern. His team is rolling, having won five in a row after dropping six of seven, and Griffey was a big part of that in the first three wins, averaging 14 points. But he wasn’t much of a factor against two of the conference’s lower-tier teams.
Top three surprises
Wisconsin. This really shouldn’t be a surprise considering Bo Ryan is still the coach, but when the Badgers lost Josh Gasser to a torn ACL before the season, few expected them to have a legitimate shot to finish atop the nation’s toughest conference. But the Badgers are just two games out of Indiana heading into this weekend, and they’ve been able to force almost every opponent into their slow, methodical style of play that results in few turnovers and great defense. The emergence of sophomore Treavon Jackson at point guard has helped immensely. The son of former Ohio State great and longtime NBA role player Jimmy Jackson has made giant strides handling the ball and has had some clutch shots of his own in close games.
Victor Oladipo, POY? A glance at the junior shooting guard’s statistical improvement is one thing, but until you watch the new and improved Oladipo, it’s hard to explain just how much different of a player he is from last year to this one. He is shooting 15 percent better than last season. He averages 3.2 more points and one more steal. But he’s everywhere on the court and has really found out how to give opponents hell on both ends of the floor. He’s probably the most entertaining player in the country to follow around the court.
Michigan’s freshmen. Few expected Nik Stauskas to gain significant minutes for the Wolverines, but there he was, starting just a few games into the season. He’s still nearly a 50-percent shooter from downtown (.470) despite taking 134 from long range. And yes, 61.1 percent of his field goals are 3-pointers, but don’t sleep on him taking you to the rack. Throw in starting forward Glenn Robinson III (11.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and sixth man forward Mitch McGary (6.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and the Wolverines have a lot to build on in coming years (if they stick around long enough, that is). People knew Robinson and McGary were good, but Stauskas added another dimension to this ever-dangerous squad.
Minnesota was held without a field goal for a 10:39 stretch during the second half of Wednesday’s 71-45 loss at Ohio State. The 16-0 by the Buckeyes demoralized the Gophers, who got just 8 minutes from Rodney Williams, who still is nursing a shoulder injury. He picked up two fouls in the game’s first 4 minutes.
Indiana 12-2 (24-3)
Michigan State 11-3 (22-5)
Wisconsin 10-4 (19-8)
Michigan 9-4 (22-4)
Ohio State 9-5 (19-7)
Illinois 7-7 (20-8)
Iowa 6-7 (17-9)
Minnesota 6-8 (18-9)
Purdue 5-8 (12-14)
Northwestern 4-10 (13-14)
Nebraska 3-10 (12-14)
Penn State 0-14 (8-18)