Player of the Week
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
Here we find ourselves once again. Another ho-hum 25-13 week for Caleb Swanigan. In all honesty, this may have been a below-average week for Swanigan. He turned it over 7 times, fouled out of both games, and was really a big part of Purdue’s slow start against Maryland due to turnovers and missed shots. But he was his dominant self for most of both games, extending his double-double streak to 6 and hitting multiple 3’s for the 3rd time in 4 games. Northwestern had no one to match up with him, and while Maryland defended him as well as just about anybody this season, he splashed a couple key three-pointers against them to get Purdue back in the game. He’s drawn some criticism for his decision-making in late-game situations, but in the first 39 minutes of each game this week, he was spectacular before he fouled out. Swanigan has now tied the Purdue record for official Player of the Week awards with 5, and sits two back of conference record-holder Evan Turner of Ohio State.
Josh Newkirk, Indiana
James who? The heavily-injured Hoosiers are getting a huge lift from Pitt transfer Josh Newkirk, the sharp-shooting two guard who has stepped in nicely in team scoring leader James Blackmon’s absence. After a streak of 9 single-digit scoring performances, Newkirk put up 49 in his two games this week, the second and third of Blackmon’s absence. He shot 16/29 (55%) from the field and 8/14 (57%) from behind the arc. The Hoosiers just pulled out the triple overtime home win over Penn State, a scenario they probably never would have dreamed to find themselves in before injuries derailed their season, and then just fell short against the Wisconsin Badgers on the road. Newkirk hit a key bucket at the buzzer to send it to a double overtime, and from there, he scored 10 total points in the three extra periods. The Hoosiers are still trying to right the ship, and losing to Wisconsin was a missed opportunity, but Newkirk is doing all the right things to bring this team back to prominence.
Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern
This week went about as expected for the Wildcats. They lost on the road to a dominant Purdue team, then defended their home court over a banged-up Indiana team. The focal point of the offense in both games was McIntosh, and the junior point guard put up 21.5 PPG, 6 APG, and 4 RPG. It was only the fifth and sixth time B-Mac has put up 20+ points, as the talented point guard has spent much of the year focusing on setting up Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law.
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
If not for Happ, the Badgers would very likely be well off the pace in the Big Ten conference race. He’s been the model of consistency in conference play, and this week, after his 32 points carried Wisconsin to a win over Rutgers, he put up 14 and 13, then 20 and 7 as the Badgers eked out two more wins over Indiana and Illinois. He is now averaging 14.7 PPG and 9.1 RPG to go along with 62% shooting and is really the only name even being MENTIONED in the race for Conference Player of the Year along with Caleb Swanigan
Zak Irvin, Michigan
Where has Michigan’s star gone? In a pair of losses spanning back to last week, the Wolverine shooting guard has scored just 5 total points on 2/18 (11%) shooting from the field while turning the ball over 6 times and drawing 0 trips to the line. This has coincided with back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Ohio State, which could very well bring about the end of their tournament hopes. This is the first pair of back-to-back single-digit scoring performances for Irvin since last January, and the first pair of back-to-back performances of 5 or less points for Irvin since March of 2014.
Top 5 NBA Prospects, Revisited
1) Miles Bridges, Michigan State
Length. Athleticism. Tenacity. Shooting. Bridges is an incredibly well-rounded player in terms of college basketball ability. The big question mark with him is how well he can put it all together and be more than just a power forward/small forward tweener at the next level. His game has translated very well from high school to college, a testament to Bridges’ maturity as a player and to his work ethic, but time will tell if he can make an impact in the NBA. He’s currently projected to go in the mid-to-late first round.
2) Melo Trimble, Maryland
It’s almost here, finally. Melo Trimble will soon be leaving the Big Ten to play in the NBA. And he’s got the tools to get there. He’s a good scorer and a great drawer of fouls, although NBA refs may be less willing to reward him with free throws, and he has great size and athleticism. He likely won’t be an NBA star, but there aren’t all that many guards who have a similar skillset to Trimble. He is slated to be a second round pick, though I could see him going in the first.
3) Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
With his sheer dominance of the college basketball scene this season, Swanigan has inevitably shot up the draft boards, but even now, he finds himself far removed from the first round. The perception is that he may be too slow, too short, and too unathletic to be a successful NBA power forward. He may not have the foot speed to stay with a faceup 4, and his high volume of turnovers also raises question marks. However, on the basis of his rebounding, his outside shooting, and his brute strength along, it’s highly likely he gets drafted, especially as he continues to dominate college basketball.
4) Peter Jok, Iowa
Jok is still the leading scorer in the conference, and it’s hardly a fluke. He’s got great size and shooting ability, and while he’s still developing as a shot creator and defender, the numbers he is putting up against good competition (before the injuries he has recently been dealing with) are too impressive and efficient to ignore.
5) OG Anunoby, Indiana
While the sophomore’s future plans are now seemingly very much in the air following his season-ending ACL tear, there is no denying his length and athleticism, even after he returns. Any NBA team could use the opportunity to develop a guy with his attributes, so he will definitely be in contention for a first round pick whenever he decides to enter the draft.