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Big Ten Blog

Player of the Week

Jon Diebler

Big Ten Blog

Player of the Week

JaJuan Johnson

JaJuan JohnsonJaJuan JohnsonPurdue continued its march up the polls and towards a top two seeding in the NCAA tournament this week with a pair of road wins over rivals Indiana and Michigan State. As has been the case all year, the Boilermakers were led by their senior stars. JaJuan Johnson was nothing short of dominant. In their game at Indiana, Johnson helped build a big early lead. He had 11 points to open up a 13-point lead early in the second half. The Hoosiers attempted to mount a run outscoring Purdue 16-6 over the next eight minutes, but before too much damage could be done Johnson hit a jumper and got an and-one on successive possessions to allow Purdue to regain control for good. Against Michigan State, Johnson had a double-double by halftime and finished the game with 20 points, 17 rebounds and 7 blocks in a 67-47 win. Those 17 rebounds were a career-high. He finished the week averaging 20 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks per game.

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Michigan to make a play for 4/5 spot

While the Wolverines were not able to pull off the upset of Wisconsin on Wednesday, they were able to get big come from behind win on the road against Minnesota to save face for the week. With one more regular season conference game, Michigan is 8-9 in the league. If they beat 8-8 Michigan State at home, they will likely be tied with Illinois (who is 8-8 with a game at Purdue and one versus Indiana) at 9-9. Penn State is 8-8 with a game against Ohio State and Minnesota left. The Wolverines then would have a .500 record in league play with regular season sweeps over Penn State and Michigan State on their resume. If they could then beat Illinois in the 4/5 game, they would have played themselves into a favorable bubble position. It is still a lot of ifs, but nobody could have imagined Michigan even giving themselves this chance when they were 11-9 overall with a 1-6 mark in the Big Ten.

Big Ten Blog

Player of the Week

Big Ten Blog

Player of the Week

Jordan Taylor

Jordan TaylorJordan TaylorWith 13:21 left in Saturday’s big game, Wisconsin was down 15 points at home to top team in the country. The Badgers had scored 32 points in close to 27 minutes, and defensively had no answer for Jared Sullinger. Jordan Taylor then led a run left no doubt about the caliber of player he has become and the potential of the 2011 Wisconsin team. Over the next ten minutes, the Badgers outscored Ohio State 32-12. During that time, Taylor had 18 points on 6-6 shooting with 3 assists that led to another 8 points. His only missed shot during that time was a free throw, and in true Jordan Taylor form was turnover free over the span. Ever since Big Ten play started, Taylor has played at an All-American level. In conference play, he is now averaging 20.8 PPG (2nd in the league), 4.9 APG (5th in the league), and 4.5 RPG with incredible efficiency statistics. He is shooting 46 percent from the floor, 43 percent from 3, and 84 percent from the line to give him a true field goal percentage of 62.5 percent and an efficiency field goal percentage of 55.2 percent. Taylor led the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio last season with a 2.8:1 mark, and this year is at an unbelievable 4.2:1 ratio.

While the loss takes perfection off the table for Ohio State, it does not alter their position as the top team in the Big Ten and clear #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. They are also still the favorites to win it, because they still have the most dominant big man in the country with shooters all around him. They simply got out-starred on Saturday when Taylor went on that run. The win for Wisconsin, however, highlights the point made in last week’s blog about his development being the catalyst behind this Badger team being capable of going deep in March. Taylor’s extremely productive and efficient scoring and playmaking has Wisconsin at the top of several impressive categories. The team is currently ranked as the most efficient offensive team in the country with Ken Pomeroy recording that on average they score 123.2 points per 100 possessions. Connected to that statistic is that there is also no team that is turning the ball over on fewer possessions than Wisconsin’s 13.6 percent. It cannot be understated how valuable a point guard is who can be so involved in the offense and simply not make mistakes. In many ways, the only thing separating the play of Jordan Taylor and Jimmer Fredette is the pace at which their teams play. The pace of play does matter to perception, because Fredette is now a national sensation (and frankly deservedly so) but Taylor did not even get named as a finalist for the Cousy Award. If nothing else, the win over Ohio State was a nationally televised announcement of how great he and Wisconsin can be.

Big Ten Blog

Player of the Week: Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor

Jon LeuerJon LeuerWisconsin had what appeared to be a challenging week on their hands with two games against Purdue and Michigan State, but exited it looking like a team ready to give Ohio State its toughest battle when the Buckeyes bring their undefeated record into the Kohl Center next Saturday. The one-two punch of Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor has the defensively focused Badgers capable of putting up big numbers on offense as well. The duo has scored an incredible 58 percent of Wisconsin’s points in Big Ten play, but that only is half the story. The two are playing at incredibly efficient rate for rate at which they are used offensively. Leuer has a true shooting percentage of 57.3 percent and Taylor is trumping him with a 3:1 assist-to-turnover rate to go with a true shooting percentage of 63.2 percent. In addition to being second in the Big Ten in scoring, Taylor is sixth in assists. This past week, the Badger leading men had to labor more than usual against Purdue. Leuer scored a game-high 24 points on 8-18 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds. Taylor had 15 points and 5 assists but was 4-13 shooting. They made up for it against Michigan State where they were tremendous. Taylor finished with 30 points on 9-13 shooting and added 6 assists. Leuer was 7-14 from the field and had 20 points and 6 rebounds.

Before the season, most basketball followers were well aware of the kind of player the Badgers had in Leuer, but Jordan Taylor was a bit of a question mark. He had a solid but unspectacular sophomore season and had to step into a bigger role to replace Trevon Hughes. Former Badger and Nets starting point guard Devin Harris suggested in an interview with the Wisconsin State journal last summer that Taylor would emerge as a point guard in the same way he did in his junior season, "He'll be able to do more things, when I was a sophomore and playing with Kirk (Penney) I couldn't do everything I wanted to do. By the time my junior year came around, it was my team and I relished the freedom." With the kind of season Taylor has put up, there is little doubt that he has made the same leap as a college point guard. His development has allowed this Badger team, which did not come into the year with especially high expectations on a national level, to be a real threat to go deep into March. If that happens, NBA scouts will have themselves a good extended look at a strong, skilled, and intelligent point guard who has flown completely under the radar despite playing at as high a level as any point guard since the calendar turned.

Big Ten Blog

Player of the Week

Darius Morris

Darius MorrisDarius MorrisFor the second time in two weeks, a Big Ten player recorded a triple-double. Josh Gasser finished with 10 point, 10 assists, and 12 rebounds against Northwestern. Darius Morris had a similar 12 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebound stat line on Sunday against Iowa. As impressive as that game is for Morris, it might not have been his best game of the week. Michigan went into East Lansing having not beaten Michigan State there since 1997, and Darius Morris led the Wolverines to victory over the Spartans. He finished with 17 points on 7-10 shooting, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. While the stat line itself might not appear to be greater than his game against Iowa, his points and assists Morris directly contributed to 39 of the team’s 61 points on the night. The one assist he recorded per create does not do his performance justice when so many of his assists went from three points. Morris has had a number of big games this year, but none were bigger than his game on Thursday night.

The week started for Morris with a team meeting where the players acknowledged that they had not been playing as hard as they could have been. The team had lost six games in a row, and the team appeared to be regressing. Those two games showed how good Michigan can play. Next week’s road games at Ohio State and Penn State take the challenge of the team to the next level.

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Talor Battle’s big second half

Ed DeChellis was 0-12 against Wisconsin since taking the Penn State job, and when down 29-20 to the Badgers appeared headed towards 0-13. Then, Talor Battle dropped in 20 of his 22 points in the second half while also adding 4 rebounds and an assist to lift the Nittany Lions to 5-4 in conference play. After struggling to a 1-5 shooting half, he finished 7-16 shooting. The win over Wisconsin capped off a big week for Penn State and Battle. Earlier in the week, Battle put in 23 points on 8-13 shooting in a 65-51 win over Iowa. At 4-1 at home in league play, Penn State is keeping itself in the mix for an NCAA bid. They have put together three good wins against Michigan State, Illinois, and Wisconsin to go with a solid non-conference win over now 15-5 Duquesne. They are probably still a long shot to make the real run for a tournament bid with the schedule they have remaining, but with 68 teams they have a better chance than two years ago.

Big Ten Blog

Player of the Week

Big Ten Blog

Player of the Week

Big Ten Blog

Player of the Week

Jared Sullinger

Jared SullingerJared SullingerIt has been rather easy to heap praise on Ohio State’s play so far this season, but please understand that it would be harder to ignore it. When facing Iowa on the road, the Buckeyes had a bit of a sleep walking start. The first half was slow and ugly on all counts, and Iowa went into the break with a 36-29 lead. Ohio State came out in the second half and rode Sullinger early and often. In the first nine minutes of the second half, Sullinger got a shot on nine of the team’s sixteen possessions, scored 11 points, and saw the Iowa seven point halftime lead turned into a seven point deficit. Sullinger finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds and Ohio State held on in what was for the most part a game worth forgetting. On Sunday against a very long Minnesota squad with a great matchup against Trevor Mbakwe, Sullinger did not have quite as dominant an effort but still very solid against a quality opponent. Mbakwe was his typical active self on both ends around the basket finishing with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and was able to block Sullinger’s shot three times. Still, the runaway freshman of the year finished with 15 points on 5-11 from the field and had 12 rebounds to help Ohio State escape another week undefeated.

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Ryne Smith

Last week’s blog noted the much appreciated offensive output from Ryne Smith in Purdue’s first two Big Ten games, but this week Smith was nothing short of tremendous at shooting. He was 11-14 from the field, all of which came from behind the arc. He was 5-5 from three for 20 points at Penn State, with 5-7 from the line to boot, and 6-9 shooting for 18 points against Iowa. His ascension as Purdue’s third scoring threat cannot be understated. On a day like Sunday where JaJuan Johnson and [Player: E’Twaun Moore] combine for 12-32 shooting, the Boilermakers could have been incredibly vulnerable. Smith’s six threes combined with a quality performance from Kelsey Barlow made it a no doubter.

Big Ten Blog

Player of the Week

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