Player of the Week
Trey Burke, Michigan
Just one game into the Big Ten schedule, Burke already is making a case for player of the year. He was clearly the most dominant player on the court Thursday against shorthanded Northwestern, and pretty much did whatever he wanted. Dave Sobolewski will have nightmares about Burke crossing him over time after time for a while. There was one instance in the first half when Burke had 13 of Michigan’s first 16 points, drew four defenders on the perimeter, promptly split them with a behind-the-back move and found Nik Stauskas for an open 3-pointer in the corner. The No. 2 Wolverines (14-0) led 25-9 at that point and went on to win 94-66 against the undermanned Wildcats.
Burke might be the best in the country at getting into the lane and scoring against bigger defenders — when he doesn’t make a pretty pass for another player’s benefit. Some NBA scouts worry because Burke is only 5-11, but he constantly finds success after creating contact off the dribble and lofts shots over forwards, which find the bottom of the net after kissing the glass. He ranks third in Big Ten scoring (18.1 ppg), first in assists (7.2 apg) and second in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.7).
Burke, who finished with a game-high 23 points, also had five assists and four steals in Evanston. His early scoring output transitioned into a distributing role later on, when defenders started to pay extra attention to him. It led to all five Michigan starters scoring in double figures in another impressive win for the Wolverines, who have a chance to prove their spot at the top of the conference in upcoming road games against Ohio State (Jan. 13), Minnesota (Jan. 17) and Illinois (Jan. 27). Also, circle Feb. 2 at Indiana on your calendars.
Terone Johnson, Purdue
Who saw this coming? Johnson tallied a career-high 25 points Thursday as the Boilermakers beat Illinois for the eight consecutive time. The junior guard had nine points in the game’s decisive 22-4 run from the 11:39 mark in the second half to 2:37. Johnson shot 9-of-18 from the field, eclipsing the .500 mark for only the third time this season. He also grabbed nine rebounds. This is the type of play Purdue (7-6) needs from Johnson and fellow veteran D.J. Byrd (15 points, four 3-pointers) to stick around in the Big Ten hunt.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
Thomas outscored Nebraska 18-17 in the first half Wednesday on his way to finishing with a game-high 22 points during a 70-44 blowout in Columbus. He got a lot of open looks on fast breaks and was able to shoot over the smaller Huskers on the perimeter, making 2-of-4 from long range. Ten of his points came off assists from Aaron Craft, who didn’t score but finished with eight helpers. The versatile Thomas continues to lead the conference in scoring at 19.9 ppg.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana
Oladipo has been the Hoosiers’ most consistent player this season. He brings an unmatched energy to the floor and it’s noticeable in the way he gets up and down to give max effort on both ends. Oladipo has scored 14 points or more in Indiana’s past eight games, including Monday’s 69-65 win at Iowa in the Big Ten opener. He also grabbed 10 rebounds against the Hawkeyes. Oladipo shot 6-of-10 from the field and continues to lead the Big Ten in field goal percentage by more than 4 percent at .673.
Andre Hollins, Minnesota
Hollins helped drive the Gophers to a signature win to start Big Ten play Monday against Michigan State, tallying 22 points and six assists on 7-of-10 shooting field. When Minnesota needed a bucket, Hollins delivered. His signature move is becoming the step-back jumper, something he utilized multiple times against the Spartans in the 76-63 win. He also went 7-for-7 from the foul line.
Jordan Hulls, Indiana
Hulls just couldn’t get anything to fall Monday at Iowa, going 0-for-10 from the field and not scoring despite having multiple open looks he usually buries. He helped other Hoosiers get involved, though, and finished with six assists and no turnovers. Chalk this one up to a bad game for the senior, who still ranks second in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting percentage at .514 despite his 0-for-4 effort in Iowa City.
Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa
Iowa likely would’ve upset the Hoosiers on Monday if Marble had any semblance of a good shooting day. Instead, he went 1-for-14 from the field and 0-for-4 from long range. He got 12 of his 14 points at the free-throw line and collected nine rebounds. Still, this is not a good sign for Iowa fans moving forward if Marble continues to struggle. He’s 5-for-23 from the field the past two games and has missed his last eight 3-point attempts. He’s prone to those type of games because he continues to force shots even when they’re not falling. The Hawkeyes would’ve benefited from Marble handing the ball off to others rather than continuing to lower his field-goal percentage, which sits at .422.
Top five teams heading into Big Ten play
The conference’s lone undefeated team seems to have it all going — an unmatched floor general in Trey Burke, a go-to wing guy in Tim Hardaway Jr., an athletic specimen in Glenn Robinson III, and one of the country’s top 3-point specialists in Nik Stauskas. Add in a talented bench, and look out. They could use some more height at times, but it won’t matter if they keep up the layup line.
The Hoosiers might not be as good as everybody thought coming into the season, but if Cody Zeller steps it up, they can be. Victor Oladipo has been the team’s best player as of late. Once they put it together, they’re right up there.
The crazy-athletic Gophers will contend for a title — that’s clear already. They can wear out teams down low with Trevor Mbakwe and have a great backcourt with Andre and Austin Hollins leading the show. Rodney Williams has been the glue guy doing dirty work at the four spot, and it will just come down to how much bench production they can get from guys like Julian Welch, Maverick Ahanmisi and Maurice Walker.
The Buckeyes have the top scorer in the conference in Deshaun Thomas and a guy to feed him the ball in Aaron Craft — but who else will step up and score? Lenzelle Smith and Craft must contribute more.
A torrid start led by player of the year candidate Brandon Paul skyrocketed expectations, but recent shooting slumps in the backcourt and inconsistent frontcourt play have revealed why some had the Illini further down in the pecking order to begin the season.
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