Player of the Week
Terran Petteway, Nebraska
Beating arguably the best unranked Big Ten team in Minnesota, Petteway scorched the Gophers for a career high 35 points on 10-15 shooting. His aggressive style led him to shoot 14 of Nebraska’s 33 total free throws. The Cornhuskers are lacking a dependable second scorer, so it’s been impressive that Petteway has been able to continuously deliver with defenses targeting him. He’s able to consistently create for himself when Nebraska becomes stagnant on offense.
He did struggle at Michigan, shooting 2-10 and finishing with 5 points, but no Cornhusker seemed to get comfortable early in the game and the rout was on 10 minutes into the first half.
Petteway is currently 5th in the Big Ten in field goal percentage and 6th in free throws made. Another metric, called “Usage Percentage,” has Petteway ranked as the 1st overall player in the conference. Personally, he doesn’t play enough minutes to justify the high amount of turnovers he commits (2.8/game). Yet Petteway followed up his career high with 18 points and, more importantly, another conference victory at home as Nebraska beat Indiana. Leading the charge when Nebraska was down by 16, Petteway hit a ridiculous step-back three to put Nebraska up 6 with just two minutes to play. Petteway’s game can best be described as controlled chaos. He seems to have a really short memory shooting the ball and sometimes seems like an 18-wheeler going downhill when going towards the hoop. Everything about Petteway’s game is unique, including his appearance. I think he’d be quicker if he got a haircut, but those dreads help personify Petteway’s game.
AJ Hammons, Purdue
More than anything, the clutch play of Hammons prevented every Purdue fan from pulling their hair out after Wednesday’s nail-biting win against Minnesota. With many empty possessions and missed opportunities at the free throw line, Hammons delivered in every crunch time situation. It was somewhat surprising to see Hammons have success against some quality big men in Elliott Eliason and Maurice Walker. Hammons finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and 6 blocks. Again, it’s never been a question of skill and ability with Hammons. The two main issues have been his health and his motor; sometimes, he seems disinterested, and someone with his talent can’t go missing in conference games. Earlier in the week, Hammons also posted another double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 12 boards in a loss at Penn State.
Tre Demps, Northwestern
This blog has previously chronicled the struggles of Demps. Giving credit where credit is due, Demps hit a big three-pointer against Minnesota to lift Northwestern to an improbable 5th Big Ten conference win. Demps has started to become a solid second or third option for Northwestern’s offense depending on how JerShon Cobb is contributing.
Demps does the little things well – he ranks 10th in the conference in turnover percentage and is consistently an above average defender. There’s really nothing flashy or eye-popping about Demps’ game. As a sophomore, there’s considerable room for improvement for Demps under the tutelage of Chris Collins. Demps also scored 10 points along with 5 assists in Northwestern’s unprecedented victory at the Kohl Center against Wisconsin. He’s had seven straight games of scoring in double digits and is a key piece to the Wildcats’ conference success.
Troy Williams, Indiana
This isn’t specifically because Williams has been playing poor lately. I just expected more from the freshman coming into this season. Whether it’s the high number of shots that Yogi Ferrell must take or the touches that Noah Vonleh gets in the post, Williams really hasn’t found his offensive game within the Hoosiers’ system. For averaging 20 minutes per game, Williams has only attempted 3 shots in the last 2 conference games. Sure, he only attempts 5.4 shots per game on the year, but teams are starting to play off Williams and focus more of their attention to doubling Ferrell or Vonleh. Williams is still making an impact on the glass (4.7 rebounds/game), but averaging 6.6 points per game isn’t enough with the type of skill set he has.
Jon Ekey, Illinois
It’s a full-blown, five-alarm Free Fall for the Illini. Ekey, a 5th year season who previously played at Illinois State, has registered 1 assist in 10 Big Ten conference games. He’s been adequate on both the offensive and defensive glass, but shooting 35% from the arc won’t cut it for his one dimensional offensive game. The Illini offense relies on three-point shooting, and Ekey has been too inconsistent and not valuable enough on offense to continue warranting the same amount of playing time.
Top 5 Coaching Performances of 2013-2014
1. John Beilein, Michigan
Losing Mitch McGary to a season-ending injury could have been fatal for the Wolverines. Beilein has done a tremendous job platooning Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan to make up for McGary’s absence. It always helps to have playmakers like Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Caris LaVert already familiar with Beilein’s system. But to currently be competing for a Big Ten Championship, Beilein had to get freshmen Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin comfortable and confident by conference play. Beilein has done so. Hats off to one of the nicest guys this conference has ever seen.
2. Chris Collins, Northwestern
I’d be shocked if any media pundit or Big Ten expert had more than 3 or 4 wins for the Wildcats before conference play started. Losing to Illinois State, N.C. State, and DePaul, it looked hopeless early on in the year. Collins has instilled his system, expectations, and attitude into a program that was in desperate need for any positive outcomes. To me, this season is a rousing success for Northwestern no matter what happens the rest of the year. The “T” word has become too frequent of a topic talked about around Evanston. I have all the faith in Collins to keep his team focused and direct the program in the right direction.
3. Tom Izzo, Michigan State
It’s admirable how consistent Izzo’s teams have been. Any Big Ten fan knows the simple formula for winning in East Lansing: Defense + Rebounding = Championships. With injuries to his two biggest and most talented post players, Izzo has extracted all possible value out of Matt Costello and freshman Gavin Schilling. Big Ten conference play is such a grind, yet Michigan State always finds a way to take care of business. That starts from the top, and Tom Izzo always has championship aspirations.
4. Richard Pitino, Minnesota
It seemed somewhat suspect when Tubby Smith was let go after winning a NCAA Tournament game last year at Minnesota. What can’t be ignored this year are the good coaching genes the Gophers inherited getting Rick Pitino’s son. Richard may not have as many Sonny Corleone attributes as Dad (could he pull off an all-mustard suit?), but his tenacity and grit is exemplified by how his players get after it on the court. In a current three game losing streak, this week (vs. Indiana, at Wisconsin) will be a great test for the young coach.
5. Fran McCaffery, Iowa
Talk about maximizing production – McCaffery has found a way to comfortably 9 to 10 guys into the rotation, and really does a wonderful job creating matchups that favor the Hawkeyes. This team can truly beat you in any way imaginable. Mike Gesell has done a good job pushing the ball up the floor to get athletes like Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White the ball. Gabriel Olaseni has been a great presence down in the post, and Melsahn Besabe and Aaron Woodbury are other big bodies that have helped control the glass during conference play. There’s enough tactical advantages from coaches calling good plays and basketball smarts from the players executing sets to give McCaffery lots of credit.
I'd attribute Michigans success to Stauskas' improvement more than JB's coaching. I don't know how you ever chose a better coach than Tom Izzo, especially considering the MULTIPLE injuries to key players, not just one.
How is Caris LeVert not on the who's hot list? After struggling for consistency, he's been a double digit scorer in 5 straight games...
Also the MSU injury bug is hugely overblown and mostly myth