Player of the Week:

Coleman Hawkins, Illinois

Hawkins and the Illini were able to pick up some high-scoring wins this past week and get back on track after their loss to Penn State. The Illini offensively have looked the part all season long and the wins over Iowa and Minnesota were exemplary of that, they scored 200 points exactly between the two games and Hawkins scored 25% of all those points. I think it’s relatively safe to say that Hawkins is the X-Factor for Illinois, as Shannon and Domask seem to get theirs every night. Hawkins will be the player that must be elite in the tournament to win games because, frankly, despite their high-scoring offense, this team is not winning games by as much as they should be. They haven’t won a game by more than 10 points since their game against bottom-feeder Michigan, and the choke session that occurred against Penn State is still fresh in the minds of players and fan alike. That being said, Coleman Hawkins is an NBA talent player who could be an awesome complimentary scoring wing for a team.

Who’s Hot?

Ohio State Buckeyes

The Bucks are now 3-1 in the Jake Diebler era of Columbus basketball and those three wins have all come against projected tournament teams. What are they cooking? Well, for starters, Jamison Battle just went off against Nebraska. He scored a season-high 32 points and has seemed rejuvenated since Holtmann’s firing just two weeks ago. While Ohio State enters the final week of regular season play in the bottom four in the conference, they seem to be putting things together at the right time and could win a few games in the conference tournament. While tournament hopes are certainly a longshot, they could make a little noise in the postseason riding this wave of momentum.

Northwestern Wildcats

And just like that, they’re in the top 3. They’ve been hanging around all season long and not a soul has dared to mention them as legitimate contenders for the BIG10 crown since the season started. They just picked up their 20th win of the season, marking only the 6th time in school history to accomplish that feat. It’s not an over exaggeration when I say that Boo Buie has completely changed the dynamic of Northwestern men’s hoops and elevated them to being a perennial contender in the conference. It all makes sense too; Chicago is home to some of the best hoopers in the world and is inherently a basketball town. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this is just the start of something special in Evanston.

Who’s Not?

Minnesota Golden Gophers

The Gophers have slid significantly far from their NCAA tourney goals from just a week ago or so, and unfortunately, they don’t look like they’ll be reaching the tournament despite the great turnaround they’ve made this year… or will they? Maybe I’m crazy, but I feel like despite the three straight losses this team is too good to NOT make a run in the conference tournament. You’ve got excellent scoring between Dawson Garcia and Cam Christie, you’ve got the playmaking of Elijah Hawkins, you’ve got frontcourt depth and a decent bench. I don’t know, it does seem like it’ll be an NIT year for Minnesota but if they rattle off three wins to end the year they’ll likely get a shot to play one of the top dogs in the first round and keep in mind that the BIG10 tournament will be held in Minneapolis this year, so they’re essentially going to be playing home games the whole time… stay tuned.

Wisconsin Badgers

6 losses in 8 games for the Badgers and the most Wisconsin-esque thing about this team is that their defense is reminiscent of Swiss Cheese. Their offense remains efficient, still ranked number 16 in the country, but the Badgers just cannot finish games or pick up any key wins. Chucky Hepburn said it best to sum up the season: “This is the same thing we had to battle last year, and we have older players now. We would hope that we got it down by now, but we don’t.” Pretty bold for a star player to say mid-slide for a team that was ranked 6th in the country just a few weeks ago. It seems like every time Wisconsin has a shot in these games, that offense that’s been so efficient vanishes, and the streak couldn’t have come at an absolute worse time for the Badger faithful.

Power Rankings

5: Iowa Hawkeyes

Day by day they seem to be getting closer to making the tournament, certainly a fringe team but they’re well on their way to having
a shot.

4: Nebraska Cornhuskers

Siri, play Landslide by Fleetwood Mac.

3: Northwestern Wildcats

Siri, play Homecoming by Kanye West.

2: Illinois Fighting Illini

Illini are back on track, the collision course is set.

1: Purdue Boilermakers

Choo choo!

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