Player of the Week
Draymond Green, Michigan State
The Spartans’ leader shook off a rough outing Jan. 17 at Michigan by spurring his team to consecutive home wins the past week: 83-58 against Purdue and 68-52 vs. Minnesota. The latter earned coach Tom Izzo his 400th win, 86 of which Green has been around for during his four seasons.
The 6-7, 235-pound, agile bruiser put up 22 points, 14 rebounds and six assists on 9-of-11 shooting against the Gophers. It got Green back on the double-double track after his first two-game stretch of single-digit points. It was his first 20-point outburst since Jan. 10 vs. Iowa and fourth of the season. He collected double-digit rebounds for the sixth consecutive game. Green, who averages 10.4 per game, is nearing Trevor Mbakwe’s 10.5 average last season – the highest in the Big Ten since Reggie Evans’ monstrous 11.1 per game in 2001-02 for Iowa.
As Green goes, so goes the Spartans. They’re an undefeated 9-0 when Green scores more than 14 points.
Brandon Richardson, Nebraska
The Huskers senior was flat-out deadly on Thursday night in Iowa City, hitting 6-of-7 from downtown and 9-of-10 shots overall, pretty much single-handily leading Nebraska to a 79-73 win against the Hawkeyes. Along with a career-high 25 points, Richardson, a 6-foot senior guard from Los Angeles, added six rebounds, five assists, two steals and just one turnover for a highly-efficient outing.
Iowa’s lethargic defense probably had a bit to do with his offensive explosion, but Richardson took advantage for one of the most impressive performances in the league thus far. It came just four games after he was held scoreless Jan. 15 at Wisconsin in an ugly 50-45 loss. Richardson hadn’t scored in double figures since Jan. 7 at Illinois, and was averaging just 4.8 points in his previous four outings. Even more surprising was his 3-point proficiency, as he came in shooting just 12-of-40 (30 percent) from beyond the arc this season and was only a 29.4 percent shooter from there for his career. He had only hit the 20-point plateau only once before, and his six rebounds also tied a season high.
Zach McCabe, Iowa
The 6-7 sophomore forward matched a career high set in his previous game Thursday by posting 20 points in a 79-73 loss against Nebraska. His other career game came in another close loss – 75-68 Tuesday at Purdue. He shot 9-of-11 against the Huskers, and grabbed six rebounds before fouling out for the third time this season. In the last three games, McCabe’s hit 20-of-29 shots (69 percent), while averaging 17 points and six rebounds. He’s also displayed some range, knocking down 5-of-8 from 3-point distance.
Austin Hollins, Minnesota
Hollins made the “hot” list last week, but finds himself here after a poor outing against Michigan State on Wednesday in which he didn’t score for the first time this season. The 6-4 sophomore shot just twice – both threes – and was just kind of “there” for 23 minutes, not really doing much.
Melsahn Basabe, Iowa
After experiencing somewhat of a resurgence at the start of the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten slate, the sophomore slump has escalated for the 6-7 forward in his past six games, four of which featured a no-point, two-point and back-to-back 1-point performances from Basabe. He’s essentially done a disappearing act in the Hawkeyes’ last two games, not attempting a shot and collecting a total of just three rebounds while playing 7 and 13 minutes against Purdue and Nebraska, respectively.
This comes after a freshman year in which Basabe shot the ball 7.4 times per game – now it’s down to 6.2. His field-goal percentage is down almost 7 percent from last season, and his points per game (8.2) are down almost three per contest.
Cody Zeller, Indiana
It might be just a one-game funk, but Zeller was ineffective Thursday at the Kohl Center during the Hoosiers’ 57-50 loss against Wisconsin. He got into foul trouble, resulting in a season-low 19 minutes and seven points, his lowest since his Big Ten debut of four at Michigan State on Dec. 28.
Top five toughest places to play
1. Wisconsin’s Kohl Center
Why was it so shocking when the Badgers lost their first pair of Big Ten home games to Iowa and Michigan State? They’d dropped just six conference home games in 11 years, then went out this season and dropped two in a matter of four days. Their winning percentage at the 17,230-seat arena opened in 1998 still sits at .884, including a 163-14 (.920) mark in coach Bo Ryan’s 11 seasons. Add to that an 81-8 record against Big Ten opponents and 26-9 showing against Top 25 foes (third-best in nation behind Kansas and Duke over the span), and it’s safe to say that there’s just something about Kohl Center that typically makes good teams fall flat.
2. Indiana’s Assembly Hall
The Hoosiers are finally back, and a lot of it this season is due to the iconic, 17,456-seat madhouse where they’ve gone 12-1. It opened in 1971 and has seen three national title teams inhabit the Bloomington building since then. The arena is on its way out with a replacement in the works, but the odd design of this place, with fans baring down from either side of the court and odd sightlines, makes it one of the toughest – and loudest – places to play in the country.
3. Michigan State’s Breslin Center
The Spartans are 13-0 there this season and 306-44 (.874) all-time. Coach Tom Izzo is 232-29 (.889). The student section, dubbed the “Izzone” surrounds the floor and is far from cordial to visitors at the 14,797-seat, 23-year-old arena in East Lansing. The fans stretch to the ceiling in the bowl-shaped building, casting an intimidating shadow toward opponents.
4. Ohio State’s Value City Arena
Coach Thad Matta has had some really good teams during his eight seasons in Columbus, and they always are nearly unbeatable at the 18,809-capacity events center that opened in 1998. The Buckeyes are 14-0 there this season after last season’s perfect 20-game run and haven’t lost on their home floor since February 2010, a string of 37 victories. It’s the second-longest home winning streak in Ohio State history, behind a 50-gamer between 1959 and 1964. Matta has a winning percentage of .930 at the arena, and his teams have gone 52-1 at home in the past three seasons. His 134 home wins since taking over in 2004-05 are the most by any Big Ten school in that span.
5. Illinois’ Assembly Hall
I can see why a giant student section in all orange would distract a few opponents over the years. Opened in 1963, it now has a capacity of 16,618 and is where the Illini have gone 11-1 this season and 14-2 last year. Illinois had its 14-game home winning streak snapped this past week by Wisconsin, the first unranked team to win in Champaign since 1997. The Illini have a winning percentage of .869 at home since 1999, going 166-25 there in the past 12 and a half seasons.