Player of the Week
Keith Appling, Michigan State
Appling helped the Spartans avoid back-to-back 0-2 starts for the first time since 1899 and 1900 – the first two years of the program’s existence – with a great performance Tuesday against Kansas.
The 6-1 junior scored 19 points in the 67-64 win against the seventh-ranked Jayhawks, flashing some well-timed offense down the stretch. Appling made all three of his 3-point attempts, went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line, and 6-for-9 from the field all together. He also added three assists, two rebounds and three steals.
Appling had two of the night’s best plays, each involving a pick set by Derrick Nix on the perimeter. In the first half, he gladly took 7-foot Jeff Withey off the dribble toward the left side of the basket, then placed the ball brilliantly over Withey and help-side defender Perry Willis, a 6-8 freshman. The ball ended up in a spot where only teammate Adreian Payne could grab it for a dunk. In the second half, with the Spartans leading 62-61, Appling used a Nix pick to lull Elijah Johnson to sleep and buried an open 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 65-61 with 1:35 left.
Appling showed a little rust in the Spartans’ opener, a 66-62 loss against Connecticut last Friday in Germany. He wasn’t bad, putting up 17 points with four assists, three rebounds and a steal, but had a less-than-desirable 7-for-17 shooting night. He’s totaled seven assists to just three turnovers in the Spartans’ first two games and already has shown some improvement on offense. Now, the team’s schedule begins to get a little more manageable, with home games coming up against Texas Southern, Boise State, and Oakland next week.
Cody Zeller, Indiana
The preseason national player of the year has picked up where he left off last year. Through three games, the sophomore is shooting 21-of-28 (75 percent) after leading the Big Ten and ranking fourth in the NCAA last season at 62.3 percent. He’s getting a lot of easy dunks and layups against inferior opponents, but that’s still quite a mark to build upon. He’s no slouch on defense either, totaling two blocks apiece in the first three games.
Zeller began the season with a double-double (18-10) against Bryant, then put up 22-9 Monday against North Dakota State. In Thursday’s 99-45 blowout of Sam Houston State, Zeller tallied 13 and seven in only 22 minutes. It’s the first time since 1979-80 Indiana has defeated its first three opponents by at least 25 points apiece.
Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan junior
Granted, Michigan’s opponents haven’t quite measured up, but Hardway Jr. could be showing some shooting improvement. He’s 8-for-11 on 3-pointers after making just 28 percent last year. He hit his first five in a 25-point outburst in the season opener against Slippery Rock, then went 3-for-6 against Cleveland State on Tuesday.
Overall, Hardaway is averaging 17.3 ppg on 18-for-27 (66.7 percent) shooting, as well as 7.7 rpg and 3 apg. All of those are above his marks from last season by quite a bit. Consistency has been a problem for Hardaway, especially after his explosive start last season, but he has more around him this year — defenses will have to pick their poison when it comes to the Wolverines’ offense.
Rodney Williams, Minnesota
Williams is ruling the paint for the 3-0 Gophers. Starting alongside Elliott Eliason in the frontcourt, the senior is shooting 19-for-24 (80 percent) from the field, averaging 14.3 ppg and 6.7 rpg. He also has has six total steals in past two games. The high-flying 6-7 forward had five dunks Thursday night against Tennessee State and now has 108 for his career.
George Marshall, Wisconsin
The 5-11 redshirt freshman hasn’t quite settled into his starting role yet for the 1-1 Badgers, who fell 74-56 at Florida on Wednesday night. In two games, he has just four total assists compared to three turnovers. Marshall scored five points in the opener against Southeast Louisiana and three vs. Florida. He’s shot just 3-of-10 from the field, including 2-of-9 from 3-point range.
Marshall needs to get into the lane to help the offensively-challenged Badgers to score more points. Marshall has a tough task in replacing Jordan Taylor, one of the top points guards in NCAA history, but his team will need more to compete at the top half of the Big Ten this season. This includes defense, where the Badgers seem to have lost a step from their stifling unit a year ago.
Julian Welch, Minnesota
The 6-3 senior sixth-man played just 8 minutes in the opening blowout win Friday against Southern after getting into foul trouble, then shot just 1-for-6 in the 82-56 win vs. Toledo on Monday. Welch went 1-for-4 Thursday night against Tennessee State for three points and committed three turnovers. Through three games, he’s averaging only 3.66 points (almost six less than his 9.5 ppg mark last year), and is shooting just 3-for-12 (25 percent). His 7-5 assist to turnover ratio doesn’t bode well, either.
Josh Oglesby, Iowa
The sophomore, who averaged 6.4 ppg and 1.7 rpg a year ago, is just 1-for-12 from the field this year and has played sparingly. His minutes are down from 18.7 to 10.0 with the addition of two freshmen guards, and he shot 0-for-5 Thursday night in a 66-36 win against Howard. All of his attempts have been 3-pointers, where he shot 37.2 percent last season, making 45-of-121. There just might not be room for Oglesby in Fran McCaffery’s offense this season, as freshman shooting guard Anthony Clemmons continues to get comfortable and takes bench minutes.
Top five freshmen first-week debuts
1. Glenn Robinson III, Michigan
The 6-6 St. John, Ind., product is hardly looking like a freshman in his first three games – all Wolverine blowouts. He’s averaging 13.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg, and has shot 65.2 from field in first three while averaging 31.0 mpg as a starter. Robinson is getting a lot of easy looks because of the point guard aptitude of Trey Burke, but he’s also showing some range, going 3-for-6 from deep.
2. Gary Harris, Michigan State
The starting freshman guard bounced back from a disappointing first game by scoring 18 points against Kansas on Tuesday night, showing flashes of what Spartan fans are so excited about. Harris is a smooth scoring guard who can get into the lane and wreak havoc on opposing defenses with his athleticism. He can create contact or avoid defenders with his jumping ability. He played 35 minutes against Kansas, shooting 7-of-12. He didn’t have any assists, but teammate Appling mostly is tagged with that responsibility.
Harris shot just 4-for-13 against Connecticut, which likely can be attributed to first-game jitters. But he didn’t turn the ball over, an encouraging sign. This won’t be the last you’ll hear from the starting guard, who has a chance to be the top Michigan State freshman since Marcus Taylor in 2000-01.
3. Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Stauskas has been instant offense for Michigan in his first three collegiate games. The 6-6 guard from Mississauga, Ontario is averaging 11 points per game off the Wolverines bench in the first three games, and has shot 7-of-10 from deep in 23.3 mpg. His point total has improved each game (7, 11, 15). It’s still yet to be seen what kind of impact he makes when the bench gets shorter, but for now, he’s Michigan’s top non-starting 3-point threat.
4. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
The 6-7 Dekker, from Sheboygan, Wis., gives Bo Ryan a legitimate scoring option off the bench. He played 20 minutes at Florida and scored 11 points – joining Jared Berggren as the only Badger in double figures. He’ll be much needed this season with Josh Gasser’s shooting gone for the season. Dekker has some distributing ability as well, so don’t be surprised if the freshman is starting ahead of taller sophomore Frank Kaminsky by the end of the season.
5. Ronnie Johnson, Purdue
Terone’s brother is tasked with the responsibility of leading a less-than-stellar Boilermakers team at point guard. Ronnie has been spotty thus far, but has shown the promise that earned Matt Painter’s trust. Like any freshman point guard, he needs to learn to slow down and play under control. He has a team-high 11 turnovers through three games, including four in Thursday night’s 89-81 overtime loss against Villanova. He’s also jacked a team-high 13 3-pointers and only made one. But Johnson also has 18 assists to lead the team – nine in Thursday night’s loss.