Mid-Season Player of the Year
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
As our only two-time player of the week thus far, Swanigan was an frontrunner for this award, and the statistics and wins are there to back it up. He ranks 4th in the conference in scoring and with a Big Ten-leading 12.5 rebounds per game, he averages well over a double-double. He has expanded his range to become a much more consistent outside shooter this season, knocking down 11/21 3’s (52%). He became only the second major conference player, along with Blake Griffin, to record back to back 20 point-20 rebound games in the last 20 seasons. And he has led Purdue to a solid 11-2 start and a # 15 ranking. He’s even a deft passer and a greatly improved defender, so he’s more than deserving of even more recognition from this blog.
Peter Jok, Iowa
The runaway Big Ten scoring leader thus far has been sharpshooting 2-guard Peter Jok of Iowa, who has stepped up in a big way following the graduation of all 4 of his fellow starters last season. He’s done it efficiently, too, shooting 45% from the floor and 42% from outside. Iowa dropped 5 of 13 non-conference games, including a few they definitely shouldn’t have, but Peter Jok has been phenomenal.
Vic Law, Northwestern
Coming into this season, Vic Law was merely a promising role player as a freshman who was coming off an ACL tear, but this season, he has bounced back better than hardly anyone could have thought he would. His scoring average has risen from 7.0 to 13.7, his shooting percentage from 39% to 45%, and his 3-point percentage from 36% to 45%. He’s also the second-leading scorer on a Northwestern team that’s off to a surprise 11-2 start. This is a team that is in contention to finally break the glass ceiling and make the tournament, something that couldn’t be said if Law hadn’t had the resurgence he is having.
Rutgers and Minnesota
After Minnesota’s poor conference performance and eventual wholesale dismissal/suspension of several of their scholarship players, and after Rutgers general ineptitude, expectations were low for both teams coming into this season. But here we are on the eve of conference play and the two have a combined record of 23-3. Amir Coffey has been a freshman standout for the Gophers, while Rutgers has been led my sophomore star Corey Sanders and Kansas State transfer Nigel Johnson. The conference slate will make life exponentially more difficult as both squads have been relatively untested, but for them to have double-digits in the wins column before New Year’s is a feat in and of itself.
These Spartans are a far cry from the usual Tom Izzo-coached Big Ten title contender. They lost 5 of 13 non-conference games, and following the ankle injury to stellar freshman forward Miles Bridges, a rare bright spot on this roster, the wheels really started to come off. Their best win came against a post-Fred Van Vleet/Ron Baker era Wichita State team, and they lost to Northeastern and nearly Florida Gulf Coast. Most of their losses have been digestible but this team is not at all looking like a conference title contender or even a tournament team right now.
Expectations are never through the roof for Penn State’s basketball program, but with team leaders Shep Garner and Payton Banks being joined by a trio of 4-star freshmen in Tony Carr, Mike Watkins, and Lamar Stevens, this was supposed to at least be one of the more balance Nittany Lion teams in recent memory. It’s been anything but that, losing 5 games in non-conference, including ugly ones to George Mason and Albany. The talent is certainly there to pull them out of the cellar of the Big Ten, but this season is certainly trending in the direction of Disappointment.
First Team All-Big Ten
Second Team All-Big Ten