Player of the Week
Miles Bridges, Michigan State
A ho-hum week for the Spartans led to a ho-hum pair of easy, expected victories and two ho-hum monster stat lines from All-American candidate Miles Bridges. 21 points and 5 boards pushed the Spartans to a 2-0 Big Ten record in a road win over Rutgers, then 17 and 11 with 6 assists led the charge over Southern Utah. Bridges’ shooting has been down a bit this season but the secret of him being one of the best players in the country is out, and defenses are keying in on him relentlessly. He was surprisingly quiet in wins over UNC and Notre Dame, so when he’s clicking on offense, this team can, and probably will, beat just about anyone. The Spartans are defending at an elite level nationally and Bridges is a huge part of that as he is a stud on the perimeter, using his length and athleticism to stay in front of his man.
Carsen Edwards, Purdue
Since the days of Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore, and JaJuan Johnson, the Boilermakers have been known for their outside shooting and post dominance. But along has come a player who can create his own shot with the best of them, and he is getting more experienced and mature every day. Carsen Edwards is now in his sophomore season, and this week alone, he averaged 20.5 points on 16/28 shooting. The Boilermakers first handed Valparaiso its first loss, then turned around and destroyed IUPUI on a night where guys like Dakota Mathias and PJ Thompson, backcourt guys normally reliable from outside, were not hitting shots, and it was in large part thanks to Edwards. He certainly takes a lot of gutsy shots but he’s getting better and more efficient with each week and has the potential to be a special player in this league.
Isaac Copeland, Nebraska
Two years ago, we saw Isaac Copeland playing significant minutes in a Georgetown Hoyas jersey. Now, the 6’9” junior transfer is making an immediate impact on the Nebraska front-line, most notably this past week where he scored 12 in a win over a ranked Minnesota team, then posted a 20-11 double-double in a tough loss to Creighton.
Kevin Huerter, Maryland
For a guy who takes the vast majority of his shots from outside, the 60% clip at which he connected this week was amazing. With 32 total points in wins over Ohio and Gardner-Webb, Huerter has become an all-conference candidate with his lights-out shooting. His 47% clip sits at 9th in the conference. But he’s more than just a three-shooter. His shot attempts per game remains the same as last season but his three point attempts per game are down so his three-shooting has seemed to slow down as he has become more comfortable driving to the hoop.
Reggie Lynch, Minnesota
The rough week that was for the Golden Gophers (two losses to unranked schools much more known for their work on the gridiron, followed by a narrow escape against DRAKE at HOME) coincided with a rough week for defensive ace Reggie Murphy, the big man in the middle. While scoring is not his biggest contribution, three single-digit performances from a guy averaging over 11 isn’t a great sign. Against Nebraska, he was hampered by 5 turnovers and 4 fouls. Against Arkansas, foul trouble limited him to 14 minutes of action. And though he played decently against Drake, the team as a whole struggled and Lynch only contributed 7 points on the offensive end, bringing his total over the week’s three games to a mere 21 points (7 PPG). The Gophers, once viewed as the Best Big Ten Team Not Located in East Lansing, Michigan, are on a tremendous backslide currently, only looking great against Rutgers in any game since their November 26th escape against a 3-man ranked Alabama team. They have the talent but right now it’s not coming together like they would like, and the 23-year-old senior needs to be a big part of the solution if things are going to get better.
Oh man, what has happened to these Badgers? Well, to a degree, the answer is simple: four of their 5 starters graduated, leaving Ethan Happ and a ragtag team of freshmen and sophomores around to pick up the pieces. But they’ve mostly dropped those pieces as even Happ has struggled. The Badgers have lost 7 of their 11 games, most recently a drubbing at the hands of state rival Marquette and a tough loss to Temple, an Atlantic 10 team. And to make matters worse, two players went down with injuries this week, D’Mitrik Trice and Kobe King, with Kind being ruled out for the season.
Top 5 Newcomers
1) Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State
The big man for the Spartans hasn’t always been consistent but his presence has allowed Nick Ward to move over to the 4 when they are on the court together and has given the Spartans an excellent rim protector as well, helping to spark the absolute dominance they have experienced on defense. Jackson is averaging 3 blocks per game, along with over 10 points and 7 rebounds, and while the 44% from the field or the bevy or bricked 3’s isn’t ideal for a post played, he’s made an immediate impact for the team that’s been the class of the conference as expected.
2) Charles Matthews, Michigan
The one-time Kentucky Wildcat understandably struggled to find minutes in Lexington, so he moved north to UM where he is now the #2 scorer for the Wolverines. He’s a strong guard on the wing, doing a great job of muscling his way inside on the drive and creating high-percentage looks for himself, which he has connected on to the tune of 55%. With 3.5 assists per game to boot, his passing has been phenomenal and he’s already averaging 14.6 PPG.
3) James Palmer Jr., Nebraska
Matthews and Palmer have been leaving the rest of new guys in the dust from a PPG standpoint, as this Miami transfer is averaging 14.2 a game. None of his numbers seem to jump off the page but he’s helping the Huskers stay competitive in, and even win games against quality opponents.
4) Kaleb Wesson, Oklahoma State
Though he hasn’t always been consistent and is regularly finding foul trouble and a struggles controlling the glass, Wesson is a big, physical post player who has the potential to be dominant by his senior year. Ohio State managed to start the conference season very strong with wins over Michigan and Wisconsin that jumped them to the top of the early standings. In those games, Wesson put up points and also put in two blocks in each. His shooting percentage is almost 60% and he should continue to learn how to be even more efficient against NCAA post players.
5) Bruno Fernando, Maryland
The freshman power forward missed some time this week, but on the year, his 10 points, 5 boards, 2 blocks and 61% from the field have been huge for the Terps who are looking to replace the production of key guys like Melo Trimble and Damonte Dodd. Fernando was a highly-touted recruit and now has a chance to be one of the Big Ten’s elite based off the level of play he is showing as a freshman.