Player of the Week
Marcus Carr (Jr., Minn.)
Marcus Carr continues to prove he is legit, and that his early season success is no fluke. He went for 32 points and 7 assists in 40 minutes in a 90-82 win over Saint Louis on 12/20, and then followed that up with a stellar performance against #4 Iowa on 12/25. In the Gopher upset over the Hawkeyes, Carr outplayed Luka Garza and was the best player on the floor, going for 30 points and six threes to go with 8 assists and 3 rebounds. He is currently averaging 24.6 points, 6.2 assists, and 3.8 rebounds this season and is one of, if not the most entertaining players to watch in the Big Ten conference.
While the season is still young, it really does appear that Juwan Howard is building something down in Ann Arbor. The Wolverine were selected to finish sixth in the Big Ten Preseason Media Poll, which takes the rankings from 28 writers around the Big Ten conference, but now find themselves sitting at 7-0, as the last remaining undefeated team in the best conference in college basketball this season. While they haven’t faced the toughest competition yet, with their most notable wins including victories over Oakland, UCF, and most recently, Penn State and Nebraska, the Wolverines have relied on their dynamic duo of sweet-shooting senior forward Isaiah Livers (15.4 points per game, 42.1 3P%), and big-bodied freshman revelation Hunter Dickinson (15.3 points per game, 1.7 blocks per game). For a team that many thought would struggle to find an identity without a household name, the Michigan Wolverines have been a pleasant surprise and appear to be much more of a threat come NCAA tournament time than many people initially thought.
D'Mitrik Trice (Sr., Wisc.)
Trice, the veteran senior guard trusted with the task of running Greg Gard’s offense this season, had his first breakout performance of the season in the Badgers huge win over Michigan State on 12/25. The 6’0 guard from Huber Heights, Ohio and IMG Academy lit up the #12 Spartans for 29 points on 11/15 shooting from the field, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. With other usual contributors such as Brad Davison, Micah Potter, and Nate Reuvers struggling and combining for only 30 points between the three of them on 10/22 shooting, there truly could not have been a better time for Trice to catch fire and become the focal point of the Badger offense. Trice and Spartan’s forward Joey Hauser were the two stars of the night, as Hauser went for 27 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists, but did not get enough help from his supporting cast to get the dub. This game was a perfect example of how Wisconsin wins games; they use their balanced, deep rotation to find the hot-hand in every game, and run the offense through that person. Against Michigan State, the hot-hand was D’Mitrik Trice, and his offensive prowess helped carry his team to a marquee win in this early season.
Quietly, the underrated Wildcats are 6-1 on the year. Similar to Wisconsin, Northwestern boasts a balanced offensive attack, featuring four different players averaging at least 10 points per game. They are lethal behind the arc, ranking second in the Big Ten in team three-point field goal percentage, and their two leading scorers, Miller Kopp (15.1 points per game) and Boo Buie (14.4 points pe game) are both shooting the three-ball at a clip better than 50%. The results have been right there with the positive stats as well. Northwestern is 6-1 on the season and 3-0 in Big Ten play, with three straight wins over #4 Michigan State (12/20), Indiana (12/23), and #23 Ohio State (12/26). With a victory over #4 Iowa on 12/29, the Wildcats could move to 4-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1967. After making the tournament for the first time in its 77-year history in 2017, Chris Collins is seemingly ready to take this program to the next step and start making noise in the conference and in postseason play as well.
Despite having an above-average roster featuring one of the best big men in the country in Trayce Jackson-Davis, coach Archie Miller and the Hoosiers find themselves at 5-4, and 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 2016-2017, when the Hoosiers finished 18-16 and tied for 10th in the conference. The Hoosiers lost to Northwestern on 12/23, and lost by seven points in a game where they shot the ball well from everywhere except the free-throw line. Losing a winnable game by seven points due to 6 missed free throws is a tough look for a team that is going to have to fight to earn their tournament spot. Three days later, Indiana took on Illinois, in a game where no Hoosier could get anything going on offense, and had no answers for the Illinois stars on the defensive end. The Hoosiers are talented, and the season is still young, but if unless something changes, the Hoosiers are digging themselves a hole that is becoming more difficult to get out of with each loss.
Michigan State Spartans
Tom Izzo and his team are 0-2 in conference play for the first time since the 2006-2007 season, a year where the Spartans finished with 8 of their 10 losses coming in Big Ten play and were outed in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament. With the way MSU has looked to start the season, it appears as if they are on track for a season similar to 2006-2007. The Spartans were flat-out outplayed by Northwestern on 12/20, where they shot 38% from the field and allowed the Wildcats to shoot 53%. The leading scorer for the Spartans had 11 points. 5 days later, they faced off in an important early season matchup between another ranked opponent in #9 Wisconsin where they played decently, but once again were thoroughly outplayed in too many facets of the game for them to overcome. Great coaches are able to figure out and make the necessary adjustments, though, and Michigan State has a great coach in Tom Izzo. Michigan State may need some time to figure out their identity as a team this year, but there is not a doubt in my mind that they will be ready to compete for a title come March.
Aaron Henry (Jr., Mich St.)
After averaging over 20 minutes per game in both of his first two seasons in East Lansing and nearly declaring for the NBA draft after his sophomore year, many people thought Aaron Henry’s familiarity with the college game would result in him making a large jump in production and becoming one of the premier players in the Big Ten this season. He was named to the 2021 Preseason All-Big Ten Team, and figured to be one of the most well-known and feared players in the country. While Henry has remained an impact player, it is safe to say the expected results have just not been there for the 6’6, 210-pound junior from Indianapolis. Henry is averaging 12 points this season on 40% shooting (including an astonishing 13% from behind the arc), 5.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists. His field goal percentage and three-point percentages have gone down since last year, while his turnovers per game average has increased this season, thanks in part to a six-turnover performance against Oakland, and a seven-turnover performance against Wisconsin. Thanks to his defensive prowess (1.8 steals per game, 1.5 blocks per game), Henry will remain an enticing NBA prospect, but his offensive regression will put a huge dent in his value.
Top 5 Best Guards in the Big Ten (so far)
5. [Boo Buie] (So., Northwestern)
Even after a promising freshman campaign where he averaged 10 points in 25 minutes, the 6’2 sophomore guard still remains unknown in the college basketball landscape. This year, Buie is averaging 14.4 points (46% from the field and 50% from three), 5.3 assists, and 2.7 rebounds, and is one of the main reasons Northwestern has quietly been one of the top teams in the B1G so far.
4. Joe Wieskamp (Jr., Iowa)
The 6’6, 200-pound junior could be considered a forward, but he is featured on Iowa’s official website as well as ESPN as a guard, so he meets the criteria to be on this list. Wieskamp is averaging 15.8 points on nearly 50% shooting from both the field and behind the arc, to go with 7 rebounds and 1.8 assists. He is usually the second option in Fran McCaffrey’s offense behind Luka Garza, and is reaping the benefits of it, as his stats in virtually every category have improved in his junior campaign.
3. Jacob Young (Sr., Rutgers)
Flourishing behind the emergence of Ron Harper Jr., Scarlet Knights senior guard Jacob Young is putting himself in fantastic position to win the non-existent Big Ten Most Improved Player award. If it were real, there would be few players with a better argument than the transfer from Texas. After averaging 8.5 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in his first season in New Brunswick, Young has been a revelation in 2020-21. His scoring doubled from 8.5 to 16 points per game, his assists have increased from two to nearly six per game, and he is averaging a whopping 2.4 steals per game after only averaging one last season. The drastic uptick in production by Jacob Young is extremely impressive and will definitely allow the senior guard to pursue an NBA career after he finishes at Rutgers.
2. Marcus Carr (Jr., Minnesota)
Carr has been absolutely lighting up defenses this season, averaging 24.6 points per game on 48% shooting. Carr is second in scoring in the conference, trailing only Luka Garza, and leads the conference in assists per game with 6.2. In Minnesota’s upset win against Garza and #4 Iowa, Carr was the best player on the floor, going for 30 points and 8 assists with six threes. After nearly leaving school for the NBA after this past season, Carr has been absolutely on fire as a junior, with three 30+ point performances under his belt already and no game scoring under 15 points. Minnesota will go as far as Carr will take them, and there hasn’t been anybody capable of stopping him so far.
1. Ayo Dosunmu (Jr., Illinois)
A 6’5 junior from Chicago and former five-star recruit, Dosunmu chose to stay home and attend Illinois in an effort to build up his hometown program. Dosunmu has done just that, as his commitment caused big-time recruits such as Kofi Cockburn and Adam Miller to join him on the Illini. Even with the influx of talent, Dosunmu has remained the top guy, averaging 24.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 5.2 assists on 52% shooting from the field and 44.4% from behind the arc. Dosunmu is an athletic freak who has the efficiency and shooting touch to go with it that makes him nearly unstoppable on the offensive end. He is a matchup nightmare for all teams, and for that reason is the best guard in the Big Ten conference.