Player of the Week
AJ Hammons, Purdue
Recent weeks have been a battle between Hammons and Denzel Valentine for conference POY honors. The bigman rebounded, blocked and scored his way to a second consecutive Player of the Week nod. He nearly led his team to a huge road upset of Maryland, scoring 18 points and adding 10 rebounds, before helping to earn a huge overtime win over Michigan State as he posted a near-triple-double of 19 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 blocks.
Hammons currently sits at second in the Big Ten in blocks and rebounds and anchors one of the nation’s best defenses. In his last 3 games, Hammons has been dominant, averaging 23 PPG, over 11 RPG, 4 BPG, and nearly 3 APG while shooting 63%. It’s up to the rest of the team to keep feeding the beast.
Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin
The Badgers are surging back into the tournament picture, and at the forefront is their star forward, Nigel Hayes. Hayes had two more 20+ point games this week as Wisconsin defended its home court against pesky Ohio State and Nebraska teams. In this six-game win streak, Hayes has averaged 21.5 PPG with a whopping 10 free throw attempts per game. This puts Hayes at 6th in the conference in scoring, and it puts the Badgers well within striking distance of a tournament bid after an overwhelmingly mediocre start to the season.
JaQuan Lyle, Ohio State
Since his January 13th triple-double, Lyle hit a rough stretch of games in which he didn’t score in double figures for 5 straight contests. But this week, Lyle averaged 21.5 points in 2 games on 52% shooting. He’s a freshman, but he looks like a man, and right now, he’s playing like one. Despite Lyle’s efforts, they dropped a tough one to Wisconsin to put them well behind the eight ball in the NCAA tournament discussion. But with the play of Lyle, the future is bright for Thad Matta’s squad.
Kendrick Nunn, Illinois
It’s now been a month since the Illini have won a game in regulation (with their only wins coming in overtime against Rutgers and Minnesota), and part of that streak is due to the regression of star guard Kendrick Nunn. In the recent weeks since the Purdue upset, Nunn has only shot over 40% in a game one time (47% against Ohio State) and his scoring average has dropped about 3 points per game in that span. This week, he managed only 6 against Iowa, his first single-digit scoring performance since last March. This season is all but lost for the Illini, but they have the talent to still surprise teams like they did Purdue. But right now, Kendrick Nunn is looking a bit off and doesn’t appear to be turning a corner.
Eron Harris, Michigan State
The position of “Denzel Valentine’s Wingman” was expected to be filled this season by Harris, the high-scoring West Virginia transfer, but that role has instead been filled by Bryn Forbes for much of the year. Harris has had moments of brilliance, but hasn’t put up the numbers he did as a Mountaineer. This week, as MSU split games against Northwestern and Purdue, Harris only managed 13 total points on 3/15 shooting, and has connected on only 27% of his shot attempts in his last 5 games. A third big-time scorer would be huge for the Spartans, but right now, Harris’ numbers are down (17.2 PPG and 44% from the field as a freshman at WVU vs. 9.4 PPG and 42% from the field as a junior at MSU). He put up a ton of points with Valentine sidelined, and the Spartans honestly don’t always need him to score much to pull out the win, but there haven’t been a whole lot of flashes from him in conference play, particularly in this 4-4 streak of Michigan State’s
Top 5 Leaders
Unlike points or rebounds, leadership is a largely non-measurable trait, but in a conference like the Big Ten known for gritty, hard-nosed basketball, most every team has that wily veteran, that senior captain who helps the team keeps it composure and makes big plays at key moments. Here are 5 of the best:
1) Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
He’s already been mentioned a ton of times in this blog, but Valentine is just the shining example of a do-everything glue guy that all do-everything glue guys should follow. He stuffs the stat sheet, he scores in bunches, especially in the clutch, and he keeps his team focused and engaged, setting the tone with his constant hustle. He’s definitely reminiscent of a small forward version of former Michigan State forward in Draymond Green, one of the great leaders in Big Ten hoops in this century.
2) Rapheal Davis, Purdue
The reigning Big Ten Defensive POY has been hampered a bit by injuries this season, but his presence has still been huge for the Boilermakers as the two-year captain has been a part of another great Purdue defense that has really only dropped one bad game this year. And he can certainly play a little, too, going toe-to-toe with Valentine this week and coming out on top.
For a super-experience Iowa team, the nod here goes to both the star and the point guard, both seniors, and both a huge part of the success they have had. Gesell controls the tempo for a talented Iowa offense, and Uthoff just gets buckets at will while playing excellent defense. Coach Fran McCaffrey must love having all these veteran guys on his roster.
4) Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
Yogi seems like he’s been a staple of the IU offense forever, and the senior point guard hopes to finally bring his team on a deep tournament run this season. The offense flows through him, and in crunch time, he will always be the one with the ball in his hands. He’s becoming a dynamic all-around point guard and it’ll be hard for the Hoosier faithful to see him go at the end of this season.
5) Tre Demps, Northwestern
It hasn’t been the smoothest of sailing in conference play for Northwestern, but to their credit, they haven’t dropped the easy ones. Senior guard Tre Demps only weighs in at 183 lbs., but he plays with a whole lot of hear, willing his team to win at various times in his career with his clutch shooting, particularly from deep. Though he has struggled with his shot this season, he’s the heart and soul of this Wildcats team that has looked very sharp at times, and he’s scored over 1000 points for Northwestern in his career. Another senior who has transformed into a world-beating leader for this squad.
4) Michigan State
7) Ohio State
11) Penn State