Player of the Week
Kevin Huerter, Maryland
The Terps picked up a win over Wisconsin this past week, but their most impressive performance was probably their tough performance on the road against the #3 Purdue Boilermakers. They gave Purdue their best shot and, in spite of losing to them earlier this season at home with a healthy Justin Jackson, they were in it for most of the game this time around in Mackey Arena. Kevin “The Red Rifle” Huerter averaged 17.5 points this week between his two outings, and his 4 3’s kept the Terrapins within striking distance in the Purdue game. On the year, Huerter is shooting 45% from deep, which actually dipped this week, and 51% from the floor, a great figure for a wing. He’s even chipping in over 5 rebounds and 3 assists per game as he has taken over the mantle of “versatile wing player” from Jackson following the latter’s season-ending injury.
Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State
KBD does it again. What was sort of a pedestrian outing for him 13 points on 5/13 shooting (38%) against Indiana was still pretty solid, especially when you throw in his 13 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks. But when you throw in his 35 points against Illinois to eke out a second victory on the week for the Buckeyes, he’s the most deserving candidate, although it wasn’t the easy pair of wins for OSU. The 9 turnovers on the week by Bates-Diop alone are a concern but his scoring is just coming at a rate not found anywhere else in the Big Ten. He has raised his average to 20.2 per game, along with 8.9 rebounds per game and 1.7 blocks per game. In a year where Miles Bridges came in as the heavy favorite to win Player of the Year honors, in a year where the Purdue Boilermakers have looked like the most dominant team in the conference, KBD is currently putting himself in position to run away with the Big Ten’s most prestigious men’s basketball award.
Kaleb Wesson, Ohio State
The big freshman forward has kind of flown under this blog’s radar thus far this season but he’s putting up great numbers and is one of the key supporting characters to Keita Bates-Diop as the Buckeyes surprisingly roll through conference play this season. His 7/7 shooting output against Indiana was followed up by a double-double against Illinois as the Buckeyes picked up a routine pair of wins in the midst of their roll through the Big Ten. He ended up shooting 10/13 (77%) on the week with 7.5 RPG and 12 PPG. The Buckeyes don’t rely on him particularly heavily on offense; but with his size and how much space he takes up, even at age 19, he’s a very efficient back-to-the-basket center..
Isaiah Washington, Minnesota
It’s been a roller coaster ride of a freshman season for Isaiah Washington but he seems to be on one of the hills at the moment. From January 15th to January 23rd, Washington played 20 total minutes over the course of 4 games, but in his 2 contests since then, he is averaging 28.5 minutes a contest. He put up 15 in a tough road loss to Iowa, along with 7 assists, then went off for 26 as the reeling Gophers nearly upset Michigan. In the wake of the Reggie Lynch suspension and the Amir Coffey injury, it’s probably a case of too little, too late for the Gophers as far as their postseason hopes are concerned, but Washington could be a huge piece at point guard for next year’s team. He may even lead this team to some victories that no one would expect to get. But all told, he is still a freshman and still has been in and out of the rotation without any kind of consistency so time will tell if he is now a fixture in the lineup.
CJ Jackson, Ohio State
As documented above, it was a pair of wins for the Ohio State Buckeyes, a typical week in their Big Ten slate, but it wasn’t an easy pair of wins. And as their point guard went, so did the team. Jackson struggled to a 9.5 PPG average this week compared to his 12.8 a game on the season. He shot 25% from the field and 22 from outside. He also committed 6 turnovers. The home victory came pretty easy against the Indiana Hoosiers, but on the road against Big Ten cellar dweller Illinois, Jackson missed 9 field goals and all his threes.
Dom Uhl, Iowa
This Who’s Not has been kind of a puzzling storyline, to me, at least, all season long. Dom Uhl, the 6’9” senior forward from Germany, was once a key guy off the bench in his initial season at Iowa. He provided some nice size with decent shooting touch and ball skills. And as he became a sophomore, his role increased as he began to look like a future starter. But his minutes dipped as a junior and have taken a dive as a senior as he isn’t really even a part of coach Fran McCaffery’s 11-man rotation. He is shooting 25% on the season in his limited minutes and is turning the ball over as much as he is scoring (0.4 per game). It’s not the most consequential storyline in the Big Ten right now but it IS very odd.
Top 5 Rim Protectors
1) Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State
The long, bouncy freshman for the Spartans has been even better than expected to this point, and in addition to his versatility on the offensive end, is leading the conference with 3.5 BPG. Michigan State has Ken Pomeroy’s top Big Ten defense so one would think that it’s defensive anchor plays a large role in that. And he’s only a freshman, making it all all the more impressive. This kid should continue to get even better at making the right play as the season goes on.
2) Mike Watkins, Penn State
Despite standing only 6’9”, Watkins is a tough, stout defender inside for Penn State, and while guys like Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens are putting up points, Watkins may be the most important player for the Nittany Lions. He’s third in the conference in blocks per game and has Penn State as the Big Ten’s 6th-rated defense.
3) Matt Haarms, Purdue
While Haarms is still very raw, undisciplined and freshman-like on defense, gambling for blocks and finding himself out of position often, his sheer block rate nets him third on this list. In addition to ranking third by a good margin in the conference in blocks per game, he averages a whopping 5.69 blocks per 40 minutes, second only to Jackson and nearly 2 blocks higher than the next-closest guy averaging 10+ minutes per game. This kid will be one of the nation’s best by the time he’s a senior.
4) Isaiah Roby, Nebraska
Roby is a great athlete which allows him to, at 6’8” block shots at the third-highest rate in the conference. Bigger, tougher guys like Purdue’s Isaac Haas and Nick Ward of Michigan State can body him up and be hard for him to stop, but on the whole, he has a great sense of timing and the hops to be very disruptive to shot-takers.
5) Michal Cekovsky, Maryland
Cekovsky hasn’t always been an AMAZING shotblocker in his career but now he has two factors working in his favor: the first, which he has always had, was the size. Cekovsky stands at 7’1” and has bulked up a bit as well over the course of his Ohio State career.. Cekovsky also is experienced enough to make a lot of the right decisions and to avoid getting caught out of position.