Player of the Week
Ignas Brazdeikis , Michigan
Brazdeikis struggled through the doldrums of his freshman season in early February but this week, he was an absolute gem for the Wolverines. They scored two big victories, a 29-point drubbing of Nebraska and road win over #17 Maryland, and in all of that, Brazdeikis provided as both a scorer and a rebounder, averaging 20.5 PPG and 7 RPG. He brings a lot to the table as a versatile wing, including his deadly shooting stroke (he connected on 6-9 three-point attempts this week), a staple of any John Beilein star wing player, and Brazdeikis’ success at the 3 spot so early in his college career brings to mind a litany of other talented Beilein-era swingmen, be it Caris LeVert or Glenn Robinson III or Tim Hardaway Jr. or Zak Irvin.
Carsen Edwards, Purdue
What a turnaround. After throwing up brick after brick in Purdue’s recent stretch of games, including 18% shooting in two games last week, the conference Player of the Year candidate looked much more patient and intent on creating rather than shooting his way out of a slump this week. The competition was relatively manageable for the Boilermakers, with home games against Ohio State and Illinois, but Purdue won by an average of 26 PPG and got 48 points of contribution from Edwards off of shooting percentages of 57/46/72. The 6 turnovers to 0 assists against Illinois was unsightly but he cleaned it up with 2 assists and only 1 turnover against Ohio State. On a senior day where Purdue said goodbye to starters Ryan Cline and Grady Eifert, it remains to be seen whether fringe first round prospect Edwards played his last game in Mackey Arena Saturday as well.
Matt Haarms, Purdue
It was hardly Edwards carrying the team this week, and in fact, the contribution of 7’2” sophomore Matt Haarms may have been even more important. He was clearly the player of the game for Purdue against Illinois, hitting each of his 8 field goals and 4 free throws en route to a 21-10 double-double with 5 blocks to boot. Then he scored 12 in only 19 minutes of action as Purdue ran away with it against Ohio State. This was the rare week where Haarms’ valuable contributions to this team showed up in the box score, as all the shots he alters and the way he anchors the steadily improving Purdue defense has been vital for this team.
Justin Smith, Indiana
The season may not have turned out like the Hoosiers had hoped, but they currently stand with reason for hope and a sliver of a chance at making the NCAA Tournament after a pair of massive wins this week. Several key contributors stepped up in knocking off #19 Wisconsin and #6 Michigan State but perhaps most notably was the explosion of sophomore forward Justin Smith. Though he fouled out, he chipped in 12 points and 6 boards against Wisconsin and provided a mismatch at the 4 spot. He then went off for 24 against the Spartans, vastly eclipsing his previous season high of 15. And somehow, despite making 4 three-pointers on the season to that point, Smith made 3 against Michigan State. The 8.6 PPG scorer normally is a tertiary option in the Hoosiers offense who also provides a healthy dose of rebounds, but he gave us a glimpse of a post-Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan future on Saturday.
Amir Coffey, Minnesota
On the whole, Minnesota had about as uneventful of a week as you can have, taking care of business on the road against last-place Northwestern and then having the weekend off, but Amir Coffey’s 32 points and 12 rebounds in a game few people probably tuned in to see are worth mentioning. Any road win in conference play is a great thing, and for a team like Minnesota that might just be a notch above the bubble currently, it was extremely necessary.
Brad Davison, Wisconsin
A rocky week for Penn State almost ended up in a pair of losses, but the Badgers fended off a pesky Penn State team in its own building Saturday to avoid a skid. Whether it was in the double overtime loss to Indiana or in the win over Penn State, sophomore guard Brad Davison struggled from the field, making a single field goal in each contest. He ended the week with 9 points on 2-18 shooting (11%), including 1-10 from three-point land. Davison, whose main contribution to the Badger machine is his shooting ability, never got in a rhythm and was a part of the lackluster defensive effort that allowed Indiana’s three starting guards to drop 44 points on Wisconsin. Davison’s shooting percentages stand at 41/38/79 on the season.
Top 5 Draft Prospects for 2020 and Beyond
This ranking is a list of the best Big Ten pro prospects who aren’t likely to leave school after this season.
1) Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois
The second-highest ranked Big Ten freshman behind Romeo Langford, Dosunmu has been a huge part of the Illini’s metamorphosis in conference play into a competitive squad. Though he could come out this season, most (including our site) project him to enter the 2020 draft. He has lottery upside as he’s a shooting guard with great length and athleticism, as well as consistent shooting touch and the ability to score from multiple levels. He has shown flashes of brilliance this season and appears to be a supremely confident young player who doesn’t shy away from the moment.
2) Aaron Wiggins, Maryland
Wiggins is a great freshman in a reduced role this season, taking a back seat to guys like Bruno Fernando, Anthony Cowan, and Jalen Smith, but he has shown flashes this year. His outside shooting has been stellar this season, and in fact, his three-point percentage is greater than his overall field goal percentage, which indicates he needs to become more efficient as a finisher. But he’s got a great frame and shooting stroke, skills that you can’t always teach to a young prospect. He likely has lottery upside in next year’s stacked draft class.
3) Ignas Brazdeikis, Michigan
Another highly-touted freshman, Brazdeikis has had an excellent season and has already been perhaps the most important contributor to a Michigan team that is lined up for a top 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He doesn’t project to be a first round talent in this year’s draft by most, so another year of development under coach Beilein seems more likely, but his versatility as a scorer, defender, and rebounder from the 3 position indicate he has a role at the NBA level.
4) Isaiah Roby, Nebraska
As Nebraska has struggled and Roby hasn’t had a huge breakout yet, his draft buzz has waned, but Roby is still a springy 6’8” small forward who rebounds well, can put the ball on the floor and attack the rim, moves well laterally, and provides the versatility to play either forward position in the modern day NBA.
5) Matt Haarms, Purdue
Haarms hasn’t been on a lot of NBA draft radars to this point, and he still has a great deal of developing and filling out his lanky frame to do, but as a 7’2” center with range and lateral quickness, this poor man’s Porzingis shows a lot of promise as a floor stretcher and a defensive specialist. NBA centers would bully him down low in the current NBA but he has time to add muscle and has already shown the ability to use his incredible length and timing to overcome his shortcomings from a strength stanpoint.
3) Michigan State
8) Penn State
12) Ohio State