Player of the Week
Bryn Forbes, Michigan State
In a stunning shooting display, the senior sharpshooter actually outscored a perpetually-hot Denzel Valentine this week with 17 in a win over Wisconsin and 27 (including 7-10 from 3-point land) in a gritty road victory over Ohio State. Forbes is now shooting 49% on the year from both the field and from 3, both whopping totals for a 6’3” guard. The Spartans haven’t lost a game in regulation or at home since January 20th, in part due to Forbes’ 18.2 PPG and 54% from the field in that span. He’s getting hot at the right time and, on a night when Valentine, Forbes, and Eron Harris are all hitting shots, the Spartans are virtually unstoppable. Player of the Week honors were hard-earned by Bryn Forbes this week.
Minnesota Big Men
The only team other than Michigan State to go two for two this week was, miraculously, the once-0-for-13-in-Big-Ten-play Minnesota Golden Gophers, but after a crushing string of close losses, the Gophers pulled out two wins. One was expected, against even-lowlier Rutgers, but that was a mere cherry on top of the sundae that was a stunning, 14-game-losing-streak-ending win over Maryland. Leading the charge were a pair of bigs, promising freshman Jordan Murphy, whose pair of double-doubles gave him averages of 18 points and 12.5 rebounds this week, and senior leader Joey King who scored 15 points in each game, including the game-icing free throws against Maryland. King, in particular, was the heart and soul of this team as they took down the Terps, and it was so refreshing to see his emotion after finally earning a win.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Michigan
The Wolverines, as expected, split games this week against Maryland and Northwestern, but they were pleasantly surprised by the play of Abdur-Rahkman, who scored 35 points and racked up 11 assists. On the season, the 6’4” guard is shooting a surprising 49% from the field and has proved to be a solid complementary option on the wing, especially with his recent 13.8 PPG in his last five games.
Melo Trimble, Maryland
The electrifying point guard seems to be enduring a brief sophomore slump, shooting poorly and showing a disdain for ball security in the Terps’ past 3 games. An tough home loss to unranked Wisconsin saw Trimble shoot 1-14 from the field (7%), followed by a 3/11 (27%) performance in an embarrassing loss to Minnesota and 3-10 (30%) in a tight win at home against Michigan to right the ship. Throughout that stretch, Trimble coughed up the ball at a rate of 6 turnovers per game. A stretch of 20% shooting and a 13:18 assist-to-turnover ratio from a potential All-American is not going to allow a team to play anywhere near its potential, and they will surely be hoping Trimble comes out guns blazing as this shaky road team travels to Purdue on Saturday.
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
And this week, two of (in my opinion) the three best players in the Big Ten (you dodged a bullet, Denzel Valentine) make a rare appearance on the Who’s Not list. The Iowa Hawkeyes hit their first 2-game losing streak since November, in addition to losing three of their last four, and it’s clear that a big part of it was due to cold-shooting by their potential All-American, Jarrod Uthoff. Uthoff shot 3-12 this week for 11 points, his fewest this month, and has shot 24/65 (37%) in this current slump. The scoring average is still certainly there, but a lack of efficiency on Uthoff’s part has not helped them close out ballgames. Peter Jok is looking like all-conference material, but Uthoff is still the biggest piece of the puzzle, and his recent performance is at least of mild concern, though it just appears to be a mundane shooting slump.
Top 5 Most Improved Players
1) Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
Uthoff, in addition to possibly being the best player in the conference this year, has also been the most improved. It wasn’t altogether unexpected that the promising junior would blossom into the player he is, but he currently sits in the top 2 in the conference in both scoring and blocks as his team is fighting for the conference championship.
2) Peter Jok, Iowa
And the only player who could potentially be at the top of this list over Uthoff is his teammate, Peter Jok. Jok has raised his PPG from 7 to 16.5 and his shooting percentage has jumped 9 points from 36% to 45%. Across the board, Jok’s stats have leapt this season and he’s a huge part of Iowa’s rise to national prominence.
3) Brandon Taylor, Penn State
It hasn’t been the greatest year for Penn State, but their star, Brandon Taylor, has carried this team to the victories they’ve earned. His PPG has risen 7 points to 16.6 PPG, good for 5th in the conference, and Taylor has recorded 7 double-doubles as well.
4) Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State
Bates-Diop has transition from seldom-used role player to 2nd-leading scorer for the Buckeyes. His minutes have quadrupled, and his scoring average has gone from 3.8 to 11.9, as he has the Buckeyes in position to sneak into the tournament. He’s starting to become the player he was expected to be as a top 100 prospect out of high school.
5) Kendrick Nunn, Illinois
Nunn has raised his PPG 5 points to 16.4 and sits at 8th in the conference in scoring, providing a great complement to Malcolm Hill.