Player of the WeekNik Stauskas
Stauskas did a little dance with the ball, made a little love with the net, and got down in East Lansing on Saturday night.
With this week’s performance, I believe Stauskas has currently solidified himself a spot on the All-American First Team. Although he’s a volume shooter and needed 43 shots to reach 69 points, it’s Stauskas’ unexpected point guard skills that is making him a dual threat offensively. He recorded 13 assists against just 5 turnovers in games where some of the elite perimeter defenders – Gary Harris, Traveon Jackson, Ben Brust, and Roy Devyn Marble – were matched up to Stauskas. Opponents know that he’s deadly from deep, but he’s so good at setting his feet quickly and has an equally quick release to get off before good defensive close-outs.
With wins at Wisconsin, against Iowa and at Michigan State, the Wolverines are your sole unbeaten Big Ten team. Earlier in the year they already got a win at The Barn against Minnesota and pounded Northwestern, which looks more like a convincing win as each day goes by. Last week, I alluded to the fact that it would be no surprise if Gary Harris (who was also fantastic Saturday night) and Stauskas continuously battled for POTW honors as the conference season goes on.
DJ Newbill, Penn State
You see that crossover, bro? Newbill was as clutch of a player as you’ll see this year in Penn State’s big road win at Ohio State. First, Newbill hit a corner three after a ridiculous cross-court pass from Tim Fraizer to tie the game up with just over 1 minute left in regulation. Next, Newbill did a fantastic job using a ball screen to go to his strong side, pull up, and knock down ANOTHER game-tying three with 12 seconds left in regulation.
But the play that Nittany Lion fans will be talking about for quite some time was Newbill’s Okey-Doke of Aaron Craft on Penn State’s final and game-winning possession in overtime. With immense ball pressure from Craft, Newbill started dribbling out right. He did an absolutely tremendous job keeping the ball low enough on the crossover and didn’t allow Craft to get a hand on the ball. Newbill took two dribble with his left, planted, and shot a pure 12-foot floater for the win. The confidence and ability to perform in crunch time by Newbill is a rare sight for Penn State basketball. Hat tip to a very solid and memorable performance.
Drew Crawford, Northwestern
It’s officially time to give credit where credit is due. Drew Crawford’s totals from the past week (50 points, 18-32 from the field, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists) would be impressive for any Big Ten player. In Crawford’s case, every Big Ten opponent knows he is their primary scorer, passer, rebounder, decision-maker, and leader. Crawford has to produce in situations where everybody knows that he is the only guy that Northwestern can consistently count on.
Crawford’s game has become more defined for potential NBA and overseas scouts to examine his game. Compared to last year, Crawford is playing 4 more minutes a game while shooting 2 three-pointers less per game and nearly 2 more free throws per game. Crawford’s done a tremendous job using his 6’5”, 215-pound frame to take smaller defenders in the paint and get to the line. Three-point shots are Fool’s Gold, and historically Crawford has not been an excellent shooter from distance (41% in the 2011-2012 season, 37% last year before he got injured, but 32% so far this year). He’s helped refine his midrange game by getting some good bounce on his jump shot. He’s very active and effective on the offensive glass and can finish well around the rim because of his size and athleticism. I think he’s an above-average ball handler for his size, and his crossover gives him the advantage getting the extra step and getting his defender on his hip.
Again, it must be reiterated: Crawford had this great week against two very quality opponents (vs. Iowa and at Wisconsin) with a big red target on his back with the words “STOP HIM AND YOU WIN THE GAME.” I think the tape is going to show that Big Ten teams should start doubling Crawford much more in half-court defense because Northwestern still lacks production from their role players.
DeAndre Mathieu, Minnesota
Oof. In a game that many believed would allow Minnesota to vault towards the upper echelon of the Big Ten, Mathieu committed nine of Minnesota’s 13 turnovers in a loss at Nebraska. Valuing each and every possession is something any Big Ten player must fully comprehend. When previously playing at Morehead State, Mathieu could have gotten away with some of his sloppy play against a below-average opponent. In conference play, and especially in the Big Ten, you have to bring it every night. Being crisp with passes and sharp mentally are a must, as each basketball-related play carries so much weight in these battles. Over the last 3 games, Mathieu has turned the ball over 14 times. He must again becomg cognizant of taking care of the basketball.
Rayvonte Rice, Illinois
The junior guard laid a goose egg in Columbus, going 0-8 from the field and finished with zero points. The Illini’s leader scorer and one of the top 5 scorers in the conference, Rice was plagued by being guarded by quick players like Shannon Scott and Aaron Craft, who got their hands on the ball when Rice over-dribbled. Rice somewhat became a detriment to the chances Illionois had as the game wore on because he continually hoisted contested threes or difficult shots early in offensive possessions. He did have a good bounce back game against Indiana (20 points on 7-11 shooting), but in a game where Ohio State was sleep-walking through the first half, a Rayvonte Rice operating on 60% efficiency could have resulted in a different outcome for the Illini.
Top 5 – the 700 Club
Currently, there are only 5 players in the Big Ten who have surpassed 700 minutes played. Who are those players that their teammates, coaches, and fan bases rely on to play big minutes?
1. Tim Frazier, Penn State: 751 minutes
The do-it-all guard for Penn State acts as their primary ball-handler and usually primary playmaker. Frazier’s in such good shape, as he usually guards the opponent’s best defender as well.
2. Drew Crawford, Northwestern
As previously mentioned in this post, Crawford’s all-around game means Northwestern relies on him to do what is asked for that specific game. He’s great at getting to the hole and being active on the boards.
3. DJ Newbill, Penn State
With 2 Nittany Lions in the top 3 of the 700 club, Newbill is able to provide some scoring relief when opponents have locked in on stopping Frazier. Newbill’s bigger size also allows him to out-muscle smaller guards or forwards he matches up with.
4. Aaron Craft, Ohio State
As Ohio State’s only true ball handler and point guard, Craft only sees a break usually for one possession before a Media Timeout. He’s the heart and soul of the Buckeyes and dictates expectations on defense through his aggressive nature and relentless pursuit to stop teams from scoring.
5. Ben Brust, Wisconsin
It always seems like during a 4-year span, there is always one Wisconsin guard that Bo Ryan trusts significantly to make the right decisions and keep a level head. Brust does these things and is quietly one of the better deep threats in the league. He’s a heady player that has an edge to his game and won’t be afraid to let opponents know that Wisconsin is there not to make friends, but to win basketball games.