Player of the Week
Cassius Winston, Michigan State
It’s non-conference play of college basketball season and Michigan State is laying waste to mid-major teams across the Midwest. Some things never change. And this year, the guy most responsible for the latest pair of such victories was the reliable point guard, Cassius Winston. He went off for 50 points in a pair of games against Oakland and Northern Illinois, converting on a whopping 78% of his shots from the field, including 71% of his three’s. Throw in 10 assists and 1 turnover and it was an all-around dominant pair of performances by the junior point guard. He’s putting up the numbers to be in the conversation for first team All-Big Ten, and anytime you happen to be arguably Michigan State basketball’s best player, you are going to see some accolades come your way.
Kaleb Wesson, Ohio State
The 31 point explosion against Youngstown State was nice. The trio of wins to close out non-conference play had to have been nicer. In his sophomore season, the physically imposing big man (he stands at 6’9” and 270 lbs.) is showing that this is his team. His size might be his greatest asset, using it to convert on an incredibly efficient 59% of his looks in the past two weeks for 21 PPG, along with 7.7 RPG. He also showed off a little range, hitting 3/9 three’s in that three-game stretch.
Carsen Edwards, Purdue
After a rough stretch against some quality opponents, Purdue and their national POY candidate got back on track with a pair of expected wins against Ohio and Belmont. Edwards recorded another ho-hum 54 points between those two games on 19/37 shooting (51%). His 1:1 assist-turnover ratio leaves something to be desired but all in all, a solid rebound effort by the Boilermakers and their star.
Ignas Brazdeikis, Michigan
A surprise contender for conference freshman of the year, Brazdeikis has been a vital part of #2 ranked Michigan’s 13-0 start. He dropped in 40 points in total against Binghamton and Air Force these past two weeks and contributed 3 three’s in each contest. His ability to stretch the floor from the 4 spot is vital to the success of John Beilein’s offense.
Mike Watkins, Penn State
What happened to the old Mike Watkins? This is not the production they needed out of him after the surprise departure of Tony Carr to the NBA last spring. After emerging as one of the better centers in the Big Ten, he has regressed in almost every statistical category this season. First off, his minutes have dipped to under 20 a game, and his PPG is down to a career-low 6.5, barely half of what he was scoring last season. Defensively, he’s been much less of a presence at the rim, averaging 1.1 BPG, down from his career average of well over 2 per game. His season got off to a rocky start, missing 5 games due to off-the-court issues, but he just has never gotten back on track, eclipsing 10 points just once this season. The Nittany Lions now sit at 7-6, a disappointing start for a team led by some veteran starters that figured to be in the picture for an NCAA Tournament bid.
The 16-point loss at home to Missouir was bad. The loss at home to Florida Atlantic was worse. And after this rough holiday season, the Illini stand at 4-9 with essentially no hope to compete for postseason play. After most every other Big Ten team had some positive takeaways from the non-conference season, the Illini will almost definitely be cellar dwellar as conference play unfolds. Shooting 43% from the floor and turning it over 14 times a game, the Illini need to up the offensive efficiency to make the most of the talent they have in Brad Underwood’s second season.
Top 5 Coaches
John Beilein, Michigan
It almost feels sacreligious to not put Tom Izzo in the #1 spot here, but year in and year out, coach Beilein gets every drop of production out of the talent he has. His squads have appeared in the Elite Eight 3 of the past 6 years, and with the hot start they have gotten out to this year, making a case for being the best team in the nation, another Elite Eight and maybe even a third championship game appearance in the Beilein era feels entirely possible. He hasn’t taken a team to the national championship yet, but it seems clear that he is one of the best in the business, taking a bunch of 3- and 4-star recruits and molding them into national title contenders with regularity.
2) Tom Izzo, Michigan State
It wouldn’t be a list of Big Ten coaches without Tom Izzo at or near the top, and though he has had his critics in recent years, he’s still a legend. He’s a fantastic recruiter, a great talent developer, and a brilliant X’s and O’s guy whose teams always seem to get up for the big games. His teams have made the tournament 21 seasons in a row, going on 22, and though they have not reached the Sweet Sixteen the past 3 seasons, no one comes close to the 7 Final Four appearances he has led this program to.
3) Chris Holtmann, Ohio State
After 3 overachieving seasons at Butler, Holtmann took everyone by surprise in his first year at Ohio State, winning 25 games with a roster no one expected to be all that good. Now they are off to another hot start, winning 12 of their first 13. His teams have won at least one game in the tournament each of his four seasons at Butler and in Columbus and that looks to continue on this season. One of the best younger coaches in the business.
4) Matt Painter, Purdue
Painter’s teams have been remarkably consistent since he arrived in West Lafayette. They have made the tournament in 10 of the last 12 years and have won a game 6 of those times. Painter’s biggest detractors will say he can’t lead his team to even an Elite Eight, and now, with a Carsen Edwards-dependent lineup off to a shaky start this season, they may not have a realistic shot at it this year. But Painter has the third most wins of any coach in team history and has surpassed the 25-win mark 7 times. Few coaches in the conference can boast the same level of consistency.
5) Archie Miller, Indiana
There isn’t much of a body of work in the Big Ten off of which to evaluate Miller but between the phenomenal run he had at Dayton (4 straight tournament appearances including an Elite Eight) and his early returns in his second year at Indiana (the Hoosiers are 11-2), as well as the amazing 2019 recruiting class he has put together already, Miller is in the conversation for being one of the better Big Ten coaches. It’s hard to pin down exactly where he ranks, but this last spot will remain his if he can get the Hoosiers back to national relevance this season.
2) Michigan State
3) Ohio State
12) Penn State