Player of the Week:

Braden Smith, Purdue Boilermakers

One of the best guards in the country and admittedly, I have not talked about this guy enough this year. He’s been exceptional running the offense for Purdue and is one of those guys that always comes through when needed, the best point guard Purdue has had since Carsen Edwards. He’s putting up 13 points and 7 assists per game this year with only 2.5 turnovers, exceptional efficiency and he’s got some swag to him too. A steady hand at point guard is, in my opinion, the most important facet for a team to succeed in March. He told the Illinois crowd “night night,” after hitting the dagger, and he’ll likely do something similar in March.

A Reflection

Michigan Wolverines: F

What a terrible season in Ann Arbor. There wasn’t a lot of preseason hype for Michigan this year but between Juwan Howard’s health issues and absence for a chunk of the year, Dug McDaniel’s suspension and the loss of Hunter Dickinson to Kansas, Michigan has had their worst year in a long time. As Thanos would say, “A small price to pay for salvation.”

Rutgers Scarlet Knights: D

I was high on Rutgers this year because I loved their formula last year, and with the excellent recruiting class that’s incoming I anticipated them to play above expectations this year and really continue to build that culture established last year. I was… kind of wrong? The defense was certainly still there but Rutgers’ offense was atrocious this year, good thing a lot of high scoring
talent is inbound.

Maryland Terrapins: D+

I gave the Terps a slightly higher grade because of Jahmir Young. He’s been fantastic this year and should be first team BIG10. Despite that, many Terps fans are calling for Coach Willard’s firing, and the Terrapins could not win close games this year. If they’d flipped a few of those close games around this year they could be a team in the top 7 of the tournament, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Terps fans get to look forward to a great recruiting class and maybe getting some upset wins in the conference tournament on the back of Young, the guy always comes through when the lights shine brightest.

Penn State Nittany Lions: C-

Penn State is in a bridge year, so they get some slack from me. However, there were many bumps this year, between streakiness on the scoring front for the team and a tumultuous locker room culminating in leading scorer Kanye Clary’s removal from the team, Penn Staters would’ve loved to see more of the magic they saw last year. There were some bright spots though, the upsets of Illinois and Wisconsin along with Ace Baldwin being one of the best defenders in the country made some of the season worthwhile.

Ohio State Buckeyes: C-

What a season in Columbus. Coach Holtmann’s firing is, according to Buckeye fans, the best thing that happened this year. The January plague once again caught the Buckeyes by surprise, but interim coach Jake Diebler has made the most of his shot and gave Buckeye fans a memorable upset over Purdue at home. The team has looked significantly better since Diebler took over and could do some damage in the conference tournament, this is. Team that started the season winning a lot of ballgames, they could bookend it that same way.

Indiana Hoosiers: C

Indiana hasn’t had much success over good teams this year, but they’ve won most games that they should win. It was a pretty mediocre season for Mike Woodson and company, Kel’el Ware has been excellent this year and will probably be drafted, and Indiana fans still believe this team can run the table and make it to the tournament. However, some decommitments from top recruits in recent days are signs of worry. Maybe some success in March will change their minds.

Minnesota Golden Gophers: C+

Minnesota has had a relatively rough second half of the year, but I give them a C+ because of what they did versus what they were expected to do. Minnesota will have a legitiimate chance to make the tournament with some wins in the conference tournament, and have drawn legitimate media attention to Minnesota basketball for the first time in ages. Dawson Garcia, Elijah Hawkins and Cam Christie have been awesome to watch this year and drawn NBA attention. They’ve brought Minnesota basketball to the relative spotlight, and that in itself is bigger than their wins or losses.

Michigan State Spartans: C-

Michigan State’s record is better than the teams above, but a team ranked top 10 to start the year should simply be better than this. I’m disappointed in Tom Izzo’s coaching this year, MSU hasn’t looked this incompetent across the whole court in quite some time. Despite some hot streaks and A.J. Hoggard and Tyson Walker playing well, the offense has been so inefficient that it’s hard to bet on them to win any games confidently. Hopefully Coach Iz has some tricks up his sleeve for next week.

Iowa Hawkeyes: C+

Iowa has been fun to watch this year, nearly all of their games are eclipsing the 80 points scored mark by both teams. Iowa has a collective of fun-loving bucket getters with great scoring ability beyond the arc and in the mid-range. They’re not built for March in my opinion, but I could see them getting an upset in this coming week due to the explosivity of that offense and their efficiency as a unit.

Northwestern Wildcats: B+

I may be the number one Boo Buie fan in the country. Yeah, I know that he’s old enough to have a fully developed frontal lobe but
gosh darn it I think the Wildcats are going to make noise if they get into March Madness. They’re experienced, have good size and are well coached. We’ve seen them as Purdue’s kryptonite, now we’ll see if that can translate in Minneapolis.

Nebraska Cornhuskers: A

How bout them Cornhuskers? Nebraska basketball has never been relevant, and now they are. Keisei Tominaga and Rienk Mask have iso-balled this roster into a high seed and almost guaranteed tournament bid this season. Nebraska plays excellently paced and fun to watch basketball with shooters all over the floor. They’re my pick to be a cindarella team this March Madness Keisei’s overseas experience
gives me hope that he’ll be lights out when the nation is watching.

Wisconsin Badgers: B+

A steep drop off for Wisconsin this year and a terrible last month of the season has dropped them from national title talks to being unranked and disposed, but maybe that’s just what they need. A hungry dog is most dangerous and that could be the recipe needed for Wisconsin to reascend as a team, but the lack of firepower on both ends of the floor is concerning. Regardless, they’ve had
a great overall season.

Illinois Fighting Illini: A-

Despite midseason turmoil with TSJ, the Illini have continued to roll along and get wins. They’ve been the number two team in the conference this whole season and round three of Purdue versus Illinois seems inevitable, the collision course is set and Illini faithful will be hoping for a third time’s the charm kind of outcome. Time to wait and see.

Purdue Boilermakers: A+

Another year, another dominant season from Purdue. The scary thing is, they’ve got more 7’2+ recruits on the way and their big beats
little formula might stick for years to come, especially as those big guys get more and more skilled. If Victor Wembanyama has taught us anything, it’s that if Purdue had a guy like him I don’t think thety’d ever lose a game again… unless they’re playing
Northwestern or FDU.

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