Player of the Week:

D'Mitrik Trice, (Sr., Wisc.)

Using an efficient, balanced offensive attack and veteran leadership, Wisconsin has already shown that they are among the elite, not only in the Big Ten but in the entire country. When you watch the Badgers play, they feature well respected players such as Micah Potter, Brad Davison, Nate Reuvers and Aleem Ford, but no Badger has improved more or is as vital to the team as senior point guard D’Mitrik Trice is. Given a bigger role as a scorer this year, Trice has improved his scoring per game from 9.8 points per game last season, to 14.2 points per game this season. This past week, Trice dropped 25 points to go with 4 rebounds and 3 assists in Wisconsin’s upset loss to Maryland on 12/28, and then came out and had 14 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals in the Badgers extremely important and convincing win 71-59 win against Minnesota on 12/31. The two games this past week show how versatile Trice is and how he can take on any role necessary in the offense. Look for Trice to continue his offensive tear as the season progresses.

Who’s Hot:

Iowa Hawkeyes

After dropping their first conference game of the season in a 102-95 overtime thriller to a strong Minnesota team on 12/25, the Hawkeyes bounced back with an extremely impressive 15-point victory over Northwestern four days later. In an off-night for Iowa star Luka Garza (18 points, 6 rebounds), Fran McCaffery’s squad used a balanced attack on offense and forced 12 turnovers to take care of a tough opponent. Following that result, the then #10 ranked Hawkeyes went into the RAC and took down Ron Harper Jr. and Rutgers in a 77-75 hard-fought win. Garza led the way with 25 points, and the team’s defense held Harper to 13 points on 5-15 shooting. After sustaining the tough, gut-wrenching loss to Minnesota, Iowa has shown extreme perseverance with the gritty wins they picked up in this past week. The valuable experience provided in these types of games will pay dividends come tournament time.

Wisconsin Badgers

Similar to Iowa, the Badgers were upset at home by Maryland on 12/28 in a game that could have caused a spiraling downward trend. Instead, this veteran group came back three days later and took down one of the best players and teams in the country in their 71-59 convincing win over Minnesota. Wisconsin absolutely shut down Marcus Carr, the third leading scorer in the country, holding him to 10 points on 5-15 shooting in 36 minutes. They also shot 50% from the field for the game, and had three players score more than 14 points, while Minnesota only had one. This impressive bounce-back performance only proves the Badgers are a legit threat at not only a conference title but national title as well, as the vast amount of experience they have is matched in talent and heart.

Big Ten Conference
To put it simply, the Big Ten Conference is the best conference in college basketball, and it isn’t really close at all. Coming into the week, the B1G had nine teams ranked in both the Associated Press and USA Today polls, matching the most any conference has had since the Big East had nine teams featured in both polls on March 7th, 2011. On top of that, the nine B1G teams featured is equal to the number of teams highlighted in the next two highest-ranking conferences, as the Big 12 had five teams, and the ACC had four. Amazingly enough, the Big Ten could have had 10 teams, but Indiana was only featured in this week’s AP poll, and Purdue received votes in this week’s USA Today poll only. The conference also features three of the top four scorers in the country, and four of the top ten. This year definitely looks like it is the conference’s best chance to end the national title drought that has been a cloud of its head for too many years now.

Who’s Not

Maryland Terrapins
It appears that Mark Turgeon and his team are still feeling the championship celebration hangover after winning a share of their first Big Ten regular season title last season. The Terps are currently 6-4 (1-3 in B1G) on the season. Through 10 games, they are already at half of the amount of conference losses they had in their 31 games they played all of last season. The common theme of the season for UMD is that they take care of the lesser competition, but cannot seem to beat any of the teams they need to beat to build a tournament resume. Besides their upset over Wisconsin, they do not have any quality wins, and are still seemingly searching for an identity on the offensive end. The talent is definitely there, but this young & relatively inexperienced team still has a lot of work to do if they want any type of meaningful postseason play.

Penn State Nittany Lions
After one of the best seasons in program history that would have seen PSU in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, things have taken a complete 180 and are back to looking bleak again for the Nittany Lions. After a win over VCU and an upset of Virginia Tech, the season looked promising, but the outlook has changed extremely quickly. Penn State is currently riding a three-game losing streak, with losses at Michigan, and versus Illinois and Indiana. They are 1-4 in their last five, and have yet to win a game in conference play.

Nebraska Corn Huskers
Year two of the Fred Hoiberg era in Lincoln is looking very similar to last year’s 7-25 campaign. The Huskers are 4-7 (0-4 in B1G), and are currently on a four-game losing streak in which all games but one have been losses by more than 10 points. They have lost all of their conference games so far, and also have losses to Nevada, Georgia Tech, and Creighton. The theme of this season for Nebraska has been the ability to beat the lesser teams they play, such as McNeese, North Dakota State, South Dakota, and Doane, but cannot beat teams that are more talented than they are. This is not a good recipe for a team in the best conference in the country. Unless drastic improvement is shown, Hoiberg may end up on the hot seat sooner rather than later.

Top 5 News Year’s Resolutions for the Worst Teams in the Big Ten so far

5. Indiana Hoosiers: Help for Trayce Jackson-Davis
Davis, the sophomore big man, has been one of the best players in the country, averaging 20 points and 8 rebounds a night. The next highest Hoosier scorer averages 14 points per game, but after him, there is nobody who has consistently been a threat to defenses. This has allowed opposing teams to focus in on TJD and make it harder for Indiana to stay in games.

4. Michigan State Spartans: Better offense
On the defensive end of the floor, Tom Izzo will always have his teams among the best in the conference. The stem of MSU’s struggles this season has come on the other side of the court. The Spartan’s leading scorer, Aaron Henry, is only averaging 13 points per game on a career low 42% shooting from the field and 25% from three. The Spartans do play a more balanced offensive style where they rely on a lot of different people to score, but this is difficult to execute when everyone is struggling to make shots, especially your best player.

3. Maryland Terrapins: More efficient offense
Similar to Michigan State, the Terrapins have attempted to employ a balanced offensive attack, but have struggled to win games using this system due to poor offense. Maryland has more talented scorers on their roster, as Eric Ayala, Donta Scott, and Aaron Wiggins are all averaging over 10 points per game, and Hakim Hart has had a couple of breakout performances. But, the problem is being consistently efficient on offense. If they can fix this problem soon, they still have a chance at an NCAA tournament bid.

2. Penn State Nittany Lions: To come up with an identity for the program
Under Pat Chambers, Penn State may not have experienced too much success overall, but the Nittany Lions were always one of the tougher teams in the conference year in and year out. Last year’s team was the epitome of Pat Chamber’s vision for his program, a team that wreaked havoc on defense, tough inside defense and an emphasis on three-point shooting on offense. Under new interim coach Jim Ferry, PSU is letting up 76.3 points per game, good for 282nd out of 341 teams, are still searching for their strong point as a team.

1. Nebraska Corn Huskers: Help for Teddy Allen
Teddy Allen (18.2 ppg, 5.1 reb) has been one of the best players in the conference, and has even seen a jump in his three-point field-goal percentage to nearly 35%. Besides their senior star, Dalano Banton (13 ppg, 7 reb, 4 ast) and {Player: Trey McGowens] (11.5 ppg) have improved and are also producing decent numbers, but the three of them are not nearly enough for Nebraska to make any noise in the Big Ten. Fred Hoiberg is one of the most respected coaches in the conference and has a lot of experience coaching in both college and the NBA, but still has a tall task ahead of him in terms of bringing hype to the Husker basketball program.

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