Player of the Week
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
Iowa may have knocked off the #1 team in the nation last week, but Jarrod Uthoff was hardly done. Even though he didn’t play a huge role in the victory over Michigan State, he scored 25 in both games this week and led his team to two more big victories to maintain a lead in Big Ten conference play. First, he scored 16 in the first half of Purdue, the only remote bright spot for the Hawkeyes, but it was enough to keep them within remote striking distance, as his teammates caught fire and brought Iowa all the way back for the huge victory, erasing a 17-point halftime deficit which had ballooned to as many as 19. Uthoff followed his 25 against Purdue that up with 25 more as the Hawkeyes took care of business against Nebraska.
On the whole, Uthoff shot 50%, grabbed 12 rebounds, and blocked 9 shots this week. He now leads the conference in scoring and blocks, and his team with a lead in a conference that was expected to be dominated by the likes of Michigan State, Purdue, and Maryland. Only time will tell if he can keep up the pace in any of those categories, but right now, he’s beginning to make a case for conference Player of the Year, especially if the absence of Denzel Valentine continues to be extended.
Matt Costello, Michigan State
Speaking of the extended absence of Valentine, Michigan State has had to realy on unlikelier sources of production, and it hasn’t always gone their way, as evidenced by their loss to Iowa. And while they struggled to beat lowly Minnesota, senior big man Matt Costello, stepped up and had one of the bigger games of his career, scoring 17 (tied for a career-high) points and grabbing 15 (a career high) rebounds. This comes on the heels of an admirable 17-point performance last week against Iowa. He’s not a guy with a super-complete offensive game, but after three-and-a-half years of the college game, he knows a thing or two about putting the ball in the hoop and can step up and do so when other guys around him aren’t getting it done. He’s gotten to share the frontcourt with a second big man a little bit more lately, and it seems to have allowed him to be more productive.
Mark Donnal, Michigan
And one of the main weaknesses for Michigan (aside from a horrible two-year run of injury woes) has potentially been alleviated. The gun-slinging Wolverines have long lacked a good interior presence, especially with the preseason transfer of Max Bielfeldt to Indiana, and with the sophomore struggles of Ricky Doyle, they didn’t expect to have much of an answer to opposing big men once their schedule picked up in Big Ten play. But lo and behold, another sophomore, Mark Donnal, who had barely been in the rotation this season, stepped up and scored 26 points against Illinois last week before putting up another 16 against Penn State to bring Michigan to 2-0 in conference. He’s now averaging 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 block on 32% shooting in his last five games, but he faces a huge test this week with a tough matchup against Purdue’s pair of 7-footers, Hammons and Haas.
Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
Another week, another set of gaudy numbers for the senior point guard. Indiana has had a relatively light start to conference play, opening things up against Rutgers, Nebraska, and Wisconsin at home, and Yogi Ferrell has been feasting. This week, he averaged 21.5 PPG on 14/27 (52%) shooting, and has the Hoosiers taking care of business to start conference play as they try to prove they are once again among the elite teams of the Big Ten.
Raphael Davis, Purdue
This week was a bit of a letdown for the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He was tasked with shutting down deadly scorer Jarrod Uthoff in Purdue’s one game this week, and, giving up 4 inches on Uthoff, he sort of failed, a rarity for the lockdown on-ball defender. Uthoff scored 25, while Davis continued to contribute little on the offensive end, shooting 1/7 and looking especially shaky from behind the arc. In Purdue’s last 4 games, Davis has shot 6/22 (27%) and turned the ball over 2 times per game. He’s the leader of this Boilermaker team, and if they are going to get back into Top 10 form, they will need better efforts out of him. Still, guarding the likes of Jarrod Uthoff is no easy task, and Davis will undoubtedly at least work his way out of his defensive slump.
Tre Demps, Northwestern
The senior guard has been, to this point, a part of the three-headed scoring monster for Northwestern, along with Bryant McIntosh and Alex Olah, but this week was a struggle, both for the team and for him, individually. His 4/16 performance against Maryland got even worse as he shot 3/17 in a second consecutive loss as the Wildcats fell to Ohio State at home. That’s a total shooting mark of 7/33 this week, a measly 21% from the field. With how large of a role Demps plays in this offense, that’s not going to win games, so he desperately needs to find his stroke again after hitting only 2/14 3’s this week.
Top 5 Coaches
This list is pretty subjective, and it won’t look like it has the past several years with the retirement of Bo Ryan, but here goes:
1) Tom Izzo, Michigan State
No surprise here. Izzo usually manages to cook up postseason magic in East Lansing, and this season, he’s starting early, thus far losing no games with star player [Denzel Valentine] healthy. He’s got his team playing well, but he could certainly use his point forward back soon.
2) Matt Painter, Purdue
Though Painter’s job was in jeopardy at this time last year, he turned things around then and has his team playing excellent basketball this year. Ranked among the national leaders in many, many defensive categories, Painter is one of the premiere defensive minds in all of college basketball and this year, has put together an amazing group of talent with which to use his system.
3) Mark Turgeon, Maryland
The relative newcomer to the Big Ten, Mark Turgeon, has done an incredible job of turning this program around in a very short period of time, but, in addition to putting together one of the most balanced starting fives in the nation, Turgeon is a great X’s and O’s coach, leading his team to victory after victory in close games in his two years in the Big Ten.
4) Thad Matta, Ohio State
Though this may be a down year for the Buckeyes, Matta has long managed to put together a very talented squad at a traditional football school, and despite a bit of a dry spell in veteran talent this year, could very well have his team in position to go on a run in conference play and nab another tournament bid, even with a Jared Sullinger or an Evan Turner or an Aaron Craft leading the way.
5) John Beilein, Michigan
Beilein’s teams have given opposing coaches fits over the years with their barrage of 3’s, and his name has given copy editors fits over the years with its hodge-podge of e’s and i’s, but I think I have it spelled right, and I think Beilein is doing something right this year in Ann Arbor, as the Wolverines are currently looking like an NCAA Tournament team at 12-3. Some challenges face them such as their relative lack of tough opponents so far, or their constant struggle with injuries, or their looming trip to Purdue, but Beilein really knows how to get a lot out of a less-than-elite group of talent. But this year, he’s got talent, especially on the perimeter, and when they get hot, this team can knock off anyone in the Big Ten anywhere.