Player of the Week
Isaiah Livers, Michigan
Being a senior starter on a team full of young guys and transfers, Livers and Hunter Dickinson have created a one-two punch on offense that nobody has been able to stop. After three weeks off the floor, Michigan came back this past week to take on Wisconsin in a matchup that could have major implications on the final conference standings. While Dickinson was solid against Wisconsin, it was ol’ reliable, the veteran who has been around the program longer than anyone else on the roster, Isaiah Livers, who paced Michigan with 20 points to a huge victory, keeping his team atop the conference standings and within the top 5 of the national rankings. Michigan is in place to receive a one seed in the NCAA tournament and has a real chance at cutting down the nets in March, thanks in huge part to their senior leader.
Even with their rich athletic history, most would say that this season for Michigan basketball is shaping up to be one of the most memorable seasons in the school’s history, for any sport. Coming into the season, people knew this team had talent, but nobody thought they would be able to compete with the likes of Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois, etc. Coming into the season, the narrative was that they have a well-respected, but unproven coach, and a team that was also pretty young and unproved besides veteran wing scorer Isaiah Livers and some under-the-radar transfers, such as Mike Smith and Chaundee Brown. Essentially, there were expectations for this Michigan team to make the NCAA tournament, but most people believed this team would under-achieve, rather than over-achieve. Well, these guys had different plans. After coming out to a scorching hot 13-1 record to start the season, the program was forced to shut down for three weeks due to a COVID outbreak. Well, after three weeks without seeing the floor, the Wolverines finally returned in their lone game of the week, a 2/14 matchup with #21 ranked Wisconsin. The Wolverines came out and showed absolutely no rust or hiccups. This win is extremely convincing, because it shows the hot start by the team earlier in the season was not a fluke, and this team is capable of dealing with adversity and can still find ways to win.
Known more as a scrappy, physical, inside-scoring team, the Terps flipped the script in their 2/14 win over Minnesota, completing the season sweep over a talented-but-struggling Golden Gopher squad. Maryland was dominant on both sides of the ball, shooting their best percentage from the field all season (53%), hitting the 70-point mark for the first time in about a month, and holding Minnesota to 19-59 shooting from the floor and 8-28 from behind the arc. The Terps began the game on a 16-3 run, and never looked back, even when Minnesota brought the deficit to only 6 points with just under 3 minutes left before an Aaron Wiggins three-pointer sealed the fate of the game. This dominant win earned Maryland a spot on this list due to the sheer dominance of their performance, and it may be a long shot, but if they can continue to play like this, they can keep their foot in the door way and potentially play themselves into an NCAA tournament spot.
The narrative behind this Northwestern team has changed durastically over the past two months. The Wildcats started the season 6-1, with wins over Michigan State, Indiana, and Ohio State. Boo Buie, Chase Audige and Miller Kopp looked to be a solid trio who could provide enough offense between the three of them to win games. But, since beating Ohio State on 12/26, the Wildcats have not won a single game. They haven’t scored more than 76 points in any game since then, while giving up at least 70 points themselves in eight of the eleven straight games they have lost. This week, NW first squared off against Indiana on February 10th, nearly ending their dreaded losing streak, but ultimately falling 79-76. They followed that performance up with what may be their worst of the entire season, a 64-50 loss at Rutgers, in which the Wildcats only shot 33% from the field. The 50 points scored also marks their lowest total in a game this whole season. With only five games remaining on their schedule, I am sure the program would first like to end this losing streak, and then move on from this lost season as quickly as possible.
Penn State Nittany Lions
After an unexpectedly fantastic 2019-2020 season, where, before the season got cut off, it finally seemed as if head coach Pat Chambers was finally figuring out how to be successful working in State College, and Lamar Stevens only needing a game or two more to become the program’s all-time leading scorer, things are looking drastically different for the Nittany Lions a year later. Chambers and PSU agreed to part ways following the season, and Lamar Stevens declared for the NBA draft. Without Chambers and a star to rely on, the momentum surrounding the program is seemingly completely deflated and doesn’t appear to be coming back any time soon. This was evident this past week, as the Nittany Lions squandered any remaining chance they had at postseason play. They began the week at Michigan State on 2/9, losing to a talented, yet struggling team they easily could have beaten. PSU then followed up that disappointing loss with a one-point loss to last place Nebraska. To make matters worse, Penn State actually turned the ball over twice in the last 20 seconds of the game, one time that led to Teddy Allen’s go ahead layup for Nebraska, and then another time after that, which sealed the loss. It looks like the chase for an NCAA tournament bid for Penn State basketball continues. This year will mark the 10th straight NCAA tournament without Penn State.
Top 5 All-Big Ten First Team predictions
PG: Marcus Carr, Minnesota
The guard from Toronto has simply been a bucket all season. One of the most feared scorers in the entire conference, Carr is a do-it-all guard who can carry the responsibility of being the focal-point of an offense.
SG: [Ayo Dosunmu], Illinois
The guard from Chicago is truly elite on both sides of the ball. Known as a high-level defender, Dosunmu has continually improved on offense in each year of college, and has averages of 21.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game as his Illinois squad looks primed for a tournament run.
SF: EJ Liddell, Ohio State
The Buckeyes are absolutely rolling right now, thanks in large part to the emergence of EJ Liddell as the tough go-to scorer for this team. Liddell has made a huge jump as a sophomore, going from averaging 7 points per game as a freshman to more than double that as a sophomore. He also pulls down nearly seven boards a game. Still relatively unknown, I believe Liddell has a good chance to win himself a lot of fans during the NCAA tournament.
PF: Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana
Without Trayce Jackson-Davis, this Indiana team would be a lot worse. Jackson-Davis has consistently been the focal point and identity of this Hoosiers team. Like EJ Liddell, I think TJD has a great chance to gain some recognition with his play if Indiana can qualify for postseason play.
C: Luka Garza, Iowa
This one shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the reigning conference player of the year has only gone and improved his stats in his senior season. An anchor in the paint on defense and a deadly inside-outside threat on offense, no team has really been able to contain the senior big man, as he has clearly been the most dominant player in college basketball this season, and one of the most dominant players we have seen in college basketball in a very long time.