Freshman Gem

MIDSEASON REPORT

Player of the Week

Diamond Stone, Maryland

Diamond StoneDiamond StoneFor 3 halves of basketball this week, Diamond Stone was playing only solid basketball. But then, the Terrapins found themselves struggling to keep up with a vastly inferior Penn State team in their own building, and Stone found a sense of urgency that was lacking in the rest of his 4th-ranked team. Stone scored a mind-blowing 32 second-half points, 1 fewer than Penn State’s 33, and near-single-handedly got his team the win. He ended up with 39 points, a season-high for the entire conference, and a career-high (23 greater than his previous) for Stone, as he shot 10/15 (67%) from the floor and made 19 of an astounding 25 free throws. He also chipped in 12 boards. All this came after a very respectable 16-point game against Marshall, and all told, Stone shot 18/25 (72%) this week. This breakout game finally unveiled without a doubt why he was a Top 10 recruit this season, and this is the kind of performance that could make NBA scouts think that Stone is ready to play with the pros NOW.

Who’s Hot?

Caris LeVert, Michigan

LeVert turned in another exceptional week with an average of 20.5 PPG, 9 APG, and 5 RPG on 17/30 (57%) shooting, including 6/13 (46%) from 3 over his two games.

Mike Gesell, Iowa

The oft-inconsistent senior point guard for the Hawkeyes came through in a big way in Iowa’s lone game this week, as his 25 points led the way in a monumental victory over a #1-ranked, Denzel Valentine-less Michigan State squad.

Kendrick Nunn, Illinois

Illinois split their games this week, losing a tough one to Michigan in their conference opener, but Nunn did all he could, scoring 23 (including 4 3’s), a nice follow-up to his 19 and 11 double-double in a win over Missouri. Though he does not yet officially qualify for the statistical leaders after missing his team’s first 5 games, Nunn leads the conference in scoring with 19 PPG, and he has come in and stolen the show from the equally-talented Malcolm Hill. The Michigan loss was a tough blown opportunity at home, but the Illini aren’t quite dead yet.

[Player: A.J. Hammons], Purdue

Only one game this week for the defending co-Conference Player of the Week, but it was a stellar one. Purdue got the win in Madison, which, while easier than usual this season, is still no easy task. There were few great individual performances for the Boilermakers in this one, but Hammons scored 24 points on 9/14 (64%) shooting. Only 2 blocks for Hammons in this one, but he still ranks 2nd in the conference in the statistic.

Rutgers Newcomers

It’s been well-documented that Rutgers is a bad basketball team, and not just for a Big Ten team. They rank 238th out of 351 Division I teams in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, and their losses, while generally to decent teams, are mounting quickly. But this is hardly the fault of the freshmen and transfers that the coach Eddie Jordan added this season. Much-heralded top 100 freshman Corey Sanders has scored 16 or more in 4 straight games, and led the Scarlet Knights to not one but two victories this week over Fairleigh Dickinson and UMass-Lowell. Bradley transfer Omari Grier essentially came out of nowhere this week to post back-to-back 20+ point games against UMass-Lowell and Indiana, going 9/13 (69%) from behind the arc in those contests. And more under-the-radar freshman forward Jonathan Laurent had a surprise double-double of 13 points and 15 boards against UMass-Lowell. Things are bleak in Newark, but there are bright spots on this team, and Eddie Jordan had himself a solid offseason.

Who’s Not?

Rutgers Veterans

It’s safe to say that more of the recent disappointments are on the shoulders of the returning players for Rutgers. Senior shooting guard Mike Williams shot 7/26 (27%) this week, culminating in a 0-pointer against Indiana. Bishop Daniels, also a senior, is averaging 2.3 turnovers per game and is shooting 28% from 3. Sophomore DJ Foreman hasn’t been particularly bad, but his current streak of 5 straight games with exactly 6 points implies mediocrity, and he has almost eclipsed his amount of turnovers from last season, in which he still got a sizable chunk of minutes. And senior big man Greg Lewis, who is 6’9”, is shooting an atrocious 36% from the floor on the season, which has forced the perimeter players to take more inefficient outside shots. It’s been a rough way to go for these guys.

Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin

The trusty point guard sidekick to Nigel Hayes was supposed to break out as a premiere Big Ten point guard this year now that the job was all his, but the struggles of Wisconsin have been reflected by his performance. Wisconsin had an 1-1 week in which they let a 30-point lead over Green Bay slip down to just 3, then gave a great Purdue team a run for its money but ultimately surrendered another loss on their once-intimidating home court. Koenig shot 5/16 (31%) in those games and allowed his matchup, point guard Carrington Love of Green Bay, score 28 on the Badgers while committing a whopping 8 turnovers in that game alone. Koenig is a good player, but lately, he has not been a point guard or a particularly effective scorer, and it is imperative to the success of Wisconsin that he turn it around, especially with Nigel Hayes coming off back-to-back solid games.

Isaac Haas, Purdue

The 7’2” efficiency beast who began the season by filling in for a suspended AJ Hammons with great success and looking like one of the conference’s best big men has since regressed a bit as Hammons has emerged. In his last 3 games, he shot 2/7, 2/6, and 2/6, scoring a total of 16 points and turning the ball over 6 times. He’s still one of the best “bench” big men in the country (technically he’s the starter, but let’s be honest, he’ll be occupying the bench a lot more than A.J. Hammons in conference play) but he’s played better basketball this season than he is now and there’s no doubt he’ll pick up steam again as conference play rolls along.

Midseason Awards

Player of the Year – Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

Defensive Player of the Year – [Player: A.J. Hammons], Purdue

Newcomer of the Year – Andrew White III, Nebraska

6th Man of the Year – [Player: A.J. Hammons], Purdue

Coach of the Year – Tom Izzo, Michigan State

First Team

Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

[Player: A.J. Hammons], Purdue

Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa

Caris LeVert, Michigan

Melo Trimble, Maryland

Second Team

Malcolm Hill, Illinois

Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana

Kendrick Nunn, Illinois

Robert Carter, Maryland

Third Team

Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin

Andrew White III, Nebraska

Alex Olah, Northwestern

Brandon Taylor, Penn State

Caleb Swanigan, Purdue

Power Rankings/Bracketology

1) Michigan State – Projected #1 seed

2) Purdue – Projected #2 seed

3) Maryland – Projected #2 seed

4) Iowa – Projected #6 seed

5) Michigan – Projected #9 seed

6) Northwestern – Projected #11 seed

7) Ohio State - NIT

8) Indiana – Projected #11 seed

9) Illinois – NIT

10) Penn State – CBI

11) Wisconsin

12) Nebraska

13) Minnesota

14) Rutgers