Hamming It Up!

Player of the Week

AJ HammonsAJ HammonsAJ Hammons, Purdue

He just played one game this week, but the senior Purdue center takes another Player of the Week honor after turning in the best performance by a big man we’ve seen all season, and one of the best individual performances, period. 32 points on 14/17 shooting (82%!) along with 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks led to a strong Purdue victory over a pesky Nebraska team. It was the first time in 20 years, a player had put up those numbers in a non-overtime game. Hammons now sits 2nd in the Big Ten in blocks, 3rd in FG percentage, 4th in rebounding, and 13th in scoring, despite only playing 23.4 minutes per game. Were Hammons to receive the 30 minutes per game that the equally-statistically dominant Jarrod Uthoff received, he would be first in rebounds and blocks by a comfortable margin, and would be 4th in scoring. By any metric, Hammons is a beast on both ends of the court and it’s likely he’ll earn his first-ever NCAA Tournament victory this season, and then some.

Who's Hot?

Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

Two more solid games this week for the Spartans after their win over Maryland got them back on track. And once again, it was their senior leader taking the reins, as Valentine scored a combined 39 points as the Spartans outscored their opponents, Northwestern and Rutgers, by a whopping 65 points this week. He added 13 rebounds, 13 assists, 54% shooting from the field, and 61% from 3. In his past 5 games, Valentine has averaged 21 PPG, 8 RPG, and 6.4 APG.

Thomas Bryant, Indiana

And suddenly, just as Indiana has turned things around this year, the oft-maligned (at least by me) freshman big man who wasn’t quite on par with counterparts like Diamond Stone, Caleb Swanigan, and Deyonta Davis has really gotten things going lately. The Hoosiers won 2 more this week following their setback against Wisconsin, including a rout of Michigan, and Bryant had arguably his best game of his young career against Minnesota, scoring 23 on 11/13 shooting (85%). In conference play, Bryant is averaging 12.2 PPG and 5.9 RPG, and has played much-improved post defense. He probably will stay in school for at least one more year, so it’ll be exciting to see, not only how he finishes out the season for the surprising Hoosiers, but what he does in his Indiana career.

Corey Sanders, Rutgers

It would be impossible to ignore the gutty, incredible performance of the freshman, Corey Sanders, as he carried his team to three overtimes against Illinois and nearly earned the team their first conference victory of the year. His miraculous rebound of his own miss and step-back 3 to send the game to double OT was just 3 of 39 points for him, and he also chipped in 12 assists and 8 rebounds while playing 51 of a total 55 minutes. It’s a shame the Scarlet Knights couldn’t pull it off, but after a 34-point drubbing against Michigan State earlier in the week (in which Sanders had 17), it was a great bounce-back performance for them. He’s not the most efficient scorer, but he is a huge talent, and he’s the guy that is making the future at least a little bright for this downtrodden program.

Who’s Not?

Marc Loving, Ohio State

It was almost an 0-2 week for the Buckeyes, before they managed to squeak out a road win in overtime over Illinois. Junior stretch forward Marc Loving’s struggling season continued this week, as he shot 5/21 (24%) from the field. His total shooting percentage is down over 5 points from last season, and his 3-point percentage has plummeted by 15% (46% to 31%). He will be a big part of whether the Buckeyes will simply play spoiler for the big boys sometimes or will sneak in and get their own tournament bid themselves.

Alex Olah, Northwestern

The veteran big man has looked lost during the Wildcats’ current 5-game losing streak, which has coincided with his return from injury. In thos 5 games, he has averaged 6.2 PPG on 34% shooting, numbers vastly inflated by his solid game against Indiana. IN the other 4, he has 12 total points on 1/17 shooting. In fact, he missed each of his 8 field goal attempts this week. Olah hasn’t had back-to-back games without a field goal since December of 2014. The Wildcats are long gone from the NCAA tournament bubble, it would appear, and Olah continues to struggle.

Top 5 Shot-Blockers

1) AJ Hammons, Purdue

While Jarrod Uthoff may be the conference leader in blocks, it’s our Player of the Week who blocks more shots per time on the floor. He currently sits at 6th all-time on the Big Ten blocks leaders list, and he anchors one of the nation’s best defenses, so this sport certainly goes to him.

2) Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa

Uthoff’s comfortable margin in blocks per game (2.9 per game; 2nd has 2.5) nets him second on our list. His length and athleticism are the keys to his success, making him the rare shot-blocking non-center.

3) Deyonta Davis, Michigan State

The steady freshman big from Michigan State shows advanced defensive instincts for his age, and he currently leads the conference in blocks per minute. At 6’10”, he’s long and explosive if he stays at Michigan State for another year, it is likely that he will take home a conference shot-blocking title.

4) Daniel Giddens, Ohio State

A less-heralded freshman than some of his big man counterparts in the league, Giddens’ shot-blocking is arguably the best part of his game. Second only to Davis in blocks per minute, as his minutes increase, people will soon start to take notice of what a solid post defender he is.

5) Jordan Dickerson, Penn State

The Penn State Nittany Giant certainly has the size (at 7’1”) to be at least an adequate post defender, but he’s really putting it all together in his senior season. He’s top 5 in the league in both blocks per game and per minute, and his defense is one of the bright spots for a lackluster Nittany Lions team.

Power Rankings

1) Maryland
2) Iowa
3) Michigan State
4) Purdue
5) Indiana
6) Wisconsin
7) Nebraska
8) Michigan
9) Ohio State
10) Illinois
11) Northwestern
12) Penn State
13) Minnesota
14) Rutgers

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