From Hunters to the Hunted

Player of the Week

Zavier Simpson, Michigan

Zavier SimpsonZavier SimpsonWhat a revelation Simpson was this week! Generally a distributor who doesn't display much scoring ability (7.1 PPG coming into the week) or shooting range (Simpson had only hit a three-pointer in four out of 15 games coming into the week), Simpson exploded by matching his career high of 16 against Illinois, then set a new career high with 24 against Northwestern three days later. Northwestern made a point to focus their defense on Michigan's other top players and gave Zavier space on the perimeter. He made them pay knocking down 5-of-10 from outside. Perhaps he's on a similar trajectory as Derrick Walton, then a junior, was on Michigan’s team two years ago. Walton was more of a distributor that gradually became the team’s leading scorer by the end of his career. Regardless, Michigan, currently undefeated and ranked #2 in the country, is even more dangerous if Simpson is capable of offensive explosions like this. With Duke's loss to Syracuse and imminent drop in the National Rankings, look for the Wolverines to ascend to 1, putting a huge target on their backs.

Who’s Hot

Jon Teske, Michigan

John Beilein’s Michigan teams don’t always have a standout big man. But his most elite teams, the ones that have made it to national championship games, have had the likes of Mo Wagner and Mitch McGary inside. And this year’s team, with it’s 17-0 start, might have the next great Wolverine big man in the making in 7’1” sophomore Jon Teske. Now, that may be premature; even after a stellar week, Teske is only averaging 8.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 2.2 BPG. But with back-to back double-doubles with 30 total points and 6 total blocks, Teske, like Simpson, showed real flashes of brilliance this week, taking some of the load off of guys like Charles Matthews, Ignas Brazdeikis, and Jordan Poole.

Anthony Cowan Jr., Maryland

The season that Anthony Cowan Jr., a ball-dominant playmaking guard, is having is reminiscent of the days of Melo Trimble leading the Terps to a significant win total. He’s not always the most efficient, but when Maryland needs a bucket, he can go get one. Maryland now has a 14-3 record, and, thanks to a four-game winning streak since conference play began in earnest, sit just a game behind the Michigan schools in teh conference standings. Cowan accrued 51 points in a pair of wins against Minnesota and Indiana, shooting 50% from the field and 18/20 from the line, in addition to 12 assists and 11 boards. Similar to all-American candidate Carsen Edwards of Purdue, Cowan stands at only 6’0” so he will have an uphill climb towards making the NBA, but right now, he’s quietly becoming one of the best guards in the conference.

Luka Garza, Iowa

He’s back! The Hawkeyes managed in their sophomore big man’s 3-game absence against Bryant and Savannah State, but in a trip to Purdue, Iowa failed to keep up against “Big Man U” without one of their premiere players. He played in limited minutes against Nebraska, but he was back to his normal amount of time this week, scoring 16 points in each of the Hawkeyes’ wins against Northwestern and Ohio State. Though you would want a skilled big man who stands just under seven feet tall to make more of a difference on the boards (Garza averages just 4.6 per game) and defensively (0.6 blocks per game), his touch both around the rim and from distance make him a versatile, valuable offensive weapon, and his return has coincided with a three-game win streak that has the Hawkeyes back in the pack in the conference standings after an 0-3 start against a tough early Big Ten schedule.

Who’s Not

Ohio State

Suddenly, a Buckeye team ranked 14th just last week, is plummeting to the bottom of the Big Ten standings following a three-game losing streak that includes a loss to perennial conference cellar dweller Rutgers. No one player has been particularly atrocious over this three-game skid but the 40% shooting in that stretch, and 38% shooting this week in particular in losses to unremarkable Iowa and Rutgers teams, are going to do in a team more often than not. Kaleb Wesson has struggled with foul trouble, C.J. Jackson has shot poorly, and the rest of the key contributors who normally are a reliable group of outside shooters, have not been major factors in this span of losses. This is probably the most unsightly stretch of basketball in coach Chris Holtmann’s brief but stellar time there, but, due to his track record of doing great things with the talent on his rosters, it’s a safe bet that the ship will be righted in no time.

Top 5 Shooters in Big Ten

1) Matt McQuaid, Michigan State

McQuaid is as automatic as any player in the league, and you could say that about him any time in his four-year career. He’s never been a super focal point of the Spartans’ offense, but he’s the guy you want to space the floor for your scorers, and Michigan State always has no shortage of guys who can get to the rim and need a Matt McQuaid to keep defenders honest. He currently leads the league in three-point percentage at 47%.

2) Carsen Edwards, Purdue

Edwards sits at a mere 25th in the conference in three-point percentage, as several guys are shooting above 40%, while he is at 38%. But he, along with teammate Ryan Cline, lead the conference in attempts, and many of Edwards’ are frantic shots with hardly an inch of room to rise and fire. With all the attention shown to the all-American caliber player, the fact that his shooting percentage is as high as it is is a testament to his ability.

3) Cassius Winston, Michigan State

After a sudden jump from 38% to 50% from outside last season, it remained to be seen whether Winston’s absurd 2017-2018 three-point numbers would sustain themselves in his junior year. 45% from distance on a robust 5.6 attempts per game shows that last season was no fluke. His ability to get to the rim forces opponents to respect his space which allows him to create his own looks from outside.

4) DMitrik Trice, Wisconsin

Trice wasn’t a particularly elite outside shooter last season, but his combination of standing at 5th in the conference in three-point attempts and 4th in three-point percentage is wildly impressive. He has the benefit of a post player who demands a lot of attention down low, leaving him more room to work on the outside, but 46% shooting on over 6 attempts per game is stellar.

5) Ryan Cline, Purdue

Another Purdue sharpshooter, Cline stands second in the conference in three-point makes and attempts behind only teammate Carsen Edwards. The senior has always been known as a shooting specialist and has hovered around 40% from outside throughout his career. He’s just a hair under that this season on a whopping 7.9 attempts per game, and his stroke is one of the smoothest in the league.


POWER RANKINGS

1) Michigan

2) Michigan State

3) Maryland

4) Purdue

5) Wisconsin

6) Iowa

7) Ohio State

8) Nebraska

9) Indiana

10) Minnesota

11) Northwestern

12) Rutgers

13) Penn State

14) Illinois