Dropkicking the Big Ten

Sat, 02/02/2019 - 2:42am

Player of the Week

Jordan Murphy, Minnesota

Jordan MurphyJordan MurphyIt was a solid week for the senior double-double machine, as he nearly led the Gophers to two upsets of ranked teams but had to settle for a victory over #19 Iowa and a near-miss on the road against #5 Michigan, but more significantly, he moved into 2nd in rebounding all-time in the Big Ten conference. He grabbed 11 boards in each game this week, and chipped in 15 points against Michigan and 23 against Iowa. He’s been a port in a storm for the Gophers this season, even as his teammates have gone through their ups and downs offensively. Murphy raised his double-double total to 13 in this season alone, a truly remarkable feat for a player listed as only 6’6”. He has been one of the most impactful players in recent Minnesota basketball history, but it remains to be seen whether his legacy will contain another NCAA Tournament appearance, as the Gophers currently sit squarely on the bubble.

Who’s Hot


Cassius Winston, Michigan State

Another week, another stellar performance for Michigan State guard Cassius Winston. In what is becoming a two-man race for conference Player of the Year honors with Purdue guard Carsen Edwards, Winston scored 23 in each of his two games this week, a win over Iowa on the road and a loss to Purdue on the road. Interestingly enough, Winston appeared to outplay Edwards when they went head-to-head Sunday, but it was Edwards’ teammates (and a raucous home crowd) that got Purdue the victory. All in all, however, splitting a pair of road games against ranked teams isn’t the worst outcome in the world and Winston continued to look like an all-American in turning in 46 points, 15 assists, 8 rebounds, and 7 three-pointers on 58% shooting from beyond the arc this week.

DMitrik Trice, Wisconsin

This week, it seemed as though all-American candidate Ethan Happ said to his point guard, “You go. It’s your turn,” and the redshirt sophomore obliged. Happ dished out 11 assists en route to a triple double against Northwestern as Trice shouldered the biggest share of the scoring load, dropping 18 on 7-11 (64%) shooting, a follow-up to his 16 against Illinois. The 6-10 shooting from three on the week was particularly impressive. Trice is coming into his own in his second full season in Madison, averaging career highs by significant margins in every statistical category, most notably raising his FG% from 38% to 44% from last season to this season and his 3PT% from 30% to 46%.

Luka Garza, Iowa

It must have been a bittersweet (mostly bitter) week for Luka Garza, the Iowa Hawkeyes’ sophomore big man. His team, ranked 19th coming into the week, dropped a pair of games to Michigan State and then Minnesota. One was more expected but the latter was a loss to an unranked bubble team. Garza was one of two players (the other being Cassius Winston) to score 20+ in both of their games this week, but the perimeter shooting and defense of the Hawkeyes offset magnificent performances in both games by Garza and frontcourt mate Tyler Cook. All told, Garza scored 45 this week and extended his streak of 20+ point games and 50%+ shooting performances to four.

Who’s Not


Kaleb Wesson, Ohio State

The big guy can’t stop fouling! Wesson’s play on the court has not been particularly poor by any means. But he can’t stay on the court as he consistently gets in foul trouble in the early goings. After fouling out early in a Buckeye home loss to then-unranked Purdue despite only playing 16 minutes, Wesson managed to stay on the floor for 25 minutes against Nebraska but still was hampered by 4 fouls and just did not make much of an impact offensively, shooting 3-8 for 7 points, giving him a total of 13 points in 2 games and 41 minutes this week. 6 turnovers on top of all that don’t help. His Buckeye team kept its head above water with the Nebraska win, but overall, this is a Buckeye team that is sliding, losing 6 of their last 7, and their sophomore big man takes a share of the blame.

Indiana’s Offense

You could extend this to the team’s play as a whole as the beleaguered Hoosiers have now suffered six losses in a row, but the shooting in particular has been abysmal. In the two losses this week (to Northwestern and Michigan), they connected on a combined 33% from the floor and 17% from 3. For a team that boasts a pair of all-conference caliber talents in Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan as well as a whole host of talented shooters around those two, those numbers are ugly. The 17-0 run they gave up at the start of the Michigan game is a microcosm of their recent struggles.

Top 5 Rebounders

1.) Jordan Murphy, Minnesota

In honor of Murphy’s achievement, we are ranking the conference’s five best glass-eaters this week, and the choice was clear with Murphy snatching over 1 RPG more than the next closest guy in the league. His 12 RPG ranks 4th in the nation, every other player in the Big Ten’s top 19 in rebounding stands taller than Murphy. He’s tenacious, he’s fundamentally sound, and he contributes in a variety of other ways for his team as well.

2.) Bruno Fernando, Maryland

#2 was a pretty clear choice as well. Fernando sits at #2 in the league in boards per game and ranks third in the league in both offensive and defensive rebounding. Physically, he’s beast, and his strong frame, length, and impressive vertical allow him to grab boards at an incredible rate.

3.) Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

From a rebounding standpoint, Happ is the polar opposite of Fernando. He lacks a long wingspan and elite athleticism and yet he averages 10.3 RPG same as Fernando. He’s an incredibly hard worker on the glass who is great at positioning himself for the rebound on the defensive glass and who generally never strays too far from the basket which allows him to make rebounding a more central part of his game. He is second in the league in defensive rebounding, sandwiched between Murphy and Fernando.

4.) Kenny Goins, Michigan State

Like Murphy, Goins is undersized for a big, standing at 6’7”, but he’s incredibly strong with an incredible motor. Even with teammates Nick Ward and Xavier Tillman around to gobble up missed shots, Goins is fourth in the conference in rebounding, a full board per game ahead of fifth.

5.) Myles Johnson, Rutgers

Who? A bit of an unconventional choice, you may not have heard of Johnson and you won’t even find him on the list of the conference’s leading rebounders...unless you scroll all the way down to 22nd. But in addition to my list to this point being the conference’s statistical top 4 rebounders, I chose the freshman big for a reason. He currently plays only 16.4 MPG, less than anyone else in the conference’s top 45. Take out your calculator and increase his minutes to the 30.1 that Jordan Murphy averages, and increase Johnson’s other numbers at a similar rate, and suddenly he averages 9.5 RPG, good for 4th in the conference, and more notably, he then averages 4.6 OFFENSIVE rebounds per game...which would be first in the conference. By over 1 ORPG. This is all a very inexact science, but the case COULD be made for the 6’10” freshman as the best offensive rebounder in the Big Ten. Whether he is or he isn’t, the things he is doing as a freshman are quite impressive and he could have a future as an impact player in the future.

Power Rankings


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

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