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Man on a Mission

Player of the Week

Carsen Edwards, Purdue

Carsen EdwardsCarsen EdwardsWho else? In the opening stanza of the year, Edwards has been everything advertised and more. As he did last year, he is putting up great scoring numbers (25.3 PPG; first in the conference) on great efficiency (46% from the field, 41% from 3, 92% from the line). He’s become more of a distributor this season as he is the primary ball handler following the graduation of PJ Thompson, so his assist total is up to a career high 4.2 a game. The shooting splits are even more remarkable when you look at how little separation Edwards gets on many of his looks.

Purdue has looked to be about what most thought them to be so far: a good but not great team that will stay in the top 25 throughout the year but may not be top ten caliber without a lot of experience behind Edwards. In their only loss, Edwards shot 9/21 and turned it over 6 times, so the Boilermakers will need balance around him against quality competition so he doesn’t have to try and do it all himself. Shot selection, particularly in the loss to Virginia Tech, still pops up as an issue, but Edwards is talented enough to get it off without a great look.

Who’s Hot?

Lamar Stevens, Penn State

Alongside Edwards on an island atop the Big Ten scoring charts is the veteran swingman for Penn State, Lamar Stevens. In the wake of Tony Carr’s surprise departure for the NBA, his classmate Stevens has taken it upon himself to match Carr’s scoring production and then some. Stevens and Edwards are over 6 points a game above the next closest scorer in the conference. And with a 48% FG percentage, these are hardly empty numbers. Perhaps most impressive is the 8.8 RPG, an eye-popping number for a guy whose game has always been more that of a perimeter guy.

It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows for Stevens and the Nittany Lions this season, with unsightly losses to Depaul and Bradley, and it’s clear this just isn’t the same team it would be with Tony Carr, but there is still hope for a team that could be getting slept on, and that, at press time, had just knocked off a ranked Virginia Tech squad. Stevens will be instrumental in making sure this season isn’t a lost one.

Juwan Morgan, Indiana

All the hype in Bloomington has surrounded freshman phenom Romeo Langford, but the guy that carried this team last year has been lights out to this point. Morgan, the 6’8” junior forward, is shooting 72%, including 9/15 from 3 in the early going. He set the tone in the big win against a ranked Marquette team, scoring 13 and grabbing 8 boards, and has shot at least 63% in every game but one. One of the more underrated players in the Big Ten, Howard is a bruiser down low who now is showing that he has some range that hasn’t always been there.

Bruno Fernando, Maryland

After showing flashes of greatness in his debut season, Bruno Fernando looks like he may have already put it all together. In Maryland’s hot start against a slate of mid-majors, Fernando has posted a remarkable line of 16 PPG on 77% shooting, over 9 boards a game, and 2.5 blocks a game, more than double what he accrued last season. If Fernando continues to be disruptive on the defensive end to match his budding offensive game, he will be a lock for all-Big Ten honors. With more pro potential than almost anyone in the conference after Langford, Fernando is perhaps the brightest spot on a Maryland team looking to bounce back from a disappointing season.

Joshua Langford, Michigan State

Miles Bridges is a Charlotte Hornet now, but concerned Michigan State fans’ fears may have been someone assuaged with the hot start of Joshua Langford, a guard who came to East Lansing with Bridges two years ago. After averaging a serviceable 11.7 PPG last season, Langford is now third in the conference in scoring with 18.5, on the back of 51% shooting and 48% from 3. Getting the ball in his hands much more this season, Langford has surprisingly been much more efficient. It remains to be seen if Langford, a jumpshooter, can maintain this torrid pace, but he’s now The Guy on the perimeter for a Spartans team that looks just as scary as ever.

Top 5 Seniors

1. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

The big guy from Wisconsin who seems to have been there forever has carried the Badgers to a wildly impressive start. With comfortable wins over Oklahoma, Xavier, and Stanford, as well as a close call against #4 Virginia, The Badgers might be the surprise of the year in the Big Ten. Happ has dominated on both ends with over 17 points and 12 boards a game as well as 1.7 blocks. They even put the ball in his hands plenty to try and create in the high post (he has 5.7 assists per game as well) even though he isn’t much of a threat to shoot from deep. Wisconsin disappointed last season but this year looks to be different as the Badgers have already amassed multiple quality wins in November thanks in large part to the big guy down low leading a young supporting cast.

2) Juwan Morgan, Indiana

We talked about Morgan above, but he has come a long way in two years. He’s the heart and soul of this team and will look to extend his career to the NBA as he is a fringe draft prospect. His shot hasn’t even been falling as consistently as normal so once it does, he and Langford may be the best duo in the league.

3) Charles Matthews, Michigan

The key returner for Michigan, Matthews has led the Wolverines to wins over Villanova and Providence in his early showings as the alpha dog. He has, however, also started the year shooting 19% from outside, so this team needs him to warm up. Michigan is such a good squad defensively this season that they haven’t needed outstanding shooting to win, but as the schedule tightens up, Matthews will seek to replicate the production of all the amazing wings of the Beilein era.

4) James Palmer Jr., Nebraska

Nebraska isn’t usually at the center of the Big Ten basketball conversation, and so Palmer hasn’t always gotten the respect he deserves. But he’s a smooth scorer with size, strength, and a decent stroke, and he has made this Nebraska team sneaky-good in the two years since he transferred from Miami.

5) Vic Law, Northwestern

It’s been a long time in the making for the 5th-year senior, but the once-highly touted recruit is now a college basketball veteran taking the league by storm. It’s his team now and he’s rising to the occasion. He’s always been a great outside shooter, but he’s been lights-out so far this year, connecting on 45% en route to 18.5 points per game, good for third in the conference. He’s a smooth scorer at swingman and an excellent defender.

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