Rising to the Occasion

Player of the Week

Corey Sanders, Rutgers

Corey SandersCorey SandersRutgers basketball usually doesn’t get a lot of love from this blog, or from anyone. But they had arguably the win of the week in the Big Ten this week by taking down #15 Seton Hall, their in-state rival and recent superior. Sanders stands at 6’2” and is a career 40% shooter, but he’s a guy who makes big shots and has been since he came in three years ago as one of Rutgers’ most highly-touted recruits in program history. He dropped 22 on Seton Hall on 9/16 (56%) shooting along with 4 steals and 4 rebounds. He also poured in 12 along with a full statline of 5 boards, 5 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks (oh, and 5 fouls and 6 turnovers) in an easy win over Fordham. Rutgers is now a respectable 10-3 with wins against a trio of respectable opponents in Michigan State and Minnesota (potentially the two most talented teams in the Big Ten) and Florida State, and Sanders is leading them in scoring. And if it’s a late game situation, he’s going to be the guy with the ball in his hands.

Who’s Hot?

Juwan Morgan, Indiana

If not for the huge letdown against Fort Wayne, the 6’8” junior forward would be our player of the week due to his dominant performance in a thrilling win against Notre Dame. His 28 points in the second half and overtime carried the Hoosiers back from a 14-point deficit to win in overtime after Morgan jammed the winning dunk. In total, Morgan averaged 24 points and 11.5 boards in the Hoosiers’ two games this week, just the latest gem in the breakout season Morgan is having. The goings have been rough in Archie Miller’s first year, but Morgan has been steady. His 15.8 PPG and his 7.4 RPG both rank in the conference’s top 11.

Nick Ward, Michigan State

On paper, it was two more easy wins for Miles Bridges (44 points this week) and the Spartans this week against Oakland and Houston Baptist. But in reality, while Bridges was struggling to 11 points on 3/10 shooting and the Spartans were still tied with Oakland with 8 minutes to go, it was Ward whose 15-15 performance stabilized the ship and got the Spartans a 13-point victory. Then his 20 points in 19 minutes on 9/9 shooting took a backseat to Bridges’ 33 in a blowout of Houston Baptist. He’s currently second in the conference in rebounds per 40 minutes and is swatting 1.7 shots a game despite standing at 6’8” and playing only 18 minutes a game. Ward doesn’t get that many minutes due to his past inconsistency but he’s an incredibly talented player who is nearly as important to this team when he is on the floor as Miles Bridges is.

Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins, Penn State

The class of 2016 was widely regarded as one of the best in a long time for Penn State, and Pat Chambers’ prized class is carrying the load as expected. Stevens and Watkins led the Nittany Lions to their 9th and 10th wins of the year, averaging a combined 32.5 PPG and 21.5 RPG with three double-doubles on the week. Watkins, a powerful center, is averaging 12.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 3.5 BPG, second in the conference. Stevens averages 14.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2 APG, and 1.2 BPG. They may not be the most prestigious or most talented duo in the conference, but they can keep this team competitive against most competition they will face. Is Penn State a consistent team? Not at all, and little jumps off the page about their 10-3 record so far, but this team has the potential to be great in a couple years and is also really good right now.

Top 5 Players I Want with the Ball in Their Hands in the Closing Seconds

1) Miles Bridges, Michigan State

He’s not a stereotypical ball-dominating, shot-creating guard, but he’s probably the most talented guy in the league. His 33 points in 29 minutes against Houston Baptist showed he can score at will like maybe no other player in the conference, and not just against the Houston Baptists of the world. Driving to the hoop, creating space from outside, posting up a smaller and weaker and slower defender...he can do it all. He could have been an NBA lottery pick if he had come out last year, and he still is a likely lottery selection this year in a pretty solid draft class.

2) Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

Once again, when one pictures a player that usually gets the last-second shot drawn up for him, they generally don’t see a 6’10” back-to-the-basket center. But Ethan Happ can feast on most any post defender, so despite his team’s struggles around him this season, he’s still a dominant player and Big Ten Player of the Year candidate.

3) Scottie Lindsey, Northwestern

The 6’5” shooting guard has been sinking big shots for four years now and currently averages 15.8 points per game. A solid 38% outside shooter, Lindsey is the top of mercurial shooter who can go ice cold or get red hot in any given game. But more often than not, he’s draining them from all over the court.

4) Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern

Of the phenomenal Northwestern senior backcourt duo, Lindsey is more of the scorer while McIntosh is the distributor. But that doesn’t mean McIntosh couldn’t be among the Big Ten’s leading scorers if he wanted or needed to be. Though his FG percentage has dipped to below 40% this year, he’s one of the most talented and prescient guards in the conference and makes winning plays in crunch time.

5) Carsen Edwards, Purdue

On a roster with four seniors who have all been key contributors for four years, few might expect the sophomore to step up and be the team’s leading scorer, but that’s exactly what has happened in West Lafayette. Edwards showed flashes of tremendous ability last season as a shooter and a slasher but he has truly broken out this season with his 17.1 PPG and nearly 50% shooting. The Boilers’ schedule has been tough to this point with 7 games against power conference opponents, and Edwards’ average has still been over 16 in those, so this kind of production shouldn’t be an anomaly. In terms of swagger, this kid may lead the conference, and in a year or two, I would expect him to top this list.

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