Team to Beat

Player of the Week

Miles Bridges, Michigan State

Miles BridgesMiles BridgesFebruary 10th had finally arrived, and it was put up or shut up time for Miles Bridges and the Spartans. After a season of being hyped as the two big dogs of the Big Ten, Purdue and Michigan State finally had their lone matchup of the year this week, and though the stakes were sullied a bit by circumstance (the game came on the heels of Purdue’s loss to party crasher Ohio State, and Michigan State was already a game out of first place in the conference), it did not disappoint. And when the final buzzer sounded, it was the long-time NBA prospect that lifted the Spartans to victory and a #2 national ranking this week with his NBA-range three-pointer with mere seconds left on the clock.

On the week, Bridges averaged 22.5 PPG on 61% shooting in a pair of three-point wins over Purdue and Iowa. He only attempted one three-pointer per 7 minutes which is a good thing considering much of the criticism of his had stemmed from his insistence on settling for jumpers and not taking the ball to the basket. This week, however, nearly three-quarters of his shot attempts were two’s. He’s back on track with a 17.8 PPG average and a 49% shooting percentage.

Who’s Hot?

Juwan Morgan, Indiana

Juwan Morgan is dominant. Another week of 20+ PPG scoring in the books for the junior power forward. In a pair of much-needed blowouts by Indiana, Morgan put up an average statline of 21.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.5 BPG, and 1.5 SPG on 18/27 (67%) shooting. He ranks 7th in the conference in scoring at 59%, good for the 5th-best percentage in the conference, on more attempts than the four players ahead of him. With his combination of efficiency and scoring volume and ability to keep a struggling team afloat on his own shoulders, a case can be made for Morgan earning First Team All-Big Ten honors at the end of the year.

Moritz Wagner, Michigan

In spite of a loss to unranked Northwestern, Moritz Wagner put his best foot forward this week, pouring in 20 points in each of the Wolverines’ road contests. He chipped in 20 additional rebounds and connected on 63% of his shots from the field this week. The Wolverines have fallen behind the pack of MSU, Purdue, and OSU, but they are still a dangerous team to any of those other three, especially when their 6’11” big is connecting from deep.

Isaiah Roby, Nebraska

Don’t look now, but the Nebraska Huskers are fourth in the Big Ten and looking to break into the elite group of Big Ten teams that actually have a legitimate shot of making the tournament. They have now won 5 straight, including 3 road games, and even though the best team they have played in that stretch is probably Minnesota, they are lookign consistent. THis week, rather than leading scorer [Player: James Palmer Jr.] leading the charge, it was sophomore forward Isaiah Roby. In their two wins, he put up 31 points and 19 rebounds as well as 4 assists and 7 blocks, connecting on 72% from the floor. He’s a high energy guy at the power forward position and even has a little range out to the three-point line, a shot he is shooting at 36% this season. If Nebraska is to crash the NCAAs, they will have to keep doing what they have been doing to win all these games against lesser opponents.

Who’s Not?

Vince Edwards, Purdue

He’s been sick with the flu of late, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he was still experiencing symptoms this week as Vincent Edwards didn’t look great in Purdue’s two losses this past week. He shot a grand total of 6/23 (26%) from the field, and while he contributed as a rebounder, the offensive performance he failed to produce could have been enough to push the Boilermakers over the top against either of the teams they played this week.

Charles Matthews, Michigan

Where teammate Mo Wagner excelled this week, Matthews shied away from the spotlight with a pair of underwhelming performances, particularly in UM’s loss to Northwestern. He scored 5 points on 2/7 shooting, then failed to really bounce back against Wisconsin, scoring an efficient 11 points on 7 shot but also turning the ball over 4 times. In all, the #2 scorer for the Wolverines only averaged 8 PPG (down from 13.9 on the season) and 3.5 TOPG this week as Michigan struggled to even win one game.

Top 5 Point Guards

1) Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern

I, like many others, expected to be writing about Bryant McIntosh a lot this season, and it hasn’t really turned out to be the case as Northwestern as a whole has underwhelmed. McIntosh’s shot has been off this year as he has struggled to just put up a 39% rate from the field, but his distribution abilities are still top-notch. He ranks 3rd in the conference in assists but can also fill the basket like few Big Ten point guards can. His handles are superb and he has plenty of range on his jumpshot. This may not have been the season he envisioned for his team, but he deserves plenty of individual recognition to come his way for the way he runs an offense.

2) Tony Carr, Penn State

Carr won’t be mistaken for a high-efficiency scorer, with only a 42% field goal percentage, but he’s a big (6’5”) athletic point guard who can distribute, shoot, rebound and defend at a high level. His outside shooting has been phenomenal, hitting 46% of his three’s on 5 attempts per game, and he ranks second in the whole conference in scoring at 19.2 per game.

3) Cassius Winston, Michigan State

He’s not a big scorer like a lot of other guys on this list, but Winston is a tough floor general who sparks one of the conference’s best offenses and helps a mix of talented pieces mesh. His 7.1 APG is nearly 2 assists per game higher than anyone else in the conference. When he does choose to score, he’s incredibly efficient, shooting between 51% and 52% from both the field and from distance. He stands at only 6’0” but don’t overlook him as one of the most important pieces in this Michigan State lineup.

4) Nate Mason, Minnesota

This guy has been terrorizing Big Ten defenses with his speed and his shooting for four solid years. Things haven’t gone great for the Minnesota basketball program this season, but that hasn’t stopped Mason from putting up over 16 PPG, albeit on 40% shooting. He’s a streaky shooter who, when on, can be as deadly as anyone in the Big Ten.

5) Anthony Cowan, Maryland

This guy has been sort of a breakout sensation this season, averaging both 16 PPG and 5 APG and being a bright spot on a Maryland team that has been hit with injuries and inconsistency. He does an excellent job, like Melo Trimble before him, of striking the balance between scoring and distributing, and as he gets older the next two years, he could easily become the Big Ten’s premier point guard.

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