Player of the Week
Trey Burke, Michigan
Here’s the kind of freshman Burke is for Michigan: “Darius who?” After Burke’s most recent performance against in-state rival Michigan State, the question seems somewhat legitimate. Tuesday’s 60-59 win against the Spartans in Ann Arbor featured 37 minutes of Burke, who scored a game-high 20 points and assisted on the game-winning layup by Stu Douglass with 36.5 seconds remaining on a well-crafted fast break.
Burke’s the sort of talent that seems to fit Beilein’s system better than now-L.A. Laker Darius Morris did, mostly because of his shooting range. He nailed a 3 almost standing on the block ‘M’ at halfcourt to tie the score at 52 – one of three he hit from long range on his 8-of-11 shooting night. He’s faster than Morris and a better defender, too. But his passing is the most important thing that was needed to fill the void Morris left after his sophomore season. He’s third in the league in that category at 4.8 per game after Morris led the Big Ten at 6.7 last year. When it comes to taking care of the ball, Burke is no slouch either. He ranks sixth in the Big Ten in A/TO ratio at 1.9, compared to Morris’ 2.3 which ranked second last season. Morris, at 6-5, clearly had the height thing going for him, making it easier to pass over guys in the lane. Burke is just 5-11, so he has to find more creative ways to position himself for a highlight-reel pass.
Burke has scored in double figures in 12 straight games and has had single digits only twice this season. He’s averaging 19.3 in his past three games.
Cammeron Woodyard, Penn State
An injured hamstring has slowed this 6-5 senior down for some of the Big Ten season, but he’s found a groove with back-to-back career games for the Nittany Lions. In a loss to Minnesota and a win against Illinois, Woodyard shot a combined 7-of-12 from 3-point range. He had 17 in the win against the No 22 Illini and 22 versus Minnesota, while adding four rebounds. This was after missing the Purdue game Jan. 5 and playing just 7 mins against Indiana on Jan. 8. His career high before this stretch was 14.
Joe Coleman, Minnesota
Coleman, a 6-4 freshman from Minneapolis, has started three consecutive games for the Gophers, in which his scoring has increased to 14 per game from four. He’s been able to get the free-throw line consistently – a great thing for the Gophers, since he’s shot 23-of-25 (92 percent) in that span. He had a career-high 23 points in a 80-66 win over Penn State on Sunday, going 13-for-14 at free-throw line. He also added five rebounds.
Coleman also added four clutch free throws down the stretch to help Minnesota upset Indiana 77-74 last Thursday.
Lenzelle Smith Jr., Ohio State
If only the sophomore from Zion, Ill., could match up against Tom Crean’s Indiana team every game. Smith’s 28 points in Sunday’s 80-63 drubbing of the Hoosiers more than doubled his previous career-high, set two weeks earlier against — you guessed it — Indiana. Crean might want to rethink his strategy of leaving a starter on the No. 6 team in America unchecked from now on. Crean was somewhat defensive afterward, telling reporters to “look it up” when defending his defensive strategy to limit Sullinger and referring to Smith’s unimpressive numbers coming into the game.
Sorry, Tom, but going by the numbers isn’t gonna fly in the Big Ten this year. It was a testament to the conference’s depth, which Crean and the Hoosiers experienced again three nights later with another loss, this time in Lincoln, Neb. It was Smith’s second career game in double figures, shooting 10-of-12 and 4-of-5 from long range. Oh, and he also grabbed seven rebounds. Believe it or not, he’s second on the Buckeyes behind Sullinger’s 9.3 per game at 4.7.
Sam Maniscalco, Illinois
It’s seems borderline unfair to pick on a guy coming off an ankle injury, but maybe he shouldn’t have played on Thursday at Penn State. Maniscalco, a senior guard who transferred from Bradley, expected to play 10-15 minutes before the game and then played 27 while not scoring a point. He shot 0-of-5, including 0-of-3 from long range. It’s unclear whether Maniscalco messed with the Illini’s recent rhythm, but it resulted in an ugly 54-52 loss at the Bryce-Jordan Center.
Top 5 guys you want at the line
1. Matt Gatens, Iowa
The senior guard is on pace to get the line more this season than any other time in his career. He’s averaging 3.6 attempts per game and making 86.1 percent of them (62-of-72). For his career, he’s an 86.6 percent shooter and has led the Big Ten in the category two of the past three seasons, including a 87.4 percent last year and 90.4 percent in 2008-09. Highlights: 8-for-9 Nov. 26 against IPFW, 6-for-7 Nov. 29 against Clemson, 5-for-5 Dec. 22 against Boise State and Jan. 14 against Michigan.
2. Bo Spencer, Nebraska
Spencer, another senior, has matched Gatens atop of the conference this season, making the exact same 62-of-72 for 86.1 percent, averaging four attempts per game. For his career, which includes three seasons at LSU, Spencer is an 83.6 percent shooter. Highlights: 6-for-7 Dec. 20 against Central Michigan, 10-for-12 Jan. 11 against Penn State.
3. Keith Appling, Michigan State
The sophomore is getting to the line more than three times the amount he did last season in less minutes so far. He averages 4.5 attempts per game and has made 81.4 percent of them. After a 34-of-38 mark last season (89.5 percent) Appling is an 83.9 percent shooter for his career. Highlights: 12-for-12 Dec. 22 against Lehigh, 9-for-10 Dec. 28 against Indiana.
4. Brandon Richardson, Nebraska
The Cornhuskers’ senior has been just about as consistent as you can be from the line. He’s an 82.6 percent shooter for his career and is getting to the line 2.5 times per game this season.
5. William Buford, Ohio State
Buford is attempting just 2.6 free throws per game but has hit a career-high 86 percent of them. He’s an 81.09 percent shooter for his four-year career. Highlights: 5-for-5 Dec. 17 at South Carolina, Dec. 28 against Northwestern.