How times have changed. As recently as 2014, the Big Ten was the best basketball conference in the nation for four years running, and it wasn’t particularly close. This season? It’s hard to rank it any higher than fourth due to too many terrible teams wasting away and not enough really good ones to can hang our hats on. Of the 32 Division I conferences, the Big Ten as a whole ranks 28th or worse in four statistical categories (tempo, turnover percentage, free throw rate and steal percentage) and 21st or worse in two other big ones (three point percentage and offensive rebounding percentage). Fortunately, there are still about six to seven teams that are likely tourney-bound, but the bottom half of the conference is simply unwatchable. I’d rather pick my eye lashes off, one lash at a time, than waste two hours of life watching any of those horror shows. Here’s to hoping the top half of the conference provides as much entertainment down the stretch that the bottom half will not.It’s week 10 of the Layup Line.
A: A.J. Hammons
Decent week for Purdue’s senior center, who snatched up his fourth career Big Ten Player of the Week honor and third plaudit this season. Hammons had the best game of his career against Nebraska, putting up 32 points on 14-of-17 shooting with 11 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. The inconsistent manchild is in the midst of some of the best basketball of his career right now, evidenced by his per game averages of 15.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks on 59.0 percent shooting in conference play. With the Robert Carter/Diamond Stone and Matt Costello/Deyonta Davis frontcourt duos on the docket for Purdue in the next four days, it’ll be interesting to see which version of Hammons shows up to play.
B: O.G. Anunoby
Say “hello” to my lil’ friend – Tom Crean’s next unheralded star-in-the-making – the “Original Gangsta,” O.G. Anunoby. The 6’8” forward from Jefferson City, MO has seen his minutes increase from 7.7 to 15.4 minutes per game since James Blackmon’s injury (also the start of conference play), and he has taken advantage in a huge way. Anunoby is one of, if not the, most skilled defenders on Indiana’s roster, having pickpocketed Big Ten foes multiple times in five of 10 conference games and using his incredible length to slow down star players (see Zak Irvin’s 1-for-8 performance). He is crashing the glass with authority and continuously finds ways to shift the game’s momentum in Indiana’s favor when it needs it most. O.G. has solidified his spot as the fan favorite in Bloomington and for good reason (chill out, Tim Priller fans). Pay attention, Big Ten fans. This kid is for real. Read the rest of this entry »