Since 2002, there have only been two seasons when Big Ten home teams won fewer than 60 percent of their conference games (there have in fact been three years when home teams won over 70 percent of their Big Ten games). But that winning percentage has reached a new low this year, as home teams have thus far won only 57.3 percent of the time. With five of the league’s 14 teams as close to guaranteed wins as you can find in a major conference, that number makes sense. Nevertheless, it really highlights the level of disparity and weakness of the Big Ten this season.
It’s Week 11 of the Layup Line.
Michigan State has been a different team with their star back. (AP)
A: Denzel Valentine
Long time no-see, Mr. Valentine. How fitting for you to earn yourself some report card love on the eve of Valentine’s Day weekend. For those who haven’t been paying attention, Valentine earned his third Player of the Week honor of the season on Monday after dominating Michigan with a near triple-double (21 points, nine rebounds, eight assists). He followed that up on Tuesday by single-handedly bringing his Spartans back from an 18-point deficit against Purdue on the road, only for Sparty to lose by one in overtime (27 points, eight rebounds, 10 assists). Since that horrific loss to Nebraska on January 20, Michigan State is 4-1 and Valentine is averaging 21.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 4.2 threes per game in that span. The chances of him surpassing Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff as the front-runner for the Big Ten Player of the Year are remote, but Michigan State couldn’t care less. All that matters is that it has its star back and as healthy as ever, ready for the stretch run.
A: Corey Sanders
There are some really good freshmen in the Big Ten this season: Thomas Bryant, Caleb Swanigan, Ethan Happ and Diamond Stone, to name a few. Excluding overall team success, a reasonable argument can be made that none are having a better season than Rutgers’ Corey Sanders. The lone bright spot on a truly awful team, Sanders earned his second Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor after averaging 33.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 8.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game versus Illinois and Nebraska. He ranks eighth in the Big Ten in points (15.9 PPG), eighth in assists (4.2 APG), first in steals (1.7 SPG) and ninth in minutes (33.4 MPG); among freshmen, he ranks first in points and minutes and is second in assists. If Rutgers wasn’t in jeopardy of going 0-18 in conference play and provided Sanders with a couple of half-decent sidekicks to make them somewhat competent, Sanders would be a shoe-in for Freshman of the Year. Brutal.
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