It was a weird week for the Big Ten. Many teams left their schedule bare for finals -- only playing on Saturday. Unless of course you play for Northwestern, where you finished finals a week ago and got to ease into three games almost immediately against Chicago State, Mississippi Valley State and DePaul (all wins). Go Cats!
But there were still some great performances that need to be discussed, so here we are with this weeks Big Ten Player of the Year, of the Week performers: The Tandem Edition:
Tre Demps & Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern
Speaking of the Wildcats, it's kind of hard not to include SOMEONE that played in three games in a week like this, but Demps and McIntosh deserve the nod as a duo regardless.
Let's start with Demps, as he scored 23 points against Chicago State (nine rebounds and three assists), 13 against Mississippi Valley State (four rebounds and two assists), and 18 points (seven rebounds and four assists) in a way too close for comfort overtime game against DePaul. He's the definition of a volume shooter and the closest thing we have to Kobe Bryant in the Big Ten. No seriously, he's averaging 14.8 attempts per game and almost half of them are three pointers. The dude never stops chucking.
But for Northwestern to keep winning, Demps needs to continue to take those shots. Does he need to find a more efficient stroke by the time conference play begins? Of course he does, but throwing in 54 points in three games is still pretty impressive.
In terms of McIntosh, he's the perfect running mate for a guy like Demps. He gets him the ball in his favorite positions and can take some of the offensive load off; like he did in 45 minutes against DePaul, scoring 13 points, grabbing five rebounds and assisting on eight buckets. And against Mississippi Valley State he scored 14 points, grabbed four rebounds and assisted on eight more made baskets.
On the season McIntosh is playing in 34.5 minutes per game, scoring 15.4 points (on 47.2% from the field), nabbing 3.5 rebounds and dropping 6.5 dimes per game. That's a hefty line for a sophomore point guard.
Go ahead and insert your bad schedule, more opportunities line here, but Northwestern DOES have a shot at going 12-1 in the non-con and if they plan on taking a long ride floating in the NCAA Tournament bubble, these two need to continue to play tremendous two man basketball.
I still believe they will.
Keita Bates-Doip & Jae'Sean Tate, Ohio State
FINALLY, I get to write about these two again. It's been ugly to start -- way uglier than I ever thought -- but this week could have been the turnaround this team desperately needed before the Big Ten slate begins. It all started with a nice win against Northern Illinois (8-2 on the season), where Bates-Diop finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, one assist and two blocks and Tate finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and three steals.
Then there was their Saturday tilt with the ever scary, #4 ranked Kentucky Wildcats. Ohio State jumped all over UK early -- taking a 12 point half time lead and driving it up to as many as 16 with a little over ten minutes left in the game -- and even kept it together during Kentucky's "it's only a matter of time" run.
THE BUCKEYES ARE STILL IN HERE (I hope).
This was the first time all season where the Buckets remained composed throughout an entire game; eyes on the finish line from start to finish. It's college basketball and there are ebbs and flows, but it was extremely impressive for this team -- who was left for dead after getting blown out by UConn -- to come out of the gates hot and come together to hang on to a lead during a "neutral site" game that seemed more like a Kentucky home game.
Bates-Diop finished the game with 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three more steals, while Tate finished with six points, 10 rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal. It wasn't Tate's best offensive out put, but when a sophomore flirts with a double-double every game, it's hard not to appreciate the hustle. And that says nothing of his defensive intensity, Barkley-esque fortitude on the glass and all of the "little things" that get old timers out of their seats. His effort is second to none in the conference, something I was writing about during the off season. Dude is just so scrappy and because of all of the above mentioned attributes and his unfathomable aggressiveness, would it be shocking if he's in the NBA and following in Draymond Green's footsteps?
In regards to Bates-Diop, watch out for him during the Big Ten season. He's a matchup nightmare at the small forward position, has all the measurables and is putting his game all together right now. He's still raw, but his play is like watching an infant try to walk... he's sooooo close to figuring it all out and when he does, good luck getting him to stop.
Note: I didn't forget about Marc Loving, he was also a solid player against Kentucky... I just find my eyes always fixated on the two above. Either way, what a week for Ohio State. Hopefully this was the spark their engine desperately needed.