1. Joseph Bertrand, Illinois – Chances are you probably didn’t know much about Bertrand before Christmas. You do now, because the athletic guard has the uncanny ability to get to the basket for easy shot after easy shot.
Big Ten stats: 67% FG, 13.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg
Nonconference stats: 58% FG, 4.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg
2. Brandon Paul, Illinois – The 43-point game against Aaron Craft and Ohio State puts him on this list by itself. But Paul has been in double digits in all five Big Ten games, and even if you take away that 43-point effort, he’s averaging 14.8 points in conference play.
Big Ten stats: 20.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.4 apg, 2.6 spg
Nonconference stats: 11.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3 apg, 1.2 spg
3. Rodney Williams, Minnesota – The Big Ten’s most athletic player, Williams has taken his game to a completely new level since star Trevor Mbakwe went down with a knee injury. To be more precise, he’s finally playing like the player everyone thought he could become.
Big Ten stats: 12.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.2 bpg
Nonconference stats: 9.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.6 bpg
4. Keith Appling, Michigan State – One of the biggest reasons for Michigan State’s 4-1 start in Big Ten play has been the improvement of Appling, who has shouldered a larger scoring role and developed into a talented distributor, all while playing his usual great defense.
Big Ten stats: 47% FG, 17.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 5.0 apg
Nonconference stats: 44% FG, 11.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.4 apg
5. Toney McCray, Nebraska – With the Huskers down both Jorge Brian Diaz and Dylan Talley to open the conference slate, McCray accepted a larger role and helped make up for the duo’s scoring and rebounding production.
Big Ten stats: 12.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg,
Nonconference stats: 9.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg
1. Evan Smotrycz, Michigan – During the nonconference slate, Smotrycz, it seemed, couldn’t miss from anywhere on the court. Now, through six Big Ten games, the sophomore can’t seem to hit a single shot. Smotrycz is continuing to be a force on the glass, though.
Big Ten stats: 25% FG, 4.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.3 apg
Nonconference stats: 57% FG, 11.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.2 apg
2. Ben Brust, Wisconsin – Like most of the Badgers recently, Brust has been ice cold from the field, particularly from distance (29 percent in Big Ten play). As a result, one of the team’s early leading scorers has been held to six points or fewer in three of six Big Ten games.
Big Ten stats: 37% FG, 7.2 ppg, 2.0 rpg
Nonconference stats: 44% FG, 10.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg,
3. Jared Berggren, Wisconsin – Of all the Badgers, Berggren has experienced the most prolific dip in shooting percentage since Big Ten play opened (54 percent to 30 percent). While his shot isn’t falling, he has provided more on defense, improving on the glass and in blocks.
Big Ten stats: 30% FG, 7.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.8 bpg
Nonconference stats: 54% FG, 12.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.4 bpg
4. Eric May, Iowa – May’s across-the-board struggles have cut into his playing time – 18.8 minutes per Big Ten game – and that has put a dent in his overall numbers. In six conference games, the junior hasn’t reached double figures and has three two-point games on his ledger.
Big Ten stats: 36% FG, 5.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.3 spg
Nonconference stats: 44% FG, 7.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.0 spg
5. Lewis Jackson, Purdue – To his credit, Jackson hasn’t been healthy most of the season. He’s playing hurt, which you have to admire, but it is hindering his performance. Since the schedule flipped to Big Ten play, Jackson is struggling in every category, the most glaring being assists (4.2 in nonconference, 2.6 in conference).
Big Ten stats: 44% FG, 7.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.6 apg, 0.4 spg
Nonconference stats: 48% FG, 10.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.5 spg