It would be tough to find anyone with knowledge of college basketball who would argue against the Big Ten being among the top conferences in the country this year. We are in early January, and already, the conference features nine teams with double-digit wins, five of which are currently ranked in the AP Top 25 poll.
There are plenty of surprise teams throughout the Big Ten this season, but what about the conference’s most surprising players?
Let’s take a look at my three most surprising players so far this season.
1. DeAndre Mathieu, G, Minnesota
Stats: 11.6 points per game, .504 field goal percentage, 4.4 assists per game, 2.0 steals per game
Mathieu has allowed Andre Hollins to move off the point guard position some, which gives him more offensive freedom. He pushes tempo the way head coach Richard Pitino likes, he plays ball-hawk defense and is very unselfish with the rock. Talk about a very pleasant surprise for the Gophers.
2. Jarrod Uthoff, F, Iowa
Stats: 10.5 points per game, .578 field goal percentage, 6.3 rebounds per game, 1.3 blocks per game, 20 minutes per game
Uthoff has been a tremendous addition to the depth of the already deep Iowa Hawkeyes. His size (6-8) and athleticism make him a matchup nightmare. He’s also much more willing to be physical than I anticipated, rebounding at a very high rate in limited minutes. He could stand to be more aggressive and shoot more.
3. Nigel Hayes, F, Wisconsin
Stats: Last 5 games: 13 points per game, 4 rebounds per game, .580 field goal percentage, 17.4 minutes per game
Bo Ryan doesn’t play freshmen a ton of minutes. Hayes is still not getting starter’s minutes right now, but his contribution to the undefeated Badgers is hard not to notice. He seems to be playing better every game as his confidence continues to soar. This guy is a physical specimen, a very cerebral forward, and the sky’s the limit for him.
|About Stephen Bardo
||The BTN basketball analyst and former Flyin’ Illini star is a regular contributor to BTN.com. Follow Bardo on Twitter @stephenbardo, read his past posts right here, and use the form below to submit your questions to his Big Ten basketball mailbag.|