Jess Settles, BTN men's basketball analyst, February 15, 2016
Down the stretch we come. Believe it or not, there are just three weeks remaining in the regular season.
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We'll be in Indianapolis for the Big Ten tourney before we know it.
Here's a look at my latest Big Ten Player Rankings, which features a new No. 1.
1. Denzel Valentine, Michigan State. Valentine put together another epic Valentine?s Day performance vs. Indiana, scoring 30 points, handing out a career-high 13 assists, compared to one turnover, and recording three steals. Against nationally ranked Purdue and Indiana, the senior shot 50 percent and averaged 28.5 points, 11.5 assists, 6.5 rebounds and two steals.
Last week: 2
2. Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa. Uthoff missed his first seven shots against winless Minnesota on Sunday night, but then erupted with a stat line that was Player of the Year worthy: 24 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks.
Last week: 1
3. A.J. Hammons, Purdue. Hammons was brilliant in Purdue?s signature overtime win vs. surging Michigan State on Tuesday night, scoring 19 points, pulling down 13 rebounds and blocking an impressive eight shots. In a loss at Michigan, the senior only scored 10 points.
Last week: 3
4. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin. Great players make their teammates better, and Hayes has taken an inexperienced team to new heights lately. The Badgers have won seven in a row, including Saturday?s beatdown at then-No. 2 Maryland, snapping the Terrapins' program-record 27-game home winning streak.
Last week: 6
5. Peter Jok, Iowa. After struggling to get clean looks in a loss at Indiana, Jok erupted with 27 points to help Iowa hold off upset-minded Minnesota on Sunday night. The improved guard has hit multiple 3-pointers in six consecutive games and 10 of the last 11.
Last week: 8
6. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana. Ferrell had another rough week shooting, going a combined 5-of-22 in a split vs. Iowa and Michigan State; he's shooting just 30 percent in Indiana's last six games. The senior's improved defense, however, has kept Indiana in the hunt.
Last week: 4
7. Melo Trimble, Maryland. Yogi Ferrell isn't the only star point guard struggling from the field. The preseason player of the year is shooting 32 percent (18-of-57) over the last six games. Maryland?s inconsistent offense finally cost them Saturday night, as visiting Wisconsin handed the Terps their first home loss in Big Ten play.
Last week: 5
8. Matt Costello, Michigan State. Michigan State's double-double machine was at his best in Sunday's blowout win vs. Indiana, scoring a career high 22 points and pulling down 11 rebounds, good enough for his fifth double-double in Big Ten play.
Last week: 10
9. Robert Carter Jr., Maryland. Five shots in the loss vs. Wisconsin is not near enough for one of the Big Ten?s most versatile players. Still, the Georgia Tech transfer is shooting 57 percent and averaging a well-rounded 12.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.4 blocks.
Last week: 7
10. Andrew White III, Nebraska. The Big Ten's most underrated scorer continues to put up big numbers, the latest example coming in a career-high 35-point effort vs. Penn State on Saturday. The 6-foot-7 star is averaging 17.6 points and shooting 51 percent, including 43 percent from distance.
Last week: NR