In the second edition of “Big Ten Breakdown” we look back at the highlights from Monday to Thursday, and there were plenty to pick from.
Other than Northwestern upsetting No. 12 Minnesota, the week wasn’t much of a surprise result-wise despite some thrilling games.
With that being said, let’s take a look at what happened over the past few days and what lies ahead this weekend in the Big Ten.
Performance of the Week: Michigan State’s Branden Dawson
Despite averaging a solid 10.5 points per game, guard Branden Dawson has been inconsistent on the scoring end for the Spartans this year.
Dawson, who was one of two players suspended for the first half of Jan. 16’s game against Penn State, couldn’t get anything going against the Lions, but progressed against Ohio State on Saturday with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Building off that stepping stone, Dawson had a career night when Sparty needed it most in a 49-47 win at Wisconsin.
The 6-foot-6 sophomore tallied a career-high 18 points, ripped down 13 boards and scored seven of the Spartans’ final 10 points to ice the win.
Freshman of the Week: Indiana’s Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell
At home against Penn State on Wednesday, big man Cody Zeller was a virtual non-factor, scoring just two points and not converting a single field goal.
However, Zeller’s normal dominance wasn’t needed as the Hoosiers’ backcourt took over.
While junior guard Victor Oladipo had quite a game (19 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals), perhaps the most impressive guard for Indiana was freshman Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell.
With the Lions’ 2-3 zone defense rotating to the ball, Ferrell saw numerous open looks and he capitalized.
The freshman point guard shot 6-of-7 from the field, nailing three of his four attempts from behind the arc.
Totaling 15 points, Ferrell got going early, scoring five of Indiana’s first seven points.
With Indiana playing both Michigan schools over the next three contests, play like this from their young guard would be nice for Indiana heading forward.
Game of the Week: Michigan State 49, Wisconsin 47
Runner-up for game of the week would be Ohio State’s victory over Iowa in Columbus.
Despite finishing with a nine-point victory, Ohio State allowed Iowa to cut a 23-point second half lead to just five with 2:30 remaining.
However, nothing in the Big Ten touched the back-and-forth game between Sparty and the Badgers at the Kohl Center on Tuesday.
Michigan State, who previously won only one out of nine games played in Madison, outlasted Wisconsin in a defensive, yet exciting struggle.
In a grind-it-out game, a meager 29.6 percent from the floor hurt Wisconsin, but it was free throws that kept them from winning a seesaw matchup.
Not only did they finish just 7-of-18 from the line, but Badgers’ guard George Marshall had two free throws with 3.5 seconds remaining down by two points. Continuing the trend, Marshall missed the front end and subsequently tried to miss the second, but failed to contact the rim to give the Spartans the ball and the game.
Matchup to Watch this Weekend: Illini's Brandon Paul vs. Michigan's Trey Burke
For those who admire filthy guard play, Sunday's game between Illinois and Michigan is one to watch.
While Wolverines’ ball handler Tim Hardaway Jr. is perhaps the most underrated guard in the country (16.8 points, 5.2 rebounds per game in Big Ten play), the spotlight is and will continue to be on sophomore shooter Trey Burke.
Burke, who was previously committed to Penn State before switching to Michigan, has averaged 18.6 points per game in his last seven contests. And while its clear Burke can score with the best of them, it’s his ability to distribute the basketball and rack up dimes that gets overlooked.
On the contrary, Illinois’ Brandon Paul doesn’t like to give up the basketball if he doesn't have to, and with good reason.
While Paul has averaged just 14.3 points per game, he has three games this year with 25 or more points scored, including a monster 35-point night against Gonzaga on Dec. 8.
With the conference’s two highest scoring guards going at it, it should prove for some fireworks in Champaign.
Game to watch: No. 13 Michigan State at No. 7 Indiana
While Minnesota at Wisconsin is sure to be an intriguing game, the obvious choice is a top-15 matchup between the Spartans and Hoosiers.
In a contest between two of the Big Ten's best, it seems like Michigan State has the momentum heading into this one.
While Tom Izzo's group will be trying to come out of raucous Assembly Hall with a win, the Spartans have won six straight - three of the wins by three points or less.
And after close victories over Ohio State and Wisconsin, the Spartans should be riding high heading into Bloomington.
Plus, Indiana could come out a little vulnerable at home, especially after an easy victory over Penn State on its home floor.
However, big men Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix need to get going early if Michigan State wants to beat the nation's second best scoring team.
Indiana's Cody Zeller has the capability to take over a game, so if the Spartans' duo underneath doesn't win the battle on the glass it could be a long day for Michigan State.