It should have come as little surprise that Victor Oladipo was named the Big Ten player of the week yesterday. Score 40 points, grab 13 rebounds, pick up nine steals, dish out six assists, block three shots, and make three of four three-pointers in a week, hardware tends to head your way. For the Hoosiers, that performance helped pace them to two league wins and kept pace with Michigan atop the Big Ten standings.
While it was Cody Zeller that picked up most of the preseason headlines and magazine covers, Oladipo has emerged as at least a co-star deserving of some top-flight billing as well.
In comparing their individual stats, Zeller is averaging two more points per game, plus two additional rebounds per contest. Both are shooting at a fantastic rate, with Oladipo making a staggering 66 percent on all field goal attempts. His 55 percent clip from three-point range is stellar as well, but he’s been judicious (and that’s a good thing) in his attempts from deep, taking just an average of 1.5 per game. Oladipo’s shooting percentage was good for fourth in Division I heading into Sunday’s game.
Zeller’s shooting percentage took a dip over the last week, going just 2-11 over the two home wins. He was ranked seventh in the country going into Sunday’s game, and will likely fall a couple of spots on the national list. He’s now making just under 60 percent of all attempts from the floor for the year.
Oladipo’s play in the passing lanes is a thing of wonder for the Hoosiers, and he’s now averaging just under two-and-a-half steals per game. That’s good for top 20 in the nation. Oladipo is also third on the team in assists, while Zeller’s picking up at least a block and a steal a game.
In other words, both are impacting nearly every aspect of the game for the Hoosiers. If Zeller was the preseason pick for player of the year both in the league and in the country, is Oladipo now part of that same conversation? Absolutely.
Much like it seems the national championship could go through the Big Ten this year, the player of the year debate will do the same. Let’s start with how Zeller and/or Oladipo stack up compared to other top B1G candidates.
Much like the Heisman Trophy, much easier to be national POY when your team is atop the polls. Burke is the rare combo of great scorer and distributor for the Wolverines, scoring 18 points per game while dishing out seven assists a night. On a team shooting a staggering 41 percent from deep, his 37 percent from three-point range fits right in. The game Saturday night at Assembly Hall will serve as a great measuring stick in the race between Burke and Indiana’s top two players.
The Fort Wayne native surprised some when he elected to return to Columbus for his senior season. It’s sure looking like the right decision now, as he’s only one of 13 Division I players averaging 20 points per game. He’s chipping in on the glass with 6.5 boards per game, and his 42 percent from three-point range is outstanding. Not many players are their team’s leading scorer, rebounder, three-point shooter, and lead their team in free throws made and attempted.
That’s the competition inside of the league, here’s a couple of likely candidates at the national level.
The younger of the brothers from Warsaw who matriculated down to Durham is having quite the senior season. His 17 points and 11 rebounds per game make him one of just 16 players in the country to average a double-double. His rebound numbers alone are good for fourth in the country. His 57 percent field goal percentage is in the top 25 in the nation. And while few outside of Tobacco Road care for the Dukies, they’ll certainly continue to get plenty of attention.
The label of mid-major probably doesn’t apply to Creighton anymore, as there’s plenty of respect for this program and their league, the Missouri Valley. Since McDermott was a preseason All-American, most at least know of his game, even if they haven’t seen play a great deal this year. His 24 points per game is second in the nation, but he’s more than just a scorer. He collects seven boards a game while shooting 56 percent from floor, including 50 percent from three. His overall shooting stats place him in the top 30 of the nation. Plus, his supporting cast around him is far less talented than any other of the candidates mentioned to this point.
This debate won’t be settled any time soon. There’s still seven weeks until the opening tip of the NCAA tournament. We’re over two months from the final whistle of the season. We can’t determine yet who the “best” player on the Indiana roster is at this point, let alone in the Big Ten or the country.
One thing to keep in mind: the scoring averages of both Zeller and Oladipo are lower than any of the other four candidates listed above. Let’s reference the Heisman Trophy again. The best teams could have multiple award candidates, and teammates can take votes away from the other. If one of either Zeller or Oladipo begin to soar over the other, it’s great for their candidacy. But, likely a bad thing for the Hoosiers.