Ten Players to Watch in Chicago

There are No. 1 seeds and NCAA berths on the line in Chicago this weekend at the men's Big Ten Postseason Tournament. Which players could prove to be the keys to their team's success or failures? HoosierNation.com has the answer...

1. Earl Calloway, Indiana - The Hoosiers' point guard missed three games earlier this month with a partially separated shoulder before returning last week. Indiana faltered down the stretch against Purdue after he was injured and then went 1-2 during his three games on the sidelines. Calloway's return is huge for the Hoosiers because he is not only the catalyst of the IU offense, but also the team's best perimeter defender. He was also a big part of Indiana's postseason run last season, averaging 11.0 points, 5.2 assists and only 1.2 turnovers in the team's four postseason games.

2. Drew Neitzel, Michigan State – The first-team All-Big 10 guard has upped his scoring from 8.3 points/game a year ago to 18.3 this season and is as dangerous a scorer as there is in the tournament. Making him even more of a threat is the fact he's been at his best in big games. Neitzel averaged 21.8 points/game in his outings against the Big Ten's top three seeds (Ohio State, Wisconsin and Indiana), and that average includes a modest 10-point effort in early January against the Hoosiers. The Spartans might be the No. 7 seed, but it's easily within the realm of possibility that Neitzel could carry Tom Izzo's squad all the way to Sunday's championship game.

3. Tyler Smith, Iowa – The Hawkeyes' freshman small forward has been overshadowed by Ohio State's freshman tandem of Greg Oden and Mike Conley, but Smith has been a big reason why Coach Steve Alford's team has a chance for an improbable NCAA berth with a couple of wins in Chicago. A 14.9 points/game scorer this season, Smith was the Hawkeyes' leading rebounder and second-leading assist man on the year. He'll be huge in Iowa's quarterfinal match-up with fifth-seeded Purdue, a team Iowa whipped 78-59 in Iowa City in the two teams' only meeting this season. Smith had a team-high 18 points and seven assists in that contest.

4. David Teague, Purdue – The Boilermakers' fifth-year senior has been a huge part of the team's turnaround this season, averaging 14.4 points/game while shooting 42.9 percent from behind the 3-point arc. He's been even better since conference action opened in January, averaging 17.1 points and shooting 46.1 percent from deep. When he's on, Purdue has as good an inside-outside combination as anyone in the Big Ten. In fact, Carl Landry and Teague's combined 35.0 points/game in conference games was the best 1-2 tandem in the Big Ten. But when he struggles, the Boilermaker offense can bog down. Reserve Chris Lutz is the team's only other reliable 3-point shooter, but he's not nearly the defensive player or rebounder that Teague is.

5. Greg Oden, Ohio State – The league's Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year, Oden is the most dominant defensive player the conference has seen in some time. He averaged 3.7 blocks and 9.3 rebounds, while his 15.1 points/game in conference games led the team as well. He finished with 80 blocks this season in only 23 games, establishing a new OSU freshman record and has already climbed to ninth on OSU's all-time blocked shots list. With the wealth of talent on the OSU roster, Coach Thad Matta's team doesn't skip a beat when just about any other player is sidelined with foul trouble. But when Oden isn't on the floor, teams can suddenly get to the basket and score in the paint – a luxury they rarely have when the 7'0", 260-pounder is in the middle.

6. Chester Frazier, Illinois – The Illini point guard has gone from a relatively consistent scoring option to a near non-factor offensively for Coach Bruce Weber's team. After scoring in double figures in nine of Illinois' 15 non-conference games, Frazier has reached double figures only two times in 16 Big Ten contests. He's been mired in his own miserable shooting slump, going just 3-of-25 from the floor in Illinois' last five games while averaging 2.8 points/game. Despite his struggles, he's still someone who will be on the floor - he played at least 25 minutes in all but three of the Big Ten games he played in (he missed two games due to injury). For Illinois to make some noise, they'll need to get something offensively from Frazier, whether it's in transition or from behind the 3-point arc.

7. Marcus Landry, Wisconsin – Marcus' brother, Carl, is the better known Landry in Big Ten circles, but Marcus will get his opportunity to shine in Chicago. With Brian Butch's elbow injury, Marcus has moved into the Badgers' starting lineup and has seen his role increase. A 5.8 point/game scorer on the season, Landry is capable of scoring in the paint or stepping outside and shooting from behind the 3-point arc, where he's 12-of-29 on the season. For the Badgers to be successful this weekend they'll need someone other than Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor to produce points. Landry could wind up being that player.

8. Dion Harris, Michigan – The Wolverines have to win a couple of games to have a shot at an at-large berth for the NCAA Tournament. For that to happen they'll have to knock off Minnesota today and then top-ranked Ohio State tomorrow, which means Harris is going to have to come up big for Coach Tommy Amaker's squad. Harris has played well against the Buckeyes, averaging 16.5 points in two games, including a 19-point effort over the weekend in the Wolverines' four-point loss in Ann Arbor. He's the most consistent weapon on a team that's easily the most disappointing in the conference this season.

9. Tim Doyle, Northwestern – It will be a brief glimpse as the Wildcats will likely be disposed of by Michigan State this afternoon, but the Northwestern senior's throwback style is something to behold. Doyle is slow and methodical yet remarkably capable of getting into the lane and finishing. He's also adept at picking off errant passes as the point man of Coach Bill Carmody's zone. Doyle ranks fourth in the conference in steals (1.7/game) and his 5.0 assists/game ranks third. He needs four more assists to establish a new Northwestern single-season record in the category.

10. Lance Stemler, Indiana – There was a time when Stemler's ability to shoot from behind the 3-point arc was a real concern to opponents, but that hasn't been the case for nearly two months. Stemler shot just 36 percent from the field and 25.5 percent from behind the 3-point arc during Big Ten games. But…he did knock down a pair of 3-pointers in the closing minutes of IU's season-ending win over Penn State, and should see more action in Chicago than he's seen in recent weeks. If he can provide an additional 3-point shooting threat, he'll create some match-up problems for foes and he can also free up more room for D.J. White on the interior.

Peegs.com Top Stories