Player of the Year no longer just the Jimmer-Kemba Show

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Jared Sullinger did more than power No. 1 Ohio State past No. 23 Illinois on Saturday. The massive power forward firmly entrenched himself in the national Player of the Year discussion as well.

A 27-point, 16-rebound performance – all on national TV – helped the Buckeyes (20-0) avoid their first loss of the season, at one of the Big Ten’s toughest venues, no less.

“I felt like Jared was pretty good today,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said afterward. “That was a joke — he was awesome.”

Until now, much of the national attention revolved around BYU senior guard Jimmer Fredette – he of the ridiculous shooting range – and Connecticut senior Kemba Walker – he of the last-second heroics. They’re 1-2 nationally in scoring, jaw-dropping plays and hyperbole.

Conversely, Sullinger, the Buckeyes’ 6-foot-9, 280-pound freshman, is an overpowering presence down low, a player who feasts on opposing post players and compiles double-doubles (10 through 20 games), not highlight-reel plays. That’s his genius – he’s a force down low and one that must be seen in entire games in order to be properly appreciated. (Or you could just take a look at his stats. They’ll impress casual fans and tempo-free advocates.)

“He’s tough,” Illinois forward Mike Davis said afterward. “He’s bigger than I thought he was.”

But that’s life for a traditional post player in the college game – the guards usually grab all the attention. But Sullinger now has the added bonus of playing for an unbeaten team that’s atop the rankings. That’s something Fredette and Walker can’t match, no matter how many points they score.

When you’re the best player on the nation’s No. 1 team, you can’t help but earn Player of the Year plaudits. If Sullinger does more of the same Tuesday against Purdue – and their stellar center, JaJaun Johnson – he’ll only boost his rep even more.

“He’s a special young man,” Matta said. “His humility — he’s all about winning.”

Want more? I’m also on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.