Big Ten Tournament 2014: Unsung Players to Watch in Indianapolis

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIMarch 8, 2014

COLUMBUS, OH - FEBRUARY 11:  Sam Thompson #12 of the Ohio State Buckeyes finishes off a fast break in the second half against the Michigan Wolverines with a slam dunk on February 11, 2014 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Michigan defeated Ohio State 70-60.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Big Ten tournament runs from March 13-16 at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

No one needs to have the stars of the Big Ten introduced. Michigan's Nik Stauskas, Iowa's Roy Devyn Marble and Michigan State's Adreian Payne are the conference's best players.

While it's certain these players will have a huge impact on their team's success in the Big Ten tournament and beyond, the role players on many teams will be almost as important.

Here's a look at three unsung players whose play could spur their teams to new heights in the postseason.


Melsahn Basabe

CHAMPAIGN, IL - FEBRUARY 1: Melsahn Basabe #1 of the Iowa Hawkeyes tips in a missed shot against the Illinois Fighting Illini during the game at State Farm Center on February 1, 2014 in Champaign, Illinois. Iowa won the game 81-74. (Photo by Joe Robbins/G
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Iowa Hawkeyes are in a tailspin. The team has lost four of its last five games. At 20-10, the team is securely in the field of 64, but there's something to be said for hitting the Big Dance with some momentum.

If the Hawkeyes are going to right the ship, Basabe needs to pick up his game. The 6'7" senior does much of the dirty work for Iowa. It's the type of responsibility that goes unnoticed but is essential to winning games.

During the beginning of the Hawkeyes' slump, Basabe missed all but one minute of games against Wisconsin and Minnesota with a stomach virus. The team desperately missed his defense and rebounding. The Hawkeyes were out-rebounded in both games.

Since returning, Basabe has been slow to regain his stride—especially on the glass. In the last three games, he's grabbed a grand total of four rebounds in 49 minutes.

Iowa needs their glue guy to play with the energy he's displayed most of the season.


Austin Hollins

Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

Hollins can be electrifying when he's playing well, but he's also a bit inconsistent. The 6'4" senior is averaging 11.6 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

His team has lost four of six and is battling for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament. It just might need a win or two in the Big Ten tournament to make it to the Big Dance.

Hollins' scoring and energy would be a big boost. He told Brice Marich of Gopher Digest, the team controls its own destiny and just needs to win. 

To do that, Hollins has to be better than he's been in the last six games. Minnesota has dropped four of the contests in that span. In the losses, Hollins is averaging just 8.5 points and four rebounds per game. On Feb. 25, Hollins exploded for 27 points against Iowa to give the team a huge win.

The Gophers will need more of that if it plans to make some noise in Indianapolis.


Sam Thompson

COLUMBUS, OH - FEBRUARY 11:  Sam Thompson #12 of the Ohio State Buckeyes goes up for a dunk over the Michigan Wolverines defense in the first half on February 11, 2014 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.  Thompson missed the shot.  (Photo by Jamie Saba
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Speaking of igniters, perhaps no other player in college basketball is as explosive and crowd pleasing as Ohio State's Thompson.

In a moment, he can shift momentum with a slam like this...

image from eleven warriors

or a block like this...

The 6'7" junior has waited for his opportunity to make a bigger impact since he was a freshman. Ohio State head coach Thad Matta has been using Thompson as a sixth man to provide the team a spark off the bench.

Thompson has shown maturity as an upperclassman and accepted the role. He told Daniel Rogers of The Lantern:

I know that every guy in that locker room wants the same thing that I want, and that’s to win basketball games.

(Against) Michigan State, we found a group out there that had it going. I was fortunate enough to be part of that group. Against Iowa, coach Matta found another group that he felt would help best win the game. At the end of the day I’m not upset about playing time, I’m not upset about stats. We wanted to get two big wins last week and we didn’t get them. That’s all my focus is on.

That focus has shown—especially in the Buckeyes' wins. Thompson had 19 against Minnesota on Feb. 22.

In Ohio State's eight losses, Thompson has only scored double figures in two of them. Matta needs his spark plug charged and ready to go in the Big Ten tournament.


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