There’s a lot of excitement brewing in the Big Ten. Although things started off rough for the conference with underwhelming results and stunning upsets, the tide has turned and the Big Ten looks like it could be right at the top of the country.
Much of this attention follows the conference’s 8-6 win over the ACC in the annual Big Ten-ACC Challenge, but it’s about more than just that. The Big Ten has teams in the national championship picture and numerous teams still hopeful of making the NCAA Tournament.
In fact, the Big Ten may have the nation’s No. 1 ranked team next Monday in Michigan State, another top team in Purdue, and several other teams in top-25 consideration like Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Northwestern and Wisconsin. Even teams like Minnesota and Penn State have improved over the last few weeks.
Of course, no team or conference could be great without its star players.
All told, the Big Ten has a group of players that are easily among the best in the nation. Whether it’s Maryland’s Melo Trimble or Michigan’s Caris LeVert in the backcourt, Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine on the wing, or Purdue’s AJ Hammons upfront, there is a tremendous amount of talent.
Still, there is one player who’s flying under the radar.
Though many might not be paying attention to Lincoln, Nebraska, one player who has been performing very well for the Cornhuskers is Shavon Shields. Entering play on Saturday, Shields is averaging 15.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. Undoubtedly, he has been the key player for Nebraska this season and has been vital to the team’s strong start.
Along with putting up big numbers overall, Shields has also been doing it consistently. In fact, Shields has scored more than 10 points in every game this season outside of the Southeastern Louisiana game where he played just eight total minutes.
Of course, while putting up these numbers, Shields has been a huge piece of Nebraska’s offense. In total, he has taken 31.9 percent of the team’s shots while on the floor, which is the third among players in the Big Ten. Still, even with this massive usage, Shields has a 106.9 offensive rating, a 51.5 effective field goal percentage and a 54.1 true shooting percentage.
In short, Nebraska is using Shields excessively and he’s still been able to be pretty efficient.
Of course, Shields also contributes outside of scoring as well. In fact, he leads Nebraska in rebounding and is one of the best passers in the Big Ten. Notably, Shields has a 26.9 assist rate, which ranks ninth in the Big Ten.
(Stats via KenPom.)
There’s no doubt that Shields is far from perfect, but it’s hard not to like what’s been able to do so far this year for Nebraska. Though his numbers might not be as eye-popping as some others around the conference, this probably has more to do with the players around him than his own skill set. After all, teams like Indiana and Michigan State have a bit more offensive firepower than Nebraska.
Shields has to do it all and is still putting up really nice numbers.
Just look at Nebraska’s matchup with Miami (Fl) in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Though the Huskers were massive underdogs at home, the team was still able to keep it close thanks to Shields. In total, he had 28 points, five rebounds and two assists and it’s hard not to think that was a major reason that Nebraska pushed the game into overtime.
Much of the attention has been focused on some of the other star players in the Big Ten, but it’s hard not to think of Shields as one of the conference’s most underrated players. He’s been putting up major numbers, has been performing in major games, and is arguably the key reason that an overmatched Nebraska team has been able to be so competitive this season.
Shields may not get the attention of some other Big Ten players, but he absolutely deserves to be discussed among the best. Plus, if things go well, he might just get that credit sooner rather than later.