Stauskas' Wolverines, Marble's Hawkeyes collide in top-25 tilt

Stauskas' Wolverines, Marble's Hawkeyes collide in top-25 tilt
January 22, 2014, 3:00 pm
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Vinnie Duber

Neither Nik Stauskas nor Roy Devyn Marble were named to the John Wooden Award midseason top 25 when the list was announced Wednesday.

The word "snub" was instantly thrown around Twitter to describe the both of them: Stauskas, Michigan's sharp-shooting sophomore, and Marble, the do-it-all Iowa star.

Knowing the answers college athletes usually doll out, it's very likely neither is terribly upset by their exclusion. But if there was a chip on either's shoulder, Wednesday night will be the perfect opportunity to show off exactly why they should have landed on the list.

The Hawkeyes and Wolverines collide Wednesday in a battle of top-25 teams. This week's rankings were kind to both squads, with Iowa vaulting into the top 10 for the first time in more than a decade and Michigan returning to the top 25 following a several-week absence. It's hard to pick out which story is more impressive: the Hawkeyes barnstorming through the Big Ten with a roster loaded with upperclassmen or the Wolverines boasting one of just two unblemished conference records even without preseason All-America forward Mitch McGary.

[MORE: Four Big Ten players on Wooden Award midseason top 25]

Both have seen their star guards play exceptional of late, too.

Stauskas is the Big Ten's second-leading scorer, averaging 18 points a game and doing it with excellence from behind the arc. He ranks second in the conference with a stunning 44-percent 3-point percentage and third with 40 3-pointers made. But perhaps more impressive has been his ability to step in and take over as the Wolverines' primary scorer following the departures of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., as well as the sidelining of McGary.

"It's a tremendous challenge for anybody that plays them," Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said on Monday's Big Ten coaches teleconference, explaining what makes Stauskas so tough to play against. "He has been impressive because, let's face it, last year it was Trey Burke's team. And you could say it was Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway's team because both of those guys were so good for the time that they were there. And I think for Stauskas, he got a chance to experience that. And as you move to the next year, you figured it was going to be his team and Glenn Robinson's team and maybe McGary. … But Stauskas is the guy that said, 'Look, I watched as those guys left, I watched them make plays in crunch time. I can do that.'"

[RELATED: Amid four-game skid, is it time for Buckeyes to panic?]

But Marble has been playing just as well. Though the Hawkeyes have a deep team with plenty of guys who can score the basketball, Marble has stepped to the forefront. He leads Iowa and ranks eighth in the conference with 16.3 points a game and also ranks second in the Big Ten in steals with 2.2 per game. But it's in conference play where he's turned things up a notch. He's averaged 19 points in the Hawkeyes' five conference games, including a pair of 20-plus-point performances against then-top-five opponents Wisconsin and Ohio State.

"Marble reminds me of Evan Turner right now," Michigan head coach John Beilein said Tuesday during a press conference, offering high praise for the Iowa senior. "He's just doing whatever he wants to do out there. He shoots 3's, he passes, he steals, he rebounds. He's a really good player."

So whether or not Stauskas and Marble feel they should have been included on that player of the year watch list is unknown, Wednesday night should see each play in a fashion that proves why many others feel they did belong.