IOWA CITY — Devyn Marble may not be the favorite to be the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Player of the Year. Perhaps he should be.
“He’s played that way,” Purdue Coach Matt Painter said Sunday. “His team hasn’t won enough in my opinion. I’m a big believer on that guy being on a championship team or damn close.”
That’s why if I had to bet a dollar on that award, I’d put it on Michigan’s Nik Stauskas because his team is poised to claim the league’s outright regular-season title. And, Stauskas has been good. Very good.
But who made the biggest basket in Iowa’s 83-76 win over Purdue Sunday? It was Marble, going over 7-footer A.J. Hammons for a score with 2:39 left and cashing the 3-point play after getting fouled.
Who had the statistic line of 21 points, five assists, four steals, and no turnovers? Marble. Typical Marble.
“Nobody has been asked to do more,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “There’s a lot of guys that are close, OK? We all know who they are.”
Marble averages 17.1 points and 3.4 assists. Stauskas averages 17.2 points and 3.5 assists. That’s a dead-heat.
But then there’s defense. Marble has 55 steals. Stauskas 18.
“I play him at the 2, I play him at the 1, I play him at the 3,” McCaffery said. “He guards bigger guys, smaller guys. I isolate him. I post him up. I set him on ball-screen action. I set him up on staggers. He plays a ton of minutes. He’s going to have the ball late.”
Iowa forward Aaron White seemed to convince himself Marble should be the league’s Player of the Year the longer his answer to a question about it went.
“His numbers, his efficiency, and the way he leads our team, I think he’s got to be the top choice,” said White.
“Whether he’s scoring the basketball at a high clip — obviously the last three (four, actually) games he had 20-plus in every game. But you’ve seen games where he’s locked down Gary Harris, he’s locked down Nik Stauskas.”
“I think that’s the beautiful thing about him. He’ll get 11 assists one game, four steals another game. He’ll go for 20. He’ll go get you six boards. Tonight he had five assists, zero (turnovers). He just impacts the game on multiple levels.”
Most great players insist they don’t think about awards. It’s the safe thing to say. Marble freely admits Big Ten Player of the Year “was an individual goal of mine coming in.”
After a summer practice before Iowa’s European trip, Iowa assistant coach Kirk Speraw challenged him to start practicing as if he was striving to be a first-team All-Big Ten player in his senior season.
“I thought about what he said,” Marble recalled. “He was correct. I just took it up another notch. I felt like (I was) the best player in this conference.”
How about 29 games later?
“I feel like I’m the best player in this conference. And I’m sure a couple guys feel that same way (about themselves).
“I think he’s the guy right now,” said McCaffery.
Marble said he’s “humbled and honored” about Player of the Year talk coming from others, “but at the same time, I just play with a chip on my shoulder.”
He tried out for, but didn’t make the U.S. squad that competed at the World University Games last summer. Four other Big Ten players, White included, were on the 12-man unit.
“The fact I didn’t make the team, I think, was very beneficial for me,” Marble said. “Because now every time I see those guys that were in that camp or on that team, I just try to destroy them.”
This is a senior facing his last home game Saturday night. He has destroyed a lot of opponents here. Few players with similar skills have called Carver-Hawkeye Arena their home.