Buckeyes worried about rings, not awards.

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Last updated: 03/07/2011 11:07 PM
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Men's Basketball
Buckeyes Worried About Rings Not Awards
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes had the best record in all of college basketball this season, but they were not rewarded with the player or coach of the year in the Big Ten on Monday when the post-season awards were released.

Instead, those awards went to Purdue, who finished two games behind Ohio State after dropping their season finale at Iowa Saturday. Senior JaJuan Johnson beat out Jared Sullinger for the Player of the Year award from both the media and the coaches while Matt Painter was named Coach of the Year in the Big Ten.

Painter also won the award last season when the Boilermakers tied with both Ohio State and Wisconsin for the conference crown. That might not sit well with Buckeye fans, but they can rest assured that Matta and his players are worried about more important things than individual awards.

“I know this. They'll take the Big Ten championship ring over a plaque that says they were first, second or third team any day,” Matta said after celebrating an outright Big Ten championship on Sunday.

Championships are not nearly as subjective as post-season awards. They are decided on the court, not in the minds of men, and Ohio State proved it was the team of the year in the Big Ten this season.

The Buckeyes lost only two games all year, both on the road against top-10 opponents, and they torched both of those teams (Wisconsin and Purdue) at home in Columbus. They also beat Florida and Florida State on the road, and while they didn’t have the Big Ten Player of the Year, they were a better all-around team than a year ago.

That showed up in the all-conference honors. Four Buckeyes were named to the All-Big Ten teams, proving again that Ohio State was much more than a one-man team this season.

“We are fortunate to play in a tremendous league with outstanding players,” Matta said in a statement.

“To have five of our top six players recognized with postseason honors is a tribute to their hard work.”

That included Sullinger, who selected—although not unanimously—to the first team by both the media and coaches. David Lighty and William Buford were named second-team All-Big Ten while Jon Diebler was honored with a third-team selection by both the media and coaches.

Freshman Aaron Craft received Honorable Mention all-conference honors from the media, while both he and Sullinger were named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team.

“We are excited for Jared. We thought he had a great Big Ten season and is deserving of his spot on the first team,” Matta said.

“As for Aaron, the value of Aaron Craft for this team has been proven over the course of 31 games. He brings such value to this team and it’s great for him to be recognized.”

Although he missed out on the Player of the Year Award, Sullinger was named the Freshman of the Year, which somehow managed to catch him by surprise despite the fact he won Freshman of the Week in the Big Ten seven times in 12 weeks.

“I was honestly surprised to hear I was named freshman of the year,” Sullinger said.

“There are a lot of talented freshman in the Big Ten.”

He went on to name Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jereme Richmond, but none of them are on the same level as Sullinger, who was likely the runner-up for Big Ten Player of the Year. While the logic behind the Coach of the Year voting continues to remain a hazy mystery, it makes some sense that Johnson would win the highest individual honor in the Big Ten.

Statistically he was right there with Sullinger, but the Boilermakers relied much more heavily on Johnson to be great every night. He scored double-figures in every game this season and had 13 20-point games in Big Ten play compared to just five for Sullinger.

That’s not a knock on Sullinger, who had a much higher field goal percentage (.557) than Johnson (.497), but attempted 122 fewer shots over the course of the season. That speaks volumes about the team around Sullinger as opposed to the one around Johnson.

With guys like Buford, Diebler and Lighty being capable of scoring 20 on any given night, there was less pressure on Sullinger to put up big numbers every time he took the court.

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