Handing Out Big Ten Hoops Awards
By Ozone Staff
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A wild, twisting regular season came to a close on Sunday, with Indiana capturing its first outright Big Ten title in 20 years.
It came by the slimmest of margins, otherwise we would have seen a four-way tie for first place in the conference this year. The Big Ten's official awards will not be presented until tonight at 7 p.m. (Big Ten Network), but already speculation is rampant over who will take home the Big Ten’s player of the year award.
With such a tight race between Michigan’s Trey Burke and Indiana’s Victory Oladipo, we decided to take a stab at handing out our own awards for the 2012-13 Big Ten basketball season. These are not our predictions for who will win the awards tonight, but rather our choices, as voted on by a panel of Ozone contributors that includes Brandon Castel, Tony Gerdeman, Jeff Rapp and others.
Player of the Year – Victor Oladipo (6-5, 214, Jr., Indiana)
To the Victor go the spoils. If Burke makes that finger roll it's another result, but in a race this close the Player of the Year award has to go to the guy who led his team to an outright championship, especially since Burke had a chance change that on Sunday, but instead missed that knocked Michigan from first to fifth in the Big Ten.
It’s not fair for the award to come down to one game, but both of these guys were so good all year, it almost had to. Oladipo went for 14 points and 13 rebounds on Sunday while locking down Burke at the other end. He finished 11th in the Big Ten in scoring, but scored on a ridiculous 66 percent of his shots. He was one of the two or three best defensive players in the country, and didn’t brick a free throw to cost his team a share of the championship.
*Dissenting Opinion: Yeah, he shoots too much at times, but Trey Burke had a lot more weight on his shoulders this season than Cody Zeller or Oladipo. They had each other, Deshaun Thomas had Aaron Craft and Adreian Payne had Keith Appling and Gary Harris. Burke was forced to play keep-away with teammate Tim Hardaway Jr. for most of the year. He obviously had a good team around him, but take Burke off Michigan and they are an average basketball team.
Defensive POY – Aaron Craft (6-2, 190, Jr., Ohio State)
Craft was the Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten last season, and Ohio State’s point guard was probably even more impactful this season. The Buckeyes struggled offensively for most of the year, and part of that was Craft’s doing, but this award should go to the guy who made the biggest impact at the defensive end of the floor.
The Buckeyes were probably the best defensive team in the conference for most of the year, and that starts and ends with Craft. He sets the tone, and he is already the school’s record-holder for career steals. OSU assistant coach Jeff Boals probably said it best: Craft led the B1G in steals this season with 2.3 per game, and that doesn't include how many other turnovers he causes with pressure.
He isn’t just a guy who gets in the lane and picks off passes. Craft rips the ball away from guys before they can get across the halfcourt line. He is a menace and it’s hard to imagine him not leaving Ohio State with three defensive player of the year awards in the Big Ten.
*Dissenting Opinion: Aaron Craft closed strong, but he wasn't even the best defensive point guard on his own team at times this season. He gets a lot of credit for locking down Trey Burke, who might have had Player of the Year sealed up a few weeks ago if not for his battles with Craft, but let’s not ignore what Oladipo did on Sunday. He finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds in Indiana’s 72-71 win at Michigan. It was the first home loss of the year for the Wolverines, and while Burke had 20 points, it came on 7-of-20 shooting. He also had four turnovers.
Coach of the Year – Thad Matta
If this is arguably Thad Matta's best coaching job, then how can he not be Big Ten Coach of the Year? The Buckeyes came up just short of a fourth-straight B1G title, but only because Michigan couldn’t hit free throws in the clutch on Sunday. If we’re basing this solely on preseason expectations, then Matta can’t be the choice here.
The Buckeyes finished No. 10 in the AP Poll after being ranked No. 4 in the initial rankings, but most people can agree the Buckeyes were almost certainly overrated at the start of the year.
This team had to overcome a lot this year, and yet they finished with the same conference record as they did a year ago when they had Jared Sullinger and William Buford. They also rebounded from a 22-point loss at Wisconsin with five-straight wins to close out the season, and he did it with basically one consistent scorer all year long.
*Dissenting Opinion: Tom Crean doesn’t get a lot of credit because Indiana had two of the best players in all of college basketball this year, but he did lead the Hoosiers to their first outright Big Ten championship since the 1992-93 season. It also came in a year where the conference was as tough as it has ever been.
Freshman of the Year – Gary Harris (6-4, 205, Fr., Michigan State)
Gary Harris is averaging nearly 15 points per game over his last 11 games, and his 42 percent shooting from three-point range is fifth in the Big Ten. The Indiana native only took 10 shots per game this season and he averaged over 13 points per game for the year. Imagine what will happen when the Michigan State offense is running through him in a year or two.
Sixth Man of the Year – Will Sheehey (6-7, 200, Jr., Indiana)
Sheehey averaged 9.5 points per game in just 22 minutes of play this season. It’s hard to say if he had more of an impact than Shannon Scott had, but his numbers are more visible. The junior out of Florida shot nearly 50 percent from the floor and over 35 percent from behind the arc, and he was a key force during Indiana’s outright championship.
First Team All-Big Ten
Victor Oladipo (6-5, 214, Jr., Indiana)
Trey Burke (6-0, 190, So., Michigan)
Cody Zeller (7-0, 240, So., Indiana)
Deshaun Thomas (6-7, 225, Jr., Ohio State)
Adreian Payne (6-10, 230, Jr., Michigan State)
Second Team All-Big Ten
Aaron Craft (6-2, 190, Jr., Ohio State)
Jared Berggren (6-10, 235, Sr., Wisconsin)
Brandon Paul (6-4, 200, Sr., Illinois)
Keith Appling (6-1, 190, Jr., Michigan State)
Aaron White (6-8, 218, So., Iowa)
Third Team All-Big Ten
Gary Harris (6-4, 205, Fr., Michigan State)
D.J. Newbill (6-4, 205, So., Penn State)
Trevor Mbakwe (6-8, 245, Sr., Minnesota)
Christian Watford (6-9, 232, Sr., Indiana)
Tim Hardaway Jr. (6-6, 205, Jr., Michigan)
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