When South Dakota State and Ohio State take the court against each other today at 4:00 pm, there will be two conference players of the year readying for battle.
Jackrabbits junior forward Mike Daum has won the award in the Summit League each of the past two seasons. This year he averaged 23.8 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game. He shot .421 from three-point range and has shot .856 from the free-throw line in his career.
He is a complete player and will have a huge say in how the Jacks are going to do on Thursday.
The Buckeyes also have a player of the year, however, in the form of fourth-year junior forward Keita Bates-Diop. Bates-Diop missed most of last season due to injury, but rebounded this year with an outstanding season that saw him average 19.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
For his efforts, he was named the Player of the Year in the Big Ten.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that the winner of this game could be decided by which Player of the Year ends up being the Player of the Game.
And whether or not these two players match up with each other on the court, they are certainly aware of each other.
“He’s a very good player,” Bates-Diop said of Daum. “Big. Shoots the ball. Makes him hard to guard. He’s a very tough matchup. He’s a good player.”
At 6-foot-9, Daum is the biggest player on the court for South Dakota State, but he also averages nearly seven three-point attempts per game. He will prove to be an odd matchup for the Buckeyes.
“Yeah, not sure on their end totally how they’ll do things,” said Jackrabbits coach T.J. Otzelberger. “Mike, when you haven’t played against him, his ability to shoot it in the range that he shoots it from poses some challenges. I guess they’ll put different guys on him at different points in time.”
Where Daum ultimately ends up on the court may be decided by how OSU chooses to defend him.
“Where Mike has been successful we try to determine is where he has the best advantage,” Otzelberger said. “Whether it’s in the block, on an isolation, on the perimeter and trying to do what we can to take advantage of that.”
Everything that has been said about Daum could also be said about Keita Bates-Diop. Bates-Diop is one of the top scorers and rebounders in the Big Ten. He can score from the perimeter or the block. He scores off of putbacks and pull-ups. Wherever the ball finds him, he can find the basket.
“He’s a tremendous scorer, he’s got tremendous size for his position,” Daum said of Bates-Diop. “He can shoot the ball well from the outside, and using his body in the lower post. He’s going to be a tough matchup for us.”
The matchup will be difficult for both teams, which is what makes this such an interesting game to watch.
“I think you’re dealing with two guys, both conference players of the year, both can score inside and outside, both who have a long career playing professional basketball,” Otzelberger said. “So it’s just a really neat matchup.”