It seems that for this year at least, the Big 10 has replaced the Big East as the top conference in the country. This is definitely a trend that could continue into the future as the Big East looses some of its key members.
This is the most competitive I can remember the Big 10 being in some time. While Ohio State seems to be the cream of the crop again this season, there is a pretty serious cluster from two to eight in the conference. Even bellow that, Northwestern at one point this season looked like a tournament team prior to their fall back to earth, and Iowa at times looks like they can be way better than they are.
The Big 10 is as interesting as it’s ever been this season and it should be a wild rollercoaster ride to the finish. That said, let’s take a look at some mid season awards.
Player of the year: Jared Sullinger, Ohio St.
I’m not entirely sure what needs to be said about this young man. He is an animal. He came back to school for one reason this year and that is to win a championship. I would venture to say if the Bucks don’t win it all this year it won’t be for lack of effort and efficiency on Sullinger’s part. He’s been averaging nearly a double double with 17 points and 9 boards a game, but his presence on the floor clearly effects how other teams play them.
Coach of the Year- Tom Crean, Indiana
I think most logical basketball fans knew that at some point IU basketball would be back. I mean the recruits Tom Crean has lined up should tell most of that story. I don’t think however many thought that this year would be nearly as successful as it’s been.
Sure the Hoosiers have began slipping a bit of late, but such is life in the Big 10 this year. They still have the best resume of any team in the country at this point and they fact that coach Crean has these guys playing at such a high level is pretty remarkable.
Others Considered: Tom Izzo, Michigan St.; Bo Ryan, Wisconsin.
Rookie of the Year: Cody Zeller, Indiana
The impact that this young man has had on Indiana basketball this season is truly remarkable. I knew he was going to be good eventually, but I just didn’t see him being able to come in and be a top player not only on his team, but in the conference. He still has a long way to go in the weight room in order to be the player he can be, but to already be producing at the rate he is should scare the rest of the Big 10.
To Average 15 points and six boards in arguably the best conference in the country is pretty impressive. He has also held is own against teams with some pretty good big men themselves. He drew foul after foul on Anthony Davis and did the same in the New Years Eve game against Ohio St. Even once Sully got back in the game in the second half, Zeller kept him in check.
Others Considered: none, this is lock city.
Sixth Man of the Year: Ben Brust, Wisconsin
This was a pretty close race, but I gave the slight edge to Brust over IU’s Will Sheehey. While slightly undersized, he’s a great sparkplug off the bench of Wisconsin and is yet another player Bo Ryan has gotten everything out of. He’s shooting 40% from behind the arc and always plays like his life depends on it.
Others Considered: Will Sheehey, Indiana.
Biggest Surprise: Indiana
As I said above, this Indiana team wasn’t supposed to be the one that got over the hump. I think many fans would have been more than happy with an NIT bid this season, however, they have played some great basketball. Knocking off Kentucky, Ohio St. and Michigan is no small task.
Others Considered: Michigan St.;
Biggest Disappointment: Northwestern
You could make an argument for Minnesota here, but to be honest, they lost their best player very early in the season and the fact that they are still afloat is impressive. Northwestern appeared primed to FINALLY make the NCAA tournament, but they have ht a pretty serious rough patch and it appears they will have to wait yet another year to finally break through.
Others Considered: none