BIG TEN PLAYER OF THE YEAR
The talk for the Big Ten Player of the Year has surrounded two players: Greg Brunner and Terence Dials. Stu Durando of the St. Louis Post Dispatch had an article on March 2 that quoted Purdue's Matt Painter and Minnesota's Dan Monson as stating they would vote for Terence Dials. In that same article, Iowa's Steve Alford did not say who he would vote for, but it was intimated that the player should come from a championship team.
Terence Dials is not the only person that is getting discussed as the Big Ten Player of the Year Award by a coach in the Big Ten. Michigan State's Tom Izzo is enamored with Illinois Senior Point Guard Dee Brown, and Brown would be the hands-down Player of the Year winner if he were playing Michigan State every game. After Saturday's game, Izzo told the assembled media that "the Big Ten's going to miss Dee Brown, not just Illinois." He went on to compare Brown to former Michigan State point guard Mateen Cleaves calling Brown a "clone" of Cleaves, and noting that he "shouldn't be called a great guard, or a great shooter; he should just be called a winner."
But what other players are there that deserve the award?
What about Wisconsin's Alando Tucker?
What about Northwestern's Vedran Vukusic?
What about Michigan State's Paul Davis?
The easy answer is that none of these players were on Championship teams, so they do not deserve the award. There is history behind the voting of MVP Awards in almost every level of sports that the MVP Award will normally go to a player on a winning team, preferably one who won their division (professional sports) or their conference (college sports). But is following that logic the way to go? Let's look at the numbers for the candidates to be named IlliniBoard.com's Big Ten Player of the Year.
Brown has been called the Poster Boy for College Basketball and was named the Big Ten's Preseason Player of the Year, but he struggled at times during Big Ten play. Brown is undoubtedly the leader of the Fighting Illini, and has had signature performances this year during Big Ten play, especially his 34-point outburst against Michigan State to start out his final Big Ten campaign. Unfortunately for Brown, there have also been games like his trip to Iowa City where he 2-for-13 in Illinois' 63-48 loss. Dee has been hot and cold, but without him, the Illini would not have dreamed of finishing tied for second in a hotly contested Big Ten race.
Brunner is the second player that a lot of the media is hyping as a major contestant for the Big Ten Player of the Year Award. Brunner is a tenacious rebounder and defender that sets the tone for the Iowa Hawkeyes in every game they play. Iowa was taken an identity this year as a hard nosed defensive team, and that all starts with Brunner. Brunner may not be as glamorous as his teammate Jeff Horner, but without him Iowa is sitting in a place they are more used to in the Big Ten standings, the bottom six. With Brunner, Iowa tied for second in the conference.
Based on strictly numbers, there is no doubt that Paul Davis should be the Big Ten Player of the Year. Over the course of the season, Davis scored 18.2 points per game (5th in the conference) and pulled down 9.3 rebounds per game (2nd in conference), the highest composite in these two key categories for any of the players IlliniBoard.com is looking at to decide on the Big Ten Player of the Year. Unfortunately for Davis, he is on Michigan State, and there is no other team that has underachieved more in conference play. The Spartans finished tied for sixth place at 8-8 when at the start of the season many expected them to win the conference. If Michigan State finished in first or second, this award is a no-brainer, but they didn't.
A good stand by when deciding who to vote for in a Player of the Year Award is to vote for the best player on the best team, and this year that would be casting a vote for Terence Dials. While I should not take into account past seasons, my lasting memory of Terence Dials will be him as a thorn in the side of the Fighting Illini for what seemed like the last eight years, even though it was really just four. Dials' work on the inside, especially on the offensive end of the court, was key in opening up the three point line for the Buckeye's outside shooters like Je'Kel Foster and Jamar Butler.
Tucker was the only player to average 20 points per game during Big Ten Conference play. Offensively, Bo Ryan leaned on Tucker more than any other player on his Badger team. According to Ken Pomeroy, when Tucker was on the floor, he used 30.7% of all Wisconsin possessions.
VU-KU! Vedran Vukusic has been the most underrated player in the Big Ten for the last four years. The Northwestern senior is overlooked because he plays basketball for Northwestern, and the only people that notice wear the black and gold of Iowa. Heck, they only notice because it is a yearly thing for them to come into Evanston and leave with a loss. If Vukusic was on any other team besides Northwestern, he would probably be the favorite for the award, but he isn't, and there is no way he wins the award. He has played 87.4% of all minutes for Northwestern this season, and is the focus of all opposing team's defenses when they play Northwestern. Every other player IlliniBoard.com has discussed has a teammate that takes some of the load off of them, but there is no one else on Northwestern's team to draw defenses away from Vukusic.
It is now time to make the decision every reader has been waiting for, who is the IlliniBoard.com Big Ten Player of the Year.
The first three players eliminated from consideration are Wisconsin's Alando Tucker, Illinois' Dee Brown, and Northwestern's Vedran Vukusic. Brown is removed because he was named the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year and expectations for him were sky high when the season started, and while he played very well, he did not live up to the sky high expectations many had for him. Tucker was an easy person to remove because while he was the only player in the Big Ten to score twenty points per game this season, his other numbers were not high enough to get past his team's record. For the same reason that Tucker was not given the award, Vedran Vukusic just cannot be named the Big Ten Player of the Year.
That leaves the decision to come between three players: Iowa's Greg Brunner, Ohio State's Terence Dials, and Michigan State's Paul Davis.
Paul Davis has the best numbers, but the worst team.
Terence Dials has the worst combination of numbers, but the best team.
Greg Brunner has the second best numbers, and the second best team.
The decision is tough, and one would normally err on the side of picking the best player on the best team, which would mean Dials, but that is not the IlliniBoard.com way. There is also no way that IlliniBoard.com would select an Iowa player to be the Big Ten Player of the Year.
So without further adieu, IlliniBoard.com presents you with the Alex Rodriguez of the Big Ten, a guy that puts up great numbers on an average team and can steal the MVP Award (in this case the Big Ten Player of the Year Award) in a year when no player really distinguished himself: Paul Davis.
Actually, one of the key reasons Davis won this award is the ability to reprint this picture.
IlliniBoard.com First Team All Big Ten
Terence Dials, Ohio State
Greg Brunner, Iowa
Paul Davis, Michigan State
Alando Tucker, Wisconsin
Dee Brown, Illinois
IlliniBoard.com Second Team All Big Ten
Vedran Vukusic, Northwestern
James Augustine, Illinois
Marco Killingsworth, Indiana
Daniel Horton, Michigan
Je'Kel Foster, Ohio State
IlliniBoard.com Third Team All Big Ten
Maurice Ager, Michigan State
Shannon Brown, Michigan State
Geary Claxton, Penn State
Vincent Grier, Minnesota
Jeff Horner, Iowa
IlliniBoard.com Defensive Player of the Year: Dee Brown, Illinois
IlliniBoard.com Freshman of the Year: Jamelle Cornley, Penn State
IlliniBoard.com All Big Ten Freshman Team
Jamar Smith, Illinois
Jamelle Cornley, Penn State
Joe Krabbenhoft, Wisconsin
Craig Moore, Northwestern
Chris Lutz, Purdue