DECKER: Ranking the Big Ten's Best In 2006-07

Who were the Big Ten's best and brightest in 2006-07? has the answers, as we rank the top 15 players for the past season. We provide a closer look at what each player meant to their team's success, and who some of the biggest surprises were during the last four months...

1. Alando Tucker, Wisconsin The Badger senior should be a hands-down first-team All-American after averaging 20.1 points and 5.4 rebounds for a Wisconsin team that could wind up as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney if they can win the league's postseason tournament title. Tucker can score in a variety of ways – he's among the league's best at getting to the free-throw line (137 free throws this season ranked third in the league behind Carl Landry and Adam Haluska) and his mid-range game is the best in the Big Ten. His value will be evident this weekend as he tries to lead the Badgers to a tournament title despite the absence of the team's third-leading scorer Brian Butch.

2. Adam Haluska, Iowa It's hard to overlook the Big Ten scoring leader, but despite his 20.8 points/game, Haluska hasn't received the sort of recognition that Tucker, Greg Oden or even Drew Neitzel has this season. But no Big Ten team was a bigger overachiever than Iowa, and Haluska is THE reason for that. The 6-5 guard is not only one of the Big Ten's best 3-point shooters (his 89 3-pointers ranked second in the Big Ten to Neitzel's 99), but he also made 185 trips to the free-throw line, where he shot 87.6 percent. He's the toughest perimeter player in the league to match-up with because of his ability to score in transition, from behind the arc, or off the dribble.

3. Greg Oden, Ohio State The top-ranked Buckeyes have a slew of offensive weapons to give opponents headaches, but they have a chance to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament thanks to their big man in the middle who dominates on the defensive end. Despite playing virtually one-handed for much of the season, Oden still averaged 15.3 points (sixth in the conference) and his 9.3 rebounds and 3.5 blocks led the Big Ten. The 3.5 blocks, meanwhile, doesn't do justice to the way he dominates in the paint. He can single-handedly force teams to try to beat the Buckeyes from the perimeter thanks to his shot-blocking skills and his ability to avoid foul trouble.

4. Drew Neitzel, Michigan State Neitzel went from a nice complementary piece to a star in one season. A year ago Neitzel played a secondary role thanks to the presence of the likes of Shannon Brown, Maurice Ager and Paul Davis, but he's taken a very young Spartan team on his back this year and has them positioned for an NCAA Tournament berth and a potential solid seed thanks to their lofty RPI (No. 21). Neitzel has been at his best in big games and his 18.3 points/game ranks fourth in the league. He also shot 41 percent from 3-point range and led the Big Ten in free-throw shooting at 88.4 percent.

5. Carl Landry, Purdue Landry might only be 6-7, but he's an absolute load in the paint who was the Big Ten's most consistent low-post scorer all season. He led a much-improved Purdue team in scoring 21 times in 30 games despite being their one and only inside threat. He finished third in the Big Ten in scoring (18.7), fourth in rebounding (7.1) and second in field goal percentage (60.1) while also earning a league-high 247 trips to the free-throw line – or more than eight/game. He's not nearly the defensive presence as Indiana's D.J. White, but offensively there was no one better in the paint this year than Landry.

The Second Five: 6. D.J. White, Indiana – It's a virtual toss-up between White and Purdue's Landry, but White tops our second five for the 2006-07 season. While the Hoosiers' 6-8, 251-pound forward dealt with double teams all season, he still managed to average 13.7 points (11th in the Big Ten) and 6.8 rebounds (sixth) while ranking second in the conference with 2.2 blocks per game. He wasn't as consistent as Landry offensively, primarily because he was the No. 1 concern for IU's opponents when they squared off. But his presence inside freed up perimeter players such as Rod Wilmont and A.J. Ratliff to have big seasons, and why IU was the league's best 3-point shooting squad as well.

7. Mike Conley, Ohio State – There's no question that Conley was the Big Ten's premier point guard. The Indianapolis product averaged only 10.1 points and knocked down only 15 3-pointers all season, but his 6.5 assists/game and 2.3 steals/game led the league by a wide margin. He is also exceptionally quick with the ball in his hands and it's virtually impossible to keep him from getting into the lane to either get a shot off or create for his teammates. That's what he did in the closing seconds in last weekend's win over Wisconsin, scoring with just seconds remaining to give Ohio State a one-point win and secure the Buckeyes' second straight Big Ten regular season title.

8. Kammron Taylor, Wisconsin – As good as Alando Tucker is he's needed a complement, and that player has been Taylor. Taylor averaged 12.5 points/game and shot 41 percent from the floor, and along with Tucker, provided the veteran leadership for Coach Bo Ryan's squad. Taylor has been content to take a backseat to Tucker offensively, but he's proven more than capable of coming up with big shots in critical situations throughout the season. With Brian Butch out, Taylor will need to up his offensive production if the Badgers are going to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament beginning next week.

9. Warren Carter, Illinois Despite a season filled with injuries and turmoil, the Fighting Illini appear to have a very good chance of earning an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament. The biggest reason for that is the play of Carter, who has gone from a little-used reserve to the best offensive weapon Coach Bruce Weber has at his disposal. Carter averaged only 4.8 points and 12.3 minutes as a junior, but is the Illini's leading scorer at 13.4 points/game and ranks eighth in the Big Ten in rebounding with 6.3/contest. While players such as Rich McBride, Brian Randle and Jamar Smith didn't make big jumps from where they were a year ago, the long and athletic Carter is arguably the league's most improved player from 2005-06.

10. Roderick Wilmont, Indiana – For the first three years of his IU career Wilmont was little more than on again, off-again 3-point shooting specialist, but he developed as a senior into the sort of player who should get some All-Big Ten attention. He ranked 16th in the Big Ten in scoring at 12.8, but more impressive was his 5.9 rebounds/game which ranked 11th. He was also the emotional leader on an IU team that put together a 20-win regular season despite losing three starters from last year's squad. He also had to deal with a variety of challenging defensive assignments – Wisconsin's Alando Tucker, Iowa's Tyler Smith and Penn State's Geary Claxton were among the players Wilmont had to match up with on a nightly basis.

Final Five: 11. David Teague, Purdue – along with Landry led the turnaround for Coach Matt Painter's squad. Tenth in the league in scoring (14.4/game) and shot 43 percent from behind the 3-point arc.

12. Tyler Smith, Iowa – If it wasn't for Oden and Conley, Smith would be a strong candidate for Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. A versatile forward who ranked in the top 10 in the Big Ten in scoring, assists, steals and offensive rebounds.

13. Geary Claxton, Penn State – Claxton suffered through another disappointing season with the Lions, but it's hard to argue with 16.6 points/game (fifth in the Big Ten) and 7.9 rebounds (second) per outing.

14. Raymar Morgan, Michigan State – Like Smith, a true freshman who flew under the radar because of the attention surrounding Oden and Conley. But Morgan is an explosive athlete who averaged 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds. Once he returned from an injury the Spartans rounded into shape and have a strong push to earn an at-large invite to the NCAA tourney.

15. Jamar Butler, Ohio State – With as much talent as there is on the Ohio State roster, it says something about what Coach Thad Matta thinks about Butler when he led the team in minutes with 30.9 per outing. He gave way to Mike Conley at the point, but still managed to average 8.6 points, including 9.9 in conference games. He also ranked seventh in the Big Ten in assists (3.7/game), shot 39 percent from 3-point range, and was second to Conley in assist-to-turnover ratio. Top Stories