Tonight the all-conference teams are announced, so we here at SoP are going to give out our own Big Ten awards. All stats I cite are from conference games only, I'm not counting non-conference games since strength of schedule is so wildly different for the various teams. Anyways, onto the awards.
Player of the Year (The Glenn Robinson)
Big Dog had maybe the most dominant season a Big Ten player has ever had in 1994, that is until this season when Evan Turner came along. Turner led the Big Ten in points per game, rebounds per game, and steals per game, while finishing second in assists per game and leading Ohio State to the Big Ten regular season title. The kid has dominated like no other player in the nation, and should win the national player of the year instead of the overrated John Wall. It might be a long time before we see another Big Ten player as good as Turner, so enjoy him while you still can.
Least Valuable Player (The Michael Thompson)
For newer Big Ten fans, this award is not named for the current NU point guard, but rather the McDonald's All-American of the same name who played center for NU in the middle of this decade, and underachieved perhaps more than any player in the history of the conference. Also, in order to be eligible for this award, you need to consistently play a lot of minutes, so scrubs like Nick Fruendt, Patrick Bade, and Andrew Brommer are ineligible.
Despite that caveat, there were several contenders for this award. Purdue's Keaton Grant was an early favorite, but that was all the motivation he needed to remember how to shoot during the second half of league play. Devin Bawinkel drew the ire of Iowa fans for his refusal to contribute anything other than shooting 3-pointers, but he hit 42% of those threes so at least he did one thing well. That leaves us with two players, Wisconsin's Tim Jarmusz and Michigan State's Korie Lucious. Jarmusz started 15 conference games and played 22 minutes per game despite his putrid 26% percent shooting from the field. He also didn't do much on defense, namely when John Shurna lit him up in Madison. However, Jarmusz did a good job of avoiding mistakes, as he turned the ball over just twice the entire Big Ten season, and that is why he is not the LVP. Instead, the winner of the first annual LVP is Korie Lucious. Lucious.struggled mightily with his shooting at just 29% from the field and 23% from 3-point range, and also had big problems with turnovers, at 1.8 a game while averaging just 21 minutes. His highest profile bad game came at Illinois while filling in for the injured Kalin Lucas, as Lucious turned the ball over 6 times in a loss that cost the Spartans the outright conference title. He is a kid with talent, so hopefully for him he uses this award for motivation and helps Michigan State go on another deep post-season run (and yes, I'm sure he reads this blog).
Most Improved Player (The John Shurna)
Several Big Ten players elevated their game this season, including Jon Leuer, Draymond Green and David Lighty, but the unquestioned winner of this award is Northwestern's John Shurna, who I am bestowing with the great honor of having the award named after him for future seasons. Shurna nearly quadrupled his scoring, going from 5.5 points a game last season to 20.1 this season, which I believe makes him the first NU player to average 20 a night in Big Ten games since Evan Eschmeyer. It was a leap forward that would have made Chairman Mao proud. Despite his goofy looking shooting form, Shurna scored more points than anyone in the conference and finished a very close second to Evan Turner in points per game, while shooting 53% on 2-pointers and 40% on 3-pointers. He will likely fall short of the All-Big Ten team, as he is not yet a complete player, but if he improves his defense and rebounding he could certainly get that honor next season.
Least Improved Player (The Vince Scott)
This award could be named after any of about 10 Northwestern players during the Bill Carmody era, but I am bestowing that honor upon the incredibly disappointing Vince Scott, who might be the softest 7 footer in the history of basketball. He was so bad as a senior that Carmody was often forced to play Kevin Coble at the center position. Therefore, it seems fitting to give this award to another underachieving Northwestern center, Kyle Rowley. He started most of last year, and averaged just 2.9 points and 1.7 rebounds per game, yet somehow managed to get even worse in the off-season, averaging 1.3 points a game on downright awful 33% shooting and going from starting center to the third string. While he was limited by a broken foot in the off-season and a bout with the flu during the season, it's safe to say Rowley will never be a significant contributor in the Big Ten.
Freshman of the Year (The Greg Oden)
Maurice Creek was the runaway favorite for this award before getting hurt, and in his absence this was the worst Big Ten freshman class in recent memory. Not only will there be no one leaving for the NBA after this season, there might not be one player in the entire class who will ever be drafted. There are only three candidates for this award, Indiana's Christian Watford, Illinois's D.J. Richardson, and Northwestern's Drew Crawford. Watford was the leading scorer and rebounder at 12 points and 6 rebound per game, but he was such an inefficient scorer for a power forward (an ugly 36% from the field) that he is eliminated. Crawford looked like the clear winner for a while, but he struggled down the stretch due to injury and finished with numbers similar to Richardson, but I am still giving the award to Crawford due to his edge in field goal percentage, rebounding, and assist to turnover ratio. Hopefully for Northwestern fans, he makes a John Shurna-like improvement next season.
Coach of the Year (The Bob Knight)
Tom Izzo, Matt Painter, and Thad Matta all did a good job in leading their teams to a tie for the regular season title, but the unquestioned winner of this award is Wisconsin's Bo Ryan. Picked by many to finish 8th in the Big Ten, Ryan led the Badgers to a 13-5 conference record despite losing arguably his best player for half the season due to injury. While he may not be a great recruiter, Ryan is consistently the best teacher in the conference and always gets the most out of his players (much like the legendary Knight). The only thing keeping him from a perfect score was his overuse of LVP runner up Tim Jarmusz, but other than that he was absolutely brilliant, so kudos to Ryan for exceeding expectations as usual.
Worst Coach (The Kevin O'Neill)
Many NU fans have credited O'Neill for reaching the NIT in just his second season at the school, but he only managed that because he inherited one of the best centers in the country in Evan Eschmeyer, and once Eschmeyer left he led Northwestern to their worst season ever. Why USC decided to hire this idiot is beyond me, but I'm sure he will run that program into the ground shortly. As for this year's O'Neill award, the three candidates are Tubby Smith, John Beilein, and Ed DeChellis. Tubby has taken a pre-season top 25 to the NIT and has been unable to keep his players out of trouble, but at least he's going to a post-season tournament. And while Penn State has certainly underachieved, there isn't much talent there and no one thought DeChellis would do much with that roster anyways. So the clear winner of this award is Michigan's John Beilein, who led a pre-season top 15 team to a losing record. He was unable to get the Wolverines to consistently play as a team, and continued to run a 3-point shooting oriented offense despite having a poor 3-point shooting roster. If Manny Harris decides to leave early for the NBA, it could be a very long season next year in Ann Arbor unless a great recruiting class is coming in.
The Big White Stiff Award (The Nate Doornekamp)
I am going outside the Big Ten with Doornekamp, but he so perfectly exemplified the qualities of the big white stiff that I couldn't resist. Doornekamp was a 4-year starter at center for Boston College, and was such a stiff he had more career fouls than points for nearly his entire career before a scoring outburst midway through his senior year. I am still baffled as to how this guy started for 4 years, but from an unintentional comedy standpoint I'm glad he did.
As usual, there is a ton of competition for this award. Luka Mirkovic would seem to a be a good candidate, but played good basketball at times and thus removed himself from consideration. Kyle Rowley certainly played like a big white stiff, but was disqualified for pigmentation reasons. Zack Gibson, Kyle Madsen, Garrick Sherman, Andrew Brommer and Tom Pritchard also received consideration, but the winner of this award is Purdue's Patrick Bade. While I feel bad making fun of the kid, who is simply an over-matched freshman, I am a heartless individual and couldn't resist. Bade shot just 25% from the field during conference play, was unable to corral rebounds that bounced right to him, and was the only candidate who finished the season with more fouls than points. Bade seems like a nice kid, so hopefully turns things around and eventually becomes a solid Big Ten player.
So there are the awards, I'll break down the All-Big Ten teams tomorrow and start to look ahead to the Big Ten tournament, but you know things are bad for NU when LTP is being negative.