COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Yesterday's end of the Big Ten regular season marks the start of the brief conference awards season, which will honor the league's top performers over the course of the past two and a half months. The Big Ten's official awards will be presented tonight at 7 p.m., and while I don't have a vote or say in the matter, the following is who I would've voted for if I did.
In my mind, at least four players are locks to make the league's first-team tonight, no matter what: Zeller, Thomas, Oladipo, and Burke. You'd be hard pressed to find a member of the media who covers this league who disagrees.
That brings me to my selection for the fifth member of the team, Craft. Perhaps a controversial choice given that he only averaged 9.7 points per game on offense, Craft should win his second consecutive Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award tonight, which more than makes up for the missing .3 points per game that would've given him a double figures scoring average. The fact of the matter remains that the Buckeyes wouldn't have been able to lock up the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament without Craft's defense or clutch offense down the stretch of the season.
Three more guards in Harris, Hardaway Jr., and Paul make up my second team, in what was a backcourt-dominated season for the Big Ten. Both Payne and Berggren received consideration for the first team, but ultimately I felt that Craft meant more to his team than they did to theirs.
When it comes to Player of the Year, Burke should be a lock for this award, although Oladipo could garner some consideration. It's my belief, however, that Burke was the difference between the NCAA Tournament and an NIT appearance for the Wolverines this season.
As far as Coach of the Year goes, Crean could be punished and not win for having arguably the most talent in the league, but in my mind, he should be rewarded for recruiting those players. In what was possibly the best Big Ten season in league history, Crean's team won the conference crown outright, which should be enough to win him this award.
A complete list of my award selections can be found below.
Second Team - All Big Ten
Adreian Payne - Michigan State Forward 6-10, 230 Junior
Jared Berggren - Wisconsin Forward 6-10, 235 Senior
Gary Harris - Michigan State Guard 6-4, 205 Freshman
Tim Hardaway Jr. - Michigan Guard 6-6, 205 Junior
Brandon Paul - Illinois Guard 6-4, 200 Senior
Player of the Year: Trey Burke - Michigan
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Craft - Ohio State
Coach of the Year: Tom Crean - Indiana
Freshman of the Year: Gary Harris - Michigan State
6th man of the Year: Sam Dekker - Wisconsin