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March 1, 2012
Early all-conference selections
With the end of the Big Ten regular season upon us this weekend, now is the time to start taking stock as to who may earn some of the top All-Conference selections. The Peegs.com basketball coverage team of Jeff Rabjohns, Nathan Hart and Mike Pegram voted today, ranking in order a top 15 for all players and a top five for a freshman only team.
With four days left in the regular season, things aren't set in stone but this should give an idea what will happen next week when the official honors are handed out.
All-Big Ten Teams
Big Ten MVP:
Draymond Green, Michigan State, (6'7, 230) - in his senior season Green has found another level of play and has carried his Spartan team to the brink of an outright Big Ten championship. He does everything from scoring inside and outside, driving, finding teammates, and rebounding. Green is averaging 16.5 points in league play to go along with a conference best 10.5 rebounds. He's also averaging 3.6 assists and shooting a remarkable 47.0 percent from beyond the arc. The unique thing about Green is he's quicker and more explosive this year than he's been in any of the the prior three seasons under Tom Izzo. He also demonstrates great leadership ability.
Other First team members:
Jared Sullinger, Ohio State (6'9, 265) - as of today he's averaging 17.5 points and 9.3 rebounds in league play while shooting 52.9 percent from the floor. Sullinger was most people's pick for Preseason Player of the Year but the Buckeyes have not been as good as expected and his numbers are very much in line with his freshman season stats. He's a bit thinner this year which has helped his mobility but he's maybe not been quite the immovable force inside of last year. Having said all that he still was our runner-up for POY and it will be interesting if he returns to Columbus for a junior campaign.
Cody Zeller, Indiana (6'11, 230) - after a rough start the big center has steadily improved to help Indiana move from the bottom of the league to the upper division. Averaging 15.6 points and 5.8 rebounds during conference play and most impressively tops the league with his 61.4 percent field goal rate. Just a very efficient player. His ability to run the floor has really shown itself over the past few weeks.
John Shurna, Northwestern (6'9, 220) - the Big Ten's leading scorer with a 20.6 ppg average, Shurna has tried to carry this team on his back into the NCAA but hasn't quite been able to get the job done in his senior season. Has shown more ability this year to score in other ways that his strange looking but deadly jump shot.
Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin (6'1, 195) - hasn't been as productive as his junior year but he did not have as good a frontcourt to play alongside this season in Madison. Still he has steadily picked up his production, averaging 16.4 points and 3.4 assists per game. Just barely made this first unit in our voting and this fifth spot should end up being a close point guard battle between Taylor, Tim Frazier and Trey Burke.
Tim Frazier, Penn State (6'1, 160) - has to be the league's most improved player among starters. Second in the league with a 20.1 scoring average to go along with a league best 5.6 assists per contest. That comes off a year where he averaged just 6.3 points per game. Besides leading the league in assists he's also tops in free throw shooting (88.0 percent) and steals (2.3/game).
Robbie Hummel, Purdue (6'8, 215) - if he had played all conference year like his last three weeks, Hummel would have been an easy first teamer. Over the last six games he's averaged 23.7 points per game. For conference games to date his numbers are now 16.4 points and a fourth best 7.8 rebounds per game. He hasn't shot the ball as accurately as his pre-knee problem days but certainly seems to be rounding into his old form.
Trey Burke, Michigan (5'11, 180) - a big reason Michigan was a serious title contender until that home loss this week to Purdue. Averaging 15.3 points and second best in the league with 4.5 assists per game. Clutch play late in games is another reason he's such a formidable contender for Zeller in the Freshman of the Year race.
Matt Gatens, Iowa (6'5, 212) - been on an absolute tear of late, averaging 24.4 points over his last five games. Had back to back 7-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc in wins over Indiana and Wisconsin. Averaging 17.0 points in league play and tops the league with 2.8 three-pointers per game while shooting an impressive 49.5 percent from that distance.
William Buford, Ohio State (6'6, 220) - maybe hasn't developed into the star many thought he would be in his final season but it was another steady year for Buford, averaging 14.0 points and 5.7 boards per game. Seems to play better at home which could be a concern as we head into the neutral site time of the year.
Meyers Leonard, Illinois (7'1, 245) - along with Frazier he's the most improved over last season. After averaging just over two points and 1.2 boards per game as a freshman, Leonard has put up 13.5 points and a third best 8.0 rebounds per game his sophomore season. Terrific skills for someone of his size, Leonard just has to improve his decision making. Has come on the last week, averaging 21.5 points in his two most recent games. With good big men so rare, the NBA opportunity is already there if he so chooses.
Brandon Paul, Illinois (6'4, 200) - had the game of the year when he exploded for 43 points in January 10th win over Ohio State. Led his team with 14.3 points per game but also has been up on the conference charts for assists (2.9) and steals (1.8). Just needs to sharpen his shot selection to have a big senior season next year.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State (6'7, 225) - has become more of the natural scorer he was known for in high school this season, averaging 14.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game while shooting 51.9 percent from the floor. One of the best offensive rebounders in the league. The lefty has been lighting it up of late, averaging 21.5 points over OSU's last four games.
Bo Spencer, Nebraska (6'2, 193) - has made the most of his one season at Nebraska, leading the Huskers with a 14.1 points per game. Averaged 25.0 points in big home wins over Indiana and Illinois. Has struggled the last two games, hitting just 4-for-20 shots, so he may need a good season finale at Minnesota to receive his honor next week. What will Nebraska do without him next year?
Drew Crawford, Northwestern (6'5, 205) - has steadily improved each of this three years in Evanston, upping his numbers this year to 16.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Shot a career best 49.4 percent from the floor this year. Can he continue to improve his production next year when Shurna isn't around to draw so much defensive attention?
Frosh Player of the Year
Cody Zeller - five time winner of Freshman of the Week award, Zeller and Trey Burke have both made tremendous impacts this year and would be very deserving of this award. Zeller gets the nod here for helping engineer the biggest turnaround of any Big Ten team, or any team in the country for that matter.
Remaining team members:
Trey Burke - six time winner of Freshman of the Week award. Point guard is the toughest position for a freshman to handle and he made a great transition to this level and made Wolverine fans forget about the early departure of Darius Morris. See more above.
Aaron White, Iowa (6'8, 225) - the Strongsville, Ohio player wasn't highly ranked but leads the Hawkeyes in rebounding (6.1/gm) and is third in scoring (11.1/gm). Also tops on Iowa with his 52.5 percent field goal rate.
Branden Dawson, Michigan State (6'6, 220) - while he was highly ranked, Dawson has been solid, averaging 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in league play and is third overall in the entire Big Ten with his 57.6 percent field goal rate.
David Sobolewski, Northwestern (6'1, 185) - everyone was worried about what Northwestern would do without Juice Thompson but Sobolewski filled that void nicely all season. Currently averaging 10.0 points in conference action and 3.3 assists. Has a solid 2.0 to 1 assist to turnover ratio and has played over 37 minutes per game during league play.