The Big Ten was a tense battlefield with nine or ten teams looking at a potential NCAA Tournament bid. There were several teams that had players receive Big Ten honors, but Michigan State and Maryland seemed to shine the brightest among the pack this year. The Big Ten Awards were tightly contested among each player and team.
This is one of the most exciting seasons that the Big Ten has had in at least two decades. The Big Ten Conference Tournament is going to be a fun experience for fans of basketball. It will be the perfect warmup for March Madness.
Big Ten Awards:
Big Ten Conference Player of the Year
This award was supposed to be a no brainer for Cassius Winston at the beginning of the year, but the Iowa big man has been next to unstoppable all year long. The junior saw a massive jump in his productivity levels this year. Garza averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in the regular season this year. He also shot 54.2 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from beyond the arc. Simply put Luka Garza was unstoppable in his junior year. His point per game average went up ten points from last year. The Hawkeyes will go as far as their big man can carry them. Garza has also played his way into the National Player of the Year conversation. These Big Ten Awards will not be the last time he hears his name called this season.
Coach of the Year
The Wisconsin Badgers were not supposed to be a top Big Ten team this year. They were projected to finish middle of the pack and perhaps squeeze into the NCAA Tournament. Greg Gard and his team ended the year with a share of the Big Ten regular-season title and the number one seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Beating out teams like Michigan State and Maryland simply was not supposed to be on the table for the Badgers. Gard’s team finished the season at 21-10 with a 14-6 record in the Big Ten. The Badgers also closed the regular season on an eight-game winning streak. Wisconsin will not be an easy team to knock out this year.
Defensive Player of the Year
He shut down opposing players all year.
Now @Rookiedunker is officially the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Enjoy the best Xavier Tillman defensive moments from this season: pic.twitter.com/w40gUPfw0Z
— Michigan St. on BTN (@MichiganStOnBTN) March 9, 2020
Cassius Winston is the heart and soul of Michigan State, but Xavier Tillman is their motor. The junior forward has been a force on the Spartans all season long. It would be fair calling the forward the best paint defender in the NCAA this season. He averaged an impressive 2.1 blocks per game paired with 1.2 steals per game. It is almost impossible to score around the rim with Tillman in the game. He also chipped in 7.6 defensive rebounds per game. It would be fairly hard to justify anyone winning the award over the Michigan State forward.
Freshman of the Year
Illinois has needed a program change for quite some time. The infusion of talented youth this year may have finally turned their lackluster program around from the brink. Center Kofi Cockburn has been a massive part of the Fighting Illini being at the top of the Big Ten conversation. The freshmen came into the Big Ten and in his first season averaged 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds. He paired that with 1.4 blocks per game. The Illinois faithful has to be extremely excited about the future of their program with this talented young center at the helm.
Sixth Man of the Year
Aaron Wiggins has only improved on his phenomenal freshman season. It is debatable that Wiggins is the best bench scorer in the NCAA. The Maryland sophomore was a big part of the Terrapins’ success this year. Cowan and Smith may get a big portion of the credit, but Wiggins is the future of the team. This year he averaged 10.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. He shot really well from beyond the arc at a clip of 31.7 percent. Maryland fans are rightfully excited by the leap he could make in his junior year. Wiggins could be on the Big Ten Awards again next year.
All-Big Ten First Team
- Anthony Cowan, G (Maryland)
- Cassius Winston, G (Michigan State)
- Lamar Stevens, F (Penn State)
- Jalen Smith, F (Maryland)
- Luka Garza, C (Iowa)