Wisconsin may not have been able to overcome the immense talent of the Thad 5 to take the Big Ten crown, but Badger star Alando Tucker was without a doubt the premier player in the conference. He still isnt a finished product in terms of his NBA future on the perimeter, but Tuckers vastly improved offensive game makes him a legitimate NPOY candidate.
No, Greg Oden is not the Big Ten POY. But what the 7-footer has managed to accomplish despite not having played basketball for the better part of a year is still quite impressive. Oden changes games on both ends of the floor, and looks like a different player in terms of mobility, activity level and skill from where he was at the beginning of the year. Looking at the 15, 10 and 4 production, he has backed up the hype and that isnt even taking the injuries into account.
Could it be anybody else?
Coach of the Year: Thad Matta, Ohio State
Sure, he has the talent. But given the extreme youth and extreme inexperience of the roster, the likely 15-1 conference record without a single bad loss is quite impressive. The Buckeyes havent been immune from rough patches, but Matt has found a way to get his youngsters out of almost every bind.
Greg Oden is obviously the draft story of the year, but weve already mentioned him twice. How about a little love for his classmate, comparatively under-hyped floor Mike Conley? Even in the elite freshman PG prospect hierarchy, there wasnt much talk about Conley headed into the season. In addition to his conference-winning runner this afternoon, Conley displayed the poise of a seasoned veteran in running the Buckeyes. Even more impressive than his per game averages of 10.0 points, 6.5 assists and 2.4 steals is that near unheard of for a freshman 3/1 Ast/TO ratio. Best PG prospect in the country? Perhaps
1st Team All-Big Ten:
Drew Neitzel, 60, Point Guard, junior, Michigan State
Mike Conley, 61, Point Guard, freshman, Ohio State
Alando Tucker, 6-5, Small Forward, senior, Wisconsin
Carl Landry, 67, Power Forward, senior, Purdue
Greg Oden, 7-1, Center, freshman, Ohio State
In the ultimate team of contrasts, we have two of the best draft prospects the conference has seen in over a decade, both freshmen, and three of the conferences reliable veteran standouts. The non-Buckeye First Team selections embody the style of play that it takes to win in the Big Ten: all three are experienced, crafty, battle-tested, and tough as nails. Neitzel is almost single-handedly responsible for Michigan States return to the NCAA Tournament.
2nd Team All-Big Ten:
Kammron Taylor, 62, Shooting Guard, senior, Washington
Adam Haluska, 65, Shooting Guard, senior, Iowa
Geary Claxton, 65, Small Forward, junior, Penn State
Warren Carter, 69, Power Forward, senior, Illinois
DJ White, 69, Power Forward, junior, Indiana
As the names on the 2nd team show, if you are looking for big-name star power you might want to try another conference. Haluska has led a young Hawkeye squad to the brink of an unlikely .500+ season, while Carter came out of nowhere to help replace the remnants of the 2005 national runner up era at Illinois. DJ White still isnt as explosive as he was before the foot problems, but is still a force to be reckoned with for Kelvin Sampson.
Mike Conley, 61, Point Guard, Ohio State
Tyler Smith, 67, Small Forward, Iowa
Raymar Morgan, 68, Small Forward, Michigan State
Kevin Coble, 68, Small Forward, Northwestern
Greg Oden, 71, Center, Ohio State
While the overall talent and competitiveness of the Big Ten was down quite substantially this season, the freshman class is much more than just Oden, Cook and Conley. Small forwards Morgan and Smith look like future stars, while underalded Northwestern Wildcat Kevin Coble actually led his team in scoring. There were even more viable candidates to pick from, including Wisconsin shooter Jason Bohannon, Michigan big man Ekpe Udoh, Purdue ballhawk Chris Kramer, and Indianas perimeter duo of Armon Bassett and Joey Shaw.
Looking Forward to '08:
SF Raymar Morgan, Michigan State and SF Tyler Smith, Iowa
While Greg Oden might not be on the schedule next fall, the Big Ten does return some notable talent. Leading the way will be two standout small forwards that both have the chance to crack the first round someday. Morgan has been instrumental in getting things back on track in East Lansing, after missing a chunk of the non-conference slate with an injury. Morgan has NBA-caliber physical characteristics and a good enough all-around feel for the game to emerge as a star in the Big Ten. Much of the same can be said about Smith, who is a bit more streaky but perhaps even more explosive.
Courtney Sims, 611, Center, Senior, Michigan State
Sims career is quite representative of Michigans struggles during the Tommy Amaker era. After a freshman season in which he dazzled with athletic potential and skill, many assumed Sims would be long gone by now. But here he is, just as soft and liable to disappear as he was four years ago. His team has accomplished little more, with just one win over an NCAA Tournament team and little hope of reaching the NCAAs for the first time in Amakers tenure.