It’s been a wild year in some respects, with a lot of twists and turns, but in the end, the upper half of the league looked pretty much the way I expected it to in October, at least in terms of the general groupings. The bottom end of the conference was worse than I think anyone could have imagined but the league produced several teams that don’t take much work to imagine making a deep run later this month, so at least at the top end, it was more or less business as usual. Some thoughts on the conference as a whole…

ALL BIG TEN

POY – Denzel Valentine Michigan State – Those attempting to advocate for Ferrell as a “most valuable” are trying way too hard. This is simple, undeniable and beyond debate.
Yogi Ferrell – Indiana
Jarod Uthoff – Iowa
AJ Hammons – Purdue
Bryn Forbes – Michigan State – Homer pick? Maybe, but I think a defensible one. Nigel Hayes did not really have a great season if you look beyond simple point and rebound averages. Forbes became the most dangerous shooter in America and I think that’s enough to put him over the top here.

Second Team

Nigel Hayes – Wisconsin
Matt Costello – Michigan State
Melo Trimble – Maryland
Peter Jok – Iowa
Malcolm Hill – Illinois – I hate to put a guy from a team which was this bad up here but honestly, there’s just not a compelling case for anyone else IMO. He has really good numbers, and in a year where there weren’t a ton of great individiual performances, he gets the edge.

Defensive POY – Raphael Davis/Purdue – I think Hammons probably wins this but for me, Davis is the more impactful defender.

Coach of the Year – Tom Crean/Indiana. There’s a credible case to be made for Greg Gard but here’s the thing…IU achieved more and to be honest, they weren’t any better than the Badgers were in early December. Think about how they looked at Cameron against Duke…just awful. For Crean to get that team to at least become respectable defensively (they’re not great now, but WAY better than they were before New Year’s Day) and to do it with some key guys missing was a hell of an accomplishment.

Biggest Surprise/Team Division – IU’s defense. It was a big question mark coming out of last season and the first two months did nothing to quell those concerns. However, IU went from being rated well into the 100s in defensive efficiency to 66th. Certainly not great but respectable, and good enough to allow for an exceptional offensive team to win big.

Biggest Surprise/Individual Division – Has to be Matt Costello’s emergence as perhaps the second best big man in the conference. I consider myself to be surprised by what he did. He went from a guy I thought would be a solid 7/7 player to a double-double on a consistent basis. He finally got his emotion, his mindset and his considerable skills all lined up together on a game in/game out basis.

Biggest Disappointment/Team Division – Lots of candidates for this one, and many of them were impacted severely by injuries. I’m going to go with Illinois in a tight race, however. The Illini just never looked inspired or together at any point this year. Yes, injuries hit them hard but given how down the bottom end of the league was, it’s fair to suggest they still underachieved.

Biggest Disappointment/Individual Division – Melo Trimble. Look, he still had a solid season…I had him second team and I suspect that’s where most will end up in regard to his year. However, we’re talking about a guy who was supposed to be near the top of the POY list and he didn’t come close to that level. He wasn’t even the best player at his position in the conference. Most damning of all, when Maryland needed him to step up, he wasn’t able to do it. Some of this one is related to expectations, which were very high, but that’s the way it goes.

Newcomer Of The Year – Ethan Happ/Wisconsin – Tight race. Lots of good young big men in this conference, but I think Happ was the most consistent of the bunch. He’s going to be a bear to deal with in this league going forward and if he ever does extend his range, it’s going to be even tougher to handle.