In the past week I’ve changed my mind so many times about all-Big Ten selections it has prompted a call from the Big Ten Conference. There’s about 30 players worthy of consideration for all-Big Ten honors. There’s also about eight players with whom I’d have no problem earning first-team honors.
With that in mind, and after a few preliminary ballots, here’s how I voted for the all-Big Ten teams and honor awards that will be released by the Big Ten Network on Monday.
Kalin Lucas, Michigan State; Evan Turner, Ohio State; Talor Battle, Penn State; Manny Harris, Michigan; Mike Davis, Illinois
Robbie Hummel, Purdue; JaJuan Johnson, Purdue; Jake Kelly, Iowa; Jamelle Cornely, Penn State; DeShawn Sims, Michigan
Kevin Coble, Northwestern; Craig Moore, Northwestern; Raymar Morgan, Michigan State; E’Twaun Moore, Purdue; Jason Bohannon, Wisconsin
COACH OF THE YEAR
1. Bruce Weber, Illinois; 2. Tom Izzo, Michigan State; 3. Ed DeChellis, Penn State
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
1. Matt Gatens, Iowa; 2. William Buford, Ohio State; 3. Delvon Roe, Michigan State
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Talor Battle, Penn State; 2. Kalin Lucas, Michigan State; 3. Evan Turner, Ohio State
Voting for the all Big Ten team was difficult to say the least. Before voting, I compiled a list of 30 players, then condensed it into groupings. I considered about 12 players for first team, and two of the best players — Purdue’s Robbie Hummel and Michigan State’s Raymar Morgan — missed significant time with injury or illness. It wasn’t easy.
Wisconsin (no Marcus Landry or Joe Krabbenhoft, ouch), Illinois (no Chester Frazier, Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale hurts) and Minnesota (Lawrence Westbrook and Al Nolen) were difficult because they had so many players of similar ability. Purdue (Chris Kramer) and Michigan State (Goran Suton) had players that were tough omits. Penn State (Stanley Pringle) was a toughie.
My picks are guard-heavy, and I switched multiple times between Battle, Lucas and Turner for the league’s player of the year. Ultimately, I went with Battle because I think he can do more and means more for his team than the others. That’s not a slight to Lucas or Turner, however.
Coach of the year was the easiest. Weber’s team wasn’t expected to compete for the Big Ten title after a sub-par 2007-08 season. Izzo sometimes suffers unfairly because everyone expects Michigan State to be good. The No. 3 coach selection was tough between Penn State’s Ed DeChellis and Northwestern’s Bill Carmody.
I had Buford slightly ahead of Gatens for top freshman honors until the teams met last Tuesday. Although their stats are similar, one intangible remains etched in my mind: Gatens doesn’t play with Evan Turner.
Kelly was a late jump, but if anyone thinks I’m home-towning him to second team, think again. He’s scored 19 or more points in the last six games, took over at the point without starting there all year and defends against his opponent’s best offensive player. That’s tough for anyone, particularly for a player with a broken finger and several other ailments. Plus, since he’s taken over the point, Iowa has played its best basketball all season.