Big Ten Awards Race: Appling the Favorite for Player of the Year, Collins Takes Lead for Coach of the Year

Photo: Mike Carter | USA Today Sports

The Big Ten season is halfway done as we enter the first full week of February. The league has been one of the more topsy-turvy conferences in college basketball.

Michigan started non-conference play at 6-4, but the Wolverines would be the conference tournament’s No. 1 seed if it started today. Northwestern went from “Could they really go 0-18?” to fourth place at 5-5. Ohio State and Wisconsin were both perfect in non-conference play, but they sit tied for fifth.

As we enter the second half of this wacky Big Ten season, here is a look at all of the major conference award races: Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Freshman of the Year, and Coach of the Year.

Big Ten Player of the Year
Photo: Mike Carter | USA Today Sports
Photo: Mike Carter | USA Today Sports

1. Keith Appling, Michigan State

  • Appling’s development into a true point guard is why (a healthy) Michigan State is a national title contender. Appling is averaging 15.0 points and 4.9 assists, and his shooting percentages are way up. On the season, he has made 45.3% of his field-goals and 40.5% of his three-pointers.

2. Nik Stauskas, Michigan

  • Stauskas is one of the most improved players in the Big Ten. The sophomore is still a sharpshooter at 45.0%, but he has also become a great ballhandler and passer. He is averaging 3.7 assists compared to only 1.7 turnovers per game in addition to 17.8 points.

3. Tim Frazier, Penn State

  • Penn State has won three straight games and it is no surprise Frazier has been a driving force during the streak. Frazier affects the game in so many ways. He is a great scorer and distributor, a pesky defender, and he rebounds extremely well for a 6’1″ guard. In his last four games Frazier is averaging 14.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists. Overall, he records 16.2 points, 4.8 boards and 6.4 dimes per game.

4. Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa

  • Marble leads an Iowa team that could win the Big Ten title in scoring, steals and three-pointers. He averages 16.3 points, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals while shooting 36.7% from deep. If he was on a team that did not have so many talented pieces, Marble’s per game averages would likely be even better. Marble has raised the bar in Big Ten games, posting 17.8 points per contest and shooting 45.5% from long range.

5. Adreian Payne, Michigan State

  • Time is running out for Payne to make a real mark on the player of the year race. Payne is as talented a player as you will find in the Big Ten this season, but a foot injury has kept him on the bench for the last seven games. He needs to come back soon and play at a high level to remain a candidate for this award. In the three Big Ten games where he has seen the floor, he is averaging 9.0 points and 7.0 rebounds. Overall, he is averaging 16.2 points and 7.7 boards.

 

Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year

1. Aaron Craft, Ohio State

  • Craft leads the Big Ten in steals with 2.4 per game, but everyone knows his defensive impact goes even further than that. Many coaches in America would love to have Craft leading their defense.

2. A.J. Hammons, Purdue

  • Hammons was already a good shot blocker as a freshman, but now he is one of the best in the nation. The 7-foot sophomore averages 3.2 rejections per game and ranks No. 5 nationally in block rate. Add in that his defensive rebounding percentage ranks No. 3 in the Big Ten, and you have the best defensive big man in the conference.

3. Shannon Scott, Ohio State

  • Scott would receive more attention as a lockdown defender if Craft didn’t steal all of that attention from him. The junior guard averages 2.0 steals per game and actually has a better steal percentage than Craft at 4.45%. Next season, Scott will be heralded as the Big Ten’s elite backcourt defender.

 

Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year

1. Tre Demps, Northwestern

  • Demps comes off the bench but plays starter’s minutes. The redshirt sophomore is averaging 10.7 points in 26.5 minutes per game, but he has flipped a switch during Northwestern’s recent hot stretch. In the last seven games, Demps is averaging 12.7 points. He has also been extremely clutch. Demps hit the game-winning three-pointer Saturday at Minnesota. He also led second-half runs in the Wildcats’ vicotires against Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana and Illinois.
Photo: AP | Eugene Tanner
Photo: AP | Eugene Tanner

2. Malik Smith, Minnesota

  • Smith is similar to Demps. He averages 10.6 points while playing 22.9 minutes per game, making him the fifth-most used player on Minnesota. He is a deadly shooter at 40% and has the ability to go off. Against Nebraska on Jan. 26, he posted 29 points and made eight three-pointers.

3. Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa

  • In terms of a bench player who actually receives a reserve’s playing time, Uthoff is your guy. He averages 8.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in 19.5 minutes per game. He is also a high-quality interior defender and can stretch the floor with occasional but accurate three-point shooting. Uthoff was dominating competition in non-conference play but has cooled off in the Big Ten. He scored 11 points in the Big Ten opener against Nebraska, but since then his only double-digit outing came against Ohio State on Jan. 12.

4. Gabriel Olaseni, Iowa

  • Olaseni may be the best Big Ten player that almost no one knows about. The 6’10” junior is averaging 6.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks this season and has been a major force in the last five games. During that stretch, he is averaging 9.0 points and 7.0 boards. He has recorded two double-doubles in his last three games. If he finishes the season playing at this high level, he could wind up stealing this award.

5. Travis Trice, Michigan State

  • Trice is a combo guard who will become a star next season. The 6-foot junior averages 6.7 points and 2.1 assists while shooting better than 42% from beyond the arc. Every once in a while he may lay a goose egg, but typically his addition off the bench is a large part of why Michigan State’s backcourt is the best in the Big Ten.

 

Big Ten Freshman of the Year

1. Noah Vonleh, Indiana

  • Vonleh is the most polished Big Ten freshman and the most outstanding statistically. He is nearly averaging a double-double with 11.7 points and 9.5 rebounds, and he also rejects 1.2 shots per game. In his last five games, he has recorded four double-doubles.

2. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin

  • Hayes is averaging 9.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in conference play. Overall, the 6’7″ forward averages 7.2 points on 53.1% shooting.

3. Derrick Walton Jr., Michigan

  • Walton has come a long way since the start of the season. In his last three games, the point guard is averaging 15.3 points and 3.0 assists. If he keeps this up, he will pass Hayes and possibly contend with Vonleh for this award.

 

Big Ten Coach of the Year
First-year head coach Chris Collins has turned Northwestern's season around. (Photo: Northwestern Athletics)
(Photo: Northwestern Athletics)

1. Chris Collins, Northwestern

  • Right now it is hard to deny Collins as the frontrunner for Coach of the Year. Northwestern’s preseason expectations were extremely low and they had dipped even further by the time Big Ten play began. After starting conference play with three losses by 23 points or more, an 0-18 conference season seemed possible. Instead, Collins adjusted his coaching philosophy to fit his personnel. Since then, the Wildcats are 5-2. They currently sit in fourth place in the Big Ten.

2. John Belein, Michigan

  • Belein is not far behind Collins in this race. Michigan had high expectations after last season’s Final Four, but it stumbled to a 6-4 start. Once sophomore forward Mitch McGary got sidelined for good with an injury, the Wolverines rattled off 10 straight wins. That streak finally ended Sunday at Indiana, but Michigan remains tied with Michigan State for first place in the Big Ten.

3. Fran McCaffery, Iowa

  • It’s hard to judge McCaffery’s chances for coach of the year since his rebuilding of Iowa has been such a gradual process. McCaffery’s Hawkeyes have improved every season. Last year, they went 9-9 in the Big Ten and advanced to the NIT championship game. Even with NCAA Tournament expectations for the 2013-14 season, Iowa has overachieved. The Hawkeyes are in third place at 6-3 and are still very much in the running for the conference title.

 

All advanced statistics are courtesy of KenPom.

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