Besides last year, when it was the second best conference in the country (and arguably the best), the Big Ten has clearly been the top basketball conference in the 2010s. I will not listen to arguments to the contrary, because they are wrong. Now, this "best conference" ranking may not have resulted in any national championships thus far, but there has been a B1G representative in the Final Four the last three years. Also, screw you, we're not here to talk about that! We're here to talk about a hypothetical tournament pitting the best players of this decade from the B1G against the best players from this decade of every other conference.
My criteria was simple, I wanted to field a starting five (two guards, two forwards, one center or taller power forward because true centers are hard to come by these days) that consisted of the best players to suit up for a B1G team since the 2009-2010 season. Sorry Maryland and Rutgers, maybe next time.
First some players who just missed the cut, and would fill out the bench of this team: Jon Leuer, F, Wisconsin; Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin (who would probably make the team if we re-write this article in a year's time); Robbie Hummel, F, Purdue; JaJuan Johnson, F, Purdue; Draymond Green, F, Michigan State; Victor Oladipo, G, Indiana; Gary Harris, G, Michigan State; Adreian Payne, F, Michigan State; Nik Stauskas, G, Michigan; and E'Twaun Moore, G, Purdue. The inclusion of three Purdue players may come as a surprise to some of our younger readers, but yes younger readers, even as recently as earlier this decade Purdue was not the dumpster fire you saw last season.
Alright, here is the starting five for the Big Ten in this hypothetical (MAKE IT HAPPEN DELANY!) Tournament of Conferences:
Point Guard: Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin
Now before everyone screams at me for being biased, go back and look at his senior season. He averaged 14.8 PPG, 4.1 APG, 3.8 RPG, and 1 SPG. Pretty impressive right? Probably deserves a spot on the team? Well, go back one year further and take a peek at his junior season. I'd wait for you to return, but you're dead because your head exploded. Taylor's junior season was one of the best seasons a B1G player has had this decade. He was consensus second team All-America because he averaged 18.1 PPG, 4.7 APG, and 4.1 RPG. All this while turning the ball over a mere 1.2 times per game (his turnover percentage of 7.3 was best in the conference and ninth best in the nation), shooting 43% from three, and 83% from the free throw line. Keep in mind, Taylor did all this while having to deal with a starting lineup that included Tim Jarmusz ALL SEASON! Jordan Taylor was (and presumably is still) a boss and is the perfect candidate to quarterback this team to victory.
Shooting Guard: Tim Jarm...LOL, just kidding, it's Trey Burke, Michigan
Unlike Taylor, who played all four years at Wisconsin, Burke played just two at Michigan, but hoooooo baby what a two years they were. As soon as Burke stepped on campus his freshman year, he was the best basketball player in Ann Arbor. Burke lead the team in scoring (14.8 PPG), assists (4.6), and steals (0.9) in his first season. And was barely second in Usage Percentage (26.4%), which is an estimate of the percentage of a team's plays that the player was used in while he was on the floor. Need I remind you, this was all as a freshman. Michigan proceeded to lose to Ohio in their first NCAA Tournament game, and it appears that didn't sit well with Mr. Burke. He put the NBA on hold for a season, and came back to Michigan with a vengeance. I'm not going to list them all here, because I want to keep this post under 5,000 words, but if you were handing out a national player of the year award for 2012-2013, you handed it to Trey Burke. The consensus first team All-American averaged 18.6 points (second in the conference), 6.7 assists (which lead the conference), 3.2 rebounds, and 1.6 steals (fifth in the conference) per game during his sophomore campaign, he lead Michigan to the title game, and he probably had your girl on his arm. It would be tough to have a team like this and leave off the one player from the B1G that won national player of the year, so I'll be damned if I'm going to be the guy to do it.
Small Forward: Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
I struggled for days (read: as long as it took for my bagel to toast this morning) about whether or not this spot should go to Thomas or Draymond Green. I may regret it, but I decided to go with the more prolific scorer. Personally, I blame SportsCenter for never showing rebounding highlights. Thomas was one of those guys I always thought that Wisconsin could check with superior team defense, don't look at these box scores Badger fans. Those are all from one season! I couldn't bring myself to look at any others. My point is, Deshaun Thomas gets buckets. His freshman year he averaged 7.5 points per game, his sophomore year he averaged 15.9 points per game, and for his grand finale, he averaged 19.8 points per game his junior year. During his career, his per 40 minutes points per game average was never below 20. His career field goal percentage was 47.8, including 34.2% from deep. He wasn't all hucking and scoring either! He averaged five rebounds per game for his career and barely turned the ball over once per game. With Burke and Taylor getting him the ball in the correct positions to score, I bet Thomas would average over 20 points per game in this tournament.
Power Forward: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
This is probably more me being an idiot than anything else, but I had kind of forgotten how dominant Sullinger was at Ohio State. I watched a bunch of highlight videos for him after looking at his stats, and there weren't many dunks, but there was plenty of dominance. He couldn't be guarded by just one dude. He straight up owned the defensive and offensive glass, check this: in his two seasons at OSU he was first in the conference BOTH SEASONS in total o-boards grabbed. His defensive numbers were way less impressive as he finished second his sophomore year (side note: he finished first and second in total rebounding percentage for his two seasons as well). When picking the team, Sullinger's rebounding expertise were what made it easier to pick Thomas over Green at the small forward position. The big fella was more than just rebounding though. He averaged 17.3 points per game in his career and shot 53% from the field. He was a consensus first team All-American both years, but only won Freshman of the Year once. He's also carved out a nice role on the Boston Celtics since being drafted, not that that matters for this exercise, but maybe he'll bring the team coach (me) a lobster roll for the shoutout.
Center: Cody Zeller, Indiana
Now technically Zeller was a power forward at Indiana, but he's seven feet tall and this wouldn't be a B1G team without a tall, goofy white guy manning the pivot. Like Burke, Zeller was one of those dudes who was the best player on campus as soon as he set foot there. Zeller lead the team in points, rebounds, and blocks per game as a frosh and did the same as a second year guy. For his career he averaged 16.1 points per game and shot 59.2% from the field. He was second team All-America for his sophomore year and lead the Hoosiers to back to back Sweet 16 berths. He also has some sort of innate ability to get fouled he finished second and first in the conference in free throw attempts while in Bloomington. And as a career 76% free throw shooter, Zeller is just the kind of guy you want at the end of a close tournament game to feed the ball to.
Alright y'all, there you have it. Our All 2010s B1G Team. Who do you have on your team? If you even think about putting D.J. Byrd on your team, I'm going to scissor-kick you.