The Grammy's have passed, the Oscars are today and Big Ten award season is around the corner. With the final weeks of the season upon us, the Big Ten Player of the Year Index returns to take a look at the top individual players in the conference. It has been a while since these rankings have gone out, so we will look at season performance rather than performance since the last post.
This is only the second time we have ranked the POTY candidates since conference play began and the first time in 2017. Not much has changed since then. A la Larry Bird in the 1988 three-point contest, Caleb Swanigan can look at the other candidates and ask which one of them is going to finish second.
Each player ranked will be accompanied with a score. The scores are not necessarily based off a set system, but range from zero through 10 to give readers a better idea on the splits between players.
Here’s how things sit at the moment in this year’s Big Ten Player of the Year race.
2/26 Big Ten Player of the Year Rankings
1. Caleb Swanigan (Purdue Boilermakers) - Rating: 9.8
It’s over. Hand him the trophy now. Caleb Swanigan has become one of the best Big Ten forwards in recent memory. When Swanigan’s time is done at Purdue, his name will be uttered with the like of great Big Ten big men of recent history such as Frank Kaminsky and Cody Zeller.
Swanigan has 24 double-doubles this season, one in all but five of his games. He has scored less than 10 only twice. For all the non-math majors reading this, Swanigan is averaging a double-double this season, scoring the second most points per game in the Big Ten, 18.6 and grabbing the most rebounds in the Big Ten, 12.9. He is the only Big Ten player currently averaging double digit rebounds.
Aside from being a dominant presence in the paint, Swanigan has expanded his game to make himself a more versatile player. Much talk has been made about his body transformation, leading to his ability to occasionally take a flat footed big man off the bounce. His outside shooting shows the most improvement. Swanigan is taking a similar amount of threes as last season and hitting more of them. Swanigan’s 46.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc ranks third in the Big Ten and while he has taken significantly less three’s than many players on the list, this is more than a 17 per cent improvement from last season.
Write his name on the trophy now.
2. Peter Jok (Iowa Hawkeyes) - Rating: 8.5
The leader for second place has not varied much either. Peter Jok got off to an absurd start to the season, a streak he was certain not to maintain. Despite cooling off slightly he has maintained a top performance and is a lock for a first team All-Big Ten spot.
Jok, more than any other player in my opinion, has silenced critics this season. People questioned if Jok could transition into being a primary scoring option. All he has done until this point is average 21 points per game, the highest total in the conference. He is also the only 90-plus per cent free throw shooter in the conference.
Iowa isn’t going to make the tournament. There isn’t much going on for them right now, except Jok. He has put the team on his back all season, in games such as Memphis, Omaha, Purdue and Michigan. Even in a sub par performance such as his most recent game against Indiana, Jok affected the game by scoring primarily from the charity stripe.
3. Ethan Happ (Wisconsin Badgers) - Rating: 8.1
For all the recognition for versatility Caleb Swanigan gets, Eathan Happ often does not get enough. Possibly one of the most inconsistent player, but usually finds a way to affect the game positively.
If he isn’t scoring in double digits, you can could on Happ to contribute on the glass or even defensively. Happ’s versatility comes by padding the stat sheet. He is amoung the tops in the conference in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, steals and blocked shots. He leads none but the only other player listed as high in nearly as many categories is the best player in the conference, Swanigan.
Happ has been called on more recently with teammate Bronson Koenig either not playing at 100 per cent health or not suiting up at all. In such games, Happ has been inconsistent. Against Michigan and Maryland, teams with impressive forwards, Happ scored 20-plus points. He has also shown he can be taken out of a game, best exemplified in games against Nebraska, Northwestern and Ohio State.
4. Melo Trimble (Maryland Terrapins) - Rating: 8.0
Melo Trimble, like Peter Jok, started off at a pace which was unsustainable. His play has been similar to Jok’s, a consistent scorer and the leader of his team. Trimble has turned a team that is missing four starters from last season and turned them into an NCAA Tournament lock and a Big Ten Title contender.
It is hard to not include a guy who has yet to score under 10 points in conference play this season.
5. Miles Bridges (Michigan State Spartans) - Rating: 7.5
This may be the most interesting selection in the top five. Miles Bridges has been far and away the best player on Michigan State’s roster this season. He will likely be a lottery pick come NBA Draft time. But is he a top five player in the conference this season? I say yes.
Bridges seems like a lock to be Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He has quickly become one of the best rebounders and shot blockers from the wing in the conference. He is the highest scoring freshman the Big Ten has to offer. But this is the PLAYER and not FRESHMAN of the Year rankings.
There is no one else Tom Izzo and Michigan State should want with the ball in their hand late in the game, or even late in the shot clock for that matter. He has played an average of almost eight more minutes per game than Lourawls Narin Jr., the second most used Spartan. If Michigan State can grab a few more wins, Bridges just might single-handedly will his team into the big dance. Whether you are a first year or a sixth year player, that is pretty remarkable.
-Players On The Rise:
- Tai Webster (Nebraska Corn Huskers)
- Malcolm Hill (Illinois Fighting Illni)
- Derrick Walton Jr (Michigan Wolverines)
- Bryant McIntosh (Northwestern Wildcats)
Stay tuned each week for an update on the Big Ten’s Player of the Year race.