Simply put, this year’s Big Ten season has been insane. From top to bottom, the entire season has been filled with unpredictable results and inconsistent play. And with last weekend’s games wrapping up the conference slate, the league’s individual awards are about to be handed out.
And to help breakdown what to expect, the BTPowerhouse staff got together to have a roundtable discussion. They answered some of the biggest questions on which players and coaches are most deserving of awards this season.
Here’s that discussion.
BTP All-Big Ten Roundtable Discussion:
1. Who’s your Big Ten Player of the Year and why?
Thomas Beindit: To me, this is an easy pick. I’m taking Caleb Swanigan. The clear runner-up is Ethan Happ, but I don’t think it’s all that close this season. Swanigan has been awesome from day one and should be a National Player of the Year contender.
Ryan Blevins: Swanigan because he has done it from start to finish. Maybe the most versatile big man in the NCAA, possibly the most dominant big man in the NCAA. Averaging a double-double, only players grabbing 10 boards a game, improved his outside shooting game. It’s a race for second place.
Harrison Rahajason: I hope this is unanimous. Swanigan because Swanigan.
Bryan Steedman: Caleb Swanigan. He’s dominated the conference and is the key reason Purdue is on pace to win the Big Ten this season. His improvement from his freshman season has really been something and it’s hard to see anyone else earning this accolade.
Robert Bondy: Swanigan without a doubt.
Pazzalia: Notorious B.I.G-gie
Jon Richardson: I wish this were more intriguing, but the award has to go to Swanigan.
Connor Sindberg: Swanigan. Purdue is the best team in the league and he’s their best player. Plus he’s been more consistent than Ethan Happ. Not only is Swanigan the favorite for Big Ten player of Year, he’s a favorite for NCAA First-Team All-America and a candidate for National Player of the Year.
Nate Head: Caleb Swanigan. Ask me a couple weeks ago, and I could have made a genuine case for Ethan Happ. But, while Happ has fell off a cliff in his last couple games, Swanigan has remained consistent and pours in double-doubles like nobody’s business.
Eddie Herz: Easy, Caleb Swanigan. The guy literally puts up video game numbers night in and night out. Swanigan is second in the NCAA in rebounds and has only failed to put up a double-double in five games this year. Purdue is the best team in the conference and Swanigan is clearly the best player.
Bryce Bennett: Swanigan. I think the Swanigan/Happ debate was silly and overblown. I like Happ too, but it’s not close. The points and rebounds per game obviously jump out, along with the amount of double-doubles, but Swanigan’s three-point shooting has really impressed me this season. Purdue crowds would audibly groan when he took them last season, but now it’s expected that he hits 2-3 a game. He’s improved his three-point percentage by 17 points! One of the hardest working players I’ve ever seen.
Mike Randle: Caleb Swanigan. May be National Player of the Year as well.
Gianna Marshall: Caleb Swanigan. His skillset and ability to play all over the floor have impressed me all year long. There’s no other player in the Big Ten that can do what he does every night.
2. Name your first team All-Big Ten.
Beindit: My All-Big Ten team is Ethan Happ, Malcolm Hill, Melo Trimble, Caleb Swanigan, and Derrick Walton. I know Hawkeye fans are going to be upset about me leaving Jok off the first team (he’s my sixth ranked player), but based upon full body of work during Big Ten play, I think Hill and Walton have an edge on him this season.
Blevins: Trimble, Jok, Happ, Bridges, Swanigan. The guard class is heavy and you could easily have Derrick Walton Jr., Tai Webster, Malcolm Hill or Bryant McIntosh in there, but those are the best five I think. I understand there may be some backlash on putting Bridges in there but he is likely the best freshman and the main scoring option on a tournament contender. He was been consistent since returning from injury.
Rahajason: Entire team? 1. Walton 2. Jok 3. Happ 4. Jordan Murphy 5. SWANIGAN!!! If we’re being honest, though, it would be Swanigan 1-5.
Steedman: Swanigan, Jok, Happ, Murphy and Bridges. Trimble probably could have made the list as well, but I feel like Murphy and Bridges have had bigger impacts on their respective teams and are more deserving of a first team spot.
Bondy: 1. Trimble, 2. Jok, 3. Bridges, 4. Swanigan, 5. Happ. Maybe Walton instead of Trimble. He’s been great down the stretch for Michigan
Pazzalia: Trimble, Swanigan, Jok, Happ, and my sleeper pick is Bryant McIntosh. He is the best player on a surprise team, more than deserving. Would love to see Corey Sanders snag a spot on 2nd or 3rd team after the big snub on last year’s freshman team.
Richardson: Trimble, Jok, Bridges, Happ, Swanigan. Pre-injury, Scottie Lindsey makes this list. His importance to Northwestern was on full display in his absence, as well as their struggles as he tries to get back to full speed. Reggie Lynch deserves mention as well. His paint presence defensively completely alters offensive game plans.
Sindberg: Trimble, Jok, Bridges, Happ and Swanigan. Malcolm Hill is my sixth man. Scottie Lindsey and Moritz Wagner both deserve some recognition too, they should be locks for All-Big Ten second team.
Head: Trimble, Jok, Bridges, Happ and Swanigan. Sorry, no surprises here.
Herz: Trimble, Jok, Bridges, Swanigan, Happ. Sleeper here, but my sixth man is Tai Webster. Webster is third in scoring, tied for sixth in assists, and leads the Big Ten in minutes played.
Randle: Swanigan, Trimble, Bridges, Happ, and Jok. If Scottie Lindsey didn’t miss time, he’d get my last spot over Jok.
Bryce Bennett: 1. Trimble 2. Jok 3. Bridges 4. Swanigan 5. Happ. I feel pretty good about these. I can see the arguments to swap out Derrick Walton Jr. with Trimble and Malcolm Hill with Bridges, but I think these are your best five. Deep guard class in the Big Ten this year.
Marshall: Trimble, Jok, Law, Murphy and Swanigan. I think Vic Law is extremely underrated on the defensive end and he’s locked up the opposing team’s best player all season long.
3. Which freshmen do you have on your All-Big Ten Freshmen team?
Beindit: To me, the two easiest selections are Miles Bridges and Nick Ward. Those two have been the league’s best freshmen this season and I’m not sure it’s all that close. Behind them, I think Tony Carr and Amir Coffey are the third and fourth picks. However, I had a lot of trouble in making my final selection between Jordan Bohannon, Anthony Cowan, and Justin Jackson. All margin between those three is virtually non-existent, in my eyes. I leaned Jackson because I think he had the best overall performance.
Blevins: Miles Bridges will likely be the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, on my list. I think Maryland can have two representatives, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson. I think Jackson has quietly had a nice season and perhaps this is my Canadian bias but I believe he will be a very good NBA player one day. Amir Coffey has been a great addition to Minnesota, I think he is deserving. Tony Carr of Penn State as well. Those are the five best freshmen in my opinion.
Rahajason: There have been some pretty damn impressive freshmen this year in the Big Ten. Tony Carr, Josh Reaves, and Mike Watkins have been phenomenal for Penn State. They’ll contend for a tournament bid next year. Carsen Edwards, Kevin Huerter have also been really nice. Obviously, I can’t go without mentioning WInston, Ward, Langford and Bridges. So many good young players in the league, and many of them won’t be declaring early! Neat!
Pazzalia: Bridges wins Freshman of the Year, with Jordan Bohannon, Tony Carr, Amir Coffey, Nick Ward, and Justin Jackson. Lots of good freshman point guards this year. Anthony Cowan deserves a spot, but hard to have two from the same team with such a deep class.
Bondy: You have to throw Bridges and Ward out there. Winston has also been great at times for MSU, but not All-Big Ten Freshmen, in my opinion. I’ve also really liked Carson Edwards as a game changer for Purdue. Tony Carr of Penn State is another one to add to the list. Not sure if Jordan Bohannon is All-Big Ten worthy but he can be lethal from deep at times. Justin Jackson of Maryland is also another good one for this list. As others have already said, the freshmen class is deep this year.
Richardson: Tony Carr, Amir Coffey, Miles Bridges, Nick Ward, Mike Watkins. Bridges gets Freshman of the Year without a doubt, but Tony Carr is the name to watch moving forward. His game is as well rounded as a point guard can be and he has shown significant improvement as the season has progressed.
Sindberg: Bridges will get Freshman of the Year, but Carr, Ward, Coffey all had outstanding first years. Bridges star power coming in as the Big Ten top ranked recruit and excellent numbers are just too hard to argue with. And he’s clearly the most important player on Michigan State’s squad. We saw how much they struggled when he was out with injury.
Head: Miles Bridges, Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and Amir Coffey come to mind. With such a talented class, difficult cuts must be made. Nick Ward is certainly worth a look, as well as Justin Jackson.
Herz: Miles Bridges easily wins Big Ten Freshman of the Year. While Bridges is the clear winner, Nick Ward, Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens, and Amir Coffey each had exceptional freshman campaigns. Tyler Cook, Justin Jackson, Carsen Edwards and Anthony Cowan each deserve honorable mentions as well.
Randle: Miles Bridges, Amir Coffey, Kevin Huerter, Tony Carr, and Lamar Stevens. I would have thought Justin Jackson was a lock, but he tailed off. Nick Ward was inconsistent for much of the year, but is finishing up strong. He could steal a spot from the Penn State duo.
Bennett: Miles Bridges will definitely win Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Outside of him, I’ve got Tony Carr, Carsen Edwards, Nick Ward and Amir Coffey. Deep freshmen class this season. Excited for what is to come.
Marshall: Amir Coffey, Nick Ward, Tony Carr, Miles Bridges, Jordan Bohannon and Anthony Cowan. I think Cowan has quietly helped Melo Trimble shine the way he has this season and been a strong asset to the team.
4. Who deserves Big Ten Coach of the Year?
Beindit: On Saturday, I wrote about some of the issues I have with how the Big Ten Coach of the Year is selected. As such, my opinion is probably a little against the grain on this award. My top two picks are Matt Painter and Mark Turgeon and I think I would lean Turgeon at the moment.
Blevins: When I think Coach of the Year, I think of a difference maker or coach who overcame the most. Mark Turgeon probably had to do the most coaching this season after losing as many players as he did.
Although he did have his best player (Melo Trimble) return, it is pretty remarkable what his has done with the turnover of players he has gone through. Richard Pitino was in a make or break year, and he made big, so he is also a candidate but my imaginary vote which counts for nothing goes to Turgeon.
Rahajason: Good question, I have no idea. Toss up between Painter, Collins, Pitino and Greg Gard. I think it’ll end up going to Matt Painter just because Purdue has been pretty impressive all year. He uses his personnel very nicely. I think it’ll be him, but it’s definitely a toss up at this point.
Steedman: Pitino. I know a lot of people will call for Collins to earn the honor if he can get the Wildcats into the NCAA Tournament, but the turnaround from last year’s absolutely dreadful season has been a much better job by Pitino.
Of course, Minnesota wasn’t as bad as their record indicated last year (inability to win close games, mass suspensions and injuries). Either way, Minnesota was expected to be dead in the water this season and now they’re sitting towards the top of the conference and set to return to the postseason.
Bondy: Hands down, this award goes to Pitino. Look at how terrible that team was last year and how well they are playing now. And playing their best ball at the right time of the year. Painter could also be considered but Purdue was good last year too and is benefitting from Swanigan being possibly being the best player in all of college basketball. Collins is also someone to consider but NW is limping across the finish line. I’d go with Pitino without a doubt.
Pazzalia: Shot in the dark here, but Steve Pikiell. The Scarlet Knights are arguably the most improved team in the conference and it’s a direct correlation to their first-year head coach. He has them competitive in nearly every game, which is something they haven’t had since joining the Big Ten. If not Pikiell, I’d give the hardware to Chris Collins. He has certainly built the program up, making history in the process. Looking forward, I think Pikiell and Rutgers are on the same trajectory as Collins and the ‘Cats.
Richardson: The improvement by the Gophers this season has certainly been impressive. Pitino, though, had two winning seasons prior to his atrocious record last year. As Northwestern makes their historic NCAA bid, the award has to go to Collins.
Sindberg: Collins. If Northwestern is able to finish the season strong, Collins deserves the award simply based on Northwestern making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. He done a remarkable job in just his fourth season.
Head: Mark Turgeon. This Maryland team is essentially Melo Trimble and a group of underclassmen. Turgeon has spun this inexperienced group of guys into a team that contended for the Big Ten title for essentially the entire season, and a group that is poised to bolster its NCAA tournament resume with a lengthy run in the Big Ten tournament.
Herz: Tough decision and it’s hard not to choose Pitino after the impressive season he has had with Minnesota. However, if Northwestern makes the NCAA tournament there is no way I don’t pick Chris Collins. To lead the Wildcats to March Madness in only his fourth season, while Northwestern has never made the NCAA tournament, is beyond impressive.
Randle: I’d go Mark Turgeon slightly over Chris Collins. Maryland had even lower expectations than Northwestern, and the Terrapins are in the Big Ten race with mostly freshmen. If Northwestern had continued rolling past January 29th, I would have went with Collins. Even though he’s held it together without Lindsey, I’d give the nod to Turgeon.
Bennett: Give it to Pitino. Hard to believe they were 8-23 last season. They could reasonably improve by almost 20 wins this season. Impressive that he’s been able to mold and build this roster into a team that resembles many of his dad’s squads. If not Pitino, Collins or Turgeon.
Marshall: If Northwestern goes to the NCAA Tournament, it has to go to Chris Collins. What he has been able to do in 4 years and the development of his players is noteworthy. This year was supposed to be another developmental year, leading up to them Dancing next season, but the development of Scottie Lindsey, Vic Law and Bryant McIntosh, along with the injuries they’ve faced is huge. Pitino is a close second with the turnaround he’s made, so if Northwestern doesn’t Dance, it’s Pitino’s to win.
Let us know your thoughts on these awards in the comment section.