With the regular season nearing conclusion, the race for Big Ten player of the year has dwindled down to just two players. There were many different players that made my weekly index of five throughout the season, but it has become clear that Miles Bridges and Keita Bates-Diop have done everything necessary to distance themselves from the rest of the pack.
We have seen great performances throughout the year from Penn State’s Tony Carr, an impressive string of double doubles to open up the year for Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy, and continuous phenomenal play from both Edwards at Purdue. However, Bridges and Bates-Diop have found ways to lift their teams to the top of the conference standings due in large part to their magnificent play.
Here’s how things stack up right now.
Big Ten Player of the Year Candidates:
2. Miles Bridges - Michigan State
Bridges came into the year as the preseason favorite to win player of the year honors. Out of the gates, however, Bridges wasn't having as incredible a year as anticipated. Despite this, the Spartans were able to reach the number one ranking in the polls due to his incredible surrounding cast.
But after a few losses, Bridges regained his status as the team’s go to scorer and rattled off a number of performances that led his team back to the winning track. Since a mid January loss to Michigan, the Spartans have won nine consecutive games, a span in which Bridges has averaged 18.6 points per game.
On top of his exceptional play, Bridges came up with one of the clutches shots on the season when he nailed a buzzer beating three to knock off Purdue. It was a season-defining shot as the Spartans look forward to March.
Bridges is an exceptional player with NBA talent, but will his remaing performances be enough to surpass Keita Bates-Diop to win player of the year honors.
1. Keita Bates-Diop - Ohio State
As Ohio State continues to win, Bates-Diop continues to impress. He now leads the conference in points with 19.9 per contest. The six foot seven inch junior is also ranked third in the Big Ten in rebounding, with 9 per game. He has led the Buckeyes to a conference record of 13-1, better than the nations top ranked Michigan State Spartans and Purdue Boilermakers.
Bates-Diop has had a drastic improvement since his sophomore season, improving his scoring average by almost ten per game. He has developed a more consistent outside shot, hitting at 36% percent compared to the 20% he shot from three last year. He has evolved into a defense’s worst nightmare, as he has had his way with conference opponents throughout the year.
While it’s clear the Big Ten has not been the toughest conference in college basketball this year, Bates-Diop looks like he is ready for the tough blows that will come his way in march. He has led the Buckeye’s from a team not even receiving votes in both polls to a consensus top ten team. Barring multiple 30 point performances from Miles Bridges in these last few weeks, Bates-Diop has the player of the year award all but locked up.