With the Big Ten as tough as its ever been in men’s basketball, and so many talented players across the league, you would think that selecting the all-conference teams will be challenging… right? I don’t.
Whereas crowning a champion could be a wild and entertaining process, I believe the upcoming first and second teams for All-Big Ten this season aren’t that debatable. You want the top-five players? In order? Well, here you go…
PROJECTED FIRST TEAM All-BIG TEN
Luka Garza (Iowa)
Ayo Dosunmo (Illinois)
Kofi Cockburn (Illinois)
Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana)
E.J. Liddell (Ohio State)
Garza is almost surely the repeat Player of the Year, but one could make a decent case for Dosunmo if the Fighting Illini’ were to claim the trophy. Illinois absolutely rides him down the stretch of games, as he takes over 32% of team shots in the final 10 minutes of regulation/overtime … far and away the highest in the league. Cockburn is an absolute monster with 15 double-doubles on the year. Jackson-Davis is top-five in the league for scoring, rebounding, blocks, minutes and field-goal percentage.
How about that last spot? E.J Liddell absolutely deserves it. When you simply watch the Buckeyes, it’s easy to notice his value, efficiency and impact on the game. He shoots over 50% from the field and has numbers that rank up there with others in the Big Ten, despite only averaging 27.7 minutes per contest (not even top 30 in the league). If I’m in the trenches, I want him on my squad!
Ok… so compiling the second team should be more difficult as you get down the ladder, right? Not really. Here are my next five standouts.
PROJECTED SECOND TEAM ALL-BIG TEN
Joe Wieskamp (Iowa)
Trevion Williams (Purdue)
Marcus Carr (Minnesota)
Isaiah Livers (Michigan)
Duane Washington (Ohio State)
Wieskamp is a dude, and would be a unanimous first-teamer in any other league. If I were assembling a five-man lineup to compete with the rest of college basketball, he would be in it. But someone, please, tell Gus Johnson to stop calling him “Weezy” every five seconds on the broadcast. Carr ranks second in the Big Ten for assists and fourth in scoring. Livers does a bit of everything for the league’s first-place team at the moment. He led the balanced Wolverines in scoring last year, likewise for a decent majority of this winter, and is a quality perimeter defender.
A Buckeye in the last spot again? You got it. Washington has led Ohio State in scoring nine times this year, and that’s with Liddell on the same roster. Sure, he can make you pull your hair and curse... But it’s hard to teach natural confidence, and he has it. Some of his best offensive games have come on the road; 21 at Penn State, 21 at Minnesota, 18 at Maryland, 17 at Rutgers, 16 at Iowa. I’ll take that guy.
WAIT A MINUTE…..
“How on earth could you leave off Ron Harper Jr.??” Well, in 13 games since Christmas, he’s only led his OWN TEAM in scoring twice, rebounding once, and assists zero times. Good player, nice future, and Rutgers is having a solid season… but he settles for third-team honors here.
“Don’t you appreciate Hunter Dickinson at Michigan?!?” Sure, I do… and you can’t teach height. The 7-footer is just a freshman and will become an increasing force/star as time goes on. But he struggled mightily against Trevion Wiliams and Purdue; eight points, three rebounds, six turnovers and foul trouble. He has just one double-digit rebounding game in his last eight outings and hasn’t scored more than 12 over his last six. He’s coming, but not fast enough right now to warrant first or second team.
“Did you forget about Teddy Allen dropping 17.5 ppg?” Averaging that many points in the Big Ten is praiseworthy and he’s been fairly efficient. But he plays for Nebraska, and someone has to score.
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