Three Most Valuable Players:
1. Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
The stat lines of 19 ppg/7 rpg/7 apg that Denzel Valentine put up this season are unbelievable, but even the stats don’t do justice to how good he has been this year. Valentine is solid in so many aspects of the game that go unnoticed sometimes, but his biggest asset is that he makes everyone around him better. He is definitely the best player in the Big Ten and arguably the best player in the nation (no disrespect to Buddy Hield of Oklahoma).
2. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
The truth is, without Yogi Ferrell the Indiana Hoosiers would have been lost this season. The 6-0 senior guard has been an animal this season, averaging 17 points per game while leading the Hoosiers to a Big Ten title and an undefeated home record. I truly believe that without Ferrell, the Hoosiers are just an average team, but with him they’re an extremely tough team to beat; the true definition of a difference maker.
3. Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
Jarrod Uthoff was phenomenal this season, averaging nearly 19 points per game and leading the Big Ten in blocks. The 6-9 forward’s extraordinary play propelled Iowa to a 21-10 record. In the Hawkeyes’ last regular season game against Michigan, Uthoff had one of his best games with 29 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. The former Wisconsin transfer has the skills to carry Iowa deep into the NCAA tournament, so keep your eyes out for him in the coming weeks.
Biggest Surprise: Minnesota Beats Maryland
Anytime an unranked team upsets a top 25 team it’s a surprise, but when Minnesota upset Maryland in late February it was completely unexpected. Entering the game, Minnesota was 6-19 overall and 0-13 in the Big Ten. In addition, Minnesota hadn’t won a game since beating Chicago State on December 16th. Maryland meanwhile was 22-4 overall, with some nice wins on their résumé. To be frank, Minnesota was playing awful up until this point and Maryland looked like they would roll over the Golden Gophers with ease. Although the odds were against them, Minnesota prevailed with an awesome upset over the Terps. After watching Minnesota senior Joey King break down in tears of joy after the win, I couldn’t help but be happy for the Gophers. This upset is what college hoops is all about!
Biggest Disappointment: Caris LeVert Plagued By Injury
When healthy, Caris LeVert is one of the best players in the Big Ten and Michigan is a whole different team. So, when LeVert went down to a season-ending leg injury in December, it was a major disappointment because of the “what if” factor. When healthy the last two seasons, LeVert has been an absolute monster for the Wolverines. Unfortunately, he’s only been healthy for 33 games total. In his 15 games this season, the senior guard averaged 16.5 points, 4.9 assists, and 5.3 rebounds per game; difference maker stats to say the least! This season without him, the Wolverines finished 8th in the Big Ten. After watching them beat Big Ten champion Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament without LeVert, it’s a true disappointment that all we can do is wonder what could have been…
Biggest Controversy: Bo Ryan’s Mid-Season Retirement
When longtime Wisconsin Badgers coach Bo Ryan abruptly retired in December, it caught all of college basketball off-guard. Coach Ryan was getting older, and some people expected a retirement in his future, but nobody could have predicted he’d leave in the middle of their season. Ryan’s retirement sparked a lot of discussion on how it would affect the Badgers going forward with interim coach (and current assistant) Greg Gard. The Badgers were 7-5 when Ryan departed. They finished the rest of the regular season 13-6, with key wins over Michigan State, Indiana, Maryland, and Iowa. It was pretty crazy timing for a retirement to say the least, but the Badgers exceeded expectations after Gard took over.
Best Short Video:
After a frustrating three-game losing streak, Michigan State knew they needed to beat Maryland at home on January 23rd to get their swagger back, and that is exactly what they did. In the closing seconds of the huge win, senior Matt Costello was so excited that he grabbed head coach Tom Izzo and spun him around in a big sweaty bear hug. All Izzo could do was smile in awe of what had just happened. This is easily one of the funniest, but most awesome moments in the Big Ten season.