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Big Ten Recap

Nigel HayesNigel HayesI’m a big fan of trying to describe scenarios in one word. In order to accomplish this, one must aggregate all the data and information available to come to a valid conclusion. In a basketball sense – so many basketball games, moments, emotions, and memories - it creates simplicity and puts a stamp on another Big Ten regular season. We now have a Big Ten Player of the Year, First Team All-Big Ten, and various other awards to comprehend this season. What word is the best to describe the 2014-2015 campaign?

Expected.

This year’s conference season was on the most unsurprising, by-the-book campaigns that have occurred in a LONG TIME. I’d love to personally give out postseason awards, but I will leave that to the truly professional journalists who can actually vote. It’d be a waste of time for both you and me. Nonetheless, tell me if you’re even remotely surprised by these outcomes:

Wisconsin wins the Big Ten conference title outright, followed by beating Michigan State in Conference tournament.

Frank Kaminsky wins Big Ten Player of the Year

a Purdue player wins Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (even though it should have been A.J. Hammons)

D’Angelo Russell wins Big Ten Freshmen of the year

Deandre Mathieu led the league in steals

A.J. Hammons led the league in blocks

Branden Dawson led the league in offensive rebounding

D.J. Newbill led the league in minutes played (by 51 minutes)

Rutgers didn’t come close to competing in 60% of their conference games

Everything seemed to go according to script. Even the teams that were battling and in the middle of the pack for the majority of the year (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Purdue) were the ones that most experts thought would have trouble getting to the upper echelon of the conference. As conference play came to an end, teams like Purdue found their M.O. and quietly, yet valiantly, finished the year in third place. Others, like Michigan, were decimated by season-ending and season-altering injuries like the one Caris LaVert suffered. One miniscule differentiator, like an injury or an emerging three-point shooter, can be the biggest difference in conference play.

Still, based off of last year’s accomplishments, two teams surprised me the most. First, Maryland exceeded expectations on paper, but once you sat down and saw just how damn good Melo Trimble and Jake Layman were, you knew there were more options than just Dez Wells. Second, advanced metrics would have told you Nebraska’s “breakout season” from last year was more an outlier than a consistent reality. Terran Petteway struggled to consistently shoot the basketball well, and Tim Miles has not upgraded his talent level enough where Nebraska can compete every night without their best player performing.

Other notes from this year:


Best Finish: March 3: Northwestern 82, Michigan 78 (2OT) – this game was full of surprise, big shots made in both regulation at OT, stupidity on defense, missed free throws, turnovers, and one fired up, fist-pumping coach at the end.

Biggest Upset: January 11: Rutgers 67, Wisconsin 62 – although this was the only conference game that Frank Kaminsky did not play in, the Scarlet Knights came home with THE most improbable upset of the conference year. Myles Mack and Bishop Daniels combined to score 41 point on 10-20 from the field.

Wildest Moment:
Michigan State at Indiana – I’m not sure we’ll ever again see a team that is leading by two points with under five seconds left intentionally foul. Tom Izzo’s initial reaction was great. Then he followed it up with an even better reaction, as he collapsed to the floor. What’s even crazier is an 82% free throw shooter in Yogi Ferrell missed the game-tying attempt, and MSU escaped.

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