Nine Big Ten men’s basketball players were named to the John Wooden Award Watch List, released Monday afternoon. Three Buckeyes, including sophomore sensation Jared Sullinger, headline the Big Ten representatives on the preseason list for the nation’s most outstanding player. William Buford and Aaron Craft are the other Buckeyes joining Sullinger, while Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan State’s Draymond Green, Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe, Northwestern’s John Shurna, Purdue’s Robbie Hummel and Wisconsin Jordan Taylor also make the list.
Three Big Ten players have won the Wooden Award since its creation in 1976-77, most recently Ohio State’s Evan Turner (2009-10). Indiana’s Calbert Cheaney and Purdue’s Glenn Robinson won it in back-to-back seasons (1992-93 and 1993-94, respectively).
Let’s take a closer look at the Big Ten candidates:
William Buford, Sr., Ohio State – 14.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.9 apg, 0.8 spg
Aaron Craft, So., Ohio State – 6.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.8 apg, 2 spg
Draymond Green, Sr., Michigan State – 12.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.8 spg, 1.1 bpg
Tim Hardaway Jr., So., Michigan – 13.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.0 spg
Robbie Hummel, Sr., Purdue – 15.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.0 bpg*
Trevor Mbakwe, Sr., Minnesota – 58.2 FG%, 13.9 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 1.5 bpg
John Shurna, Sr., Northwestern – 48 FG%, 16.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.0 bpg
Jared Sullinger, So., Ohio State – 54 FG%, 17.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1 spg
Jordan Taylor, Sr., Wisconsin – 18.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.7 apg, 0.7 spg
* — Denotes Hummel’s 2009-10 statistics.
Best candidate: Sullinger – He’s the biggest name, he plays for the best team and, according to reports, he’s shed a lot of weight. Add all those things up, and you have a monster of player who figures to feature a more diverse skill set. The days of Sullinger only dominating inside may be a thing of the past. Expect to see a more well-rounded Sullinger in Year 2.
Darkhorse of the group: Shurna – It would be nearly unheard of for a Northwestern player to win this coveted honor, but Shurna is poised to have an award-worthy final season. Coming off an injury-plagued junior season, one in which Shurna started out on absolute fire, if you remember, the Wildcat star is healthy and has his share of talent around him – even following Juice Thompson’s graduation. If Shurna can lead Northwestern to that elusive first NCAA tourney berth, a Big Ten Player of the Year honor, and perhaps more, could be on the horizon. Again, it’s a darkhorse selection.
Biggest snubs: Nine players on the annual list is a pretty solid representation. Names that I think could possibly make their way into the discussion at some point this season, though, include: Iowa’s Melsahn Basabe, Michigan’s Jordan Morgan, Indiana’s Christian Watford, Penn State’s Tim Frazier and Purdue’s Lewis Jackson.