Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, January 24, 2012
The great debate of 2011-12 has only heated up: Who is the best men's basketball player in the Big Ten? It looks like a case can be made by and for several players. Is it Ohio State?s Jared Sullinger? Michigan State?s Draymond Green? Penn State?s Tim Frazier? Here?s a look at my latest weekly ranking of the Big Ten's top 20 players. It's my way of gauging the talent (see my previous rankings), and there's a poll at the bottom of this post with my top 10 and an open invitation for you to vote your No. 1 guy.
1. Draymond Green, F, Michigan State, Sr. If I had to pick a player of the year, my vote would go to Green-for now. He ranks in the top in scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks and steals. And he showed how he could still dominate without scoring much vs. Purdue, tallying only eight points but netting 12 rebounds and seven assists.
Key stats: 15.0 ppg; 10.2 rpg; 3.6 apg. See his full stat page.
2. Jared Sullinger, C, Ohio State, So. The Buckeyes have won two in a row. Why? Credit the big fella, who had 16 points and nine boards vs. Indiana, and 14 points and five rebounds against Nebraska. Sullinger is No. 3 in the Big Ten in scoring and No. 2 in rebounding. Basically, if the ball gets to him in the paint, it?s two points.
Key stats: 17.1 ppg; 9.1 rpg; 0.9 apg. See his full stat page.
3. Tim Frazier, G, Penn State, Jr. Can a player on a last-place team win Big Ten MVP honors. Frazier paces the league in minutes (36.6) and is first in assists (6.4), second in scoring (18.0) and second in steals (2.3).
Key stats: 18.0 ppg; 5.0 rpg; 6.4 apg. See his full stat page.
4. Jordan Taylor, G, Wisconsin, Sr. The powerfully built Taylor is almost unstoppable when he lowers his shoulder and drives to the basket. And the reigning player of the week also is a potent threat from the arc who has the Badgers on a four-game winning skein.
Key stats: 14.1 ppg; 4.2 rpg; 4.4 apg. See his full stat page.
5. John Shurna, F, Northwestern, Sr. The Wildcats are coming off two drubbings, but Shurna has done his part in scoring 20 or more points in four of the last five games. The guy is a quiet assassin, pacing the Big Ten in scoring and 3-pointers per game (2.7).
Key stats: 19.2 ppg; 5.8 rpg; 2.6 apg. See his full stat page.
6. Trey Burke, G, Michigan, Fr. Yes, his last-second 3-pointer came up short in a 66-64 loss at Arkansas, but Burke has been the Wolverines? bellwether all season and may be the top freshman in the Big Ten. Yes, even better than Indiana?s Cody Zeller.
Key stats: 14.6 ppg; 3.8 rpg; 4.9 apg. See his full stat page.
7. Cody Zeller, C, Indiana, Fr. Yes, the Hoosiers have lost three of their last four, but don?t blame the funk on the precocious Zeller. Teammates need to feed him more often instead of launching 3-pointers.
Key stats: 15. 1 ppg; 6.4 rpg; 1.1 apg. See his full stat page.
8. Keith Appling, G, Michigan State, So. If there?s a quicker player in the Big Ten, I?d like to see him. Appling continues to confound foes with his quick first step but needs to improve his shot from long range.
Key stats: 12.6 ppg; 3.4 rpg; 4.0 apg. See his full stat page.
9. Williams Buford, F, Ohio State, Sr. He showed signs of coming out of a funk with 15 points against the Cornhuskers that included hitting 3-of-5 from 3-point range with two assists and no turnovers.
Key stats: 15.2 ppg; 4.5 rpg; 3.4 apg. See his full stat page.
10. Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois, So. The Big Ten?s blocked shots leader (2.0) probably isn?t fed the ball often enough in the post. Then again, foes seem to have caught on to his favorite move, so it?s time for the big guy to develop expand his game. But he?s coming off one of his best games (16 points/11 rebounds) in a home loss to Wisconsin.
Key stats: 13.3 ppg; 7.8 rpg; 1.3 apg. See his full stat page.
11. Aaron Craft, G, Ohio State, So. The go-go Craft keeps the Buckeyes? motor running with his precise passing and snug defensive skills. Few players can have such an impact without scoring much, who leads the Big Ten in steals (2.5 pg) and is second in the conference in assists.
Key stats: 8.0 ppg; 3.2 rpg; 5.1 apg. See his full stat page.
12. Tim Hardaway Jr., G, Michigan, So. At 6-6, Hardaway is a mismatch for most guards, able to get his shot off unencumbered. He?s also quick to the hoop. But he is in a bit of a funk, failing to reach double-figures in two of the last three games.
Key stats: 15.1 ppg; 3.6 rpg; 2.5 apg. See his full stat page.
13. Rodney Williams, F, Minnesota, Jr. He?s emerged as one of the Big Ten?s top players in the absence of Trevor Mbakwe and is a big reason why the Gophers have won three in a row. The Gophers may be the Big Ten?s hottest team. Could this team make the Big Dance?
Key stats: 10.7 ppg; 5.9 rpg; 2. 2apg. See his full stat page.
14. Drew Crawford, G, Northwestern, Jr. Crawford paces the team by shooting 50 percent from the field, but he?s coming off a tough five-point outing at Minnesota. But Crawford, the No. 4 Big Ten scorer, will shoot his way out of it. He always does.
Key stats: 16.9 ppg; 4.6 rpg; 1.9. See his full stat page.
15. Robbie Hummel, F, Purdue, Sr. In the last three games, he has hit just 10-of-42 shots (23.8 percent). But he?s too good to stay down for long-and still finds ways to impact games beyond scoring. Still, Hummel seems to be struggling with being a go-to guy.
Key stats: 15.4 ppg; 6.3 rpg; 1.7 apg. See his full stat page.
16. Derrick Nix, C, Michigan State, Jr.
Key stats: 8.2 ppg; 4.2 rpg; 1.1 apg. See his full stat page.
17. Deshaun Thomas, F, Ohio State, So.
Key stats: 15.0 ppg; 4.2 rpg; 1.0 apg. See his full stat page.
18. Bo Spencer, G, Nebraska, Sr.
Key stats: 14.8 ppg; 3.1 rpg; 3.6 apg. See his full stat page.
19. Matt Gatens, G, Iowa, Sr.
Key stats: 13.3 ppg; 4.3 apg; 2.2 apg. See his full stat page.
20. Brandon Paul, G, Illinois, Jr.
Key stats: 14.0 ppg; 4.8 rpg; 3.0 apg. See his full stat page.
Update: So far Michigan's Zack Novak and Iowa's Roy Devyn Marble have each received one vote. Keep the write-ins coming, and feel free to state your case in the comments field below, too.
Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. Find all of his work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow Dienhart on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed.