Brent Yarina, BTN.com Senior Editor, February 19, 2012
In the waning moments of Michigan's upset win over Ohio State on Saturday, the Twitterverse started naming Trey Burke the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The point guard was instrumental in the win, scoring 17 points and dishing out five assists, but let's not consider this thing over. The race is just heating up, as Indiana's Cody Zeller has been every bit as impressive — probably even more so the past couple of weeks. Brent Yarina breaks down the two worthy candidates in this post.
Trey Burke: 43.1%, 14.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.8 rpg, 0.9 spg, 0.4 bpg
Cody Zeller: 65.6%, 15.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.3 bpg
BIG TEN STATS
Trey Burke: 43.2%, 15.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.6 apg, 1 spg, 0.4 bpg
Cody Zeller: 65.1%, 16.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.8 spg, 1 bpg
Season record: 1-1
Burke: 37.5%, 14 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 6 asp, 1 bpg
Zeller: 63.2%, 14.5 ppg, 8 rpg, 1 bpg
Burke: Burke fabulously replaced Darius Morris, last year's star point guard who opted to leave early for the NBA, and the Wolverines are a much better team than they were at any point last season. To little surprise, Burke is the biggest reason for that.
Zeller: The only significant addition from last season's team that finished 12-20, including 3-15 in the Big Ten, Zeller and the Hoosiers are 20-6. Oh, and their eight Big Ten wins match the total they had in Tom Crean's first three seasons.
Burke: Michigan is in the thick of the Big Ten title chase, trailing Michigan State by one half-game as of Sunday morning. This a team that went 9-9 in Big Ten play last season with all of the same key players, Burke the lone exception.
Zeller: Indiana is a competitive Big Ten foe for the first time since Kelvin Sampson roamed the sidelines. The Hoosiers aren't in the title chase this season, but they're among the best of the rest, and that's saying a whole lot.
Burke: Helped Michigan beat the Big Ten's four other top teams, including rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. In wins against Memphis, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Indiana, he contributed 16.6 ppg, 3 rpg, 3.4 apg and 0.8 bpg.
Zeller: Led Indiana to wins over No. 1 Kentucky and then-No. 2 Ohio State, in addition to rivals Notre Dame and Purdue, both away from Assembly Hall. In Indiana's biggest wins — Kentucky, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan and Purdue — Zeller averaged 16 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.
Edge: Zeller – Ohio State wins cancel each other out, and Kentucky win trumps Burke's Michigan State win
Burke: vs. Michigan State – 8 of 11, 20 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Zeller: vs Iowa – 11 of 12, 26 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 block
Edge: Burke – The across-the-board production is better against Michigan State
As you can see, it's a very close race. There is no favorite, in my opinion, and it's so close that it wouldn't be a surprise if the two tie for the award. Both of these guys are worthy of All-Big Ten first-team honors, so it's going to be a great debate the final couple of weeks. Who do you think should win the award? Tell me in the poll below:
Brent Yarina is a web editor and blogger for BTN.com. Find all of his work here and follow him on twitter at @BTNBrentYarina.