Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, February 7, 2013

Yes, the object in basketball is score. You need athletes, shooters, passers and rebounders. But good teams also possess toughness.

You don?t have to be 6-10, 250 pounds to be tough. Nope, toughness comes in many shapes and sizes. I think back to some past Big Ten players who embodied what I felt was true toughness-players like Ohio State?s Chris Jent, Michigan?s Steve Grote, Michigan State?s Mateen Cleaves, Iowa?s Jess Settles and Purdue?s Jim Rowinski-among others. Those guys were bulldogs who gave no quarter while on the floor, true warriors.

Who is the Big Ten?s toughest player? Using a rather broad definition of the term "tough," I asked nine writers who cover the Big Ten. Minnesota?s Trevor Mbakwe; Indiana?s Will Sheehey; Ohio State?s Aaron Craft; Indiana?s Victor Oladipo; Michigan?s Trey Burke; Michigan State?s Keith Appling; Ohio State?s Evan Ravenel all received votes.

[ BIG TEN SURVEYS: See what other Big Ten questions we've asked this season. ]

But the players who netted the most were Oladipo and Mbakwe, who each were the pick of three writers. As you can see from anonymous comments from the nine panelists, there was ?tough? love for others.

Purdue writer: I like Craft, Oladipo or anyone on Michigan State. But I?ll go with Oladipo.

Indiana writer No. 1: (I vote for) Mbakwe, but can I give an honorable mention vote to Will Sheehey?

Indiana writer No. 2: Victor Oladipo. He combines mental and physical toughness with the demands made on offense and defense each game. And his level and consistency in assignments is an accomplishment.

Iowa writer: That?s a good one. Lots of people will say (Aaron) Craft. I think Victor Oladipo is. Tough, tough defender on top of everything else.

Michigan State writer: I guess I?ll go Mbakwe, but Craft, Burke, Appling, Oladipo are all right there for me.

Penn State writer: I?d have to pick Evan Ravenel.

Illinois writer: I would say Aaron Craft.

Minnesota writer: That?s probably a question that can be taken a bunch of different ways ? toughest physically, mentally, toughest to guard, etc. But I think I?m going to go with Will Sheehey, Indiana.

Michigan writer: My vote goes to Trevor Mbakwe. What a warrior.

Now it's your turn. Who do you say is the toughest player on a Big Ten team this season?


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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