staff, February 20, 2013

As we near the stretch run of the Big Ten schedule, there are plenty of races to keep an eye on. The most intriguing one, other than the Big Ten title race, is the battle for Big Ten Player of the Year. Will it be the season-long frontrunner Trey Burke? Or the quickly surging Victor Oladipo?'s Tom Dienhart and Brent Yarina debate the topic in this post.

[ VOTE ON FACEBOOK: Who is your Big Ten Player of the Year? ]

Brent: The way the two teams are trending – Indiana up, Michigan down – Victor Oladipo is my guy. There isn't a better all-around talent in the Big Ten, plus he's the best player on the best team.

Tom: Yes, it?s hard not to be impressed with what Oladipo is doing. Heck, he may be the national player of the year. But Trey Burke is very special. He averages more points than Oladipo (18.6 to 13.8) and more assists (6.9 to 2.3 ). And Burke is asked to carry a much bigger load for a much younger team than Oladipo.

Brent: If we're going just on stats, Oladipo will have the edge in just about every category, save for points, assists and turnovers. For example, there's field goal percentage (64 percent to 49 percent), rebounds (6 to 3.2), steals (2.4 to 1.5) and blocks (0.8 to 0.4). Plain and simple, Oladipo does it all, and he does it all very well.

Tom: I think the fact Burke basically has to carry his team-and he has carried it very far so far–is very impressive. The Wolverines still could win the Big Ten. The Hoosiers still have to come to Ann Arbor to end the season. Earlier this year, Burke notched 25 points vs. Indiana in Bloomington. Bottom line: If Burke doesn?t play well, Michigan will lose. If Oladipo doesn?t play well, Indiana has Cody Zeller or Christian Watford to do the heavy lifting.

Brent: You're making it sound like Burke doesn't have talent around him. He has future pros all over the court, in Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas. And the fact Oladipo has so much help around him makes what he's doing all the more impressive. Consider this: Oladipo has a huge impact in every game, and he only averages eight field goal attempts. Eight! His highest number this season: 13, aka one fewer than Burke averages.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Tom: Yes, Burke has talent around him-but no one the likes of Zeller or Watford, two big guys who can play all over the floor. Look, Burke is the focus of EVERY opponent?s defense. Each game, foes come in KNOWING they have to stop or slow down Burke. It hasn?t happened, as he has scored in double figures in each Big Ten game this season.

Brent: OK, but give Oladipo Burke's 14.1 attempts per game, and at his current clip, he'd average 23.9 points, to Burke's 18.6. This guy is so incredibly efficient. It takes a special type of talent to dominate a game the way Oladipo does on so few shots.

[ VIDEO: Oladipo swats Travis Trice's would be transition layup ]

Tom: Right, Oladipo isn?t the focus of opposing defenses. Zeller is. Hence, Oladipo has more room to operate than Burke. When Indiana is at its best, it?s when the offense goes through Zeller-not Oladipo. Zeller is the marked man for IU. Not Oladipo.

Brent: That may be true, but take a look at what Oladipo has done in six games vs. ranked teams, all wins: 67 percent, 20 ppg, 6 rpg, 1.5 apg, 3 spg and 0.8 bpg. And how can we forget the two dominant performances vs. Michigan State, the Big Ten's second-best team (65 percent, 20 ppg, 8 rpg, 5.5 spg and 2 bpg)? You're right, Zeller might be the biggest name on Indiana, but I think Oladipo has become the Hoosier that every coach pinpoints. He has to be; he's the most dynamic, most impactful player in the league.

Tom: All good points. The numbers are impressive. I just think because Burke has a bigger burden, he must score more and make things happen as the lead guard. Oladipo doesn?t have that burden. He can run the wing, defend, drive ? Burke has to score AND distribute to get his team going. Oladipo just has to worry about Oladipo. That?s it.

Brent: And being Oladipo means you're chasing unthinkable Big Ten history. At 63.9 percent from the field, Oladipo is tied for ninth place for the best field goal percentage in Big Ten history. As a guard. No other guard even sniffs the list. That stat, and the fact it's taken me so long to get to it, speaks volumes about Oladipo's season. Whether you're looking at numbers, impact, ability, play in big games or team success, Oladipo is tough to top.

Tom: No doubt, everyone is in love with Oladipo right now. He is the ?hot? guy. But, Burke was that guy earlier this season. This season isn?t over yet. Remember that. Big games loom. Heck, the Big Ten title and Big Ten Player of the Year honors may be on the line when the teams meet March 10 in Ann Arbor in the season finale for both.

Brent: Yep. Burke is an incredible talent, one of the game's elite players. To me, though, Oladipo, barring an individual or team collapse, sealed the award last night.