Jon Crispin, BTN men's basketball analyst, February 18, 2016

Does the player of the year in the conference have to come from the best team in the conference? We seem to have that debate every February and March. If that is truly the case, then prior to Iowa's loss to Penn State on Wednesday night, it was a forgone conclusion that it was Jarrod Uthoff's award to lose.

That's primarily because the next player in line for the award is on a team that is surprisingly in the middle of the pack in conference standings. Although, Denzel Valentine and the Spartans are also No. 8th the country and will most likely be making another deep run in March.

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If conference record or standing is not a determining factor, then add another name to the discussion: Illinois' Malcolm Hill.

Hill has been patient, consistent, diligent and selfless in yet another injury-ridden season for John Groce and the Illini. He also leads his team in points, rebounds and assists and is in the top three in the Big Ten in scoring.

In a day and age when players make requests to play or focus on playing a certain position based on where they project at the next level, Hill has done whatever has been asked of him. There have been games this season when he has played every position on the floor.

In a one-minute span, I watched him initiate the offense at the point, make a basket in the post on offense, pick up the opposing team's best player on defense, switch off on a center to save a basket and finish the possession off with a strong defensive rebound.

After that, he started the break to start the multi-dimensional star's cycle all over again.

In no way am I saying, "Malcolm Hill is Denzel Valentine." But, I will say this: If there is any player out there that means as much to his team as Denzel Valentine does to the Spartans and if there is anyone out there who is on pace to be the type of all-around player that Valentine is today, then it is Malcolm Hill. His versatility as well as his ability to share the basketball and score from any position or any spot on the floor makes him a legitimate contender for postseason awards. His selflessness, perseverance and leadership will make the Illini a top 25 team when they are (finally) at full-strength next season.

There are certain players who simply score a lot of points on a bad team. They get their numbers but do little else to put their team in a position to win games. I understand leaving those players off the list. But then there are others who continue to compete, improve and maintain a competitive edge that ultimately helps maximize the potential of their team.

They are winners and they deserve a look, too. Hill is one of those guys and we all should take notice.