In keeping with the Big Ten "tradition" of having an award with two names, Off Tackle Empire proudly presents the nominees for the inaugural Newbill-Shurna Trophy. This award is presented to the player who most outperformed his ill-fated team. This isn't for players on NCAA Tournament teams. This is for players on teams that didn't make it whose individual performance makes it a shame that they didn't get the opportunity to dance this year.
This trophy is named for two players whose careers exemplify this quality: Former Nittany Lion D.J. Newbill and former Wildcat John Shurna. Playing 3 and 4 years at their respective schools, they led their teams in scoring three times and put up big numbers on teams that never made the Big Dance. Their legacies as players that deserved a shot to play a tourney game are preserved in this trophy.
Malcolm Hill, F, Illinois Fighting Illini
Per Game Stats: Min: 35.1 | Points: 18.1 | Rebounds: 6.6 | Assists: 3.3 | Blocks: 0.4 | Steals: 1.2 | FG%: 43.6
In his junior year, Malcolm Hill has improved in every statistical category over last year. He's the only member of the team to get to the line consistently, he was called on to play every position from point guard to center at various points and his ability to create just enough space to nail that fadeaway jumper is a sight to behold. Had multiple games over 30 points. Entered the season with questions about his hustle and athleticism; made such questions look incredibly silly. Against Iowa, he only scored 6, but two of them were the most important points of the game:
Not satisfied with just being a dominant and versatile basketball player on both ends of the floor, Hill decided to try his hand at physical comedy:
Ladies and gentlemen, the Malcolm Hill show is only going to be around for one more year. Won't you lend him your vote?
Shavon Shields, F, Nebraska Cornhuskers
Per Game Stats: Min: 30.7 | Points: 16.8 | Rebounds: 5.1 | Assists: 2.7 | Blocks: 0.3 | Steals: 1.3 | FG%: 47.0
jessecollins: Leader of the team in points, probably in rebounds, and definitely in yelling at his teammates to rotate, this guy probably is the most under-appreciated Cornhusker in recent memory. Yes, we all love him. Yes, we say he's good. But he was always considered second fiddle in each of his four years here. And that's just it, he played all four years. I love that Shields was willing to take games into his own hands - see: State, Michigan - and also go all out in dumb, meaningless situations - see: Rutgers. He probably has the potential to play at most any B1G school - maybe not as much but at least pay - and that's a shame he doesn't get to keep going this year. You could tell he didn't want it to end and he fought to the bitter end. I'll always respect him for that.
Brandon Taylor, F, Penn State Nittany Lions
Per Game Stats: Min: 32.3 | Points: 16.3 | Rebounds: 6.5 | Assists: 1.6 | Blocks: 0.5 | Steals: 0.5 | FG%: 43.3
aaron.yorke: I didn't think I would be writing this one year ago, but Taylor is someone who deserved to play in more important basketball games. After his disappointing junior season, I didn't think he would ever become the matchup nightmare he had the potential to be, but that's what happened to Taylor in 2016. He refined his post game and scored on smaller defenders consistently while improving his jump shot to become a threat from anywhere on the court. With the way Penn State's other scorers drifted in and out of effectiveness all year, Taylor's ability to draw double teams and create offense was imperative to the team pulling off seven Big Ten wins this season.
Corey Sanders, G, Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Per Game Stats: Min: 33.4 | Points: 15.9 | Rebounds: 3.3 | Assists: 4.3 | Blocks: 0.2 | Steals: 1.8 | FG%: 42.3
Freshman Corey Sanders has been Rutgers' only credible offensive threat when he hasn't been suspended. Putting in this many minutes as a freshman on a team this bad is a sure sign of what the Newbill-Shurna trophy is all about: being clearly much better than the rest of your team.
Alex Olah, C, Northwestern Wildcats
Per Game Stats: Min: 24.0 | Points: 11.4 | Rebounds: 5.6 | Assists: 1.3 | Blocks: 1.4 | Steals: 0.2 | FG%: 52.5
Tre Demps, G, Northwestern Wildcats
Per Game Stats: Min: 37.0 | Points: 15.7 | Rebounds: 3.6 | Assists: 3.3 | Blocks: 0.0 | Steals: 0.7 | FG%: 39.8
MNWildcat: Same goes for Tre Demps, who single-handedly would win or lose games for Northwestern (and how awesome it was when he rode). Looking forward to seeing Tre ride in Europe.
Cast your votes below!