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Big Ten Basketball Midseason POTY Checkup

Who’s hoisting the most important NCAA basketball trophy this year?

It’s the midway point of the 2018-2019 NCAA Basketball season (not fact checked), and there’s no better time to check in on full-season thingies than at the midway point of the season. Given that this is a Big Ten (football) website, the Big Ten Player of the Year award is obviously the most important award in all of awarding. The conference season is barely underway, making an analysis of the state of an award based solely on in-conference stats (not fact checked) quite premature, but it’s still #content fun to see how the top players look thus far over the entire season. Plus, there’s still plenty of time for someone to pull a Northwestern and rebound from a horrid non-con to earn POTY.

In addition to speaking numbers at you, I’ll (beez!) give thoughts on one potential plus and one potential un-plus for each player’s chances. If you disagree with one of the featured players, take it up with your team’s “writer.” And Michigan doesn’t get a player somehow, despite being the best team in the conference. I guess it’s sorta like how crazy it seemed that their “really, really good” football team had basically zero standouts.

For a fun reminder, here’s who “a panel of conference media” selected as their preseason best players for 2018-19:


Carsen Edwards, Jr., G, Purdue


Romeo Langford, Fr., G, Indiana

Juwan Morgan, Sr., F, Indiana

Anthony Cowan Jr., Jr., G, Maryland

Charles Matthews, Sr., G, Michigan

Nick Ward, Jr., F, Michigan State

Cassius Winston, Jr., G, Michigan State

Jordan Murphy, Sr., F, Minnesota

James Palmer Jr., Sr., F, Nebraska


ETHAN HAPP, Sr., F, Wisconsin

Let’s see how some of these players look so far, in order of my team’s best player first, followed by when other writers posted their suggestions or I thought of them:

Ethan Happ - Wisconsin Badgers

19.3 points/game 10.3 reb/g 4.7 assists/g 0.9 steals/g 1.3 blocks/g 13% turnover rate

(beez note: turnover rate is the number of turnovers a player makes per one hundred “plays.” What is a “play”? I don’t know, but I assume it’s the entirety of any time a player touches the ball—with control—from initial contact until he passes, shoots, gets fouled, someone else gets fouled, or turns it over (not fact checked).)

Ethan Happ is very good at college basketball. Happ leads the Badgers in scoring, rebounds, assists, and field goal percentage (not including Trevor Anderson, who’s out for the year), plus he’s second in steals and blocks per game. Unfortunately, he’s also first in free throws missed (not fact checked, but there’s no way he’s not) and first in having a terrible free-throw percentage.

Happ is averaging a double-double, has ten double-doubles so far this season, and has won four Big Ten Player of the Week awards. He’s third in the conference in scoring, second in rebounds, and somehow fourth in assists. He may not be the leader for Big Ten POTY, but he’s like first or second, and absolutely in the top three.

What’ll Help Him Win: Your choice between “he does it all, first or second on the team in every major stat category” or “He’s gotten a ton of publicity and media think he’s terrific.”

What’ll Hold Him Back: Free throw shooting. Duh.

Carsen Edwards - Purdue Boilermakers

25.5 ppg 3.3 reb/g 3.4 ast/g 1.4 stl/g 12.6% turnover rate

Carsen Edwards can score. He averages 5.4 points per game more than the second best scorer in the conference. There’s a bigger delta between Edwards and second place (James Palmer, read on) than there is between second place and tenth (Nick Ward, stop reading). Sure, he shoots a lot (9th in 2-pt FGA, 1st in 3-pt FGA), but he shoots a solid 49% overall and a respectable 39% from three.

Like Happ, Edwards has earned four Big Ten POTW awards this season. Like Happ, Edwards “does it all” for Purdue, but with Edwards that means “seriously he has to carry the team a lot.” Edwards is the likely frontrunner for Big Ten POTY by virtue of his absurd scoring lead and value to Purdue.

What’ll Help Him Win: “Take Edwards off of Purdue and that team finishes near the bottom of the league.” (not fact checked) Edwards is more valuable to Purdue than any other contender is to his respective team.

What’ll Hold Him Back: I’m torn between turnovers (t2nd in the conference) and the lack of supporting cast hurting his chances by making Purdue have a bad season (voters like to pick good players on good teams (not fact checked)) and/or causing him to wear down by season’s end.

Bruno Fernando - Maryland Terrapins

14.5 ppg 10.1 reb/g 2.4 blocks/g 67.8% FG 20.5% turnover rate

The first non-preseason All Big Ten candidate for POTY! Bruno Fernando looks (based on literally just the stats posted above) like a class Big Man Candidate for yearly award. Fernando leads his team in rebounds, blocks, and FG%, and he’s second in scoring. He leads the conference in blocks and FG%, is third in rebounding, and is fourth in the nation in FG%.

Fernando wasn’t expected to be the standout Terp this year (that was Anthony Cowan, right? (name not fact checked)), but he’s apparently been unstoppable at the basket on offense. I’m already dreading him scoring twenty against Wisconsin next week. He may be a top three Big Ten POTY candidate at this point.

What’ll Help Him Win: Dominance all around the basket on offense and defense.

What’ll Hold Him Back: Non-East Coast Bias. Or the relatively low scoring numbers given the absurd FG%.

Cassius Winston, Jr. - Michigan State Spartans

17.7 ppg 2.3 reb/g 7.6 ast/g 1.0 stl/g 44.8% 3P 3.4 assists per turnover

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Cassius Winston has thirty more assists than the next closest player in the Big Ten. He has one-third MORE assists than Zavier Simpson, the second best assister in the B1G. When Winston is on the floor, he records an assist on an absurd 42% of all teammate field goals, best in the conference (second is Happ, with a mere 35%). Despite all all the time he spends handling and moving the ball around, he still only turns it over 13% of the time, he’s not in the top ten for total turnovers, and he leads Michigan State in scoring.

Winston is exactly what you want a modern point guard (not fact checked) to be. He can score, score from 3 (2nd best in the big; D’Mitrik Trice is still 1st), he assists like crazy, and he doesn’t really turn it over all that (relatively) often. I am loath to admit this, but he’s right up there with Happ, Edwards, and Fernando in the POTY running right now.

(beez note: Today I learned that “loath” and “loathe” are different words with different meanings and the test for which one you should use is “can I substitute ‘reluctant’ for loath/loathe and have the meaning remain the same? If so, use loath. If not, use loathe. Or at least that’s what the internet told me, and if it’s on the internet, it must be true.)

What’ll Help Him Win: He’s the most important player on one of the two best teams in the conference.

What’ll Hold Him Back: He’s cheered on by the likes of waw, Pom, and SpartanHT. He’s got Nick Ward and Joshua Langford on his team, and MSU is perennially stacked with future NBA talent (not fact checked). Without him, MSU is likely still pretty dang good.

Now you’ve seen the top four, how about some other darkhorse candidates for POTY and/or guys who will be competing for spots on the All-Big Ten teams?

Nick Ward - Michigan State Spartans

16.7 ppg 6.4 reb/g 1.5 blk/g 66.2% FG

What’ll Help Him Win: He’s a large man who can score around the basket easily and can alter the game on defense.

What’ll Hold Him Back: He’s cheered on by the likes of waw, Pom, and SpartanHT. He’s the second- or third-best player on his own team, and voters love to have diversity of team representation on their All-Big Ten teams (not fact checked).

Tyler Cook - Iowa Hawkeyes

17.3 ppg 8.3 reb/g 2.7 ast/g

What’ll Help Him Win: He’s Ethan Happ-lite, leading his team in scoring and rebounding, while clocking in at third on assists.

What’ll Hold Him Back: He turns the ball over endlessly—18% of the time (first in the conference).

Jordan Murphy - Minnesota Golden Gophers

14.9 ppg 12.5 reb/g 2.8 ast/g 0.7 stl/g 1.1 blk/g

What’ll Help Him Win: Leads the conference in rebounding and, like Happ and Cook, can do a little bit of everything.

What’ll Hold Him Back: He commits a lot of fouls and plays for Minnesota

James Palmer - Nebraska Cornhuskers

20.1 ppg 3.0 ast/g 1.5 stl/g

What’ll Help Him Win: On a team that can really score well, he’s the best.

What’ll Hold Him Back: He has to take a lot of shots to get his 20 per game (40.8% FG, 48.1% eFG (ask someone else what that means)).

Romeo Langford - Indiana Hoosiers

18.2 ppg 5.7 reb/g 2.6 ast/g 0.7 stl/g 1.0 blk/g 62.1% FG

What’ll Help Him Win: Um...he’s a very good scorer with a great FG%.

What’ll Hold Him Back: Your intrepid Indiana writer, Candystripes for Breakfast, had to think a minute before deciding whether to put for Romeo or his teammate, Juwan Morgan, for consideration. Tough to win as the maybe-second-best player on your team.

Someone from Michigan? Julius Peppers, maybe? - Michigan Wolverines

Legit can’t identify one Michigan player to pick.

What’ll Help Him Win: Surely the best, or second-best, team in the league will get a player on the All-Big Ten team, right?

What’ll Hold Him Back: John Beilein is a wizard who somehow gets balanced contributions from the entire team.

Now you’ve seen the guys likely to compete for the final spot(s) on the All-Big Ten teams. What about guys who are having pretty good seasons AND have awesome names? Well, one guy, anyway.

Vic Law - Northwestern Wildcats

17.6 ppg 6.3 reb/g 2.8 ast/g 1.1 stl/g 1.1 blk/g

Vic Law is first or second on his team in a bunch of different categories, does a lot of good things for his team, and has a sweet name. I’m also informed that he plays with a gentleman with the last name of Pardon, making Northwestern basketball the home of famous crimefighting duo Law and Pardon, as MNWildcat helpfully point out.

What’ll Help Him Win: His name.

What’ll Hold Him Back: In a just world, nothing. In the real world, he plays on a bad (not fact checked) team and doesn’t have the eye-popping stats you’d need to win. He’s a less score-y, better rebound-y version of Carson Edwards.


Who’s Getting that Fifth All-Big Ten Spot?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    (40 votes)
  • 13%
    (30 votes)
  • 8%
    (19 votes)
  • 7%
    (17 votes)
  • 6%
    (14 votes)
  • 29%
    Someone from Michigan
    (68 votes)
  • 1%
    (4 votes)
  • 16%
    At least one "lock" won’t make the All-Big Ten team
    (37 votes)
229 votes total Vote Now