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By Matt McCoy
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The Big 10 awards were announced Monday night, as we were on the air with Basketball Bucksline so we got immediate reaction from 610 WTVN basketball analyst Tony White and SportsRappUp.com, and WTVN's Jeff Rapp.
While Deshaun Thomas was a first team selection in both the coaches and media vote and Aaron Craft was first team for the media and second team for the coaches, it was an award Craft did not get that drew the ire of our Tony White.
Indiana's Victor Oladipo was voted by the coaches as the Big Ten's defensive player of the year, an award Craft won a year ago. Craft was on the all defensive team, along with teammate Shannon Scott but according to Tony, the choice of Oladipo over Craft for the top defensive honor was a swing and miss.
"(Oladipo) is a hell of a defensive player but he's not a once in a lifetime guard defensive player like Aaron Craft...he's just not," Tony said. "Aaron Craft is the best defensive guard I have ever seen, in my life, who doesn't have the name Jordan on the back of his jersey. The kid deserves to be defensive player of the year. Oladipo deserves to be M.V.P."
But he's not. That went to Michigan's Trey Burke in voting by both the coaches and the media.
"I love Trey Burke, but Oladipo would have been my choice (for player of the year)," SportsRappUp.com's Jeff Rapp said. "This is so weird to say that these things go down to a play or a moment or a flip of the wrist, but if (Burke's) little finger roll at the end of the (Michigan/Indiana game Sunday) goes in and he wins the game, then he's the player of the year because they tie for the championship...Oladipo would have been my choice by a hair."
We were unanimous in that opinion on Bucksline because I too would have voted for Oladipo and Tony said he would have as well, though, like Jeff, we both understand the choice of Burke.
I understand the coaches choice of Oladipo over Craft for the defensive award. It's not how I would have voted, but I get it. Oladipo is exteremely versatile, guards more than one position, led the league in steals and also can block shots. He's a slightly better version of David Lighty...and Lighty was pretty good. But I think Craft's on ball pressure is so disruptive it often prevents opponents from even getting into their offense. I view Craft's defensive impact as being slightly greater.
For Tony, however, it would not have been a difficult choice and he suspects the coaching staff will make sure an already motivated Craft is even more motivated.
"You don't have to say it but once...'Oh Aaron, are you ready to play?...According to these guys you're the second best defensive player in the confernence,'" Tony said. "That kids heart is already pushing out of his ears it's so big. I'm telling you, tune into the Big Ten Tournament because you're going to see the best defensive player in the nation, with a chip on his shoulder. If the officials don't insert themselves, we're in for some defense."
Ironically, the other big surprise for Tony was the Craft selection, by the media, as a first team all-Big Ten player. Both the coaches and media went with Thomas, Indiana's Oladipo and Cody Zeller and Michigan's Burke. The coaches, however had the Wolverines Tim Hardaway Jr. on the first team while the media went with Craft.
"As much as I love Aaron Craft, I would not have put him on the first team," Tony said. "He's not consistant enough offensively. He's not enough of a threat to be a first team all-Big Ten player. Defensive player of the year, absolutely (he should have been), and second team, absolutely... but I think you have to make a jump shot consistantly to make first team."
In case you missed it, other award winners included Wisconsin's Bo Ryan as coach of the year, and Michigan State's Gary Harris as the league's top freshman.
Happy Anniversary E.T.
It's Big Ten Tournament week and it was three years ago Tuesday, that Evan Turner nailed his buzzer beater from just inside mid-court, to knock off Michigan. As Steve Lavin famously said, "Are you kidding me Dave O'Brien?"...Happy Anniversary E.T.