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Is Ethan Happ the Big Ten Freshman of the Year?

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The redshirt freshman has made an immediate impact on the Badgers this season, but is he the best first-year player in the conference?

Two of the Big Ten's top freshmen making dumb faces.
Two of the Big Ten's top freshmen making dumb faces.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Many of my ideas for posts here at Bucky's 5th Quarter germinate from the same place: a text thread I have with seven other Badger grads that invariably devolves into yelling, personal attacks and Simpsons GIFs used to illustrate even our most esoteric points.

After Ethan Happ's virtuoso performance (20 points, 12 boards, six steals, one assist) against Illinois Sunday night, we got to talking about who the Big Ten's best freshman has been this season. Multiple people were decidedly in favor of Happ winning the award, while others mentioned Wisconsin's favorite son [citation needed], Diamond Stone, as an option. One friend, a former New Jersey resident, natch, even brought up Rutgers' noted team rules violator Corey Sanders as a viable choice for the award.

Needless to say, there are a number of players that should receive votes for this year's best freshman in the Midwest's best conference. I have taken the liberty of providing the stats for five of the Big Ten's top freshmen below. Joining Stone, Happ and Sanders are Thomas Bryant of Indiana and Caleb Swanigan of Purdue. Before you descend to the comment section to pillory any player (read: Stone), take a look at the cold, hard numbers. Because as the title of the popular show on ESPN states, Pardon the Interruption. Wait a second, that can't be right...

Player MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT% TO ORtg Big Ten Freshman of the Week Awards
Diamond Stone, Maryland 22.3 12.8 5.4 0.3 0.5 1.7 56.9 77.9 1.6 114.3 One
Thomas Bryant, Indiana 22.1 11.6 5.5 1.0 0.4 1.0 68.9 68.3 1.7 124.3 Two
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue 25.9 9.9 8.5 1.9 0.3 0.2 44.2 70.6 2.9 92.8 Two
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin 27.5 11.8 7.8 1.2 1.6 0.9 52.7 63.4 2.0 107.8 Three
Corey Sanders, Rutgers 33.6 16.2 3.2 4.1 1.7 0.2 42.8 71.6 3.0 98.0 Two

A few quick addendums to the stats charted above:

  • Swanigan is leading the conference in rebounding and Happ is tied for fifth
  • Stone is fourth in the conference in blocks per game, Bryant is 16th and Happ is 17th
  • Sanders leads the conference in steals per game, while Happ is tied for second, a mere 0.1 steals per game behind him
  • Bryant leads the conference in field goal percentage
  • Sanders is 10th in the Big Ten in points per game and Stone is 20th
  • Sanders is eighth in assists per game
  • Swanigan has the most turnovers of any player in the conference, Sanders is sixth and Happ is tied for 20th
So, where does this leave us? Do you pick the top freshman from one of the conference's best teams like Stone or Bryant, or does being on a team full of other top players dim the brightness of their particular star? Do you pick the precocious scoring threat from the worst team in the league, or do you pick one of a few bruising big man that gobble up rebounds like Kanye West gobbles up GoFundMe donations?

If I had a vote -- and despite being a credentialed media member for Big Ten media day two years ago, Jim Delany has yet to allow me to make any decisions -- my medal stand would probably go Stone, Happ and then Bryant. I mean, Maryland lost to Minnesota without Stone in the lineup. I think that cements his status as the top freshman in the league.