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Who should make the 2019 All-Big Ten teams?

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Checking in on the conference’s elite players

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

We are now, give or take a game, three quarters of the way through the Big Ten conference season and our sample size is large enough that we can start to make some definitive conclusions about who the top players in the country’s best league are.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my inherent bias towards Wisconsin’s team and...

[enormous graphic about Zion Williamson’s anime consuming habits encroaches on my post]


Sheesh. As I was saying ... my inherent bias towards Wisconsin makes me want to just make this list the Badgers’ starting five, but for the sake of being fair and balanced I will give other teams’ rosters a cursory look.

Like I mentioned above, the Big Ten is the nation’s best conference this year and no game, even against Penn State, is a gimme. There is also no shortage of great performers in the Conference of Champions, a nickname I just came up with for the Big Ten that definitely isn’t already in use.

Let’s break down who should be expecting to receive a call (text? email? Instagram DM?) from Jim Delany at the end of the year to congratulate them on a wonderful season.

Note: I have eschewed traditional positional assignments as basketball is rapidly turning into a positionless sport. Deal with it.

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin, Big/Sex Symbol

Obvious choice is obvious. Happ was on the shortlist for Big Ten Player of the Year during the preseason and even found his way on to a few preseason All-America teams. One handsome but sadly misguided writer recently championed him to win the national player of the year award. Alas.

Happ is averaging 18.4 points per game, 10.5 rebounds per game, 4.8 assists per game, and 1.2 blocks per game. He is top-five in the conference for points, boards, and assists. That’s just crazy.

He has an eFG% of 54.5 and an assist percentage of 38.1 that is only behind Michigan State’s Cassius Winston. His total rebound percentage is fourth in the conference and he does all of this while having the second-highest usage rate in the Big Ten.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Happ checks all the boxes. He’s good by counting stats or advanced stats. Actually, if you completely discount shooting from outside of five feet from the basket, he might be the best player in Big Ten history. :[refreshes comments section eagerly]

Happ is obviously a first-team all-Big Ten selection and should also win the conference’s player of the year award. Nationally? He’s still a first-team All-America selection, but I’m afraid he will not be winning national player of the year.

Carsen Edwards, Purdue, Guard

I know this is supposed to be the part of the post where I rattle off impressive stats for Edwards, and trust me I will, but first let’s look at one more #HappStat. Edwards has made 10 fewer field goals than Happ ON 101 MORE ATTEMPTS! Go Badgers! Purdue sucks!

OK, OK, I’m sorry. Here are some good things about Edwards. Despite leading the conference in three-point attempts (and makes), he is still managing to shoot over 40 percent from the field and is 15th in the conference in FG%. He is also second in the conference in free-throw percentage, on the eighth-most attempts. He has more than a 100-point lead on the second-place scorer in the Big Ten and plays the second-most minutes per game.

Edwards is a monster, no doubt about that. He’s first in the conference with 24.4 points per game and also averages 3.2 assists per game and 1.6 steals. His usage is somehow higher than Happ’s and he has the fourth-highest win shares of anyone in the conference (second-highest offensive win shares).

He has never been held to single-digit scoring this year and has only been held under 20 points in a game six times (and in three of those games, he scored 19 points). Thirty-eight points in an overtime win against Penn State, 36 points in an overtime win at Wisconsin, and 40 points in a close loss at Texas. His individual brilliance is unmatched when it comes to scoring in the Big Ten and he is an exciting player to watch.

Cassius Winston, Michigan State, Guard

In a league where only two players average more than five assists per game, Winston stands head and shoulders above the rest of the league’s would-be distributors with an impressive 7.4 assists per game. That is good for fourth nationally (first is Murray State dynamo Ja Morant, who averages an insane 10.2 per game. Watch him if you haven’t, especially if you’re an NBA fan whose teams blows) and his assist percentage is fifth nationally. He has three games this year where he doled out 12 assists and two more games that he had double-digit assists.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Not only is Winston an all-seeing dime dropper, he can also get his. He leads the conference in three-point shooting at 43.7 percent and scores 18.5 points per game. He is no slouch on defense either, averaging 1.2 steals per game and producing a league-leading 5.3 win shares.

Winston is the type of point guard that every team craves and I am shocked, SHOCKED I TELL YOU, that the Detroit product ended up in East Lansing.

Bruno Fernando, Maryland, Big

Alright, it’s honesty time. When Fernando put his name in for the NBA Draft after last season, I did not understand it. Sure, he’s an athletic 6’10 big that also sounds like he could be a starting fullback on the Portuguese national soccer team ... but that was it!

He decided to come back to school and holy hell is he having a good season. He is not on the top-20 list of field goals attempted but he is eighth on the field-goals-made list. As you may have deduced, that means his field-goal percentage is pretty good. Wait, check that. It is outstanding. Fernando is shooting 66.1 percent from the field, tied for fifth-best nationally, and 67.6 percent on two pointers. He even shoots 75.9 percent from the charity stripe! My stars, if Wisconsin’s center could shoot that from the free-throw line, I might just need my fainting couch.

He averages 14.5 points, 10.6 boards, and 1.9 blocks per game. He leads the conference in eFG%, TS%, and Win Shares/40 minutes. Maryland was kind of a question mark coming into this season. Would they be good? Would they be average? Fernando’s emergence as an all-conference performer has made them great.

Lamar Stevens, Penn State, Big; or James Palmer, Nebraska, Wing

I have been struggling over this choice all morning. Honestly, Tyler Cook was in the discussion too. So was Jordan Murphy. There are a lot of good Big Ten basketball players this year! Anyways, I’ll present the statistics to you here and let you decide who is the better player.

Stevens is second in the conference with 19.2 points per game. Palmer is third with 18.8. Stevens averages eight boards per game while Palmer grabs 4.3. Stevens dishes out 2.2 assists per game while Palmer averages 3.2. Stevens nabs 0.5 steals per game and swats 0.8 shot attempts per game and Palmer has 1.3 and 0.5.

It seems like Stevens has the advantage in counting stats, so let’s dive into some more advanced stats. Stevens and Palmer have the exact same eFG% (43.2 percent) but Palmer has the superior TS% (50.9 to 48.9). Stevens has the better rebound percentage but Palmer has the better assist percentage. Palmer is used slightly more than Stevens and Palmer provides more win shares.

I don’t know, man. This is tough. Why did Nick Ward have to get hurt!?!? He’s better than both of them, probably!

All-B1G Second Team

Tyler Cook, Iowa, Big

Juwan Morgan, Indiana, Big

Nick Ward, Michigan State, Big (would probably be first-team if he didn’t just get hurt)

Jordan Murphy, Minnesota, Big

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Geo Baker, Rutgers, Guard (BECAUSE FUCK YOU, THAT’S WHY!)

All-Big Ten Freshman Team

Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Illinois, Big

Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois, Guard

Romeo Langford, Indiana, Wing

Joe Wieskamp, Iowa, Wing

Ignas Brazdeikis, Michigan, Wing

All-BIg Ten Name Team

Adonis De La Rosa, Illinois, Big

Kipper Nichols (more a punchable name than a great one), Illinois, Wing

Thorir Thorbjarnarson, Nebraska, Wing

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Johnny Trueblood, Nebraska, Guard

Jaedon LeDee, Ohio State, Big

Myles Dread, Penn State, Guard

Trent Buttrick, Penn State, Big

Peter Kiss, Rutgers, Wing