The 2014-15 Big Ten basketball regular season is in the books. It's a season that most, if not all, Michigan fans would choose to forget if it was possible. Why would they want to reflect on a regular season that included back-to-back upset losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan, serious foot injuries suffered by Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, and four overtime losses to Big Ten teams? Precisely. Thus, most Michigan fans likely are not wondering which individuals deserve to win the Big Ten basketball awards and be named to All-Big Ten teams for their regular-season effort.
Nonetheless, as someone who's covered Big Ten basketball with my power rankings this season, I was asked to vote for SB Nation's Big Ten basketball awards and All-Big Ten teams, and I submitted my ballot last night. Though the results will be made public in the next day or two, I opted to make my ballot public and explain my choices in this column.
Here are my selections for the 2014-15 Big Ten basketball awards and All-Big Ten teams:
Player of the Year: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
Unlike the past few seasons, there is no debate as to who's the Big Ten's Player of the Year this season. It's Frank Kaminsky, and anyone who claims otherwise either can't put biases aside or doesn't understand how basketball works because Kaminsky should be the winner by any set of criteria one uses. Want to hand the award to the player with the best per-game averages? Kaminsky was third in the Big Ten in points per game (18.4) and second in rebounds per game (8.1). No other Big Ten player in was in the top five in both of those categories. Want to give the award to the player with the best advanced metrics? Kaminsky led the Big Ten in individual offensive rating (126.7) among those with a usage rate above 20 percent despite owning the fifth-highest usage rate (28.1 pct.), and, thus, Wisconsin has the nation's most efficient offense according to KenPom. Want to honor the best player on the best team? Kaminsky is the best player on a Wisconsin team that just steamrolled its way to a Big Ten title with a 16-2 record. The only debate remaining is if voters will realize that Kaminsky should be the National Player of the Year, too.
Freshman of the Year: D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State
Though Melo Trimble and James Blackmon Jr. each had superb freshman campaigns, D'Angelo Russell demonstrated why he'll be a top-five pick in this summer's NBA Draft after only one season. The freshman phenom came to Columbus and instantly became Ohio State's leader by doing it all on both ends of the floor. Need a scorer? Utilizing his rapid-quick release, Russell was second in the Big Ten with 19.2 points per game and had an impressive offensive rating (116.1) given that he had the third-highest usage rate (30.2 pct.). Need a distributor? He was third in the Big Ten with 5.2 assists per game and fifth in assist rate (31.2 pct.). Plus, Russell had a special gift to mesmerize audiences with wicked one-handed bounce passes that most players never would attempt, let alone complete. Need a rebounder? He led the team with 5.6 per game. Need an on-ball defender? He was eighth in the Big Ten with 1.6 steals per game and 10th in steal rate (2.93 pct.). If Frank Kaminsky didn't exist, he would be the Big Ten Player of the Year.
Defensive Player of the Year: A.J. Hammons, Purdue
This was the toughest selection to make. I could not decide between A.J. Hammons and Branden Dawson for the life of me. Hammons is a bonafide rim-protector at seven-feet tall, but this season was the first time that he understood the responsibility of that role. Last season, he led the Big Ten in block rate, but he jumped at every shot that came his way, which allowed offenses to pick up easy rebounds on the backside for open put-backs. His thirst for blocks hurt Purdue's defense, which was why the Boilermakers had the second-worst Big Ten defense last season. However, this season, not only did Hammons again lead the Big Ten in block rate (12.6 pct.) by a wide margin, Purdue had the best two-point defense in the Big Ten because he made smarter decisions about when to contest shots. Add in that Hammons had a top-10 defensive rebounding rate (19.7 pct.) in the Big Ten, and it was just enough to eke past Dawson -- though a better rebounder and more versatile defender, the 6-foot-6 Dawson was more prone to being bullied in the post and had more interior help due to Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling -- for my vote.
Sixth Man of the Year: Gabriel Olaseni, Iowa
The Sixth Man of the Year award is difficult to categorize. Does the award belong to the best player who didn't start one game? Or is the honoree allowed to have started a few games here and there as long he didn't exceed a certain threshold? There's no perfect answer. Nonetheless, there were a few candidates worthy of being named the Big Ten's Sixth Man of the Year, so I decided to give the tiebreaker to the player that didn't start a game until Senior Day: Gabriel Olaseni. He averaged only 18.3 minutes per game, and, yet, in that limited time, he was Iowa's third-leading scorer with 8.3 points per game, the Big Ten's best offensive rebounder (13.5 pct.), and a dominant shot-blocker (9.0 pct.). In fact, Olaseni's stats were so good that it made you wonder why he began games on the bench and not fellow center Adam Woodbury, who's numbers were worse across the board. However, if Iowa coach Fran McCaffery had opted to start Olaseni rather than Woodbury, Olaseni would have been disqualified for this award. So I guess it worked out.
Coach of the Year: Matt Painter, Purdue
This also was a tough decision. Bo Ryan, whose Wisconsin team won the Big Ten with a 16-2 record, and Mark Turgeon, whose Maryland team overcame massive attrition in the offseason and an early injury to Dez Wells to cobble together a 26-5 overall record, are very deserving of this award, but I had to vote for Matt Painter. Last season, Purdue finished in last place in the Big Ten, and, after Purdue lost to North Florida and Gardner-Webb this season, it seemed the Boilermakers were headed for another bottom-half finish. Instead, Purdue shocked the rest of the conference by winning 12 Big Ten games, earning a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, and working its way into the NCAA Tournament field barring a major snub from the selection committee. Purdue was by far the Big Ten's most overachieving team -- KenPom projected that Purdue would win only 8.5 Big Ten games -- and Purdue did all of this without having a player that made my All-Big Ten first or second team. That is why Painter is my Big Ten Coach of the Year.
All-Big Ten First Team
Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
It'd be ridiculous if my Big Ten Player of the Year wasn't on the first team, right?
D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State
It'd be ridiculous if a National Player of the Year candidate wasn't on the first team, no?
Aaron White, Iowa
No longer overshadowed by Roy Devyn Marble, Aaron White ensured no one underrated him this season. White finished seventh in scoring (15.9) and third in rebounds (7.4) in the Big Ten, but, just like last season, what made White stand out was his efficiency. His offensive rating of 126.6 was second in the conference among those with a usage rate no lower than 20 percent, trailing only Frank Kaminsky, because, even though he was a so-so outside shooter at best, no player took as many trips to the free-throw line as him. His free-throw rate (76.4 pct.) was best in the Big Ten, and, because he drained 81.4 percent of them, White demonstrated he's one of the Big Ten's best players.
Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell, Indiana
Yogi Ferrell was the Big Ten's best point guard, averaging 16 points and five assists while posting an offensive rating of 124.2, which were sixth, fourth, and third in the Big Ten, respectively. Though the diminutive point guard did a great job feeding teammates for open looks, particularly throwing lobs to Troy Williams, and keeping turnovers down, Ferrell's best asset was his three-point shooting. He's an assassin from behind the arc. Not only did he drill 42 percent of his threes -- tied for eighth in the Big Ten -- only an astounding 57.5 percent of them were assisted. He and D'Angelo Russell were the kings of making pull-up threes in defenders' face. It takes a special player to do that.
D.J. Newbill, Penn State
For much of the season, D.J. Newbill was a lock on my All-Big Ten first team. Not only did Newbill lead the league in scoring (20.7), he was doing so in an efficient manner. Despite owning of the Big Ten's highest usage rates, his offensive rating was north of 110 because he turned his mid-range jumper into a weapon. But, as the season wore on and Newbill was forced to carry the entire burden that is Penn State basketball, his efficiency began to wane and his numbers began to dip. It was an unfortunate sight to see as Penn State dropped Big Ten game after Big Ten game, and, as Melo Trimble continued to make his charge in the final weeks, I considered making the switch and putting Trimble here instead. But then, in the regular-season finale, Newbill reminded me why he's one of the best five players in this league by pouring in 31 points and the buzzer-beating game-winner while adding five boards and four assists on the road at Minnesota. It was an unbelievable performance and one that made you wish he had had some help this season.
All-Big Ten Second Team
Melo Trimble, Maryland
Melo Trimble was a top-30 recruit and expected to do big things at Maryland, but not many believed he'd make this large of an impact so soon. However, when senior Dez Wells missed a significant period of games with a broken wrist earlier in the season, Maryland needed Trimble to play like someone much more mature than a true freshman. Trimble more than obliged. This season, he was fifth in scoring in the Big Ten (16.1) and led the Terrapins in assists (3.1). Trimble was a harbinger of efficiency, too -- his offensive rating of 115.9 was ninth in the Big Ten among those with a usage rate above 20 percent -- because he had a knack for creating contact and getting to the free-throw line, where he was a stellar 87.6 percent. And, behind Trimble's leadership and numbers, Maryland surprised folks with an excellent 26-5 overall record and 14-4 Big Ten mark.
Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
If Sam Dekker declares for this summer's NBA Draft -- DraftExpress projects him to be a mid-first round pick -- he will leave an odd legacy at Wisconsin. Because he's Bo Ryan's only five-star recruit since 2003, there's been a heap of expectations placed upon him that he hasn't satisfied, so it seems as if he's been a disappointment. This is far from the case. No, Dekker didn't have top-10 per-game averages (13.1 points and 5.5 boards) because he was second banana to Frank Kaminsky, but he still posted incredible efficiency numbers because, with his 6-foot-9 frame, few finished at the rim as well as him. They're the numbers that All-Big Ten first-team members have. Who knows? Maybe if Kaminsky wasn't a Badger, Dekker could have been the player many wanted him to be.
Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin
Nigel Hayes is the third leg of the tripod that put Wisconsin head and shoulders above every other Big Ten team. Last season, when I watched Hayes become the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year, he still was adjusting to the speed of the college game as a freshman, but he often would put together stretches that would wow me. A 6-foot-8 forward with the athleticism to wreck havoc on the glass and the skill to knock down the mid-range jumper? The rest of the Big Ten was thinking, "Uh oh." So what did Hayes do in the offseason? He added a three-point shot. The result: Hayes averaged 12 points and 6.4 rebounds while posting the fifth-best offensive rating in the Big Ten. "Uh oh" was right.
James Blackmon, Jr., Indiana
James Blackmon, Jr. is the third of three fabulous freshmen that joined the Big Ten this season. In his first season in Bloomington, the Indiana freshman averaged 15.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, the former of which was eighth in the Big Ten. Blackmon wasn't the best finisher at the rim or from mid-range, but he was one of the more efficient players in the conference because he was a sharpshooter behind the three-point line, drilling 38.5 percent of his triples. With Blackmon joining Yogi Ferrell in the backcourt, Indiana's offense skyrocketed from 127th in adjusted offensive efficiency last season to 10th this season. It's the start of what is sure to be a promising career for Blackmon.
Travis Trice, Michigan State
With the departures of Keith Appling, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne, Michigan State needed Travis Trice -- someone who'd only been a role player off the bench his first three seasons -- to be one of the team leaders this season. And, boy, did Trice deliver in the biggest of ways. Trice was 11th in the Big Ten in scoring (14.8) and second in assists (5.4) and one of the main reasons why the Spartans still managed to finish third in the Big Ten. While Trice broadened his game by being more aggressive inside the arc, where he shined was his ability to run the offense as his assist rate (33.1 pct.) nearly tripled his turnover rate (11.6 pct.). It was a superb senior season for the first-time starter.
All-Big Ten Third Team
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
Denzel Valentine was one of the more versatile players in the Big Ten and knew how to stuff the stat sheet -- even in some of the columns you don't want to stuff. He averaged 14.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists per game, which were 12th, 13th, and tied for seventh in the conference, respectively. He's the only player to finish in the top 15 in the Big Ten in all three of those per-game categories. He also was one of the deadliest three-point snipers in the league (42 pct.) and could defend a variety of positions. But Valentine had a knack for making boneheaded turnovers and head-scratching mistakes -- like this at Indiana on Saturday. Nonetheless, Valentine was Michigan State's Swiss Army knife.
Branden Dawson, Michigan State
Branden Dawson is third Spartan to make one of my All-Big Ten teams, but he's the one most would have expected to be here at the start of the season. And Dawson did what many thought he'd do this season. Though he still could not knock down mid-range shots or free throws consistently, his athleticism still made him a problem for defenses around the rim, which allowed him to average a career-best 11.6 points per game. But Dawson's biggest contributions were on the glass and on the defensive end of the floor. He led the Big Ten in rebounding (9.3) and was one of only two players to have top-11 block and steal rates. It's why Dawson was one of the two best defensive players in the Big Ten.
A.J. Hammons, Purdue
The other one of the two best defensive players in the Big Ten was A.J. Hammons, whom I named as my Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year earlier in this column. Therefore, there's no need to relist his defensive accomplishments this season. But Hammons still made my All-Big Ten third team because he also was a threat on offense. Though the seven-footer didn't have the best vision out of the post and had a tendency to turn the ball over, he still made 53.5 percent of his field goals, which was sixth in the Big Ten. As a result, Hammons averaged 11.5 points per game. Add that to his rebounding (6.5) and block per-game averages (2.8), and that was enough to make my All-Big Ten third team.
Malcolm Hill, Illinois
During non-conference play, Malcolm Hill was overshadowed by Rayvonte Rice, who was having an incredible senior season. But, when Rice was sidelined for nine Big Ten games with an injury and a suspension, Hill stepped into the spotlight and proved he could lead as a sophomore. In those nine games, Hill averaged 17.7 points and five boards per game, which propelled him to per-game averages of 14.2 points and 4.8 rebounds for the season -- the former of which was 14th in the Big Ten. He was able to put up those scoring numbers efficiently because he shot 39 percent from three and had a solid mid-range game. With Rice gone next season, Illinois knows it'll be okay with Hill as its star.
Jake Layman, Maryland
The two candidates that vied for the final spot on my All-Big Ten third team were Jake Layman and Indiana's Troy Williams. On paper, Williams seems like the correct choice. He averaged more points (13.2) and rebounds (7.1) per game than Layman (13.1 and 5.9) and was more efficient offensively -- he had an offensive rating of 113.1 to Layman's 110.5. However, much of Williams' production was the result of being uber-athletic and finishing alley-oops and dunks, whereas Layman was a stretch power forward that punished defenses inside and out offensively and was a much better rim protector defensively. And, because it was Layman's improvement that fueled Maryland to a 26-5 record and second-place Big Ten finish, I gave him the edge for this spot over Williams.
All-Big Ten Honorable Mentions
Troy Williams, Indiana
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
Dez Wells, Maryland
Andre Hollins, Minnesota
Rayvonte Rice, Illinois