College basketball writer Paul Klee submitted his All-Big Ten ballot on Sunday. With a banner freshman class and salty seniors at the forefront, here's how he voted:
D.J. White, Indiana, Sr.
Four Big Ten Player of the Week awards – one shy of record – for league's probable Player of the Year (above).
E'Twaun Moore, Purdue, Fr.
In a toss-up with teammate Robbie Hummel, "Smooge" led balanced Boilers in scoring and assists.
Eric Gordon, Indiana, Fr.
Classic case of risk-reward: Hiring Kelvin Sampson was a risk, one season of electric "EJ" the reward.
Marcus Landry, Wisconsin, Jr.
Surprised? Unheralded multitasker, an early candidate for 2008-09 Player of the Year, also on UI coaches' ballot.
Brian Butch, Wisconsin, Sr.
Self-deprecating humor – "I'm slow and I can't jump," Butch said – makes gentle giant an easy guy to root for.
Robbie Hummel, Purdue, Fr.
As Purdue booster Dan Washington said of blue-collar forward, "Our fans relate to him because of how he plays."
Jamar Butler, Ohio State, Sr.
Takes unofficial Career Achievement Award: Played in 133 of possible 134 games with OSU-record 100 wins.
Raymar Morgan, Michigan State, So.
With fellow forward Marquise Gray slow to develop, versatile forward led fourth-seeded Spartans in scoring.
Shaun Pruitt, Illinois, Sr.
Started 97 of his last 98 games and praised by freshman Mike Davis: "I go to him with any questions I have."
Drew Neitzel, Michigan State, Sr.
After growing out his hair during summer, preseason Player of the Year went unrecognized in East Lansing Applebees.
Armon Bassett, Indiana, So.
Jamelle Cornley, Penn State, Jr.
Manny Harris, Michigan, Fr.
Michael Flowers, Wisconsin, Sr.
Kevin Coble, Northwestern, So.
Coach of the Year: Matt Painter, Purdue
Decatur's Lewis Jackson an ideal fit for Painter's small-ball lineup. Runners-up: Bo Ryan (2), Tubby Smith (3)
Player of the Year: D.J. White
Hoosiers will tie Illini with most POY awards this century (three). Runners-up: Eric Gordon (2), Marcus Landry (3)
Freshman of the Year: Eric Gordon
UI recruiting obstacles nothing new: Of 23 FOY, only two were Illini. Runners-up: E'Twaun Moore (2), Robbie Hummel (3)
No. 6 Minnesota vs. No. 11 Northwestern (4 Thursday, ESPN2)
Tubby Smith is well-versed in conference tournaments, having won five SEC titles as Kentucky's coach. To extend his personal NCAA tournament streak to 15 straight seasons, Minnesota's head coach needs seniors Lawrence McKenzie and Dan Coleman to play like Gerald Fitch and Erik Daniels, who won three SEC tournaments. Estimated attendance for this game: roughly the same as the bar across the street. But in the quarterfinals, Minnesota could be trouble for Indiana, which is noticeably disunited since Kelvin Sampson's exit.
Second-round foe: No. 3 Indiana (8 Friday, BTN)
No. 7 Penn State vs. No. 10 Illinois (1:30 Thursday, ESPN2)
Since the Big Ten's first tournament in 1998, Illinois has faced a conference opponent three times in the same season on 12 occasions. Eight times the Illini won the third game; four times they lost the third game. Thursday's matchup with the Nittany Lions is their third meeting this season, with Penn State sweeping the regular season series by scores of 68-64 (Champaign) and 52-51 (State College). Illinois has reason for hope based on two facts. Penn State's first win came with Geary Claxton in the lineup, and Claxton's out for the season. In their second matchup, the Illini played one of their worst games and still had possession of the ball – and a shot to win – with 7.1 seconds left.
Second-round foe: No. 2 Purdue (5:30 Friday, BTN)
No. 8 Iowa vs. No. 9 Michigan (11 a.m. Thursday, BTN)
Two of the league's first-year coaches head into their first Big Ten postseason having won on each other's court. John Beilein led Michigan to a win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena; Todd Lickliter led Iowa to a win at Crisler Arena. If an Iowa-Michigan rubber match doesn't pique your interest, visit the Underwater Dolphin Dome at the Indianapolis Zoo. It's a kick.
Second round foe: No. 1 Wisconsin (11 a.m. Friday, ESPN)
Klee's tourney breakdown
Two things appear certain in regards to the 11th Big Ten tournament: The top four seeds have NCAA bids locked up, and a low-scoring weekend of basketball will draw cheap shots from national pundits. There is, however, great intrigue awaiting in the first of five straight tourneys in Indianapolis. Ohio State can secure an at-large NCAA bid with two more wins. Scandal-stained Indiana takes the court 1.2 miles from the NCAA's headquarters. Illinois probably must beat three teams – Penn State, Purdue and Indiana – that it couldn't beat during the regular season (0-5) just to reach the championship game. And Wisconsin, which lost only to Purdue, can't face the Boilers until Sunday. I'll take the Badgers, who haven't played a bad game since a loss at Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge – in November.
Second-round foes: No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Ohio State (1:30 Friday, ESPN)