2021-22 Saturday Tradition All-Big Ten men's basketball teams and awards
With the regular season in the books, it’s time to name an All-Big Ten team. And dish out some other awards, as well.
So let’s waste no more time and get on with the 2022 Saturday Tradition Big Ten men’s basketball awards. As you will be able to tell, we placed a heavy emphasis on statistics from conference games only.
All-Big Ten team
Kofi Cockburn, Illinois
When he wasn’t bedeviled by foul trouble — sometimes real, sometimes imagined by officials due to smaller bodies flying off his formidable frame — Cockburn was the Big Ten’s most intimidating presence.
He was 3rd in conference play with 20 points per game and led the way with 10.5 rebounds per game.
Johnny Davis, Wisconsin
Davis averaged 19.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in conference play. Those numbers were dragged down slightly after he only played 12 minutes in the season finale before leaving with an injury. Wisconsin’s struggles once he left the game only underscored his value to the Badgers.
Hunter Dickinson, Michigan
With the Wolverines fighting for an NCAA Tournament berth, Dickinson scored 54 points in his final 2 games to slide his way onto the first team. His 20.3 points per game average in league play places him 2nd in scoring, and he’s 5th with 8.3 rebounds per Big Ten contest.
Dickinson shot free throws unbelievably well for a center, finishing 4th in the B1G at 84.7%.
EJ Liddell, Ohio State
Liddell isn’t the B1G’s best player this year, but he is the most well-rounded in terms of being able to contribute in all facets of the game.
Liddell averaged 19.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game in league play.
Keegan Murray, Iowa
Murray led the Big Ten in scoring with an average of 22.8 points per conference game. But Murray can also attack the glass, finishing 4th in the B1G with 8.5 rebounds per game. And he finished 2nd to Liddell with an average of 2.2 blocked shots per contest.
Zach Edey, Purdue
If he wasn’t stuck in a conference with Cockburn and Dickinson, Edey is a first-team selection himself. Or, if the Boilermakers didn’t split his minutes so evenly with Trevion Williams.
Despite playing about 100 fewer minutes than most of his peers, Edey finished 3rd in the conference with 59 offensive rebounds and also contributed 14.1 points per game. The 7-4 monster shot a league-high 62.7% from the field.
Jaden Ivey, Purdue
Ivey is the most electrifying player to watch in the Big Ten this season, but Dickinson’s strong finish ended up costing him a spot on our first team.
In conference play, Ivey finished 6th in scoring average with 17.5 points per game. Somewhat surprisingly, he was only 14th with 2.9 assists per game.
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Ron Harper Jr., Rutgers
Harper is one of those players you watch and say “Yeah, that guy is all-conference” before taking a look at the numbers. He just has an “it” factor the Scarlet Knights feed on.
And he does have numbers. Harper was 9th in league play with 16.4 points per game and 7th with 46 3-pointers. He also finished 2nd in the B1G in free-throw shooting, hitting 86.5% of his attempts.
Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana
Jackson-Davis felt like a surefire first-teamer in the preseason, but teams zoned the Hoosiers enough to help bring his numbers down a notch.
He finished 13th in scoring (15.7 ppg) and 9th in rebounding (7.7 rpg) against Big Ten opponents. Zones weren’t an issue for him on defense, though. Jackson-Davis was 3rd in the conference with 2 blocks per game.
Alfonso Plummer, Illinois
Plummer’s 3-point prowess combines with Cockburn’s interior force to give the Fighting Illini a nearly unstoppable duo when everything’s clicking.
The Utah transfer led the league with 56 3-pointers and 40% shooting from behind the arc.
Malaki Branham, Ohio State
If we’re basing this purely on upside, Branham and Ivey both belong on the first team. But this is about season-long results; not draft potential. So even though Branham is absolutely scorching the net down the stretch, he’s still just 11th in the B1G with 16.3 points per game in conference play.
If Branham comes back to Columbus next year, he’ll be a runaway favorite for conference player of the year. The growth potential is astounding.
Trent Frazier, Illinois
Like Harper, Frazier brings his team up a notch when he’s on the floor. It plays out in a manner that numbers can’t always quantify. The energy. Making winning plays when it matters most.
Frazier averaged 12.3 points, 4.4 assists and 3 rebounds per game in conference play. And he is perhaps the league’s most fearless defender.
Frazier edged out Rutgers’ Geo Baker for our honorary “scrappy point guard” spot on the third team.
Bryce McGowens, Nebraska
McGowens led all Big Ten freshmen with 17.3 points per game in league play. And he led all Big Ten players, period, with 103 free throws. McGowens was 3rd behind Harper and Wisconsin’s Brad Davison at the line, making 85.8% of his attempts.
Fatts Russell, Maryland
The Rhode Island transfer finished 8th in the Big Ten with 16.3 points per game and 11th with 3.8 assists per game.
Russell and backcourt mate Eric Ayala are talented enough to make the 10th-seeded Terps a viable dark horse in the Big Ten tourney.
Payton Willis, Minnesota
The Gophers were more dull than golden this season, but don’t blame Willis.
He was 13th in the conference with 15.7 points per game while also averaging 4.4 assists. Willis had the league’s best assist-to-turnover ratio, dishing out 2.8 dimes for every turnover.
Big Ten Freshman of the Year
Bryce McGowens, Nebraska
McGowens gets the nod over the ascendant Branham and a budding star in Wisconsin point guard Chucky Hepburn.
The key performance to earning our vote?
McGowens scored 26 points to Branham’s 16 in leading the Cornhuskers to a stunning 78-70 win at Ohio State on March 1.
Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year
Trevion Williams, Purdue
Williams is 3rd on the Boilermakers in scoring and 2nd in rebounding despite being 6th in minutes played. That’s a pretty easy way to win Sixth Man of the Year.
Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year
Caleb McConnell, Rutgers
It’s not just that McConnell leads the Big Ten with 2.2 steals per game. It’s that he seems to be more than one place at a time when the Scarlet Knights are on defense.
The best example of that was his chase-down block against Ohio State that may go down as one of the biggest plays in Rutgers basketball history. Without that block, Rutgers almost surely loses that game and would find itself on the wrong side of the tournament bubble this week.
Here is the Caleb McConnell block that saved the game: pic.twitter.com/fPmb7wBBKp
— Brian Fonseca (@briannnnf) February 10, 2022
Big Ten Coach of the Year
Greg Gard, Wisconsin
Gard took a team picked 10th in the preseason poll and led them to a share of the Big Ten regular-season title.
The Badgers, who were never faster than 330th nationally in adjusted tempo in Gard’s previous 6 seasons, bumped it up a notch to 208th this season.
Actually altering the fabric of your program identity is a heck of a gutsy piece of coaching, and it has paid off for Wisconsin this year.
Big Ten Player of the Year
Johnny Davis, Wisconsin
Yes, the scoring is impressive. But it’s Davis’ all-around game that gives him the edge over Cockburn and Murray in our player of the year race.
Our favorite Johnny Davis stat?
He leads the Big Ten with 152 defensive rebounds — 33 more than runner-up John Harrar of Penn State. And Harrar is an outstanding rebounder, finishing behind only Cockburn for the overall conference rebounding crown.
Harrar and Cockburn are both bigger post guys. You expect them to board. Davis is a 6-5 wing. He plays with an extraordinary motor.
And without him, it’s impossible to imagine the Badgers would have a share of the Big Ten title.