Best of the Best: Big Ten Season SuperlativesPosted by jnowak on April 18th, 2013
There’s so much to look back on from this season’s Big Ten, and who doesn’t like receiving an award? So we decided to hand out a few more. Forget Class Clown. Our superlatives are a real honor:
- Best game: Indiana at Michigan — We’ll get to the climax of this contest in a minute, but this was a heavyweight battle. After Indiana dealt then-No. 1 Michigan just its second loss of the season in Bloomington a few weeks earlier, the Hoosiers came to Ann Arbor with a Big Ten title on the line. If the Hoosiers won, they’d claim the conference championship outright. If the Wolverines won, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State all had the chance to join the Hoosiers on the championship podium. Michigan led by three at halftime before the Hoosiers outscored the Wolverines by four in the second half. And that final play… well, you’ll just have to keep reading.
- Best play: Ben Brust’s half-court three to force overtime and eventually beat Michigan — If Victor Oladipo had been able to finish this dunk in the aforementioned game against Michigan at Assembly Hall, it’d be my choice. But since that shot ends up on the score sheet as just another missed field goal attempt, we’ll go with a shot that actually went in. It looked like Michigan was going to escape Madison after Tim Hardaway, Jr. hit a huge three-pointer with three seconds to go, giving Michigan a 60-57 lead. But Wisconsin took a timeout, and Mike Bruesewitz hit Brust in stride. Brust took one dribble across the half-court line and drew nothing but net. The Badgers went on to win in overtime, with Brust also hitting the game-winner with 43 seconds left in OT.
- Biggest surprise: Victor Oladipo — Even the most diehard Big Ten or Indiana fans probably did not see this coming. Cody Zeller was supposed to be the headliner for a top-rated Indiana team, and though Zeller played well all year, it was Oladipo who provided must-see TV. He was dynamic on both ends of the floor, a thrill to see in the fast break, impacting the game from all facets. Who will be next year’s Oladipo? That’s just the thing. No one knows. But let’s hope that this year, TNT’s broadcasters learn how to pronounce his name.
- Best upset: Penn State 84, Michigan 78 on February 27 — We could be talking about the best upset in the country this year and this game might still take the cake. Penn State was on track to become the first team in Big Ten history to go 0-18 in conference play and the Wolverines were on pace for a potential conference title and No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. There’s not much else to say.
- Best story line: Competitiveness week in and week out — It was like clockwork in the TV listings. Every Tuesday, it seemed, there was a Big Ten game that you just could not miss. And when the teams met during prime time weekend TV slots, they didn’t disappoint either. There were great games, great upsets and great individual performances on almost a nightly basis. It was tremendous basketball for the casual fan to enjoy, and fantastic for the conference’s national perception.
- Most interesting character: Spike Albrecht — Tom Crean and his wild enthusiasm, passion for cutting down nets, and disdain for Bo Ryan handshakes would receive this honor if not for the Final Four. Spike Albrecht, a household name — who would have thought? But a handful of ridiculous three-point heat checks later, he and Kate Upton were being mentioned in the same sentence. Not a bad rise to fame.
- Most memorable moment: Ball hanging on the rim at the end of the Indiana-Michigan game — Just imagine this: A Big Ten conference season unlike any other, with great depth and some of the most powerful heavyweights in recent memory. It all comes down to one of the final games of the entire year, with a championship stake for multiple teams in play. The final possession of the game, a last shot at the buzzer and the ball hangs on the rim for what feels like an eternity. You can not script it any better than that. What a year.