The Big Ten men’s basketball coaches and a media voting panel announced their 2008-09 All-Big Ten first team on Monday. Both sets of voters had the same list.
Michigan forward Manny Harris, Michigan State guard Kalin Lucas, Ohio State forward Evan Turner, Penn State guard Talor Battle and Purdue center JaJuan Johnson.
The media named Michigan junior forward DeShawn Sims to the second team, and the coaches named him to the third.
My All-Big Ten first team prediction last week was the same as the coaches’ and media’s. Knowing that the coaches and media wouldn’t leave out a player from the Big Ten’s second-best team, Illinois, or third-best team, Purdue, Sims didn’t make the cut.
But the award should go to the best five players, so Sims should have been on the list over Johnson.
Michigan is only as good as Harris and Sims. Without either player, Michigan would have no shot of making the NCAA Tournament. Harris averages 17.1 points and seven rebounds per game. Sims averages 15.3 and 7.3. Michigan’s third-highest scorer, redshirt freshman Laval Lucas-Perry, averages 7.4, while Michigan’s third-highest rebounder, freshman Zack Novak, averages 3.4.
While Johnson averages 13.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, Purdue has three players averaging double figures in scoring. And the Boilermakers’ success on offense depends more on all five players on the court, not just two. Michigan has been searching for a third scorer all season, but more often than not, the bulk of the offensive load falls on the shoulders of Harris and Sims.
And although Johnson has the advantage on the defensive end (2.2 blocks per game), his play is complemented by Purdue’s stingy team defense, which is the third-best in the Big Ten and includes 2008 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Chris Kramer.
Sims not only deserves the award over Johnson because he means more to his team and can also extend the floor with his outside shooting — but also because he has been more productive.
Sims averages more points and rebounds. Despite being two inches shorter, he has the same number of double-doubles.
And Sims plays great in big games. In wins against then-No.4 UCLA and Duke, Sims led Michigan in scoring and rebounding. When Michigan hosted No. 9 Michigan State, Sims was the lone Wolverine that played well, scoring 18 points and grabbing four rebounds.
After Michigan dropped a heartbreaker at Iowa, it needed to win two of its last three games. Sims had 29 points in a victory against Purdue and 24 at Minnesota in a must-win game.
Sims is more valuable to his team and has better numbers. That should mean he’s on the All-Big Ten first team.