Strong Defensive Player of the Year Field, but what is missing?

Michigan State's Xavier Tillman looks to block Maryland's Jalen Smith shot
Photo of Kaleb Kraus

Kaleb Kraus

NCAAB· 1 year ago

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I am Pickswise's NASCAR expert, also make picks on MLB, NHL, and both college football and basketball. Very passionate about sports, especially college football and college basketball. I have followed NASCAR since I was little. I am a 2018 graduate of Michigan State Universities School of Journalism.

It’s that time of year again, March Madness is here, and so is Awards season. Most will be focused on the Naismith Award and favorites to win Obi Toppin and Peyton Pritchard. However, that isn’t the only major award race to keep an eye on. Baylor is the class of the field in the Defensive Player of the Year race, as they have two really strong players up for the award. Shockingly of all the strong defenders from the Big Ten Conference, the only player that reached the list of 10 semifinalists according to NCAA.com was Michigan’s, Zavier Simpson.  Are they truly the best candidates for the award? It’s a strong class of defenders, but what is missing?

Is Zavier Simpson the Big Ten’s best defender?

An argument can be made that Zavier Simpson isn’t even the best defender on his own team. His numbers don’t quite stand out among the best defenders in the country. I get he’s a point guard on a top-25 team and the Wolverines have been consistently near the top of the Big Ten the last five seasons. Yet his 27 steals, four blocks and 105 defensive rebounds don’t quite stand out. He is a difference-maker, but lately, his team hasn’t had the success of prior seasons. It’s good for the Big 10 to have a player on the Semifinalist list. Maybe he will prove it in the tournament?

Where are the Big Ten’s Big Men?

Arguably Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman has been one of the best defenders in the Big Ten. Tillman has shut down three of the Big Ten’s best players in three straight games. Two of which are Finalists for the Naismith Player of the Year award. His numbers don’t lie, 63 blocks and 35 steals along with 231 of his 311 rebounds at the defensive end of the floor. He has been a true enforcer and a key wingman to the Spartans guard Cassius Winston. The same could be said of Maryland’s Jalen Smith, who like Tillman is a real presence near the basket on the defensive end of the court. Smith only trails Minnesota’s Daniel Oturu in blocked shots with 69. Tillman, Smith, Oturu, Garza heck even freshman Kofi Cockburn have made the Big Ten post-play some of the best in the country at both ends of the floor. Why are the big’s missing from the list?

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