Sophomores ruled the day Monday for Ohio State men’s basketball as the Big Ten Conference announced its all-conference selections and awards.
Buckeyes’ sophomore forward Jared Sullinger was a first-team Big Ten selection by the coaches and media while sophomore guard Aaron Craft was named Defensive Player of the Year by the conference’s coaches. Sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas was named a second-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches, and the media and coaches named senior guard William Buford to the second team.
Sullinger, who averaged 17 points and nine rebounds per game, was a unanimous selection to the first team for a second consecutive year.
Craft’s selection as the defensive player of the year is the first for OSU since 2007 and the fourth in the history of the program.
Craft, who was also given a Big Ten Sportsmanship award, told the Big Ten Network that his defensive game benefitted from playing against his older brother as a child.
“I couldn’t score on those guys,” Craft said. “I could frustrate them a lot on defense. I got in a couple fights with my brother and some of his friends. So it kind of started back then. Just growing up, (defense) is just something that I’ve enjoyed and I really like doing and understood that that is what is going to help the team the most.”
Thomas and Buford both averaged 15 points and five rebounds per game.
The Buckeyes (25-6, 13-5 Big Ten) jumped three spots in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll to the No. 7 spot. OSU defeated Michigan State, 72-70, Sunday on a last-second 2-point shot by Buford. With the win, OSU clinched a three-way tie for the conference’s regular season title with the Spartans and Michigan.
Though it conceded an outright regular season conference title with the loss to the Buckeyes, the MSU program came away with some major Big Ten hardware Monday as possible consolation.
Spartans senior forward Draymond Green claimed the Big Ten’s Player of the Year award, as well as a unanimous first-team honor from the coaches and media. MSU coach Tom Izzo was a unanimous Coach of the Year honoree.
Other award winners include Michigan freshman guard Trey Burke who split Freshman of the Year honors with Indiana forward Cody Zeller.
OSU will begin postseason play on Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind., as the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeyes will play the winner of Thursday’s Purdue-Nebraska opening-round game. OSU’s postseason will tip at about 9 p.m.