Michigan has proven to be the best team in the most difficult conference in the nation, and it has proven to be the best college basketball team in the state.
I think John Beilein will win B1G Coach of the Year, with challenges from Wisconsin's Bo Ryan and Tim Miles of Nebraska.
I believe Nik Stauskas will win Player of the Year, with MSU's Gary Harris and Iowa's Roy Devyn Marble making a strong push. And Caris LeVert should receive the Big Ten's Most Improved Player, with a loud and justifiable argument for Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky.
The Michigan trio should be honored for a number of reasons, but primarily because it won it's second league title in three years. They have helped this team to six conference road wins, the most since 1993, and 20 wins for the fourth straight season. It leads the league in shooting, three point field goal percentage and free throw accuracy. UM has won tough road games at Nebraska, Minnesota, MSU, Wisconsin and Ohio State, beaten three teams ranked #3 in the nation, is 7-2 against the top six teams in the league and is 5-4 against top 25 teams this year.
Beilein has built a winning culture that eminates throughout the program, embracing the past success of Michigan teams, while stressing the importance of today's current "core values." It is an unselfish team (assisting on better than 56% of baskets), that doesn't turn the ball over (just nine TO/game) and rarely fouls (nation's best 14.7/gm). His teams are 44-4 at home over the last three years, have won at least 10 conference games in each of the last three seasons and won 24 games over top 25 teams, including 11 over top ten squads.
Stauskas leads the Big Ten in 20-pt games, with 11, and has been near his best down the stretch, averaging almost 18 per game over the last five games. He's averaging over six points a game better than last year, while increasing his field goal percentage, rebounding and assists. He's boasted career best in 11 different categories - all while carrying the target on his back as "the guy" other teams plan on defending as UM's first option.
If Stauskas is the number one option, then LeVert might be the second. The sophomore averaged just 2.3 PPG while shooting 31.5% from the field. This year he's averaging 13.5 PPG and shooting 43.5%. He had as many assists after 11 games this year then he had all of last year and he's able to defend three different positions on the floor.
I'm not sure this team can do what it did last year by making the National Championship Game, but it's already done something last year's team couldn't do - win a Big Ten championship.
Matt Shepard is the play-by-play voice of University of Michigan basketball, Eastern Michigan University football and the Detroit Lions television network. He can also be found on TV locally on Fox Sports Detroit and nationally on the Big Ten Network for college hockey and baseball.Learn more.