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F Jared Sullinger, Ohio State (6'9", 265, Sophomore)
F Draymond Green, Michigan State (6'7", 230, Senior)
F John Shurna, Northwestern (6'9", 215, Senior)
G Tim Frazier, Penn State (6'1", 160, Junior)
G Trey Burke, Michigan (5'11", 180, Freshman)
Coming into the season, Jared Sullinger was among the favorites for National Player of the Year. A surprising return to Columbus, spurning NBA lottery-pick riches, had college analysts drooling over how he could dominate the game in 2012.
His stock cooled slightly when back spasms caused him to miss a December game against Kansas—one that would have put him face-to-face with another POY challenger, Thomas Robinson.
Sullinger's 17 points and nine rebounds per game still have him as a firm favorite for All-American honors, but he may have been pipped for Big Ten Player of the Year by Michigan State's Draymond Green.
Green's cumulative stats (16.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 3.6 assists per game and 1.5 steals per game) compare very favorably with Sullinger. Green is the only player in the Big Ten who ranks in the league's top 10 in all five of the major stat categories. Still, Green's true value has been revealed in the conference stretch run.
During Michigan State's 7-1 February run that spurred Sparty to the top of the Big Ten standings, Green pulled his team onto his back, averaging 19.4 points and 10 rebounds while drilling 18-of-40 three-point shots (45 percent).
John Shurna has had a bit more help this season than past Northwestern stars like Walker Lambiotte, Shon Morris or Evan Eschmeyer had in their careers. Despite that, the Wildcats have still had issues winning the games that would be signature victories in their quest for their first NCAA Tournament berth.
In January, Northwestern lost by one point to Illinois, two to Michigan and two to Purdue. In back-to-back February games, Purdue and Indiana survived a combined 59 points from Shurna, accounting for more than 41 percent of the Cats' scoring on those two nights.
Shurna leads the Big Ten in scoring and three-pointers made, ranking second in three-point percentage and third in blocks. He's also in the top 20 in all the other major categories, including field goal and free throw percentage.
Another player demonstrating staggering versatility this season has been Penn State's Tim Frazier. Stepping out from the enormous shadow of PSU's all-time scoring leader Talor Battle, Frazier has begun carving his own legacy in 2012.
Frazier sits second in the conference in scoring, first in assists and second in steals. While the Nittany Lions have not been in the bubble conversation this season, struggling to a 4-13 Big Ten record, it's been through no lack of effort out of Frazier.
Frazier scored more than half of the Lions' points in a January loss to Nebraska. Northwestern survived 23 points, eight assists and only one turnover by Frazier in a one-point squeaker on February 25. On Leap Day, Frazier shot 10-of-16 for 24 points, but Purdue still cruised away with a 24-point win.
Freshman Trey Burke has already etched his name into the Michigan record books, breaking Gary Grant's 1985 record for most assists by a rookie. He's rarely left the floor for the Wolverines, playing 35.9 minutes per game, third in the Big Ten behind Shurna and Frazier.
Burke has not only made his backcourt running mate Tim Hardaway Jr. a more dangerous player, but he's also helped bring out the best in unheralded supporting players like Evan Smotrycz, Zach Novak and Stu Douglass.