Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Overshadowed by his 7’0’’ teammate in the preseason, Victor Oladipo has burst onto the national stage with his mesmerizing dunks and deft hands to become the front-runner for the Big Ten’s Player of the Year.
Illustrative of his rise, a season ago, Oladipo was considered a supremely athletic guard, capable of hauling in rebounds and getting to the line. He was the fourth scoring option on the team. But this season, after averaging 14 points per game on an eye-popping 63 percent shooting, the junior has drawn comparisons to Dwyane Wade and even, yes—you heard Dick Vitale—a “mini-MJ.”
Whether those comparisons are warranted remains to be seen, but when considering his stunning trajectory, it’s tough to put a ceiling on him, both metaphorically and literally.
Oladipo’s gift is that he can affect a game in so many ways such that should his three-point shot not be falling, he can easily turn his attention to grabbing more rebounds or deflecting passes in the lane.
His three-point shooting has improved markedly (20 percent last year, 49 percent this year), and although he’s not a volume shooter, his efficiency forces defenders to play up a step, leaving them vulnerable to his ultra-quick first step. On defense, he leads the conference with 2.2 steals per game.
Perhaps the best part about Oladipo is that he impacts the game all while playing within himself. He never forces shots and is perpetually a team player, even as his profile has continued to grow.
His biggest competition for the award will be from Michigan's Trey Burke, an immensely unselfish player in his own right. Burke's 6.5 assists per game are far and away the most in the league and his 18.8 points per game rank second in the Big Ten. But in the head-to-head matchup, not only did Oladipo's team win, but Burke shot just 9-of-24 from the field, although he finished with a game-high 25 points.
Burke had another excellent game on Sunday against Michigan State, but on Saturday, Oladipo had 10 points, eight rebounds and four steals in just 22 minutes against Iowa.
The two will meet again on March 10 in the regular-season finale in Ann Arbor.
The two are extremely close and both are worthy candidates, but Oladipo will earn the award by impacting his team's success in more ways than any other player in the Big Ten.
Instead of seizing the spotlight with the glare of the national media upon him, Oladipo has remained unselfish, seemingly motivated by team goals as opposed to individual ones. But his importance to his team is unparalleled. And for that, he should earn the Big Ten’s Player of the Year.