Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood’s team:
Ballots for both the Associated Press All-Big Ten teams and the conference’s own awards were due Sunday. The latter had a deadline of 10:59 p.m. — a deadline I was just able to meet despite Illinois-Iowa going long and being followed by a court storming, cutting down the nets and eventually a postgame press conference with Brad Underwood, Kofi Cockburn, Da’Monte Williams and Trent Frazier.
The Big Ten will announce its postseason awards today at approximately 11 a.m. The AP All-Big Ten team and individual awards should be released either today or sometime early this week.
Illinois, which clinched a share of the Big Ten regular season title with Sunday night’s win against Iowa, will be in line to have several players honored.
I waited until after the final game of the Big Ten season to submit both of my ballots. I had a general idea for my first, second and third team selections, but this was a season so full of terrific individual performances that I wanted to be sure of my player of the year pick (plus coach of the year).
I voted for Kofi Cockburn and Brad Underwood. Cockburn’s performance against Iowa just re-emphasized that he is a truly unique player in college basketball and, when he’s at the level he was Sunday, is also truly dominant. Underwood got my vote for coach of the year because nobody in the Big Ten dealt with quite as much as he did between having to reboot his coaching staff, tweaking roster and dealing with injuries, illness and Cockburn’s suspension.
Do I think Cockburn and Underwood will be announced as the award winners today? No, can’t say I do. Don’t be surprised if it’s the Wisconsin duo of Johnny Davis and Greg Gard.
That’s not an indictment of Cockburn or Underwood or the voters slighting Illinois. Davis was tremendous this season. Gard guided the Badgers to a share of the Big Ten title after his team was picked to finish 10th in the preseason.
The Illini won’t be totally shut out with awards season surging into full bore. In fact, Cockburn already got it started by earning Sporting News First Team All-American honors Monday.