Vitale: 2002-03 All-Conference teams, awards

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Talent everywhere in balanced Big Ten


March 14

This has not been a vintage Big Ten season in terms of marquee teams. Think about past years when the Big Ten has had Final Four contenders. This season, the league has had more balance and no truly dominant top-10 team.

Picking an All-Big Ten team wasn't easy. There is still plenty of quality talent to go around.

All-Big Ten Team, Awards
Lavell Blanchard -- Michigan
Brian Cook -- Illinois
Brent Darby -- Ohio State
Willie Deane -- Purdue
Kirk Penney -- Wisconsin

Player of Year
Brian Cook, Illinois
Coach of Year
Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
Diaper Dandy of Year
Dee Brown, Illinois

Ohio State has struggled this season due to a lot of injuries. One player who has hung tough is Brent Darby, the second-leading scorer in the Big Ten. He hasn't had a lot of help and he has been banged up as well.

At Purdue, Gene Keady is glad Willie Deane decided to return to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. Deane's scoring ability has lifted the Boilermakers into position to make the big dance. There has been tremendous progress from last season thanks to Deane.

On the baseline, start with multi-dimensional Brian Cook of Illinois. He can shoot the long range jumper, go strong to the glass inside and he has helped stablize a young backcourt with Dee Brown. That earns him my Big Ten player of the year award.

Also on the list is LaVell Blanchard of Michigan. The Wolverines have shocked people and played hard despite an 0-6 start. Blanchard's experience has been a positive and he is tough to stop.

Finally, on the wing, Kirk Penney has been a key member of the regular-season champion Badgers. He can flat-out shoot as Wisconsin won its first outright league title since 1947.

My choice for Diaper Dandy of the Year is Michigan's Daniel Horton. The Big Ten had a great freshman class with Brown of the Illini and Bracey Wright of Indiana also in the hunt. Brown really energized the Illini.

Picking a Coach of the year was difficult. You can make a case for Tommy Amaker, who did a great job in a challenging situation for the Wolverines, but my choice is Wisconsin's Bo Ryan for leading the Badgers to the league title.

His team doesn't get a lot of national attention and recognition, but this guy knows how to win and how to blend a unit to play offensively and defensively. His kids understand the importance of shot selection.

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