Illinois Basketball: Time to include Terrence Shannon Jr. in the Big Ten Player of the Year talks

Illinois v Tennessee
Illinois v Tennessee / Eakin Howard/GettyImages

Purdue has a great player in Zach Edey, but I believe the Illinois basketball team has an argument for the Big Ten Player of the Year.

Coming into the 2023-24 season, most people had already booked Edey as the back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Year. He won it the year prior in dominating fashion, as Purdue would go on to be the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

While the novelty of Edey hasn’t worn off too much, I believe the Illini can give the Purdue big man a run for his money when it comes to the highest player honor in the Big Ten.

Illinois basketball guard Terrence Shannon Jr. should be in the conversation for Big Ten Player of the Year

I don’t want people to read this and think that I am bashing Edey. I think the big man is one of the most fascinating and entertaining players I have ever seen on the basketball court. There have been very few like him, and I don’t expect to see anyone in the near future play with his style and finesse at that size.

But, in 2023-24, Edey has some competition for the Big Ten Player of the Year. He is still having a great season, but it is time to start including Terrence Shannon Jr. in this conversation.

We are extremely early in the Big Ten season, and the non-conference is closing up for most teams. Illinois is currently in a tie for second place in the Big Ten, and they sit at 9-2 overall and No. 13 in the latest AP Top 25. That No. 13 ranking should be near the top 10 when the new rankings are released as well.

A big chip Edey had to be the Big Ten Player of the Year was that Purdue was one of the best teams in the country. The best player on one of the best teams should win the award. Well, Illinois has entered the chat.

Purdue sits at 11-1 while Illinois checks in at 9-2. The records are close, and there isn’t much difference in BPI or Strength of Schedule. Illinois and Purdue are both in the top 15 in the country in BPI and Strength of Schedule for the 2023-24 season.

Statistically, it is hard to compare Shannon and Edey. One has nearly a foot of height on the other, I’ll let you guess which one, and they both play two different games. Edey is a back-to-the-basket type of player while Shannon is essentially the Tasmanian Devil tornadoing through the lane and being a menace from three-point range.

Edey and Shannon are close in scoring at 24.0 points and 21.7 points per game, respectively. Obviously, Edey has more rebounds, but it is not the margin many would probably assume. The Purdue big man is pulling down 10.4 rebounds per game while Shannon is at 4.5 rebounds per game.

Shannon with 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game leads Edey who is averaging 1.6 assists and 0.3 steals per game. Shannon averages 2.4 turnovers per game while Edey tallies 1.9 turnovers per game.

All of the numbers I mentioned above are very close to each other. One player isn’t pulling away from the other by any means. Shannon is keeping up with the defending Big Ten Player of the Year.

I do think there is one more thing to note that should give Shannon a bit of a boost, though. Edey is shooting 62.0% from the field while Shannon is at 51.4% from the field. I know that sounds like a plus for Edey, but you have to think about where each player shoots the ball from. Edey is always around the rim. He doesn’t take three-point shots. Meanwhile, Shannon is shooting the ball from everywhere on the court. That is why we look at effective field goal percentage. This accounts for the value of a three-pointer. When you look at the effective field goal percentage, Shannon is shooting 61.6% and Edey is at 62.0%.

Edey is currently No. 1 in the Big Ten in scoring and Shannon is right behind him at No. 2. Edey is No. 1 in the Big Ten in rebounds. Shannon is No. 2 in the Big Ten in three-point percentage and is No. 1 in three-pointers made per game. Edey is No. 1 in field goal percentage while Shannon is No. 7. Edey is No. 2 in the Big Ten in blocks while Shannon is No. 11.

These two players are the best players on two of the best teams in college basketball. Edey is a special talent in his own right, and he is a generational player. But it is time to start talking about Shannon alongside Edey when mentioning the Big Ten Player of the Year. Shannon deserves his flowers.

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