Indiana junior forward Juwan Morgan has without a doubt been the best player for the Hoosiers in the 2017-18 season.
If the Big Ten gave out an award for most improved player of the year, Morgan would win. But does he have a realistic chance to land first team All-Big Ten?
Big Ten Most Improved Player
Even though this award doesn’t exist among the Big Ten conference, Morgan would win and it’s not even close. He’s top 10 in the conference in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocks after not being anywhere close to that a season ago.
Last year, Morgan was sixth on his team in scoring with 7.7 points per game. This year, he’s seventh in the entire conference at 16.9 points per game.
His 9.2-point increase in the span of one season is the largest out of any returning player in the top 10 of the conference scoring list.
Big Ten leading scorer Keita Bates-Diop (19.9 ppg) from Ohio State has a +8.1 point increase this season, but he averaged 11.8 points per game as a sophomore and missed last season due to injury. Purdue’s Carsen Edwards has the second highest point increase from last season to this at +6.6.
With rebounding, Morgan has gone from a good to elite in the conference.
He averaged 5.6 per game last season, and was 20th in the Big Ten. Now he’s ninth this season in the conference averaging 7.3 boards per game.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) February 4, 2018
He is currently fifth in the Big Ten in field goal percentage this year at 59.2-percent. Everyone ahead of him on the leaderboard (Mike Watkins, Nick Ward, Derek Pardon and Isaac Haas) were all in the top five last year.
Morgan shot the ball well a season ago at 54.8-percent, but he didn’t qualify to be among the conference leaders because he didn’t have enough shot attempts.
He only took 157 shots in his sophomore year and so far as a junior he’s taken 287 attempts while making 170.
Lastly, Morgan is blocking opponents more frequently than last season. He’s ninth in the Big Ten in blocks with 34 after finishing 16th in the conference as a sophomore with 29.
He is putting up these types of quality numbers all while being depended on more this year. Morgan has upped his minutes per game from 22.6 a year ago to almost 29 minutes per game this season.
First Team All-Big Ten Selection?
Now that you see the massive improvements Morgan made in the past year, let’s see if he deserves to be a first team All-Big Ten selection.
It’ll be difficult for Morgan because typically three guards and two forwards make up the members of the first team. Last season, Happ and Big Ten player of the year Caleb Swanigan were the two forwards selected.
Bates-Diop has already cemented his name onto the first team by leading the league in scoring and third in rebounding, but can Morgan beat out Happ and Michigan State’s Miles Bridges for the second forward spot?
Both Happ (18.2 ppg) and Bridges (17.8 ppg) have better scoring averages this season than Morgan (16.9 ppg). However, in Big Ten games, the Indiana junior has them beat.
In conference games, Morgan is tied for third in scoring, averaging 18.9 points per game, while Happ (18.6 ppg) and Bridges (18.4 ppg) are slightly behind.
Juwan Morgan's ankle injury? No problem. The Indiana junior forward didn't practice at all between games, but that didn't stop him from dropping 25 points and leading #iubb to a win over Maryland last night. https://t.co/LU0LhKFyKP pic.twitter.com/EQwojTan18
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) January 23, 2018
Although they are all so close in points per game, one stat that may give Morgan the advantage over those two is field goal percentage. Morgan is more efficient from the field than the other two. He is currently fifth in the Big Ten shooting at a 60.1-percent clip in conference games.
Neither Bridges nor Happ are in the top 15 in field goal percentage during conference games as they are both shooting 49 percent from the field.
Rebounding wise, Morgan has pulled down 7.7 boards in conference play which is better than Bridges’ 6.2 per game, but not as good as Happ’s 8.4 per game.
What might be the most impressive about Morgan’s game is that he is an all-around performer. He is only one of two power five conference players averaging at least 16 points, seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block per game this season.
The other is future NBA lottery pick Marvin Bagley from Duke.
— Zain Pyarali (@ZainPyarali) December 17, 2017
Morgan continues to put up these numbers while being the most used player on Indiana’s roster. The Hoosiers use him on at least 24 percent of possessions. Only Happ and Penn State’s Tony Carr are used more among Big Ten players, as their teams use them on 28-percent of possessions.
Among players who are used on at least 24 percent of their team’s possessions, according to kenpom, Morgan has the 18th best offensive rating in the nation at 120.2. He is second best in the Big Ten to only Purdue’s Isaac Haas who is 14th in the nation with an offensive rating of 121.2.
Morgan’s offensive rating is better than both Happ and Bridges. It’s even better than Bates-Diop, Nick Ward and Carsen Edwards, just to name a few more.
The numbers are there to back it up. Morgan rises to the challenge night in and night out. If I had a vote I would put him as a Big Ten first-teamer.
But will enough voters pencil in Morgan among the elite players in the Big Ten at the end of the season?