Daniel Oturu is a consensus All-Big 2nd team player according to the coaches and media. Look, I even have the tweet to show you.
Yeah, Daniel Oturu, the player that dominated every big he played against all season (with the possible exception of Trayce Jackson-Davis) is somehow not worthy of first team mentions in the Big Ten. Never mind that Oturu is second in the conference in points per game, first in rebounding, first in blocks, and at least top 10 in every statistical category of import for a big man. Make sure to ignore that for most of the season, the Gophers utter ineptitude from distance meant that teams felt free to double or triple team Oturu without any concern for consequences. Even so, he still put up at least 20 points 11 times. Do not mention that Oturu and Luka Garza have more or less identical conference per 40 numbers even though Oturu played a harder schedule. Indeed, Oturu was the most efficient offensive scorer in the conference. Just look past all of that and put him as a second team because of a strange view that irrelevant points matter to deciding who are the best players in the conference.
Some voters clearly punished Oturu because Minnesota not going to the tournament. Brendan Quinn of the Athletic provides a representative view:
For me, this was the most difficult omission from the first team. Fact is, though, in a year when the Big Ten is going to produce upwards of 10 NCAA Tournament teams, Minnesota is not one of them. That one is tough to square, and while Oturu’s dominance and productivity are clearly first team-caliber, I have a hard time bumping anyone off the first five for anyone heading to the NIT. That’s an indictment of Minnesota, not Oturu, but that’s the rationale here.
Alternatively, “Sure he’s clearly a first team player, but I am going to choose a completely alternative set of criteria to make the choice. Also I put Xavier Tillman on the first team. I am very smart.”
Look, this view is ridiculous. To make a claim that the best six players in the Big Ten include a player who was not even the best player on his own team is the height of stupidity. Daniel Oturu had a historic season as a sophomore, and no one saw it coming. Truly, all the accolades given to Luka Garza (deservedly) also apply to Oturu. Incidentally, as mentioned previously, when the two were matched up head to head Oturu was better both times.
Another possibility for the glaring omission is that deciding a first team has to respect some level of positional rigidity. This view is a) dumb because the point of an all-conference team is the best players. Talent is not neatly drawn across categories and b) not even respected by the conference voters themselves because they picked multiple point guards for the squad. Particularly in modern college basketball, positional rigidity is a poor metric because what makes players like Oturu and Garza so good is that they can make plays that most bigs cannot. Oturu can be the dominant rim protector in the conference, and also step out and make three point shots, put the ball on the floor and drive past defenders, and pull up and make fifteen footers.
A final possibility is that voters looked at his “advanced” numbers (only in sports analytics can one number divided by another number be considered advanced) and concluded that his defensive numbers were not up to snuff. Leave aside for a second that this is incorrect, Oturu is top 11 in every “advanced” defensive category in conference play, and focus on the inadequacy of how we measure defense. Oturu has worse numbers in plus/minus statistics because these statistics foolishly assume that what is measured in the box score is a good measure of defensive effort and success. In reality, individual defensive statistics measure something entirely separate than individual player ability. The box score quite literally lies when it comes to measuring defensive production. Now ask a different question. If you were playing a pick-up game where the point of the game was to hold your opponent to as few points as possible, how long would Daniel Oturu last before being picked. It sure would be less time than Luka Garza.
Daniel Oturu was robbed for a spot. It is not surprising, nothing ever is when it comes to all-conference awards for Minnesota teams, but it is disappointing.