Just hours after she broke her own record and won her ninth Player of the Week honor this season, Megan Gustafson claimed the big prize: Big Ten Player of the Year.
Introducing the 2017-18 Big Ten Player of the Year as voted on by the media @GustafsonMeg10!— Iowa Women's BBall (@IowaWBB) February 26, 2018
Gustafson is the 5th Hawkeye in program history to win the award and the 1st to do so since 1998! #VoteGustafson #Hawkeyes #FightForIowa pic.twitter.com/qHmrZNOsCH
Or, well, one of the Big Ten Player of the Year awards. The conference media voted her the POTY, but the conference coaches honored Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell instead. Which... well, I don't really agree with for several reasons. Mitchell had a very good season, no question, but Gustafson had an even better season (insomuch as we can compare guards to centers, at least), with a resume full of incredible performances and production. Gustafson also appeared to be a bigger part of her team's success than Mitchell (both teams would be lesser without their stars, but try to imagine Iowa without Gustafson... it's not a pretty picture). And, frankly, Mitchell has been honored many times over -- this is her third Big Ten Player of the Year award in four seasons at Ohio State.
Then again, the Big Ten now puts ten players on the all-Big Ten first team for women's basketball and this is the third time in the last five seasons that the coaches and media have handed out different Player of the Year awards. Maybe the Big Ten just really likes spreading the wealth when it comes to women's basketball.
Still, it's ridiculous to be petty and focus on what the coaches did; Mitchell certainly had an excellent season, too. And, most importantly, Megan Gustafson IS THE BIG TEN PLAYER OF THE YEAR and that is awesome and completely and utterly deserved.
Gustafson is the first Iowa player to win Big Ten Player of the Year in 20 years, since Tangela Smith did so back in 1998 and only the fifth all-time to receive the honor (Michelle Edwards, Franthea Price, Toni Foster, and Smith were the other four). Gustafson was (of course) also named All-Big Ten first team by the coaches and media; Kathleen Doyle earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches.
I made the case for why Gustafson should be Player of the Year earlier today, so you can read that if you need a refresher course on her excellence this season, but suffice to say she has been incredible. She led the league in scoring and rebounding, posted 26 double-doubles in 29 games, was mind-blowingly efficient from the field and lights out at the free throw line, and did it all while opposing defenses threw wave after wave of defender at her. Congratulations on a wholly-deserved honor, Megan.