Player of the year? Paul needs help

Brandon Paul is one of the Big Ten's best all-around players. Bradley Leeb/US Presswire

This requires some Illinois optimism, but this is how and why Illini junior guard Brandon Paul could end up in the Big Ten player of the year discussion.

First off, for this to have any chance, Illinois needs to close out the Big Ten season with a flourish and put itself among the top three or four teams in the conference. All of the Big Ten player of the year winners in the past 10 years have played on teams which have finished in the top three.

As improbable as that may seem right now, let's say Illinois gets hot and achieves this.

Which brings us to Paul and his candidacy. His platform? Paul has been the best all-around Big Ten player.

Going by only conference statistics, Paul ranks in the top 15 in 11 categories.

He leads the Big Ten with 20.0 points a game. He's scored in double digits in all 10 Illinois games and has gone for 20-plus points five times, including a 43-point performance against Ohio State.

He ranks 10th in rebounding (5.9) and 8th in defensive rebounding (4.6). He's grabbed eight or more rebounds in three conference games.

He ranks 11th with 3.1 assists a game. He's led Illinois in assists in three conference games.

He ranks first in 3-pointers made with 2.7 a game and 15th with a .403 3-point shooting percentage. He also ranks 14th in free-throw shooting percentage (.757).

Defensively, he's been as dominant as anyone in the Big Ten. He ranks third in steals (2.0) and sixth in blocks (1.2) and has been put on nearly every opponent's best guard or forward.

Finally, he ranks second in minutes per game (39.2). He rarely comes off the floor. He's played 39 or more minutes in seven games.

The two other players who compete with Paul as far as being well rounded are Northwestern's John Shurna and Michigan State's Draymond Green. Shurna ranks in the top 15 in nine categories, and Green ranks in 10 of them.

Of course, even if Illinois was to win down the stretch and Paul kept up his numbers, Ohio State's Jared Sullinger will probably still walk away with the award.