Michigan State Basketball: Xavier Tillman is Big Ten’s best defender

Xavier Tillman, Michigan State basketball (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Xavier Tillman, Michigan State basketball (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

Xavier Tillman earned high praise from Pat Chambers after shutting down Lamar Stevens. The Michigan State basketball star is the Big Ten’s best defender.

Less than a week ago, the Naismith Committee put out a semifinalist list of 10 National Defensive Player of the Year award candidates. Xavier Tillman wasn’t on it.

In fact, only one Big Ten player made the list and it was Zavier Simpson of Michigan who has been a very good perimeter defender throughout his career but has taken a slight step back this season and Wolverines fans would tend to agree with that.

Tillman doesn’t care about personal accolades, though. But that doesn’t make his omission from the candidates list any less egregious.

So what has he done to prove himself since that faulty list was released a couple of days after holding Luka Garza in check? Oh, you know, just smothering guys like Jalen Smith and Lamar Stevens who happen to be two of the best bigs in the league.

Just this season, Tillman has played excellent defense on Smith, Garza, Stevens, Daniel Oturu, Kofi Cockburn and Jon Teske, among others. He has made life miserable for guys who are used to just posting 20 points on a regular basis with 10 boards.

Last Tuesday, he held Garza — who is arguably a national player of the year front-runner — to just 3-of-13 shooting and he had just one field goal attempt in the paint in the final seven minutes. Fast forward to Saturday and he blocked a couple of shots with a steal and even though Jalen Smith scored 20 points, a third of that came from the free throw line.

And then this past Tuesday, Tillman owned Lamar Stevens for 40 minutes. He ruined his senior day and Pat Chambers even said he’s never seen anyone guard Stevens the way Tillman did in four years.

If you watched the game, you would have to agree. Stevens was held in check, starting the game 0-for-10 from the floor and finished an ugly 3-for-19. He couldn’t get anything going because, well, Tillman was in his face the entire time. He was glued to the senior forward.

Next. 3 reasons Mel Tucker will get MSU back on track. dark

In the past three games, he’s held Smith, Garza and Stevens to a combined 15-for-39 shooting from the field and he has six blocks in that span. It’s clear that he’s the conference’s best defender and should be in consideration for the national award.