Big Ten’s top 25 players: 25-21

  • 08/10/2015 9:00 am in

With the official start of practice less than two months away, Inside the Hall and UMHoops have again partnered to bring you a preseason breakdown of the top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2015-2016 season.

Our selection process involved much deliberation to arrive at a list we hope will provide plenty of reaction and debate. The series will be broken into five parts and our first installment of players 25-21 is available below:

25. Rapheal Davis, Purdue (6-foot-5, forward, senior)
31.3 mpg, 10.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.6 apg, .8 spg, 48.9 eFG percentage

The Big Ten’s defensive player of the year last season, Davis was a worthy recipient of the honor. He routinely guarded some of the league’s best players and was a major reason the Boilermakers had the Big Ten’s second best defense in conference play. Now as a senior, he’ll get the luxury of playing with arguably the nation’s top frontcourt trio in A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan. Davis played the four last season and with Swanigan’s arrival will shift to the three, his more natural position.

Offensively, the Fort Wayne native is an ordinary contributor who was the team’s second leading scorer a season ago. He did an excellent job of getting to the line (52.6 percent free throw rate), but was a below average 3-point shooter (30 percent) and wasn’t a great finisher, either (50 percent on 2s).

24. Thomas Bryant, Indiana (6-foot-10, forward, freshman)
McDonald’s All-American

There was a void in the middle for Indiana last season and the Hoosiers hope that Bryant, the No. 25 recruit nationally according to the RSCI rankings, will fill it. He’s one of four McDonald’s All-Americans entering the conference this season and all four players play in the frontcourt.

There’s a good chance Bryant starts from day one, particularly following the news of Hanner Mosquera-Perea’s dismissal from the program back in early May. His impact should be felt immediately as Indiana sold Bryant on being the missing piece on a roster stocked with perimeter players. Bryant was lauded by national scouts for his motor and intensity and Tom Crean has already mentioned that he expects the Huntington Prep product to help the team improve its field goal percentage defense and shot blocking.

23. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin (6-foot-9, forward, redshirt freshman)

Ethan Happ is a name that many casual fans haven’t even heard of, but he could be next in a long line of Wisconsin stars to grow up in the shadows of a redshirt season. Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson and Duje Dukan made up the core of back-to-back Final Four runs for the Badgers and have all moved on. Now the Badgers will build around Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes and a host of players who have limited experience.

Coming out of high school, Happ was ranked 150th nationally and admitted that he didn’t really know how to play in the post. A year of practice with Bo Ryan should teach any basketball player a thing or two about post play and Happ also has the endorsement of last year’s Player of the Year.

“I think Ethan Happ is going to be a really good player for this program” Frank Kaminsky told Fox 6 in April. “He’s one of those guys who gets better every day. He has a will to come in and compete every day in practice and get better.”

22. Kendrick Nunn, Illinois (6-foot-3, guard, junior)
30.2 mpg, 11.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.9 apg, 48.3 eFG percentage

Nunn was named to the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team two years ago after connecting on 44 percent of his Big Ten 3-point attempts in his rookie year. His sophomore campaign saw increased usage-rate, but decreased efficiency as he made just 34.7 perrcent of his Big Ten 3s.

Despite the rocky sophomore year, Nunn still fits the mold of player who should bounce back as a junior. He was healthy this offseason after sitting out the majority of last summer due to a platelet-rich plasma injection in his left knee. The Illini will be without point guard Tracy Abrams for the second consecutive season which means Nunn should be called on the carry the backcourt scoring load.

21. Tre Demps, Northwestern (6-foot-3, guard, senior)
32.6 mpg, 12.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.6 apg, 49.9 eFG percentage

The Wildcats enter season three of the Chris Collins era and the program appears to be on the rise. Demps, a Bill Carmody holdover, was a major reason Northwestern got hot late and won five of its last seven in the regular season before bowing out in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament. In those five Northwestern wins, he averaged 17.2 points and beat a pair of NCAA tournament teams in Indiana and Iowa. He connected on a team-high 55 3-pointers and was the least turnover prone of Northwestern’s regulars with a turnover percentage of just 12.9.

Now as a senior leader alongside big man Alex Olah, he’ll play with some expectations for the first time. Northwestern may not be ready to enter the NCAA tournament conversation just yet, but the next step forward is a move into some form of postseason play and Demps will be a centerpiece of those efforts.

Filed to:


    Well I’m sure Yogi is Top 5 and Troy/JBJ are Top 20 or 15. So we’ll have 3 of the Top 25 players.

  • Dean Olson

    Hmmm wouldn’t that give us 4?


    Yes lol. I forgot about Bryant being 24th.

  • The Hound

    Finally Tre Demps is a senior. He has been at NW forever. I swear I recall him playing vs Brian Evans.

  • Ole Man

    You’re sure JBJ makes it? Hope so, but I would have thought he’d be in the last five if he did.

  • marcusgresham

    “The Wildcats enter season three of the Chris Collins era”….and year 16 of the Tre Demps era. Is he ever going to leave?!

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    I felt that way about Aaron Craft….

  • BangBang

    Drew Neitzel, Greg Paulus, Jerry McNamara. All those guys were on the 10 year plan

  • Tcuomo

    I’m sure if you asked other BIG fans, they would say the same thing about Yogi

  • ArghSonOfOhCrap

    Only to spread rumors.. I like our chances with TJ Leaf that would make 6 top 25.

  • Ryan Hill

    Jess Settles, Luke Recker, Crispin twins, Brian Cardinal, Brad Miller, the list goes on and on…

  • calbert40

    I’ll freely admit that I don’t know much at all about Happ, but I have to believe Bryant, as a McD AA, will be better than him. Or at least I certainly hope so.

  • calbert40

    I think he’d rate higher than Nunn, who is 22nd. I bet he is in the next group of 5.

  • BC Hoosier

    Come on. I know his defense left a TON to be desired, but he was one of the best in the league on the offensive end. Only two players return scoring more per game. (Only a half of point separates all three.) He also was one of, if not the best, rebounding guards in the league. (Top 10 among returning players at any position.)

  • Hoosier Hall

    Jess Settles! I was going to call that one out too. Played from 1993 to 1999 and was no slouch. Freshman of the year in 93/94 wasn’t he?

  • Hoosier Hall

    Rob Johnson? I wouldn’t think he would rank any higher than this though…

  • SilentBob

    Yea I can’t say I agree with Davis being all the way down at 25. Defensive player of the year in the big and his teams second leading scorer. Plus he dropped 2.6 dimes per game which is nice production from a forward. I’d probably have him around 15

  • Outoftheloop

    Craft will be back as an assistant coach at OSU within 5 years! Speaking of which where is the guard from Purdue who was all hustle and toughness? He should be an assistant coach at Purdue about now.

  • Crimson&CremeFraiche

    Chris Kramer?

  • Crimson&CremeFraiche

    I think he’s 2016.


    What did he really do to be named Top 25? Heck last year’s DPOY was only 25th lol.

  • BC Hoosier

    He’s 2016, but I read an article yesterday speculating that he possibly could move into the 2015 class. It stated that his original class was 2015, (turned 18 this past April). Not sure if that’s what he wants to do or if he’s in an academic position to be on campus in a few weeks. This could be interesting.

  • Bill Graham

    interesting that a kid who is ranked 150th is higher than a kid ranked 20th.

  • Bill Graham

    Tracy Abrams man…he still might be around next year too.

  • Bill Graham

    Ya isnt Paulus a senior this year?

  • BangBang

    They say if you listen closely, you can still hear Aaron Craft making hustle plays on the court for OSU


    If Indiana has 3-4 and Maryland has at least 3 with Trimble, Layman and Stone. Purdue will have at least 3 I’d think as well. I expect Illinois to have another in Malcolm Hill. Wisconsin to have another with Hayes. Does Penn State have a scorer this coming season? Seems like they always have that one guy.

  • At the Quarries

    Hey, he can just help himself to the Thon Maker offer!

  • Outoftheloop

    That’s the kid! Thanks. I still remember this play where Chris loses possession around his basket, he turns it on to “total all out”, launches himself into a head first dive, flicks the ball from behind off of the opponent’s leg stopping a 3 on 1 fast break, at crunch time, on the road, to help Purdue win the game! That remains my #1 defensive hustle play of all time. And his Mom was very photogenic on TV.


    Kind of like the guy with the ugliest looking shot that always went in. Can’t remember his name but I know you will Marcus

  • marcusgresham

    John Shurna (although I didn’t remember it off the top of my head)
    The fugliest jumpshot in the world.

  • marcusgresham

    …but you don’t hear any whistles

  • b_side

    Agreed. Happ is a year older, sure, but neither have seen the court.