Big Ten’s top 25 players for 2016-17: 25-21

  • 08/08/2016 1:01 pm in

With the official start of practice less than two months away, UMHoops and Inside the Hall have again partnered to bring you a preseason breakdown of the top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2016-2017 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. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Michigan (6-foot-4, guard, junior)
27.8 mpg, 8.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, 52 eFG percentage

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman started last season as a reserve behind Caris LeVert and played limited minutes throughout the non-conference portion of Michigan’s schedule. After LeVert went down in the Big Ten opener, Abdur-Rahkman stepped up at the two-guard spot for the Wolverines.

He averaged 10 points per game in league play and was one of the only reliable playmakers off the dribble for the Wolverines. He’s unique for an off-the-dribble player because he’s very efficient finishing at the rim (57% in Big Ten games) and he doesn’t turn the ball over often. He used just 16% of available possessions for Michigan last season and it will be interesting to see how his role grows as a junior with John Beilein having an offseason to think of ways to integrate his ability to get to the rim.

24. Dom Uhl, Iowa (6-foot-9, forward, junior)
17.2 mpg, 6.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.8 apg, 49.7 eFG percentage

Somebody has to step up for Iowa, right?

The Hawkeyes graduated Anthony Clemmons, Adam Woodbury, Jarrod Uthoff and Mike Gesell, so there will be plenty of opportunity next season under Fran McCaffery. Uhl isn’t a traditional big man at 6-foot-9 and 215 pounds, but that is part of what makes him intriguing. He shot 45 percent on 3s as a sophomore and just 39.6 percent on 2s.

In recent comments, McCaffery spoke highly of Uhl’s offseason work and suggested that he expects him to have a more well-rounded game in his third season. Specifically, McCaffery said Uhl is now more comfortable finishing at the rim and in transition. As Iowa’s top returning reserve, Uhl’s time to take a major step forward is here.

23. Corey Sanders, Rutgers (6-foot-2, guard, sophomore)
33.4 mpg, 15.9 ppg, 4.3 apg, 3.3 rpg, 1.8 spg, 47.8 eFG percentage

Sanders was one of the Big Ten’s most entertaining players last season, but was difficult to place on the list. His numbers were a bit hollow given his lack of efficiency and the fact that Rutgers wasn’t even competitive in most Big Ten games. He used the highest percentage of possessions of any Big Ten player in league play (30.3) and ranked third in the league in assist rate (35.5 percent) and second in steal percentage (3.2).

He did, however, shoot a dismal 26.3 percent on 3s in Big Ten play and had the worst efficiency numbers as the ball handler in pick-and-roll situations of any player in the league who had at least 100 possessions.

Sanders tested the NBA draft waters before wisely opting to return for his sophomore season. Perhaps better coaching and structure under first-year coach Steve Pikiell will help him grow in his second season. There’s no questioning his talent, but including him on the list despite being ranked 77 of 88 Big Ten players in KenPom’s offensive rating metric was a slight bet that he’ll clean up some of the recklessness in his game.

22. Shep Garner, Penn State (6-foot-1, guard, junior)
35.2 mpg, 14.8 ppg, 3.4 apg, 3.2 rpg, 1.2 spg, 47.8 eFG percentage

The atmosphere in the Bryce Jordan Center might be the worst of any Big Ten venue. That, however, could change in the coming seasons as Pat Chambers continues to improve the overall talent level in State College. The Nittany Lions welcome one of the league’s best incoming recruiting classes this fall, but the key to taking another step forward in the conference starts with Garner.

As a sophomore, he was Penn State’s second leading scorer and was second on the team in assists. He also improved his 3-point shooting by three percent from his freshman season and increased his free throw rate (FTA/FGA) by 13 percent. Additionally, he ranked in the top half of Big Ten players in points per possession (minimum 100 possessions) as the ball handler in pick-and-roll situations at .82 according to Synergy Sports. With better talent around him in his third season, look for Garner to take another step forward as a junior.

21. Kevin Huerter, Maryland (6-foot-6, forward, freshman)
USA Basketball U18 team

Maryland lost a significant portion of its 3-point shooting from last year’s roster and Kevin Huerter should fill that void immediately.

The 6-foot-6 freshman is an elite perimeter shooter and he’s proven it at multiple levels. He made 45% of his threes as a senior at Shenendehowa and 42% of his threes on the Nike EYBL circuit. He also made the cut for the USA Basketball U18 team which coasted to a FIBA Americas Gold Medal.

But it would be selling Huerter short to say that he’s just a shooter. He averaged eight rebounds and six assists per game in high school and shows a terrific feel for the game with his passing ability and vision.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

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  • SCHoosier

    PSU has a very good freshman class coming in.Shep Garner probably had the worst shot selection in the conference last year..be interesting to see if he’s willing (or can be made) to share and distribute the ball. Lions could be a factor coming conference play.

  • TomJameson

    I’ve always had a problem with these lists including freshmen. The jump from HS to CBB is a pretty big jump and doesn’t always go as projected. Maybe there should be, in addition to this list, a “Top 25 Freshmen” list.

  • Arch Puddington

    I might agree with you, but the B1G is really down this year. Even as things stand, a guy name Dom Uhl from Iowa is 24th. Take away the Freshman, and Alex would be scouting the rec league I play in for names.

  • Bill Graham

    Sanders should be higher. You have to consider who he is playing with. Of course he is inefficient because he’s their only player… most team’s game plan for Rutgers reads thusly: “Shut down Sanders and we win.”

    This list is interesting though. We might have four (potentially five) in the top 20 between Rj, JBJ, TB, OG, and Collin…interestingly enough I bet they leave off our unknowns like Newkirk, Davis, and CuJo….I’m curious about the No 1 player in the league… Melo, or Hayes has my vote (probably Hayes even though I despise him)- he’s the most valuable and versatile. — I dont think any freshman deserves top 5 (Bridges included).

  • Bill Graham

    I think you include them just not in the top 5 or 10…that has to be earned….but do you really leave off Bridges when Uhl is on the list? —with that said though I bet CuJo and DD dont make it.

  • E Foy McNaughton

    Love your optimistic view!
    That being said, I imagine the realistic top 20 players will only have 3 IU players, with JBJ between 10-20, OG between 5-15, and TB in the top 5. That’s my prediction at least.
    Peace out!

  • Ole Man

    Maybe JBJ makes it; maybe not. Will be interesting to see. If he’s on there I expect him in the next five.

  • pcantidote

    You are not sure if JBJ will be on a list that includes Dom Uhl? Interesting.

  • Ole Man

    Only because his sample was so small last year and he’s coming off the injury.
    Think he ‘might’ have a breakout year, but he has a lot to prove.
    Should “light” his fires, so to speak.

  • straight no chaser

    Kevin Huerter is #64 nationally. Doesn’t De’Ron at #40 deserve to be on this list?

  • straight no chaser

    I would like to know what the ranking criteria are. I’ve seen lists that take into consideration NBA prospects, value to the team, etc. etc., which is why it might be important to include freshmen, especially ones that are expected to be in the starting lineup. I would think that despite his #64 ranking Kevin Huerter was included because of his value as a shooter on a team that needs shooters, and that he is expected to contribute immediately. If De’Ron doesn’t get ranked on this list, it may be because he is less valuable to us than Huerter is expected to be to his team, even though De’Ron is ranked higher nationally and might even be the better player.

  • jimmygoiu

    none of these five players deserve their ranking.

  • CreanFaithful

    Lol!

  • Dean Olson

    I disagree. This is ultimately an imperfect projection anyway, so including freshman seems fine to me. Plus, these players have earned their spots. Just because they haven’t played in college doesn’t mean they don’t deserve their spots in these rankings or any others. Was TB not a top 5 or 10 B1G player last year? Of course, and you know what, it wasn’t a surprise either. No reason to limit where freshman can be when their ability to impact a team and the league is unlimited.

  • TomJameson

    I hear you Arch, might be nice to see your name on this list. 🙂

    There have been a lot of talent leave the B1G, but that doesn’t change my stance. The up-and-down seasons for teams, and leagues, happen, but it doesn’t change my mind about the big step up from HS to CBB. The different seasons strengths would just make both those lists more … interesting.

  • TomJameson

    I really do understand your point Bill, but there have been very highly touted recruits coming in from HS that just don’t cut it in CBB. Whether that is because of the team they went to, or the big step up in talent/size/speed/strength … of the CBB player.

    Bridges would be high on the “Top 25 Incoming Freshmen” list. As a freshman, that’s where he belongs..

    Then it would be interesting to look back the next year to see how those freshmen fared. Of course, we do that on our own anyway. 🙂

  • Hardwood83

    I would choose Happ over Hayes. Not sure either would be #1 though.

  • Bill Graham

    Good point. I think it has to do with depth. If De’Ron was on a team that really needed a starting PF then he’d probably crack the top 25.

  • cooper

    I have never heard of any of those players