Big Ten’s top 25 players for 2016-17: 15-11

  • 08/10/2016 9:00 am 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 third installment of players 20-16 is available below: (Previously: 25-21, 20-16)

15. Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern (6-foot-3, guard, junior)
35.7 mpg, 13.8 ppg, 6.7 apg, 3.6 rpg, 1.0 spg, 48.7 eFG percentage

Quietly, McIntosh put together one of the better seasons for a Big Ten guard as a sophomore. He logged the third highest percentage of minutes played in the conference, was second in assist rate to Denzel Valentine and had an offensive rating of 110.1 for the season. He was also fourth in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio.

His efficiency dipped quite a bit in league play (40.4 percent on 2s, 27.6 percent on 3s), but given the workload and responsibility he carried in the Wildcats offense, that wasn’t totally unexpected. With the graduation of Tre Demps and Alex Olah, all of the notable Bill Carmody holdovers have departed Evanston and Northwestern is officially McIntosh’s team to run.

As a junior, he has a chance to nab All-Big Ten honors if he can develop a more reliable jumpshot and lead the Wildcats, who still have never made the NCAA tournament, to a few more Big Ten wins.

14. Eron Harris, Michigan State (6-foot-3, guard, senior)
20.9 mpg, 9.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.1 apg, 52.5 eFG percentage

Harris is Michigan State’s only returning starter from last year’s team. While he doesn’t have the hype of some of the Spartan freshman, he’s a natural fit to take on a much bigger role as a senior.

The West Virginia transfer has proven that he can put up big numbers (he averaged 17 points per game as a sophomore at West Virginia), but he’ll have to find more consistency as a senior. Michigan State hasn’t had a freshman lead the team in scoring since Shawn Respert in 1992, which means the smart money might be on Harris to lead the Spartans this season.

Harris has proven he can hit the three-point shot (44% last season, 41% career), but he’ll need to develop a more consistent game inside the arc (43%) and improve his assist (17.3 assist rate) to turnover (18.9% turnover rate) numbers to become a more complete player.

13. Derrick Walton Jr., Michigan (6-foot-1, guard, senior)
33.6 mpg, 11.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.5 apg, 48.3 eFG percentage

Walton enters his fourth year as Michigan’s starting point guard and he’s proven that he can be the steady-hand that leads a team, but he hasn’t put everything together to grow into a star.

Walton can hit open shots, he can distribute the ball and he’s a ridiculous rebounder for his size (he was a top-20 defensive rebounder in the conference despite standing just 6-foot-1). His only bugaboo has been his inability to finish inside the arc. Walton shot just 36% on 140 2-point attempts last season after making just 32% of his 2s as a sophomore. The sophomore struggles were chalked up to a turf-toe injury that eventually cost him his season, but the recurring problems last year pose a significant question moving forward.

Walton was Michigan’s “KenPom MVP” in six of Michigan’s Big Ten nine wins after Caris LeVert’s injury last season, so his importance to the Wolverines is clear. But he’ll need to take the next step to help Michigan contend.

12. Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin (6-foot-4, guard, senior)
34.9 mpg, 13.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.4 apg, 50 eFG percentage

Koenig has been a stalwart in the Wisconsin rotation for the past three seasons, two of which concluded with the Badgers in the Final Four. (And last season, this shot by Koenig sent the Badgers to the Sweet Sixteen.) His efficiency dipped a bit as a junior in a larger role, but he was still a productive player. Koenig ranked in the 96th percentile nationally as a spot-up shooter, according to Synergy Sports. In 109 spot-up possessions, he scored 138 points. He was also a very good 3-point shooter in Big Ten play at 42.3 percent, good for ninth in the conference.

Given that Wisconsin returns every notable contributor from a team expected to contend for the league crown, Koenig’s role isn’t expected to change much in his final season. His midrange game needs to improve – he shot just 35.3 percent on 2-point jump shots – but if Koenig can just split the difference between his efficiency numbers as a sophomore and a junior, he’ll easily be one of the Big Ten’s best guards.

11. Josh Langford, Michigan State (6-foot-5, guard, freshman)
McDonald’s All-American

He might not boast the same highlight reel caliber dunks as fellow freshman Miles Bridges, but Langford might be even more equipped to make an immediate impact in East Lansing.

Langford averaged 21 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game last year at Madison Academy and he seems likely to slot into the starting lineup for Tom Izzo. What do you want from an instant impact freshman? How about a complete player.

“He handles the ball like a point guard, shoots like a shooting guard and attacks like an athletic wing,” wrote MLive’s Brendan Quinn after watching Langford this summer. “The fundamentals are sound and the IQ is high.”

(Photo credit: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

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  • HoosierStuckInKY

    Anyone else breathe a sigh of relief while reading that Tre Demps and Alex Olah graduated? Even though we won games against them, those guys always seemed to get their stats.

  • Shaggy_C

    One guarantee the last couple years is that in a game against IU (even for the subpar teams in conference) -someone- is going to have a career night.

  • sarge

    I am starting to think RJ isn’t going to make this list. For a guy who was injured most of last year, he was very productive and you could tell that we missed him badly in the tournament. Look for RJ to have a great year.

  • Oldguyy

    I’d certainly rather have Blackmon (#18) than Eron Harris (#14), and Harris is from my hometown.

  • sarge

    Last year’s senior class in the big ten was terrific. There will be lots of fans breathing easier this year looking at the opposing teams roster.

  • millzy32

    I’ve still never gotten the infatuation many fans have with RJ. I like him. He’s a nice player but has been and always will be a role player for us. He may or may not start and I’m fine with that. He could be a good spark coming in off the bench. He’s definitely not shown anything to this point that would lead me to believe he’s a top 25 player in the Big Ten.

  • I am Baby Cakes

    Same here. RJ is just a solid college basketball player. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • IUBizmark

    Langford sounds scary and I know Miles Bridges is even scarier. If that team can keep the turnovers down and play defense they will be a really tough one to game plan for. So many weapons.

  • sarge

    You could say the same thing about other guys on this list though. There isn’t a ton of talent returning to most teams and I think RJ would start on most other teams in the conference. That said, I understand where you are coming from. He could be more consistent and needs to add more to his game offensively. I think he was a great two way guard for us as a sophomore and I think he will be deserving of a spot on this list by season’s end.

  • sarge

    Just as a reference, he averaged 8.1 points 3.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 24.9 minutes per game and had an efg% of 58. Compared to Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman who is #25 on this list, his stats are better playing less minutes.

  • CreanFaithful

    Which is logical. Typically teams use their best defenders to mark the best scorers of the opposing team. When that is effective, a traditional third or fourth option will find themselves with more offensive opportunities than usual and against (perhaps) weaker defenders. That said, I don’t think there will be too many “weak” defenders on this squad.

  • inLinE6

    If Bridges is scary, then I’d say OG is frightening.

  • jimmygoiu

    Robert Johnson will show this year that he should have been ranked in the top 21-25 range.

  • E Foy McNaughton

    I’m with you Oldguyy — I’d be willing to bet that if the B1G coaches could have a draft of 2 guards, every single coach would draft JBJ over EH —– Don’t get me wrong, EH is a nice player, but no way he would start for IU. Actually, I’d play RJ over him.

  • E Foy McNaughton

    Hard to say – I think he will be improved over last year and will play 20+ minutes a game, but I don’t think he starts (I know, I know, I know — many think he will start at the PG, but I think JN starts). And I don’t see any 6th man making the list.

  • CreamandCrimson

    “RJ is just a solid college basketball player”…I’m not disagreeing with you at all. I think he’s a good 4-year player. That being said, is Eron Harris more than a solid college player? Is Abdur-Rahman? I don’t really care who’s on the list and I’m not fretting over whether Johnson is or not but I think it’s fair to consider why Johnson is “just solid” while those two are listed as top 25 players.

  • John D Murphy

    I’d take RJ over JBJ 10/10 times. He is a much better all around player. Don’t give me scoring stats.

  • Hoosier Hall

    Certainly Maryland fans will be glad Yogi is gone.

  • Hoosier Hall

    I’m thinking OG will be in the next group… Rob Johnson will prove he is a top 25 guy by the end of the season.

  • SCHoosier

    Koenig is the perfect PG for what WIS has coming back. Underrated IMO. Not sure about Harris..has talent but still hasn’t found a shot he doesn’t like. Walton and McIntosh are solid.

  • Fivelefts

    This list, really gets me excited about this team! I’m thinking about our players like, RJ and CH, who aren’t on the list, but are among the best players in our conference. I think this team will quickly become a national focus, based on their play! The addition of the new players, coupled with the underrating of our upperclassmen, builds natural intrigue about this team..

  • Ole Man

    Don’t know why anyone would start over RJ at PG, at least initially.
    RJ can shoot, assist, break down the D, create shots for others and for himself.
    Until JN shows he can do the same, I want RJ leading IU.

  • Ole Man

    Sorry, but he’s more than that. He has played second fiddle to Yogi for two years. He will shine this year.

  • sarge

    Totally agree, and this team should be tough as nails. Our depth will make us better than other teams simply with competitive practices. A very nice mix of talent and experience.

  • sarge

    Maryland fans and Melo Trimble. Yogi torched him every time they played. Melo will play with a lot more confidence against Indiana this year.

  • E Foy McNaughton

    That’s fair — I just would be concerned about RJ’s turnover rate at the point.

    By the way you nailed it on predicting JBJ between 16-20!

    Seriously though, I would never choose to have EH over JBJ….

  • I am Baby Cakes

    Try like 4th fiddle. Yogi, JBJ and Troy and Yogi, Troy and Bryant last year.

  • Oldguyy

    Disagree on Koenig. His assist% was only 15.1 last year, which was 33rd in the league, significantly worse than both of IU’s starting guards, and only modestly ahead of Troy Williams, at 13.9. And his offensive rating was lower than every Hoosier rotation player last year, with the exception of Williams, whose ORtg was 108, compared to Koenig’s 109.6. IMO, he’s actually overrated because he happened to be on a couple of Final Four teams.

  • Justin Beard

    I agree. If his turnover numbers improve and that shot consistency goes up a few notches then we will have ourselves a star.

  • Bill Graham

    He needs to cut down on errant turnovers and find a niche stat wise. He’s an all around solid player and I’m with Ole Man in that this is his year to shine (and next year) but he needs to be that guy that gets 6 assists per game…or if not that he needs to be that rebounding guard with 5-7 rebounds a game…or be a steal guy….its just hard to throw him in the top 25 when he doesn’t light it up in any statistical category.

  • Bill Graham

    Good thing you inserted that last sentence. I was about to pounce John!
    *sidenote I think its too early in their college careers to judge who is more valuable…time well tell. Will RJ establish himself as excellent in some area? Will JBJ learn to play better D than IU’s football team? Time will only tell…

  • Bill Graham

    Ya but you have to remember they are freshman…In most cases (not all) experience trumps talent…and im not talkin donald

  • Darrell Allen

    Totally agree with your CH point!

  • pcantidote

    I think we all know that JBJ is better than all of these guys.

  • Yep. Also, leadership is a mysterious concept stat guys seem to really struggle with. Poor fellas.

  • Bill Graham

    So just taking a shot in the dark the top 10 have to be (in no particular order)

    1. Hayes
    2. Melo
    3. Bridges
    4. Bryant
    5. Hill
    6. Jok
    7. Swanigan
    8. O.G.
    9. Happ
    10. Mason or Lyle

    *least confident on Lyle and Mason…I could see Coffey, Winston, Edwards, or Carr instead… either way the aforementioned 15 players all deserve to be on the list and by my calculations (hard math here) 5 of them will be left off…tough to justify leaving any one of these 15 off when guys like Abdul-Rahkman are on the list…

    **Sidenote no #1 is a given…its obviously Tim Priller.

  • Bill Graham

    I’m glad to see Demps gone after playing 8 seasons with NW…I swear he was a senior when Shurna was a freshman.

  • CreamandCrimson

    Again, I’m not advocating for Johnson to be in the top 25. My response was to a post that said RJ wasn’t on the list because “he’s just a solid basketball player”…my contention is with Abdur-Rahman at #25 and Harris in the top 15. I was asking what those two did that were even marginally better than Johnson that allowed them to place on the list.

    Anyway, I don’t know why I’m even commenting on this…it’s a fictional list that is made via the opinion of some very knowledgeable people. I agree with your overall point that it’s hard to include Johnson in the list (and I wouldn’t have him in the top 25 if it were my list), but the same could be said for Abdur-Rahman and Harris.

  • Ole Man

    LOL! Good point!

  • Ole Man

    Yes; and I agree with you that he will emerge as a really strong leader.

  • Bill Graham

    Haha…I like your “I dont even know why I’m commented on this part”…short answer b.c. your a hoosier and basketball is in the blood….anyway I get your point and its a good one at that…In a different post I pointed out that guys like Coffey, Mason, Carr, and Lyle will probably be left off of this list and all 4 of them are significantly better than Abdur-Rahkman.

  • TomJameson

    You know JN has been showing CTC what he can do for a year now while practicing and playing against the team (and Yogi). RH the same.

    I just don’t think that Crean is going to base his starting lineup with the thought that he has to first wait to “show” the collective us anything at all.

  • straight no chaser


  • straight no chaser

    I like the love RJ is getting. I have always thought he should be our PG after Yogi. If he is healthy, I think he will make noise this year and will be one of our gems.

  • straight no chaser

    Rankings don’t matter when it comes to players like RJ because their production is not measured as much in the conventional stats (although his turnovers need to decrease of course). The only opinion that matters with RJ is his coach’s opinion, and CTC has always said how important RJ is to our game. He has fantastic court vision and just makes everyone around him play as a team. When RJ is on the floor I always feel like our team is one elastic unit with a single collective consciousness. You can’t really teach this type of talent, and RJ has it. It’s hard to make a case for him using conventional metrics and stats. You have to be attuned to the artistry of the game.