Big Ten’s top 25 players for 2016-17: 5-1

  • 08/12/2016 8:59 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 fourth installment of players 10-6 is available below (Previously: 25-21, 20-16, 15-11, 10-6):

5. Peter Jok, Iowa (6-foot-6, guard, senior)
27.7 mpg, 16.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.4 apg, 53.1 eFG percentage

Jok came almost out of nowhere last season and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. He lit up the scoresheet with his ability to shoot the ball and turned Iowa into one of the surprise stories of the early season. He also had a lot of help from seniors Jarrod Uthoff, Mike Gessell, Anthony Clemmons and Adam Woodbury.

They are all gone and now it’s Jok’s turn to lead the Hawkeyes as a senior. He says he’s ready despite the fact that Iowa doesn’t really have a point guard or a center on the roster.

Jok’s elite talent is his ability to shoot the ball coming off of screens. Denzel Valentine (192) was the only Big Ten player to score more points off of screens than Jok (115) last season, per Synergy Sports. He’s shown promise in other areas of the game, but the focus will be on how he can improve as a halfcourt playmaker in his senior season.

4. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin (6-foot-8, forward, senior)
36.2 mpg, 15.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, .4 bpg, 1.1 spg, 41.2 eFG percentage

Hayes was ranked first on our preseason list last season and his junior year didn’t turn out quite as expected. He regressed in almost every efficiency metric as his usage increased and he learned to play without Frank Kaminsky flanking him in the frontcourt.

Some of the numbers are flat out ugly. His 2-point shooting dropped 14% down to just 40%, his 3-point shooting also dropped double-digits to 29% and even his rebounding saw a downward trend. As a sophomore, he was one of the conference’s five most-efficient players that used at least a fifth of their team’s possessions. As a junior, he ranked 29th in that same metric.

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So why is Hayes still in our top five? He still has some incredibly important skills and I’d be shocked if his shooting numbers don’t improve in his senior season. Hayes led the Big Ten in free throw rate last season, attempting 61.8 free throws per 100 field goal attempts in conference games. He also was still an integral part of the Badger team that turned its season around and won 11 of its last 13 conference games.

3. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin (6-foot-9, forward, redshirt sophomore)
28.1 mpg, 12.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.8 spg, 1.3 apg, 53.8 eFG percentage

Happ is the latest on a long list of Wisconsin big men to benefit from a redshirt season in Madison. From Brian Butch to Frank Kaminsky to several others in-between, it’s a system that works. Happ was a player we were intrigued by last offseason as we included him in our preseason top 25 list at No. 23, but he exceeded expectations. Now as a sophomore, he’s a legitimate All-American candidate who will have a say in the race for Big Ten player of the year.

Happ is a two-way threat as he’s the only returning player who was on the league’s all-defensive team last season. His steal percentage (4.0) ranked 20th nationally a year ago. He’s also the Big Ten’s second best returning defensive rebounder. Offensively, he was the most efficient of Wisconsin’s big three (Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig) and he scored 12 or more points in nine of the final 10 games last season.

2. Thomas Bryant, Indiana (6-foot-10, forward, sophomore)
22.6 mpg, 11.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.9 bpg, 69.3 eFG percentage

Bryant, who could have been a first round pick in June’s NBA draft, made the decision to return to Bloomington for his sophomore season. His presence in Indiana’s frontcourt is a major reason why the Hoosiers could be right back in the thick of the Big Ten race.

Bryant was incredibly efficient as a freshman as he shot 70.7 percent on 2-point field goals. That number ranked fourth nationally. He also ranked in the top ten in the conference in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Bryant is the league’s most efficient returning post-up player and it’ll be interesting to see if Indiana features him as the first option on offense with the graduation of Yogi Ferrell.

1. Melo Trimble, Maryland (6-foot-3, guard, junior)
32.8 mpg, 14.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.9 apg, 48.2 eFG percentage

Trimble was ranked second on our preseason list last season and underachieved by most accounts. So what’s the argument for him moving up a spot?

First, there just isn’t as much proven high-level talent in the conference this season with just two returning players projected in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft. Second, Trimble was battling a hamstring injury that first popped up in early January and seemed to affect him throughout the conference season.

Trimble still has elite abilities, especially at the college level.

He’s one of the best pick-and-roll guards in the conference if not the country. Trimble led the Big Ten (by 73 points) with 455 points created off of pick-and-rolls, per Synergy, and was more efficient than anyone else in the top eight other than Denzel Valentine.

His uncanny ability to draw fouls helps, but Big Ten refs might be catching on. As a freshmen he drew 6.2 fouls per game (2nd in the Big Ten) and as a sophomore that number fell to 4.6 (15th) in conference games.

Trimble is still the best point guard in the Big Ten and while he doesn’t have quite the supporting cast that he had last year, he’ll be one of the league’s best this year.

Filed to:

  • TomJameson

    I think that’s a good assessment … “just in a bad spot”. Jok will probably be the primary focus of the defenses they’ll face, so he will really have to step up big time to deserve that #5 spot.

  • TomJameson

    lol … Yeah Arch, you could very easily be right, but you might want to think of another term other than “sleeper” 🙂

  • IUJeff

    Not a bash at all. I hope he gets better in that area. Refs will walk on you if you let them.

  • Koko

    I don’t agree on your assessment of Trimble being great the last two years.
    He is a good player that couldn’t make the draft this year. He surely has his
    moments but great?…..nah. He’s pretty good but not great. My opinion of a great player is they show up 95% of the time. Melo does not.

  • Koko

    I agree…..Jok and Trimble have a tendency to force things and make mistakes when the going gets tough.

  • hoosierjakester

    Trimble will disappoint again this year. He shot poorly, he made errors and couldn’t bring all that talent together. His scoring average would have been down considerably if refs weren’t whistle happy for him. Ok so he’s good at pick and roll. Seems to be a one trick pony. Maybe deserves to be on this list, but No. 1 makes no sense. If he’s the best we have the BIG is way down again and we will have similar seeds next March.

  • SilentBob

    Well perhaps were just getting hung up on personal definitions of great, maybe you see it as an absolute synonym for elite? There’s a grey area between good and elite, and I choose to call it great lol.

    That being said, the team will be all his again. Pretty much like his freshmen year, so I expect the PPGs to come up a few ticks. The floor will be well spaced again like his freshmen year, so I expect his selection to be a bit better. And they could have the ball handling to move him off the ball every now and then like they could his freshmen year. Losing Dez was huge and I assumed it would be. Still he is already comfortably sitting in the thousand point club. If he stays four years, it’s pretty easy to imagine him leaving as both the Big Tens all time leading scorer, and also top 5-9 in assists in big ten history.

    If that’s not elite, idk what is.

  • kaponya44

    I agree with you more after you backed off from Happ as a sleeper a bit at the end of your comment.I was more impressed than with Hayes.Happ may regress on court as a focal point,but it is clear he has maturity and very good IQ.Kids with similar qualities find a way..Hayes may be arguably better talent,but Happ has more intangibles.His maturity level seems higher.That makes up a lot of ground in the college game,but even if Hayes proves better on the floor , Happ may yet be more employable by the NBA..Good two way players can be molded into excellent coaches if they can learn to lead and teach.I saw a lot of progress out of Happ as a leader for them.Im just saying, the kid may fall off ,but it won’t make me feel any better when IU plays them.And I doubt he regresses in any way unless they get really good balanced scoring and he doesn’t have to increase as a result.. Edit —-> As in TOO unselfish.

  • Koko

    Thanks for your reply….I guess our personal definitions will
    work out during the course of the season…..for Melo that is.

  • Without acknowledging that CTC was bad enough with the refs to be “infuriating,” I will say that I think he was getting more assertive toward the end of the season.

  • IUJeff

    Obviously I wasn’t infuriated. Just building off what I was responding to. The horses are in the stable. I think we are fine at PG. if TB can stay on the court, we’ll be really tough. I think we will be good defensively and will rebound well. If history holds, we will be elite on O again. The intangibles are coaching, player health, teamwork, defense. This is gonna be a really good year for IU.

  • Agreed, all around. I think the #1 issue early in the season will be health–a number of key questions there. I think we’ll be happy with this team defensively, and it seems like a bunch of kids who will work well together. I think teamwork will be a huge strength, both between the returning players and those coming in. I anticipate TB being a real leader on the court and off, and he’s motivated to do something special after the UNC loss.

    Finally, CTC impressed me last year. He changed his coaching style in a number of ways, as far as I can tell. He altered his workouts to save the team’s strength for later in the season (avoiding the late fade we’d seen in the past), he developed a great leader in Yogi in a number of ways, he turned the team around defensively in impressive fashion. I think we’re really going to be surprised with him as a coach this year, and if I’m right, we could be in for a really fun year. I can’t wait.

  • RMK

    Completely agree. That team played comparable to a pick-up game for stretches of last year, but Lyle is a player with legit star potential. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him have a 15-4-4 season this year… If he can keep his head on straight.

  • IdahoHoosier

    I think people get way too caught up in thinking they have to hate rivals who are successful and seem to be doing things the right way. If you want to read something you can’t understand, check out anything posted under “straight no chaser” or “ForeverIU”. Hopefully you can understand that.