Big Ten’s top 25 players for 2017-18: 15-11

  • 08/02/2017 9:19 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 2017-2018 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 15-11 is available below: (Previously: 25-21, 20-16)

15. Jordan Murphy, Minnesota (6-foot-6, forward, junior)

Murphy quietly put together a strong sophomore season that was a major reason the Gophers made a major leap up in the Big Ten standings. He was fifth in Big Ten games in defensive rebounding percentage (24.9) and first in free throw rate (63.8 percent), two numbers that suggest he belongs in the top 15 to begin the season. Murphy was also ninth in conference games in 2-point field goal percentage at 58.2 and 13th in block percentage. The next step is to add a reliable perimeter game, which he’s lacked through two seasons in Minneapolis. Murphy is just a 17.8 percent 3-point shooter (73 career attempts). The combination of Murphy and Reggie Lynch in the frontcourt gives Richard Pitino one of the best combinations in the league.

14. Cassius Winston, Michigan State (6-foot, guard, sophomore)

Winston had the No. 2 assist rate in the country last year, per KenPom, and that came in a largely underwhelming season. If Michigan State makes the leap that many expect, then Winston running the show will be a big reason why. He has weapons all around him in Miles Bridges, Nick Ward, Josh Langford and Jaren Jackson and he just needs to get them the ball. He’s proven he can do that, he hasn’t proven he can value the basketball. Winston’s turnover rate of 26.5 percent (and some mediocre freshman defense) is why he only played 51.5 percent of available minutes for Tom Izzo last season. That number needs to rise as a sophomore and if it does then Winston should be one of the best lead guards in the conference.

13. Robert Johnson, Indiana (6-foot-3, guard, senior)

In a move that some viewed as a surprise, Johnson tested the NBA draft waters last spring, but opted to return for his senior season and the chance to be the primary option in the IU backcourt. It will be the first time in his IU career that Johnson hasn’t had to defer to either Yogi Ferrell or James Blackmon Jr. As a junior, he averaged 12.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. New IU coach Archie Miller has lauded Johnson’s work ethic in the offseason, calling him one of the most focused players he’s ever been around. Johnson has always been a reliable shooter (39.6 percent for his career on 3s), but he’ll need to figure out a way to get to the foul line more and cut down on the turnovers to reach his full potential in his final season.

12. Scottie Lindsey, Northwestern (6-foot-5, guard, senior)

Lindsey was in the conversation for All-Big Ten first team honors before missing four games late in the season due to mononucleosis. He was never truly himself after the illness as he scored in double figures just once in his first five games after returning to the floor. Still, Lindsey was one of the Big Ten’s better guards as a junior and should be in the conversation once again as a senior. Lindsey was a strong finisher last season (51.5 percent on 2s) and he’s also a career 35.2 percent 3-point shooter. His length makes him one of the Big Ten’s better wing defenders and he’s also terrific at taking care of the ball (11.7 turnover percentage in league play). The Wildcats were able to reach last season’s NCAA tournament for the first time in school history because of Lindsey and Bryant McIntosh, who also returns to Evanston for his senior campaign.

11. Kevin Huerter, Maryland (6-foot-7, guard, sophomore)

Huerter isn’t the flashiest player on this list, but the 6-foot-7, 190 pound sophomore does a bit of everything for Maryland. He was one of three freshmen to step into major roles for Maryland last year and he followed that up by making the United States U19 team this summer. Huerter can shoot it from deep (38 percent), but he’s also an effective passer who could shoulder a larger playmaking load without Melo Trimble. At this point in his development, Huerter is a better playmaker for others than himself. In the ball screen game last year, he handed out 24 assists but only scored five baskets for himself. He’ll need to become more aggressive searching for his own scoring while maintaining his passing and catch and shoot talent on the perimeter.

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  • Outoftheloop

    Robert deserves this attention! Robert, Juwan and DeRon must lead the Hoosiers. Go IU!

  • SCHoosier

    Rob certainly does deserve the attention..and I’m thinking he is going to get it with his play and leadership.

  • HoosierOne

    RJ is a great asset to IU. With the exception of a 1-2 month stretch last season when the whole team was in a funk he’s been one of the most consistent players on the team and does everything from scoring, bringing the ball up, passing, setting screens, and hitting clutch shots. He just needs a better system to play within along a defined role which I think Miller will give him. He will shine this year.

  • Mark Bando

    What I hope RJ does more than anything this year is set the tone defensively. I think its on the defensive that we are going to win most of our games.

  • marcusgresham

    I’m pretty sure Scottie Lindsey was once #25 on this list, and has moved up one slot each year he has been in college.

  • E Foy McNaughton

    I had wondered if RJ would make the list, and here he is. The more I look a the list, the more I feel Oleman is correct in asserting that the B1G is down.
    I do think RJ could be very special and break out this year, but he would not make the top 25 in the ACC, let alone 13.
    I see his vertical jump is over 40″ now, and it sounds like he put the work in this summer for a jump.

  • marcusgresham

    I think he is the epitome of an Archie Miller type of guy. Doesn’t say much, doesn’t show much emotion, & is as tough as over-cooked steak.

  • adam

    kinda like how robbie hummel played for purdue for what felt like 13 years

  • Trevor Howenstine

    Then Arron Craft was at OSU for 15years

  • HoosierHopeful

    I’m starting to wonder if Haas is going to show up on this list. I personally don’t think that guy has any talent and only has his genes going for him. I will be in firm disagreement if he is in the top ten.

  • Bill Graham

    Greg Paulus should be a senior again at Duke this year.

  • I think RJ is going to flourish in Archie’s systems (both offense and defense) and with the tutelage of the new coaching staff in general. My prediction is that he’ll be one of the better surprises next season.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Jess Settles of Iowa.

  • iubase

    RJ will flourish in the CONSISTENT role that Archie will craft for him.

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    RJ does get some love!! i want to see him just take this team over and lead.

  • Gladeskat

    Scottie Lindsey is beginning his 4th and final year at NU. He never redshirted.

  • Hmmm…. He’s going to have to communicate a heckuva lot more to be a prototypical Archie guy, I think. Can’t play Archie’s defense if you’re not communicating.

  • TomJameson

    Yeah, like Mark said, I too think RJ is going to flourish. Not only because of Archie, but also because he does not have to defer to Yogi or JBJ AND because he is finally becoming a real leader of this team. Archie’s comments about Robert are extremely telling, and encouraging.

  • TomJameson

    Yeah, what you said ….

  • TomJameson

    In reality, it was only 12 years for both Hummel and Craft. lol

  • TomJameson

    I would add Collin to those three, and you’ll have the leaders of the team … and possibly 4 of the starters.

  • Great point. It’ll be interesting to see how leadership slots in with JM and CH also sounding like they’re serious about next season. I think we could have a better-led team on-court than we’ve seen in a long time at IU.

  • Geoff_85

    Brian Cardinal

  • iugradmark

    Archie has said that they need Robert to speak out. Early comments by Coach were that he was locked in and working hard but was the kind of guy that came in with headphones on did his work and left. We need a vocal RoJo. It is great to lead by example but also as a senior, he needs to use his voice.

    RoJo mentioned that the feedback from NBA was they need to see if he can play point. I think he will get some opportunities to show he can. Josh is probably the most natural point on the team but there are plenty of minutes to share at the point position. If RoJo can play effectively at the point, that would allow us to bring in another shooter or rebounder at the 2 spot.

  • All true. I was speaking more to the need within Archie’s defense for EXCELLENT communication. But yes, as a leader RJ needs to be more vocal, and if I’m not mistaken Archie’s most recent statements indicate he’s starting to become that guy. I agree about him running the offense, it’s one of the things I’m looking forward to most. I know a lot more about Archie’s defense than I do his offense, although I also believe he’s being underrated as an offensive coach because of his focus on defense.

    Three months and counting.

  • Arch Puddington

    If CM did indeed call on RJ to be more vocal (not doubting you), then it is the first thing he has said that I question. CTC did this for years — demand players “lead”, whatever that means, even if they weren’t natural leaders. It began at least as far back as Will Sheehey, whom CTC called out publicly on more than one occasion for having not stepped from his supporting role as a junior to the alpha role as a senior.He said it repeatedly last year, calling upon (among others) the same Rob Johnson CM now apparently wants to be more vocal.

    I was critical of it when CTC did it, and I will be critical of CM if it plays out the same way. Like a lot of people, I think CM will really stabilize and strengthen the players with his straightforward manner. Maybe that will be enough to help RJ step up as a more vocal leader. But if that just isn’t in RJ, I hope CM drops the demand. The best coaches/teachers/managers/etc. draw on the strengths of those they are leading, not their weaknesses.

  • iugradmark

    Arch, I understand what you are saying. I will hold judgement on how this progresses. I don’t think there is anything wrong with challenging kids to be the best they can be. For some, it may mean rebuilding your body like he has done with DD and in some cases, it may be more about leadership skills or communications.

    I didn’t like how our last coach seemed to almost blame certain players when talking to the press last year and felt the whole . I don’t think we are there with how Coach Miller has challenged RoJo. I am in a honeymoon period for now and willing to see how these things play out a bit.

  • Eli McNaughton

    I agree completely, and I believe this Team will equal more than the sum of its parts.

  • Eli McNaughton

    The thing is pack line defense is more of a team philosophy than individual defender philosophy – so I think the team flourishes defensively and sets a tone. As a result, RJ/JM and others become viewed as elite defenders.

  • Eli McNaughton

    Or undercooked brisket

  • Eli McNaughton

    I think IU is better if RJ can play point efficiently and CUJO becomes a huge 2 guard factor.

  • Arch Puddington

    We’re in the same place. I’m not saying CM has yet done anything worth criticizing, and of course I agree that players should be pushed to be the best they can be. But there is a point beyond which I would certainly be critical, and I am frankly surprised that CM has started down this path. Asking RJ to be something he has not been for the first 20+ years of his life would be much better done behind the scenes. Granted, he hasn’t blamed RJ for anything or criticized him the way CTC criticized players for lack of leadership on multiple occasions, so it’s no big deal at this point. And as I said above, I think there is reason to believe CM will help RJ find his mojo, in which case he might well be more comfortable asserting himself more than he has in the past.We shall see….

  • IUMIKE1

    Excellent points…..and as usual, not just because I’m thinking the exact same thing. One of the things that all really good coaches have in common is that they utilize players in a way that best uses said particular player’s strong points. Trying to force a good player to do things that history tells you aren’t his strong suit, only serves to take away from what they do best and is not coaching in a way that maximizes what he is going to get out of his team overall.

  • IUMIKE1

    ONLY 15 ? I could’ve sworn it was at least 20. Man, I sure don’t miss that wittle wosy wed cheeked hacker.

  • Arch Puddington

    Exactly. As I used to say about CTC, demanding leadership from guys who are not natural leaders and then blaming team problems on their lack of leadership is no different than running plays for a guy who can’t shoot and then criticizing him for missing. Again, I’m not saying RJ can’t step up, because I’m not in the practices and I don’t know him personally. But CTC tried to get him to be something that did not come naturally to him, and it is not at all out of the question that that is among the reasons that RJ went south for the last third or so of the season. Given all the other smart things he has said and done so far, I’m hopeful that CM is wise enough to not demand things from players that they cannot provide.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Geoff, that is really funny! I laughed out loud when I read your reply. I remember vividly that Purdue idiot being dirty every game.

  • Gwade8888

    Perry Ellis was at Kansas through Bush and Obama!

  • Gwade8888

    Love it…”help RoJo find his MoJo”

  • Arch Puddington

    Glad I thought of it……..except…..ummm….

  • KelvinSampson87

    I think he will have a good season and consistently contribute but he will never be the type of player who can take over a game like Yogi, JBJ, OG, Troy, etc. That is not to say his overall contribution wont be just as valuable/

    I haven’t heard much about Justin Smith lately. To me he seems to have the best chance of having a true breakout season (besides DD)

  • TomJameson

    Hmmm, Can you have a breakout season without ever having a season to begin with? lol

    I like Smith as well, but he’s never played a D1 game, much less a B1G game. Even a lot of the 5-stars don’t do great right off the bat. I just don’t think he’s going to be the super-star some are making him out to be.

    But, time will tell.

  • Hoosier Hall

    This guy… I remember him being there for literally 6 or 7 years after the redshirt and injury. We joke about Craft and several others but Jess Settles spent more time in college than any 2 players combined.

  • bball at nick’s

    While CM and CTC may have had similar goals for RJ, it comes down to teaching style and methodology. I have no doubt that CM’s style of teaching and the way he will translate goals into achievable tasks is / will be very different from CTC. CTC often spoke in confused abstractions. I never heard him speak about “leadership” and “communication” with the same focus and charisma as CM. CM is very simple in his approach; he wants RJ not to be satisfied with being the stoical genius and instead become vocal. The stoic becoming the on-court chatterbox, LOL. I think that’s totally doable, and it will be good for RJ. The problem under CTC was that RJ’s chatterbox model (CTC) was not an easy one to follow. My guess is that CM is a more focused and emulatable chatterer.

  • Arch Puddington

    I both hope and believe you are right. All of us sitting on the sidelines are left to speculate, but at some point people are who they are. RJ is the strong, silent type and always will be, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t grow and stretch in some new directions. I don’t care for the public discussion of personnel matters, but I have no doubt that CM is clearer and more straightforward than CTC. He’ll get what Rob has to offer and let that be enough.

  • KelvinSampson87

    Your probably right about both the breakout thing and Smith.

    I think Smith has a lot of parallels to Jayson Tatum in that he seems physically stronger and quicker and much more calm and collected than your average freshman.

    It is probably unlikely that he has a monster freshman season but on a roster full of utility/role players him and DD are the two I think have the most potential.

    That being said I’ll take a group of moderately talented guys that play well as a team over talented guys playing for themselves anyday.

  • Btown88

    Geoff. Cardinal is/was the only player I remember with more skinned knees/floor burns/bruises than Jimmy Raul.
    He was always “easy to hate”, but always respected his effort.

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    Interesting point.