Big Ten’s top 25 players for 2017-18: 5-1

  • 08/04/2017 12:50 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 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 fifth installment of players 5-1 is available below (Previously: 25-21, 20-16, 15-11, 10-6):

5. Nate Mason, Minnesota (6-foot-2, guard, senior)

Nate Mason might have robbed Derrick Walton of All-Big Ten First Team point guard honors last year, but he’s still the best returning point guard in the league this year. Mason averaged 15.2 points, 5 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game last year while shooting 36 percent from three. He needs to improve his two-point shooting (38 percent for the year) and that has to start with shot selection. Last year, Mason attempted 45 percent of his shots from the midrange and connected at just a 32 percent clip. His playmaking skills are top notch and he’s effective in the ball screen game, but the Gophers will need him to be a more efficient scorer as a senior.

4. Vincent Edwards, Purdue (6-foot-8, forward, senior)

Edwards was a solid player during his first two seasons in West Lafayette, but took his game to another level as a junior because of improved efficiency. Edwards averaged 12.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game for the Big Ten champs and shot 51.8 percent on 2s and 42.3 percent on 3s. He was also the league’s second best free throw shooter in league play at 89.3 percent. Edwards is a perfect four in today’s game because he can stretch the floor and guard multiple positions. He’s also effective as a playmaker for others as he ranked 19th in conference games in assist rate.

3. Moritz Wagner, Michigan (6-foot-11, forward, junior)

Wagner’s ability to change a game with a scoring outburst is probably unmatched in the league. He can quickly put together eight or 10 point runs almost by himself. He’s an elite pick-and-pop scorer, can drive against slower bigs and can score in the post. There’s really not much for Wagner to improve on offensively other than continuing to be more consistent with his jumper and playing smarter with the basketball. He still has a long ways to go on the other end of the floor. Wagner’s defense and rebounding will determine his ceiling because they’ll dictate how much John Beilein can trust him over long stretches. There were games last season where Wagner seemed to disappear or watched his mistakes compound quickly and he was far better at home (70.1 eFG percentage) than on the road (54.8 eFG percentage) last season. If he can be more consistent and improve defensively then he should see his name rocket up draft boards in a hurry.

2. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin (6-foot-10, center, redshirt junior)

If someone other than Miles Bridges wins Big Ten player of the year next season, it’s likely to be Happ. He was terrific as a sophomore and finished eighth in Ken Pomeroy’s national player of the year standings. He’s the best returning rebounder in the Big Ten as he averaged nine per game last season and was seventh in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage in conference games. Happ also shot 58.6 percent last season on 2s. What sets him apart, however, is his ability to change games defensively. He averaged 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per game as a junior. His steal rate of 4.8 percent was tops in the Big Ten. With the graduation of Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter and Vitto Brown, the Badgers will have to rely heavily on Happ if the program’s streak of finishing in the top four of the league is to continue for another year.

1. Miles Bridges, Michigan State (6-foot-7, forward, sophomore)

Bridges was the most gifted player in the league last year and made the decision to return to East Lansing instead of cashing in his NBA Draft chips. The move has been questioned by many, but it should make for an entertaining year of basketball in the Big Ten. The 6-foot-7 Flint native’s weakness was supposed to be his perimeter shot, but he made 39 percentof his threes as a freshman. He’s an NBA athlete and plays like it as he’s one of the Big Ten’s best in block rate, defensive rebounding rate and two-point shooting. He still plays more like a prototypical jumbo forward rather than a playmaking guard or wing. He graded out in just the 10th percentile in pick-and-roll efficiency on 40 possessions, per Synergy, but was more impressive in isolation situations. Overall, ISO and ball screen offense accounts for just 20 percent of his offensive blend and it will be interesting to see if he grows a play creator rather than a play finisher. Either way, he’s the most talented player in the league and one who should hear his name at the NBA Draft next June.

Filed to:

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Hhhhmmmmm!!!! Nate Mason, then Happ,,,Bryant Mc. then Bridges in my opinion. Tough to argue the list but I still think Bryant Mc should be in the top 3. Quite a list though. Nice job and fun to read and speculate.

  • AndyCapp

    Interesting to layout the top 25 like this. Based ONLY on the numbers for each program you can see why it is hard to project the B1G pre-season standings after Mich St, Minn and Purdue AND how important intangibles (scheduling, injuries, etc.) are likely to play for teams 4-7…

    1. Miles Bridges, Michigan State
    8. Nick Ward, Michigan State
    14. Cassius Winston, Michigan State
    16. Jaren Jackson, Michigan State

    5. Nate Mason, Minnesota
    7. Amir Coffey, Minnesota
    15. Jordan Murphy, Minnesota
    21. Reggie Lynch, Minnesota

    4. Vincent Edwards, Purdue
    10. Isaac Haas, Purdue
    19. Dakota Mathias, Purdue
    23. Carsen Edwards, Purdue

    13. Robert Johnson, Indiana
    25. (tie) De’Ron Davis, Indiana

    9. Justin Jackson, Maryland
    11. Kevin Huerter, Maryland

    3. Moritz Wagner, Michigan
    24. Jaaron Simmons, Michigan

    6. Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern
    12. Scottie Lindsey, Northwestern

    22. Tony Carr, Penn State
    25. (tie) Mike Watkins, Penn State

    17. Tyler Cook, Iowa

    18. Glynn Watson, Nebraska

    20. Jae’Sean Tate, Ohio State

    2. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

  • Overall, the list definitely indicates why IU is picked to finish so low in the B1G. I think we’ll have a few players who finish much higher on the list toward the end of the season, and IU will finish well into the top 5, IF Archie can work some real magic. Personally, I think Archie’s ability to pull the team together and tease out some excellent individual performances is going to surprise some people. But of course that’s why they play the game.

  • Outoftheloop

    Not that hard based on these “expert” opinions: 1) MSU, 2) MN, 3) Pur, 4) NW (18), 5) MD (20), 6) MI (27), 7) IU (38), 8) PSU (47), 9) WI, 10) IA, 11) NE, 12) OSU, 13) IL, 14) Rut. We all know that WI should be 5) not 9). So this list projects IU at 8). The “real” projections (of course these are “my” projections) 1) MSU, 2-8) a toss-up with Pur, IU, MN, WI, MI, MD, NW, in that order. Then PSU, IA, OSU, IL, NE, Rut in that order. Let the games begin!

  • Jeff Crowder

    Moritz Wagner is undoubtedly number 1 in bacne!

  • sarge

    I would take Juwan over half of the players on this list. I think he will be the reason that we do better than projected this year. He no longer shares the minutes with TW and OG. He has the skills, toughness and work ethic to be the difference maker too.

  • SCHoosier

    Must prove he can stay healthy and he could surprise some people.

  • iugradmark

    These lists are fun but obviously have to rely on prior year performances. I am actually OK with IU flying a bit under the radar for a while until we can get some things worked out. As excited as we are, a lot of things have to work right for IU to be a factor this season. It is amazing how the changes have made me excited again for IU basketball. Last year, I stopped watching and was glad when the season was over. Now I can’t wait for the season to start.

  • Outoftheloop

    I agree.

  • Absolutely, on all counts. First, I’d much rather be underrated at this point, and most people who aren’t following this stuff so closely likely have no idea how good Archie really is. B1G coaches know, so they’ll be prepared. Second, I’m more excited about IU basketball than I’ve been in decades. I really think we’re witnessing something special.

  • marcusgresham

    Zitskrieg!

  • marcusgresham

    Obviously, someone has to “step up,” but the flip side of that is that IU appears to have the depth that could mean any number of guys could get you on a given night…..and while that sounds like a positive/homer spin I’m going to put on it until we see otherwise, I truly feel there’s some credence to it. We’ve all seen Danny Green, Juwan Morgan, Curtis Jones, Josh Newkirk, and Collin Hartman go off at one time or another, and I feel like people are just kind of forgetting about Justin Smith.

  • marcusgresham

    I wish IU had taken McIntosh AND Welage.

  • Honestly, I just can’t wait until the season starts and we see how Archie manages the roster. I’m actually starting to get burnt out on the speculation, and I’m ready for games already.

  • IUBizmark

    This is the funniest thing I’ve read on the internet in a while…and I’ve seen a lot of internet.

  • IUBizmark

    What I’m curious to see is how IU evolves AFTER next season. If folks think next year is going to be tough, how do things look when we don’t have 5 seniors? Even if we land one or more of the top 20 recruits we’re chasing (which I don’t expect), I’m expecting DeRon Davis to go pro. Our squad will be pretty young and be a little thin in the front court. Maybe Archie taps the transfer market to fill in some pieces. I feel like our best team will be year three and this year’s team will be second to that with a let down in Archie’s second season.
    Thankfully the Big Ten is weak this season.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Marcus hello. Do you know what happened with his recruiting with IU? Sounds to me that we/IU moved on. Going through this with my son and IU football.

  • Darrell Allen

    Und du bist blödsinn!

  • pdhoosier

    1) I love the touch on “5 seniors”. Especially as an inclusion to mark’s comment about under the radar. We DO have 5 seniors. We Do have 3of them in our most likely starting 5 ( with a junior who possesses senior mentality and a soph who, in this scenario, is turning pro post season). Could be a really fun season.
    2) if we are as good as the last section, we keep JM, we keep everyone else younger, save DD, and we bring in a top 10 recruiting class (top 3 w/ RL). And AM has a system in place with tougher sos, and we are legit!
    3) year 3 could be just unreal, assuming we find balance/freedom in recruiting. Quite literally might only have 1-2 spots, people seem to sleep on that.
    Side note, if BTN is so weak, could we win it?

  • Lance76

    Great comments. I think either CJ or DG step up big for us. CH being back at 5th year senior will help glue this team together. It is time that we take back the winning side of the Wisconsin match up, even though they have Happ back.

  • iugradmark

    Good points. I think the fact that Archie was able to keep all of the non NBA guys here and keep all of Crean’s recruits plus add one to the class that will be redshirting, gives us a nice foundation. We will have JM as a senior plus 3 juniors that should have a year where they grow physically and with experience. We have a class of 4 freshmen that will have been through training and coaching in the new system. Probably Justin gets some experience this year.

    Had we had a mass exodus and not maintained the recruits, we would have been in total rebuild. I think we have a solid foundation even when the seniors move on.

  • Kit Schneiders

    why isn’t Bohannon on this list? after all he was just 1 of 2 FR in the last 25 years to have 175 assists and over 85 made 3’s, shooting 41+% from 3.

  • Larry Brown

    He has to shoot the 3 better though. Bit IU is dangerous this year IMO precisely because there’s 4-5 guys on the team who could have breakout seasons, from JM to DD to JN to Green to CuJo

  • Doug Wilson

    Flagrant Foul against Bozich. Left work, for the weekend, with a Wiscy Player to shine on the ITH website.
    Bozich must produce for a week IU Greats each day, before retiring to his personal life.

    Boz, we don’t let Happ Shine. Let Michigan do that to their web site.
    ~end sarcastic rant

  • sarge

    Yeah, it really sucks playing against Happ. I hate seeing his picture. He has been so consistent, he probably makes every big ten fan not rooting for Wisconsin crazy. Def a foul!

  • marcusgresham

    No idea on either. I never saw McIntosh play in high school, and the two games I saw Welage it was right about the time it started looking like he would head to San Jose St.
    My guess with him is that IU thought he was just too thin. I don’t know that he even weighed 200 pounds, but he was the best shooter and best ball-handler on the team. I still have this hope in the back of my mind that somehow he manages to become a grad transfer and spends his senior year at Indiana.