Big Ten Preview Archive

Big Ten’s Top 25 Players: 5-1

With the official start of practice less than nine weeks away, Inside the Hall and UM Hoops have partnered to bring you a preseason breakdown of the top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2012-2013 season.

Our selection process was hardly scientific, but it did involve much deliberation and compromise to arrive at a list that we hope will provide plenty of reaction and debate.

The series is broken down into five parts (25-2120-1615-11, 10-6) and our final installment of players 5-1 is available below:

5. Aaron Craft, Ohio State (6-foot-2, guard, junior)
32.2 mpg, 8.8 ppg, 4.6 apg, 3.2 rpg, 2.5 spg, 55.0 eFG%

Craft’s scoring numbers may be modest, but his steady presence in the backcourt helped Thad Matta and the Buckeyes return to the Final Four where they fell to eventual runner-up Kansas. While it helps that he’s been surrounded by elite talent during his time in Columbus, Craft deserves his due for the impact he makes in so many areas of the game. His steal percentage (4.65) was by far the best in the Big Ten and his ability to pressure the ball is something Big Ten opponents have grown to loathe. The departures of Jared Sullinger and William Buford will probably afford him more opportunities to score and that isn’t a bad thing for Ohio State as Craft shot over 55% on twos as a sophomore and got to the foul line at better rate than every Big Ten player not named Cody Zeller. One area Craft could look to tighten up is his turnover percentage (23.8) which is somewhat a result of the frantic pace at which he operates.

4. Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota (6-foot-8, forward, senior)
28.7 mpg, 14.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 60.4 eFG%

Mbakwe was well on his way to another outstanding season and a likely spot in the NBA Draft before an unfortunate right ACL tear ended his year prematurely last November. Tubby Smith’s club stumbled frequently following his injury, but eventually rebounded with a trip to the NIT Championship game. After being granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, Mbakwe returns to a Minnesota team that should benefit greatly from his presence. As one of the most powerful post players in the country, Mbakwe is an outstanding finisher around the basket and is one of the Big Ten’s best at getting to the foul line. Combine his prowess on the glass (2nd in DR% in the Big Ten as a junior) with his ability to alter and block shots and it’s no surprise he lands this high on the list. What remains to be seen is whether Mbakwe will need time to regain the explosiveness that makes him one of the nation’s elite big men.

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Big Ten’s Top 25 Players: 10-6

With the official start of practice less than nine weeks away, Inside the Hall and UM Hoops have partnered to bring you a preseason breakdown of the top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2012-2013 season.

Our selection process was hardly scientific, but it did involve much deliberation and compromise to arrive at a list that we hope will provide plenty of reaction and debate.

The series is broken down into five parts (25-2120-16, 15-11) and our fourth installment of players 10-6 is available below:

10. Branden Dawson, Michigan State (6-foot-6, forward, sophomore)
20.6 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 57.7 eFG%

Dawson’s inclusion in the top ten of this list will likely be scrutinized as there’s no guarantee he’ll be 100% when the season tips in November. As a freshman, Dawson was playing some of his best basketball before tearing his left ACL in Michigan State’s loss to Ohio State to close out the regular season. Early reports on his recovery have been very favorable and the graduation of Draymond Green should thrust Dawson into a more prominent role for Tom Izzo this winter. Dawson’s offensive stats were modest in his rookie campaign, but he was the Big Ten’s best offensive rebounder (13.3 OR%) and had emerged as Michigan State’s go-to defender at the time of his injury. If Dawson can become more consistent from the free throw line (59.4% last season) and knock down some perimeter jump shots, it’ll make his knack for getting to the basket even more valuable.

9. Tim Hardaway, Jr., Michigan (6-foot-6 ,guard, junior)
34.2 mpg, 14.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 48.4 eFG%

Hardaway Jr. was a trendy pick for All-Big Ten honors prior to last season, but his inconsistency from the perimeter derailed an otherwise productive season. Fortunately for John Beilein and the co-Big Ten champion Wolverines, Trey Burke’s fantastic freshman campaign helped negate Hardaway’s spotty shooting. The main crux of the problem a season ago was Hardaway’s shooting from behind the 3-point arc, where he fell from 36.7 as a freshman to 28.3 percent as a sophomore. His Big Ten drop off was even more dramatic: 26.5 down from 44.2% in league games. At his best, the Michigan junior is a future pro with a polished offensive game that allows him to score from anywhere on the court. With an offseason of working with Burke both on campus and at various camps like the LeBron James Skills Academy, Hardaway will benefit from better spacing and in turn, should get the ball in better positions to make shots.

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Big Ten’s Top 25 Players: 15-11

With the official start of practice less than nine weeks away, Inside the Hall and UM Hoops have partnered to bring you a preseason breakdown of the top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2012-2013 season.

Our selection process was hardly scientific, but it did involve much deliberation and compromise to arrive at a list that we hope will provide plenty of reaction and debate.

The series is broken down into five parts (25-2120-16) and our third installment of players 15-11 is available below:

15. Jared Berggren, Wisconsin (6-foot-10, center, senior)
27.8 mpg, 10.5 ppg, 4.9. rpg, 1.7 bpg, 52.4 eFG%

Berggren ranks 15th on our list but there are only two prototypical big men that occupy one of the 14 spots ahead of him. The redshirt senior’s development has been slow and steady but he has emerged as a more than capable inside-out big man with the ability to thrive in Bo Ryan’s swing offense, which has become increasingly more perimeter oriented in recent seasons. Berggren attempted over a third of his field goals from 3-point range last year but knocked triples down at an impressive 37% clip. He was also proficient in the paint, making 50% of his twos. The 6-foot-10 senior is not going to be a star in the Wisconsin system but his importance as one of the league’s top big men can’t be underrated on a team looking to reestablish itself after Jordan Taylor’s graduation.

14. Victor Oladipo, Indiana (6-foot-5, wing, junior)
26.7 mpg, 10.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.4 spg, 48.7 eFG%

Indiana has a future lottery pick (Cody Zeller), experienced scorer (Christian Watford), lights out shooter (Jordan Hulls) and star studded freshman class but Victor Oladipo is the glue that can hold everything together. Oladipo thrives attacking the basket and getting into the lane where he converts 52% of his twos and gets to the line often. He’s an above average defensive rebounder with the ability to get in the passing lanes and create easy scoring opportunities in transition. His skillset and energy makes him a fan favorite at Assembly Hall and rightfully so. Oladipo has the strength and athleticism to play at the next level, but he’ll have to find a three point shot (10-48 on threes in 2012) to elevate his game from effective glue player to top flight wing scorer.

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Big Ten’s Top 25 Players: 20-16

With the official start of practice less than nine weeks away, Inside the Hall and UM Hoops have partnered to bring you a preseason breakdown of the top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2012-2013 season.

Our selection process was hardly scientific, but it did involve much deliberation and compromise to arrive at a list that we hope will provide plenty of reaction and debate.

The series is broken down into five parts (part one) and our second installment of players 20-16 is available below:

20. Rodney Williams, Minnesota (6-foot-7, forward, senior)
31.9 mpg, 12.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 59.0 eFG%

Expectations in Minneapolis this winter will be for the Gophers to return to the NCAA Tournament and Williams is a large part of the equation for Tubby Smith. After struggling with consistency his first two seasons, the ultra athletic forward finally put things together down the stretch in March and led Minnesota all the way to the finals of the NIT. Williams scored in double figures over the season’s final nine games and cracked the 20-point barrier four times. And that was with defenses keying on him as the primary option. The return of Trevor Mbakwe should take some of the pressure off Williams to be “the guy” and allow him to continuing thriving as one of the Big Ten’s best finishers around the basket. But it also raises this question: where will Williams play with Mbakwe back in the fold?

19. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin (6-foot-8, forward, freshman)
ESPN: 5-star, 17; Scout: 5-star, 15; Rivals: 5-star, 13

Arguably the most notable snub for the McDonald’s All-American game last spring, Dekker arrives in Madison as the highest rated recruit of the Bo Ryan era. In fact, the addition of Dekker is substantial enough that some feel the Badgers will once again compete for a Big Ten championship despite the loss of Jordan Taylor. In high school, Dekker led Sheboygan Lutheran to a Wisconsin Division 5 championship by scoring 40 points, including a game-winning 3-pointer with four seconds remaining. At 6-foot-8 with elite athleticism and the ability to score inside or from the perimeter, Dekker will instantly give the Badgers a presence on the wing that should mix nicely with veterans Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren in the front court.

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Big Ten’s Top 25 Players: 25-21

With the official start of practice less than nine weeks away, Inside the Hall and UM Hoops have partnered to bring you a preseason breakdown of the top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2012-2013 season.

Our selection process was hardly scientific, but it did involve much deliberation and compromise to arrive at a list that 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. Mitch McGary, Michigan (6-foot-10, center, freshman)
ESPN: 4-star, 27; Scout: 4-star, 26; Rivals: 4-star, 30

Mitch McGary was a top-5 prospect nationally when he committed to Michigan, choosing the Wolverines over the likes of North Carolina, Duke and Florida. His stock slipped a bit during his post-graduate year at Brewster Academy but there’s little doubt that his size, versatility and sheer energy will make an instant impact on a Michigan front line that has been undersized for years. Last season Michigan’s primary options at center were Jordan Morgan, a solid and consistent but somewhat limited post player, and Evan Smotrycz, a 6-foot-9 player known more for shooting threes than defending or rebounding. McGary is probably not the Kevin Love or Tyler Hansborough type of player that many compared him to a year ago but he will provide John Beilein with more size in the post than he’s had since Ekpe Udoh patrolled the lane in 2006.

24. LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State (6-foot-8, wing, sophomore)
3.9 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 0.4 rpg, 40.0 eFG%

Simply put, Ross did nothing last season to deserve a spot on this list. He was ineligible throughout Ohio State’s first semester and failed to crack the Buckeye rotation during the second half of the year, playing a total of 35 minutes in nine games. Despite his freshman season to forget, Ross has a golden opportunity this year in Columbus. Jared Sullinger and William Buford combined to take nearly 54% of the Buckeyes’ shots a year ago and not even DeShaun Thomas can swallow up that many extra attempts. Ross was a top-50 player out of high school and has the talent to be a Big Ten playmaker on the wing with his 6-foot-8 frame. Whispers on the summer circuit were that Ross showed flashes of his potential at various offseason camps and he could be read to take the next step under Thad Matta next season.

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Q & A: John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus (Part One)

John Gasaway is a writer for Basketball Prospectus and is a co-author of the upcoming book, The Basketball Prospectus 2010 Major-Conference Preview. He previously wrote for the Big Ten Wonk. We recently exchanged e-mails with John to help us preview the Big Ten and Indiana because, well, he’s smarter than us. The interview is lengthy, so we’ve split it into two parts. Today: the Big Ten and a little national perspective.

Inside the Hall: The Big Ten is once again being mentioned among the top conferences in the country. From top to bottom, where does the Big Ten stand amongst the major conferences?

John Gasaway
: It stands rather confidently in a clean well-lighted place at the center of the room where the league is respected but, alas, not terribly feared. The confidence comes from the exceedingly rare spectacle of a league returning its entire all-conference team (Kalin Lucas, Evan Turner, Manny Harris, Talor Battle, and JaJuan Johnson), not to mention last year’s preseason POY (Robbie Hummel).

On the other hand the Big Ten doesn’t terrify the other major conferences unduly because, even with all those returnees, our beloved glacially-paced league isn’t exactly brimming with lottery picks or even first-rounders. Turner, obviously, is going to be putting on a ball cap and shaking David Stern’s hand very soon here, and assuming Johnson and Mike Davis start consuming protein shakes in bulk I’ve seen them listed on some mocks as late first-rounders for 2011. But Turner notwithstanding there are no Walls or Warrens or Aldriches in the league right now. None of which precludes a Final Four run by a Big Ten team or two this year, of course.

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