Big Ten’s Top 25 Players: 5-1

  • 08/28/2012 9:30 am in

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.

3. DeShaun Thomas, Ohio State (6-foot-7, forward, junior)
31.4 mpg, 15.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 57.4 eFG%

Some players are simply wired to score the ball. As a freshman, pundits marveled at how many shots Thomas was able to attempt in limited minutes while maintaining remarkable efficiency. As a sophomore, he was able to utilize his offensive repertoire over the course of an entire game. Somehow the 6-foot-7 forward became even more efficient in a larger role. Thomas was a top ten offensive rebounder in the conference, made 60% of his twos and 35% of his threes. That made him the third most efficient player in the Big Ten among players that used at least 20% of their teams’ possessions. Thomas is far from flawless, and it’s fair to say that defense or passing have never been high on his to-do list, but it’s tough to find a more productive offensive player in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes lose a lot – Sullinger and Buford accounted for over half of Ohio State’s shots a season ago – and have plenty of questions to answer with inexperienced players being thrust into prominent roles. Regardless of who joins Thomas and Craft on the court next year, it’s safe to pencil in Thomas as one of the league’s most productive scorers and worry about the details later.

2. Trey Burke, Michigan (6-foot, point guard, sophomore)
36.1 mpg, 14.8 ppg, 4.6 apg, 3.5 rpg, 50.2 eFG%

Trey Burke was half way to the NBA before deciding to return to school in April. His decision is likely to save Michigan’s season. When considering the drop off from Burke, one of the nation’s best point guards, to freshman guard Spike Albrecht, who committed to Michigan over Appalachian State, it’s hard to argue that Burke isn’t the Big Ten player most important to his team’s success in 2013. There wasn’t a whole lot that Michigan’s point guard didn’t do well during his freshman season. He was the No. 9 scorer and No. 3 assist man in Big Ten play and demonstrated composure beyond his years in late game situations. Improving his two point shooting (49% on twos as a freshman) would go a long way toward manicuring his game for the next level while helping Michigan build on last year’s shared conference title. Burke will also be relied on to handle the leadership void left by graduating seniors Zack Novak and Stu Douglass but should have more versatile weapons at his disposal with the additions of Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary in the front court.

1. Cody Zeller, Indiana (7-foot, forward, sophomore)
28.5 mpg, 15.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.4 spg, 62.3 eFG%

Billed by some as the savior of Indiana basketball before ever logging a minute in Bloomington, it’s hard to argue that Zeller was anything less than that as a freshman. With Zeller anchoring the front court, the Hoosiers jumped from a 12-win team in 2010-11 to a 27-win team in 2011-12. He ranked third in the conference in effective field goal percentage, fifth in offensive rebounding percentage and first in free throw rate. But beyond the stats, the incredible poise Zeller operated with made him truly unique for a freshman. He rarely seemed to exhibit a change in his demeanor or approach and it was that even keel he displayed which helped Indiana effectively navigate the ups and downs of the season. Zeller returns as a legit national player of the year candidate, the best big man in the country and the primary reason many of the preseason polls could have Indiana at the top.

This edition of  the Big Ten’s top 25 players was written by Alex Bozich of Inside the Hall and Dylan Burkhardt of UM Hoops.

Filed to:

  • marcusgresham

    He’ll make it, Coach.

  • marcusgresham

    He’ll make it, Coach.

  • OldIUGymanst

    Hulls may be the worst on-man defender in the BIG, but he might also be in the top 2-3 team defenders in the BIG. He can’t stop the ball – I get it, but he is very good at being where he needs to be and is fairly disruptive as a team defender. He just is too short to be a great perimeter defender and he can’t stop ball.

  • Steve Nash isn’t exactly big, quick or athletic…..

  • SCHoosier

    This kid can and does guard anybody..he’s a leader and fearless..he scores when he needs too..I have to think he’s gonna get an NBA shot with somebody.

  • SCHoosier

    UM has a lot of talent this year. I think they will still live and die with the 3..but if Burke shares the ball (unlikely)…the blue and maize will be a handfull.

  • marcusgresham

    Jay Burson would have been on that list and I don’t think anyone expected him to be in the NBA.

  • marcusgresham

    Jay Burson would have been on that list and I don’t think anyone expected him to be in the NBA.

  • dtfreed

    Hulls reminds me of tom coverdale, who was not that good on D,but shot well. His senior year he figured out how to drive to the bucket and Hulls had started to do some that last year. If he improves that part of his game then he will be a top 25 player. The D, well keep somebody in front of you please.

  • b_side

    Calm down. He’s not speaking for you. It’s simply an observation based on the posts from you and fellow ITH’ers who, in his opinion, overvalue Hulls’ talent. I happen to agree with ace.

  • Rob

    i love jordy hulls for his dedication and leadership and ability to shoot. But in 40 years of watching the BIG he is by far the worst defender I have ever seen. For him to register as a net + in any given game he has to shoot lights out. He is a 6’0 foot shooting guard that has very marginal point guard skills. Steve Nash on the other hand is one of the 5 best point guards ever.

  • Rob

    i love jordy hulls for his dedication and leadership and ability to shoot. But in 40 years of watching the BIG he is by far the worst defender I have ever seen. For him to register as a net + in any given game he has to shoot lights out. He is a 6’0 foot shooting guard that has very marginal point guard skills. Steve Nash on the other hand is one of the 5 best point guards ever.

  • Derbus

    I am anxious to see what The Movement delivers for IU this season. I think people will be surprised if CTC uses them all to maximize our superior hoops prowess!!! Cody is a stellar passer and I can’t wait to view his lobs for some alley-oops to Sheeladipo, HannerTime, HollowIceman, and JurkinSlam (better than Jack Link’s Sasquatch).
    When/If IU loses a game this year and someone gives you grief, look them in the eye and simply say, “Feels good to beat the best, doesn’t it?!!!” Lmao.

  • Shop7

    It’s not based on what they did last year, it’s based off what they THINK they will do this year. Same reason freshman deserve to be on the list. Not saying Jordy isn’t top 25, I’d take him over several on this list.

  • stevetodd73

    Well, if anyone wants to see delusion, head on over to Inside the Hall and read the comments. The authors of the blog are excellent, the commenters, not so much.
    I believe he said he could not agree more,,, Delusional about what? If there where even a subject here I would give him the benefit of the doubt but there is not! It is just a wide open statement about ITH commenters!! And I think it is wonderful that you feel the same way.

  • HoosierDD

    Yea, Mitch is exactly what they needed. A legitimate C to balance the offense. But like you said, they sure do love to shoot the 3, and I can see them forgetting about MM for long periods at a time.

  • stevetodd73

    Why was my comment removed? It didn’t say anything worth removing it over.

    WHATEVER

  • calbert40

    McGary is a big body, but he really isn’t a banger up front. He is a talented perimeter player for a man his size, but I think Cody will school him.

  • calbert40

    McGary is a big body, but he really isn’t a banger up front. He is a talented perimeter player for a man his size, but I think Cody will school him.

  • Which comment?

  • calbert40

    I don’t think that Hulls should be in the Top 10 or anything like that, but I think it is very reasonable to say he is one of the top 25 in the conference.

    Yes, size matters, but they play different positions. Thomas is not as good of a passer or dribbler as Hulls is. Of course, since he plays the 3 and occasionally the 4, he doesn’t need to be great at either.

    I think Thomas is a very good player, and should end up as an all conference player (2nd team, imo), so I’m not comparing who is better between the two.

    I would guarantee that if you asked the 12 coaches, Hulls would be higher on the list.

  • calbert40

    Good thing Steve Alford isn’t in the league today. Great college player. NBA? Not so much.

  • We only get 13 scholarships?!

    What about Matt Roth?!?!

  • stevetodd73

    I left a comment for B-side below and it was removed. It was a simple copy and past of the UM blog stating I did not agree with what Ace had said about the ITH commenters on that blog

  • stevetodd73

    I left a comment for B-side below and it was removed. It was a simple copy and past of the UM blog stating I did not agree with what Ace had said about the ITH commenters on that blog

  • stevetodd73

    Either I am having Bot issues(LOL) or it the comment is back up, Thank you

  • 888

    I agree. Harris is REALLY good. I like GR111 better though. Petigree can be important. Yogis in their neighborhood as well. Hell be the startingpoint guard on the national championship team. Could easily see 3 or 4 BIG teams in the final 4 this year. They will beat the hell out of eachother all year and be well seasoned for the tournament. The BIG conference tournament will be friggn brutal.

  • DarkSouth

    Yeah, I would not be surprised in the least if Amir Williams has a big year

  • DarkSouth

    Agree, I think it’s fun to review performance versus expectations at the end of the year. Always going to have guys who came out of nowhere (relatively speaking) like Burke, who wasn’t even the highest “rated” incoming guard on the roster last year.

  • Remy Willing and Abell

    It always seemed like a pissed off Jordy was better than normal Jordy . When he had that scowl on his face he would straight up smoke you with the three ball !

  • Remy Willing and Abell

    It always seemed like a pissed off Jordy was better than normal Jordy . When he had that scowl on his face he would straight up smoke you with the three ball !

  • kevkirch

    Everyone keeps talking about Jordy not being in the top 25, but everyone seems to be forgetting Sheehey… I don’t care if he comes of the bench, he’s a threat on both sides of the ball. If he stays healthy, he could be one of the best defensive players in the B1G, as well as one of the top scoring threats. Why is everyone sleeping on him?

  • SCHoosier

    Rob..my comments above were meant about Craft..not Hulls. I can understand both sides of the Hulls agrument on these posts. fact is..he’s a must play for IU this coming year…

  • SCHoosier

    Rob..my comments above were meant about Craft..not Hulls. I can understand both sides of the Hulls agrument on these posts. fact is..he’s a must play for IU this coming year…

  • ace132

    delusional in the sense of how high hulls should be ranked on the list, not delusional in general. no one besides IU fans would put him in the top 10. that to me is unreasonable

  • Dagwoods

    And I’ll give you a couple of past great IU COLLEGE players that didn’t especially do well in the NBA – Steve Alford & Damon Bailey. This is a Big 10 ranking, not NBA draft prediction.

  • Oldguyy

    Love his intensity, but I just hope he’s really worked on his ball-handling during the offseason. Free-throw shooting, too.

  • Oldguyy

    Love his intensity, but I just hope he’s really worked on his ball-handling during the offseason. Free-throw shooting, too.

  • SirEric

    im gonna guess you are joking with those last to adjectives

  • CreanFaithful

    Have I not seen some incredible video of McGary that you have? Cody will dominate him as long as he plays for IU…

  • CreanFaithful

    They had a top 10 recruiting class in 2011 that we haven’t seen much of… Matta plays 6-7 deep. New players will emerge. They will be no slouch. And neither will DeShaun

  • CreanFaithful

    @Rob You must have a very short memory…

  • hoosierstateofmind

    Exactly, last year Hulls was the most important guy on our team not named Cody Zeller. His ball handling was improved, his drives to the bucket improved, he took more of a leadership role (remember all the notes last year about Jordy leading the team’s offseason workouts when everyone was getting bigger/stronger) and oh yeah, he drained 3’s. He was so important to this team last year I see no way you can leave him off this list, no way.

  • CreanFaithful

    Yeah. The best player on PSU standing 6’1 that teams plan their defenses around…. I get the comparison. WOW

  • YESS!! He’s always reminded me of Tom coverdale who was my favorite player as a kid! I’m glad you see the resemblance too

  • YESS!! He’s always reminded me of Tom coverdale who was my favorite player as a kid! I’m glad you see the resemblance too

  • IUCubFan

    I was thinking the same thing. What about Will?

  • First, Hutch forgets Coverdale and the Hall forgets Hulls.

  • Hulls free throw streak along serves merit. Plus he starts.

  • CreamandCrimson

    Steve Nash isn’t big. That’s correct. To say he isn’t quick or athletic is….um, inaccurate to put it nicely. Nash is incredibly quick with the ball and while he can’t dunk the ball, he is very, very athletic.