Big Ten’s top 25 players for 2017-18: 20-16

  • 08/01/2017 9:00 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 second installment of players 20-16 is available below: (Previously: 25-21)

20. Jae’Sean Tate, Ohio State (6-foot-4, forward, senior)

There aren’t many forwards in the Big Ten that play harder than Tate. The 6-foot-4, 230 pound senior is active on both ends of the floor and creates mismatches with his quickness against slower defenders. He does a great job at forcing defenders to guard him for 40 minutes and he’s the best cutter in the Big Ten. Tate led the Big Ten in points scored off of cuts to the basket, per Synergy, and finished as effectively as anyone in the league. There’s been talk that Tate could play some point guard as a senior, but that would be a radical shift from what we’ve seen of him thus far. Just 14.8 percent of his workload last season came via isolation or ball screen action. The first step toward becoming a more complete player as a senior will be improving his jumpshot, where he managed just a 32.1 effective field goal percentage in catch and shoot situations last season.

19. Dakota Mathias, Purdue (6-foot-4, guard, senior)

Mathias is the best returning three-point shooter in the Big Ten at 45 percent, he was named to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team, and he led Purdue in assists. He might be a complementary player in West Lafayette, but any coach in the conference would add a three-and-D guard like Mathias to their lineup. Entering his senior year, there’s a chance for Mathias to increase his usage rate (just 14.6% last year) with the loss of Caleb Swanigan, but the safer bet is that he plays a similar role holding the team together and allows Vince and Carsen Edwards to grow into playmaking roles.

18. Glynn Watson, Nebraska (6-foot, guard, junior)

Nebraska used more ball screen possessions than anyone in the league last season and with Tai Webster’s graduation, Watson should get as many opportunities as he can manage in the pick-and-roll game. Watson was the most efficient player on a Nebraska offense that struggled to score points consistently. He needs to improve as a distributor (a 16.6 percent assist rate isn’t good enough for a point guard) and finishing inside the arc (just 42 percent on twos last season), but he can shoot the three (40 percent) off the catch or the bounce. Expectations might not be high for Nebraska this season, but the pressure is heating up in Lincoln and Watson is the best chance for the Cornhuskers to overachieve this season.

17. Tyler Cook, Iowa (6-foot-9, forward, sophomore)

As the gem of Fran McCaffery’s 2016 recruiting class, Cook put together a very solid freshman campaign in Iowa City that landed him on the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team. With the graduation of Peter Jok, the St. Louis native should become the top option in Iowa’s offense. Cook did an excellent job of drawing contact as a freshman (5.8 fouls draw per 40 minutes) and he’ll also be one of the league’s best returning offensive rebounders. He also proved to be a respectable finisher as a freshman, as he shot 56.5 percent overall on 2s with a healthy usage rate of 24.9 percent. Given what the Hawkeyes lost in Jok from an offensive standpoint, someone will have to pick up some of the load and getting Cook more touches in the paint is a good place to start.

16. Jaren Jackson, Michigan State (6-foot-10, forward, freshman)

The lone freshman on this year’s top 25 list, Jackson is the highest rated recruit entering the Big Ten for the 2017-18 season. The 6-foot-10 forward, who played at Park Tudor in Indianapolis before finishing his prep career at La Lumiere, finished at No. 7 nationally in the 247Composite for the 2017 class. Jackson enters a terrific situation in East Lansing as he’ll have plenty of talent surrounding him, particularly in the frontcourt. The potential frontcourt logjam, however, is the reason he’s not ranked higher on this list. Jackson’s wingspan of 7-foot-4 should make him a very good defender in college and beyond. He’s also a tough matchup at the four because of his size and ability to finish with either hand. If Michigan State is ultimately able to play Jackson alongside Miles Bridges and Nick Ward, the Spartans may have the best frontcourt unit in the country.

Filed to:

  • E Foy McNaughton

    So Oleman, do you think RJ makes the list? I’m guessing this is the first year in several that possibly only 1 IU player makes the list and certainly the first that IU hasn’t had a top 20 player.

    That being said, I am truly looking forward to seeing how this TEAM plays under Archie Miller.

  • IU22

    RoJo has got to be on there, I thought Morgan and Hartman had a chance as well. We shall see.

  • Ole Man

    After seeing DD at 25, I thought “No.”
    But seeing some of the other “players” making this list, I’d say he is certainly deserving.
    Think we see him in the next batch, 15-10, or not at all.

  • Ole Man

    What this list is telling me thus far is that it is a really down year in the Big Ten!

  • E Foy McNaughton

    It will be interesting to see. I could see him in the 15-10, or not at all. I’m a die hard IU fan and want RJ to be a top 15 player in the league. I guess I haven’t sat down thought about who the top 15 should be.

    That being said, there is a possibility in my mind that RJ ended up not actually starting this year (i.e.-CUJO changed his body and becomes multi-dimensional as Archie wants and takes a spot or DG beats out RJ and Archie wants to keep JN in the lineup because he s more of a pure PG)?
    OR – I can see RJ getting his MOJO back and thriving as a defender in the pack-line defense, jumping to a top 10 player.
    Hopefully the latter.

  • Outoftheloop

    It tells me that the national expectations are low. But the competition for spots #2-8 will be intense. Some of those teams, and players on them, will out perform these low expectations. We will see if IU is one of them.

  • Outoftheloop

    Juwan will be at the end of the year, but he gets no hype from the “experts”.

  • Sandra Wilson

    No champion since 2000. There have been quite a few down years. Heck, even the SEC has 3 since 2000. Hopefully, with the influx of much better coaching this past year, the B1G will improve.

  • Sandra Wilson

    Experts, what a joke. Only the weather people and sports experts can be wrong more than 50% of the time and keep their jobs. I agree with you, if Morgan stays healthy, he’ll belong in the top 25.

  • Miamihoosier

    Last year Indiana had 4 of their 5 starters on the list and finished with a losing record in the B1G. I prefer the team we have this year. No stars, just a bunch of lunch pale guys. The exciting thing is that our lunch pale guys are light years more talented than say Northwestern or Minnesota’s guys (or Dayton). The potential is so high for what this team could be. Archie Miller has never coached a team with anywhere close to this amount of talent. Miles Bridges is the only potential superstar in the league. Our team has the 2nd most amount of talent and I don’t really think it’s close. Crean WAS that bad of a an Xs and Os coach. He really only ever won when he had a combination of overwhelming talent and experience. If you look at where some of our guys were ranked coming in, we’ll likely have higher ranked players at nearly every position than the opponent…every night. The only question is whether Arch can get them to play to their potential in his first year.

  • John D Murphy

    I think he will be our MVP. Was excited to see on twitter from iubball that he added 8.5 inches to his vertical this summer

  • Tcuomo

    I hate this argument. Just because the BIG hasn’t won an NC since 2000 does not mean the conference sucks.

    BIG Since 2000:
    12 FF appearances (nearly 1/5 of possible appearances),
    5 runner ups
    2 or more teams in the FF 3X
    6 different schools represented in the FF (IU, UI, UM, MSU, OSU, UW)

    The SEC may have 3 since 2000, but that is all UF and KU. Billy Donovan is gone and I wouldn’t count on South Carolina and LSU making a run anytime soon. The old Big East and ACC are the only conferences I would say have outperformed the BIG in the NCAA. Yeah no NC’s in 17 years, but people act like BIG hasn’t even sniffed one. Michigan was 20 minutes away in 2013. Wisconsin was even closer in 2015.

  • Zach

    Agree completely. While the no champions since 2000 is certainly a bad look, the Big 10 is a waaaay better conference than the SEC (and usually stacks up with every other conference) every year from top to bottom. Really hope someone from the big 10 can win soon (other than purdue) just to get the monkey off our backs.

  • dwdkc

    A point I’ve often made–actually there were 6 runner-ups–all six of those you mentioned, all different schools. Shows a depth of programs that only the ACC can match. Most of those years the B1G was a way better basketball than football conference, but not this year. Conference looks to be WAY down this year. Which gives me hope for an Archie Surprise.

  • dwdkc

    If RoJo isn’t a starter, it will be because whatever went wrong last year happens this year. Ain’t gonna happen. I expect he’ll be in the next batch and nobody in top 10. I also think Juwan plays a better all around game than a bunch of guys on this list next year. Just have a really good feeling about him; have always really liked his game and if he can avoid the lingering injuries we’ll see an impressive version.

  • Tcuomo

    Nice catch, which only makes the argument stronger. The 6 different schools in the FF says it all. The Big East is the only
    other conference that can match that number. If you don’t include the 2016 Nova team (I don’t due to conference realignment) then, BE is tied with the ACC at 5. The other power conferences are top heavy that have 2-3 teams making multiples appearances.

  • TomJameson

    I just don’t like freshmen on these lists. There is this major step up from HS to division-1 basketball, and the physicality of the B1G makes that step even harder. I think maybe there could be a top-25 freshmen list to go along with this top-25, but to me it’s hard to rationalize for any but a few Lebron type players to make it into this list.