Big Ten’s top 25 players for 2017-18: 10-6

  • 08/03/2017 11:55 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 fourth installment of players 10-6 is available below (Previously: 25-21, 20-16, 15-11):

10. Isaac Haas, Purdue (7-foot-2, center, senior)

The Alabama native is the most imposing figure in the conference and is impossible to stop if he catches the ball deep enough in the post. In an era where post play has been de-emphasized, Haas is the definition of a true five. He had the highest usage rate of any Big Ten player in league play last season (33 percent) and shot close to 56 percent on 2s. When he wasn’t finishing, Haas was typically drawing fouls and converting at the line. He finished with a free throw rate of 57.9 percent in league play and made 74 percent of his attempts. He also ranked in the top 10 of the league in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage and was 16th nationally in block percentage. The challenge for Haas as a senior? Taking on a bigger workload. He’s never averaged more than 20 minutes per game in his career.

9. Justin Jackson, Maryland (6-foot-7, forward, sophomore)

Jackson tested the NBA draft waters last spring and after attending the combine in Chicago, opted to return to College Park for his sophomore season. Jackson was terrific for Mark Turgeon as a freshman, averaging 10.5 points and six rebounds per game while shooting 44.1 percent on 3s. With Melo Trimble moving on to pursue a professional career, the Terps will shift to Anthony Cowan, who is more of a pass-first point guard. That should give Jackson, the team’s leading returning scorer, more opportunities to shine offensively. Jackson is also a solid rebounder on both ends and his length (a 7-foot-3 ¼-inch wingspan) makes him a versatile defender. If Maryland returns to the NCAA tournament for a fourth straight season, Jackson will be a major reason why.

8. Nick Ward, Michigan State (6-foot-8, forward, sophomore)

It seems like the only thing that Nick Ward needs to do to have a breakout sophomore season is earn more minutes from Tom Izzo. Ward was the No. 5 post-up scorer in the Big Ten, he led the league in offensive rebounding percentage and fouls drawn per 40 minutes, and checked in at No. 4 in block rate. There’s no reason why Ward can’t be one of the league’s best big men, but he logged 21 minutes or fewer in 9 of Michigan State’s final 14 games despite the fact that Michigan State’s backup big man was Kenny Goins. If he can inch closer to 28 minutes per game as a sophomore, then he should be in the discussion for All-Big Ten honors. He’ll have to do a better job of staying out of foul trouble (5.9 fouls per 40) and cutting down on his teachable moments with Tom Izzo on the sideline to accomplish those goals, but they are certainly attainable.

7. Amir Coffey, Minnesota (6-foot-8, forward, sophomore)

Amir Coffey averaged 12.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game in his first year at Minnesota, earning a spot on the conference’s All-Freshman team. At 6-foot-8, it is Coffey’s versatility that sets him apart from other wings in the league. He’s an effective slasher from the wing and boasts an impressive 50 percent free throw rate (FTA/FGA). He shot 50.3 percent on twos and 33.7 percent on threes last season and those numbers are solid. But if he wants to be a breakout star he’ll have to become more effective in the ball screen game (34th percentile on 149 possessions) and more consistent with his three-point jumper..

6. Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern (6-foot-3, guard, senior)

Overlooked as a recruiting target until late in his senior season at Greensburg High School in Indiana, McIntosh has developed into one of the Big Ten’s premier guards. As a junior, he averaged a team-best 14.8 points for the Wildcats, who reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. He also had the Big Ten’s second best assist rate (35.7 percent) and shot 87 percent from the free throw line. As a senior, the challenge for McIntosh will be dealing with expectations. Additionally, McIntosh will need to find a way to improve his efficiency. He shot just 30.7 percent last season on 3s and 44.1 percent on 2s.

(Photo credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)

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  • John D Murphy

    I think Haas is a little high. He’s never turned into a go-to guy and isn’t quick to be a true defensive difference maker. I just don’t envision a team losing to Purdue and Haas being the main reason why, which IMO should be a litmus test to be top 10. Enjoying the rankings thus far.

  • NC Hoosier

    Aside from every Hoosier on the roster, Bryant McIntosh is my favorite player in college basketball. Really wish he was a Hoosier.

  • iugradmark

    John, I agree with your comments on Haas. He was very effective in short bursts but I agree that he has not proven to be a difference maker. Officials seem to have a difficult time with him because his size is so far outside the norms.

  • IdahoHoosier

    I got the pleasure of watching him play in the tourney last year in SLC. Impressive guy who just never stops playing and finding ways to help his team. Big fan of McIntosh and I grew up a few miles from Greensburg so that doesn’t hurt.

  • Hoosierkamp

    he is so unstoppable though when he catches it close to the basket. But he can be a big defensive liability for those who have a big that can move a bit

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    I’d put Bryant Mc. @ 2 or 3.

  • Arch Puddington

    I don’t disagree with your assessment of Haas, but his ranking is based in part the rest of the B1G. As has been discussed in various places, the B1G appears to be down. A number of really good players graduated or left early last year, but only one really top freshman is coming to replace them. So while Haas may not fit the traditional profile of a top 10 player, you’d have to find someone ranked lower who you think is better in order to bump him. Huerter, Lindsey, and RJ are the next three; any of them you’d take over Haas? RJ at his best might be worthy, but last we saw of him he was not at his best. I don’t know enough about Huerter or Lindsey to compare them to Haas.

  • If Morgan isn’t in the top 5 this year, he will be next year.

  • IdahoHoosier

    We love Morgan, but I’m not surprised that he isn’t considered a top B1G player. He brings an all-around game and stat sheet stuffing ability that few guys have. But very few players reach superstardom with that kind of resume (AK-47?). Morgan is a guy you definitely want on your team, but not a star in my opinion.

  • JethroTroll

    Prepare to be disappointed because Morgan is nowhere near a Top 5 B1G player this year, and that most likely goes for next year as well.

  • VOXAC30

    I’m in the Batesville area and it was a lot of fun watching that kid grow

  • Mark Bando

    My prediction is that DD will be better this year than Haas

  • Outoftheloop

    Juwan will be All-B1G this year, IMHO. But based upon last year he should have been 21-25.

  • Outoftheloop

    All-B1G would be a “star” if he can earn it this season.

  • Outoftheloop

    Who is the one top freshman in your opinion? Justin Smith will be on the All-Freshman team, IMHO.

  • IdahoHoosier

    No argument there. I’m just saying guys of his ilk seem often overlooked as far as accolades go. Real basketball fans love a “glue-guy” workhorse, but those guys don’t always get the recognition they deserve.

  • Arch Puddington

    On paper, the one is Jaren Jackson. He is a top 10 recruit and the only Freshman to make the ITH/UMHoops top 25. How he or anyone else actually plays once the season starts is of course unknowable, but from a pre-season point of view, he is the top guy.

  • JethroTroll

    Based upon last year? LMFAO The only way anyone would possibly project Morgan as a Top 25 B1G player this year is because they are expecting tremendous growth in his game. I like Morgan, and think he can fill a huge role in this team, but he’s far from being an all B1G player.

  • John D Murphy

    Great comparison ak47. That really is the kind of role jm can have with this team