Recently, FTB thought it would be fun to preview the season by connecting with our fellow Big Ten bloggers to get their thoughts on various topics, both Big Ten-related and not. This is the fourth in a series of five preview discussions that include input from 10 of the 11 Big Ten teams. Northwestern was unavailable for comment – presumably because they were too busy thinking of a better mascot.
Question: Who are your top three players to watch in the Big Ten this season?
Wow. You really let me expore the studio space with this question. I think I should take any intriguing Badgers (Jon Leuer, Rob Wilson and Ryan Evans) off the table right off the bat. So numero uno, the Trevor Mbakwe saga is must-see TV. I feel a lot of Gopher fans are pinning big expectations on him. His package of skill and athleticism makes him a possible game-changer for Tubby. I’m interested to see if he is focused enough in all facets of life to meet those expectations as a junior. Secondly, Ohio State’s David Lighty is just plain fun to watch on both ends of the court. I think Lighty is one of the more underrated player in the league. While all the hype is on the OSU freshmen and Willie Buford filling Evan Turner’s shoes, I think the Buckeyes go as far as Lighty leads them. My last pick is Ju’Twaun Summers. I cannot decide between Durrell Summers, E’Twaun Moore, and JuJuan Johnson. All three seniors are NBA-level talents with a chance to take their legacy to a new level. Due to Chris Allen’s departure and Robbie Hummel’s injury, each of these guys needs to pick up where they left off last season and sustain that type of performance for the whole year. Not only for their team’s success, but for their NBA stock.
– Phil Mitten, Bucky’s 5th Quarter (Wisconsin)
There are so many big names to pick from I’ll go with three lesser guys-William Buford, Tim Frazier, and Maurice Creek. Buford is the most well-known, but without Evan Turner he’ll have a bigger role in the offense. If he plays well Ohio State shouldn’t have any issue picking up where they left off, even more so with their recruiting class. Tim Frazier is a lot like Stanley Pringle for Penn State’s NIT Championship season, and might be the fastest end-to-end player in the conference; if he plays well he could be a problem for opposing teams. Indiana always seems to be one good player from winning, if Creek can keep his point levels up he might have the year that gets Indiana back on track. Anyone who has 31 points against Kentucky should get some recognition. He missed most of Big Ten play with a broken kneecap so he went unnoticed.
– Ben Jones, Victory Bell Rings (Penn State)
Moore, as I think he is a dynamic player at both ends of the floor and am ready to see him take that next step like Evan Turner did last season. John Shurna is a favorite because he scores from a variety of angles and locations on the floor. And Talor Battle carrying the load for Penn State is a joy to watch. He shows no fear driving the lane looking to score or crashing the boards to help out on the inside. Due to PSU’s lack of success I think he has really been an afterthought to many fans, which is unfortunate
– Chad Nims, Planned Sick Days (Iowa)
Demetri McCamey – Illinois, E’Twaun Moore – Purdue, and Jared Sullinger – Ohio State
– T-Mill, Hammer & Rails (Purdue)
I’ve already mentioned McCamey; he’s definitely one. Another player to watch I think will be Jared Sullinger. I’m intrigued to see how his vast skill set will translate to the Big Ten, and I’m guessing he’ll be more Mike Conley Jr. and less Daequan Cook. Lastly, I’ll shill for one of MSU”s players, Draymond Green. He’s not the most athletic player on the court, but he almost always makes good decisions.
– Pete Rossman, The Only Colors (Michigan State)
In no particular order, I would have to say that Demetri McCamey, Etwaun Moore and Jared Sullinger are all going to be very exciting to watch this year. Without Hummel there is going to be even more pressure on Moore to lift Purdue to their first Final Four, and with Demetri, we hope he won’t have to account for 90% of the offense with his passing and shooting, but he often does.
– Joe Kutsunis, Hail to the Orange (Illinois)
I’m excited to watch Jared Sullinger and Will Buford play at Ohio State; both are future 1st round draft picks. McCamey is fun to watch when he’s on but needs to bring it every night
– Dylan Burkhardt, UM Hoops (Michigan)
JaJuan Johnson – With Hummel out for the season, Johnson knows he’s going to have to step up to the challenge once again. He’s a gamer, and with his combination of size and skills he could end up being a player that teams simply don’t have an answer for more often than not.
Blake Hoffarber – OSU fans know who Hoffarber is, and if other Big Ten fans aren’t aware, they’ll probably find out this season. Only two players (Michael Thompson from Northwestern and our own Jon Diebler) had more threes than Hoffarber last year, and nobody shot at a better percentage from downtown. He can bring his team back or put a game out of reach in a hurry.
William Buford – Much of the scoring load carried last year by Evan Turner may transition to Buford this year. There’s no doubt Buford has the shooting touch and the athleticism needed to put up big numbers. It will be interesting to see how much our offense centers around him.
– Jay, The Buckeye Battle Cry (Ohio State)
Maurice Creek of IU was leading the nation’s freshmen in scoring average when he fractured his kneecap in December. It will be interesting to see how he recovers and how he handles his first Big Ten season. DeShaun Thomas of Ohio State was one of the best high school scorers in Indiana history. I’ll be interested to see how he transitions to college. Finally, Purdue fans are effusive about Patrick Bade, who will have to step in because of the Hummel injury. He wasn’t terribly impressive last year, so I’ll be interested to see how he responds.
– John M., Crimson Quarry (Indiana)
From the Barn’s take:
There are three people that will be talked about more and more as the season wears on: Draymond Green, David Lighty and John Shurna. All have much to gain with the departures of former teammates, and are in line to become the leaders of their respective teams.
Green has the opportunity to capitalize on more playing time with the departure of Raymar Morgan and the dismissal of Chris Allen. After playing huge minutes off the bench in Michigan State’s Final Four run last season, Green now finds himself in the starting lineup of one of the best teams in the nation. Having trimmed his weight down, he can be expected to be more mobile and more dangerous. Green has never been short of intensity, and being on the court more will be a boon for the Spartans.
Lighty stands to gain the most in terms of leadership with the departure of Evan Turner. Even with Jared Sullinger coming to town, the Buckeyes are Lighty’s team and will hinge on his ability to distribute the ball to Sullinger and Jon Diebler. A 6’5″ point guard, Lighty is capable of killing defenses with his driving ability, while still being able to hit shots from the field. Turner’s void is a big one to fill, but Lighty is entirely capable of helping keep the momentum going in Columbus.
Shurna and the Northwestern Wildcats hope to cover for the former second team All-Big Ten forward Kevin Coble who, due to injury reasons, will not suit up for his final year. Shurna can kill teams with his size down low, but his most dangerous asset is his shooting ability. Not often do you see a 6’8″ guy who can hit a shot from anywhere on the court. The leading scorer last season for Northwestern, Shurna will look to send the Wildcats to the Big Dance for the first time in school history.