The leaves continue to fall; the calendar continues to turn. In addition to often-terrible Trevor Mbakwe news, autumn brings us closer to the start of the college basketball season. From The Barn brought some of the best and brightest Big Ten bloggers together to get their thoughts on the upcoming season and see what they think about conference play, who to watch for and how things might end up. Who better to talk about the conference than the guys who live it every day? On with the show:
Q3: Who are your top 3 players to watch in the Big Ten?
Eric Gingrich - The Buckeye Battlecry (Ohio State): Tim Frazier – Frazier may be the most talented player in the conference. Unfortunately, he has no-one around him to help out. That puts him in a unique position to be able to show off more than anyone else in the conference. He should light up the stat-sheet this year.
DJ Richardson – This is Richardson’s last year to make a big name for himself at Illinois. I think we’ve yet to see his true potential, so it will be interesting to see if he finally lives up to the hype.
LaQuinton Ross – Before last season, Ross was considered to be the best new player at Ohio State during pre-season workouts. Then his high school changed their grading system, caused him to miss the first month of games, and landed him on the bench for all but 9 games during the season. We’ll get a chance to see just how good he really is this year.
David McGee – Corn Nation (Nebraska): Beyond the previously mentioned, Brandon Paul – Illinois intrigues me to see if he can build on his emergence the last half of the season. Can he be “the man”? Same question with Ryan Evans at Wisconsin. I’m also curious to see if Purdue has anyone to replace Robbie Hummel.
Rick Reese – Black Heart Gold Pants (Iowa): I think I named them. Zeller, Burke and Craft. I have to throw Deshaun Thomas, of Ohio State, in there. Maybe give a nod to Penn State’s Tim Frazier too.
Phil Mitten – Bucky’s 5th Quarter (Wisconsin): There are always so many storylines I look forward to that I have to cut a few good ones (like, “Will Maurice Creek’s comeback be good enough to avoid getting cut by Tom Crean next year?”). My three to watch this fall have a youthful flavor.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio St. (Jr.) – Probably should have given Thomas the most feared label because he is an assassin. He is just so smooth and just gets buckets. Before you know it, he’s 18 points and 6 offensive rebounds on you, and you just shake your head and acknowledge that you are watching someone who was born to play basketball.
George Marshall, Wisc (RS Fr.) – If Jordan Taylor says his successor is going to make people forget about him, I’m listening. Marshall wisely spent a year learning from the bench and getting stronger, but is now in the thick of the competition to replace Taylor as Bo Ryan’s next star point guard. He might be quicker than Trevon Hughes was and has a beautiful pull-up jumper that could really add another dimension to the Badger offense.
Glenn Robinson III, Mich (Fr.) – Some services rated Little Big Dog the top incoming rookie in the league, which is saying something this year. Robinson’s ascension in the last year makes me think something has clicked for him. That means trouble for the Big Ten, since he’s joining a stacked team where there’s no pressure. He can just relax and cause trouble with his size, strength and instincts from the wing.
Travis Miller – Hammer & Rails (Purdue): Cody Zeller, Deshaun Thomas, and I really like Mitch McGary at Michigan.
Loretta8 – Sippin’ On Purple (Northwestern): Curious to see how Trever Mbakwe bounces back from that injury, would obviously be huge for Minnesota if he’s still the best rebounder in the league.
Can Tim Hardaway Jr. assume his rightful place as second banana to Trey Burke or will he keep jacking up threes at a sub 30% rate?
Also, DeShaun Thomas is going to be must-see TV because he’s liable to shoot 30 times per game.
Chad Markulics – Black Shoe Diaries (Penn State): Other than some of the known quantities? For a homer pick, watch out for D.J. Newbill at Penn State. He’s a Southern Miss transfer from Philadelphia that was born to play in this conference. Our coaches can’t stop raving about him, and Pat Chambers went so far as to say that he’ll form half of the “best backcourt in the country” this season. So we’re excited about that at BSD.
Dave Sobolewski was really impressive as a freshman last season at Northwestern. He really seemed to have a great grasp of that offense, and he had some outstanding games in the Big Ten. I think Northwestern will be fun to watch this season, and he’ll be a big part of that. Also, the graduation of Luka Mirkovic really brings down their heckle quotient, and I will miss him.
I hope Branden Dawson can get back to full strength after suffering that awful knee injury, because he can be one of the best players in the country if he’s healthy again. He could be the difference between a middle-of-the-pack Sparty or a Big Ten-contender Sparty.
From The Barn (Minnesota): “Top 3” in my mind means the top guys who have the opportunity to make the biggest difference. There are plenty of those guys to go around in a conference like the Big Ten, especially this year, but I have my eye on the following:
Brandon Paul (Illinois) – If you were lucky enough to not have Paul destroy your team last year then consider yourself lucky. Once he got hot, it was all over. And that was only when he was a junior. However, he had some down games where his shooting just went completely cold and sunk Illinois a couple times (most notably Nebraska and Iowa). If he grows at all in his senior year, watch out. He could be one of the most dangerous players out there.
Yogi Ferrell (Indiana) – Could he be this year’s biggest-impact freshman? He has the opportunity to put himself on the map on a nationally-recognized Indiana squad and could even find himself starting early into the season if things go his way. The #2 point guard in the nation, Ferrell could be really good, really soon – and that’s a scary thought for an already scary Indiana team.
George Marshall (Wisconsin) – Jordan Taylor left a gaping hole in the Badger backcourt after departing – a hole that was supposed to be filled with Josh Gasser. Now that Gasser is injured, redshirt freshman PG Wallace may have the reins to the offense. Does Bo Ryan dare trust a freshman to run his offense? He doesn’t have much of a choice. Wallace will now be a huge factor in determining how patient and smooth the Wisconsin offense can operate. The pressures of B1G conference play are many – can the freshman survive a trial by fire? He’s certainly equipped to do so.