Before the season I predicted a Freshman All-Big Ten team which included Royce White, DJ Richardson, Christian Watford, Drew Crawford, and Maurice Creek. Since then, White has been arrested
twice once and Maurice Creek suffered a season ending knee injury. Watford, Richardson and Crawford have all put together very solid freshmen campaigns thus far.
In an effort to look at freshmen across the conference, I pulled the data from Ken Pomeroy’s statistics to find all of the freshmen who have played over 35% of the minutes at their position. 16 players fit the bill and here are their basic tempo free stats sorted by usage% (number of possessions that a player users). Click any header to sort by that column. For explanations of the stats, read the player section here.
There’s plenty to note here, so let’s try to break down this list into some groups.
Maurice Creek, Christian Watford, DJ Richardson, and Brandon Paul were the highest rated (by Rivals) incoming freshmen (sans Royce White) to enter the Big Ten. For the most part they have played like it as well. Judging by Creek’s early numbers, he was well on his way to Freshman of the Year while Richardson and Paul have been tremendous at Illinois. Watford isn’t quite as efficient as the other three but he is Indiana’s best remaining option and also manages to find his way to the line. At this point it’s tough to expect Paul, Watford, and Richardson not to land a spot on the final All-Freshman team.
The Northwestern Duo
Drew Crawford and Alex Marcotullio have both played extremely well. Crawford is shooting 37.5% from long range and Marcotullio tops him at 42.6%. They don’t shy away from taking shots either, both have attempted over 55 three pointers this year. Both Northwestern freshmen have a very nice offensive rating around 120 and should be candidates for the all freshman team, after all they were the only two Big Ten freshmen to make John Gasaway’s mid-season top 25 list.
Turnover Prone Point Guards
Point guard is one of the toughest positions to play as a true freshman and several Big Ten freshmen are learning that fact. Darius Morris, Cully Payne, and Tim Frazier are struggling to hold onto the ball with turnover rates over 25%. Payne and Frazier have put up very solid assist totals while Morris falls more near the middle of the pack.
Brennan Cougill, Derek Elston, and Eric May have proven to be some of the best rebounders among the freshman class. Their offensive game might be lagging behind but they can certainly crash the glass, ranking in the top 5 among freshmen in offensive and defensive rebounding.
Getting their Feet Wet
There are a couple recruits who are getting some playing time but just aren’t needed to take on a huge role Kelsey Barlow (Purdue) and Rodney Williams (Minnesota) are near the bottom of the spectrum in minutes and they haven’t really been called upon in their offenses. Jordan Hulls plays a few more minutes but he uses the fewest possessions and is not much more than a three point shooter (41.2%).
There aren’t many one-and-done, instant-impact, major contributors in this year’s class. The top of the league is littered with veteran players. The consensus best five teams in the league (Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan St., Minnesota, and Ohio State) place only three players on the entire list. The only potential top-half teams with players on the list appear to be Illinois, Northwestern, and just maybe Michigan.
Indiana’s freshman class was highly rated and they definitely look like they have the potential to be very good down the line. Maurice Creek was in a league of his own before his injury which makes it that much tougher to see him go down. Illinois’ reliance on youth has led to some inconsistency in Champaign including losses to Utah, Bradley, and Georgia but it’s safe to say that Paul and Richardson will be very good players in this league.