2011-12 Big Ten Position by Position: Bigs

Dylan Burkhardt

1. Jared Sullinger – Ohio State

MPG PPG RPG ORtg Usage eFG% OR% DR% Block% FT Rate
31.7 17.2 10.2 120.4 27.0 54.5 14.0 26.2 2.0 65.1

Upside: Sullinger dominated the league last season and he spent the off-season getting in shape – bad news for the Big Ten. He converts on the block, gets to the free throw line, dominates both backboards and rarely turns the ball over. The only thing that he doesn’t do well is block shots.
Downside: Sullinger loses a pair of wing guards that made over 40 percent of their threes last season, without such shooting prowess on the wings he should see even more double teams this season.

2. Trevor Mbakwe – Minnesota

MPG PPG RPG ORtg Usage eFG% OR% DR% Block% FT Rate
30.9 13.9 10.5 110.4 23.2 58.2 11.9 26.1 6.2 77.4

Upside: Mbakwe rebounds over a quarter of Minnesota opponents’ missed shots and blocks nearly six percent of their field goal attempts. He gets to the line regularly and connects on an impressive 58 percent of his two point attempts, most of which are emphatic dunks. After Sullinger, Mbakwe is one of the most impressive Big Ten NBA draft prospects.
Downside: Mbakwe averaged a double double last season and should do it again this year and one of the few reasons he might not are the questions in the Minnesota backcourt. Can his guards get him the ball in a position to score? Will opponents have to respect any Gophers on the perimeter?

3. Melsahn Basabe – Iowa

MPG PPG RPG ORtg Usage eFG% OR% DR% Block% FT Rate
24.5 11.0 6.8 105.7 23.1 57.2 13.0 19.6 6.1 48.9

Upside: Basabe was one of the most surprising players in the Big Ten last season and should only improve as a sophomore. In conference play last season Basabe’s production was essentially equal to Mbakwe in almost every statistical category beside defensive rebounding – as a freshman.
Downside: Basabe improved throughout the year and moderate improvement between his freshman and sophomore seasons should yield one of the most productive big men in the league. The list of areas for improvement are nitpicky: playing a few more minutes, striving for more consistency, limiting turnovers and staying out of foul trouble.

4. Cody Zeller – Indiana

PPG (HS) RPG (HS) Rivals Scout ESPN
25 13 15 13 14

Upside: Zeller averaged 25 points and 13 rebounds per game en route to the Mr. Basketball award in Indiana last season. The McDonald’s All-American has been hailed as the savior of the Indiana basketball program and provides a fundamental big man who can score and rebound.
Downside: Despite all of the hype, he’s still just a freshman. Expectations are monumental for Zeller and he’ll have to produce early or the weight of the Hoosier fan base might begin to wear him down.

5. Ralph Sampson III – Minnesota

MPG PPG RPG ORtg Usage eFG% OR% DR% Block% FT Rate
29.0 10.2 5.4 105.5 19.4 48.1 7.1 13.7 8.6 35.5

Upside: Sampson is the best returning shot blocker in the Big Ten and he should have more opportunity this season after Colton Iverson’s transfer.
Downside: Samspon’s offenseive production still leaves something to be desired. His offensive efficiency has waned over the course of his career and his rebounding numbers are sub par for a player of his size.

6. Jordan Morgan – Michigan
Morgan made an impressive 63 percent of his twos last season but needs to prove that he can score the ball efficiently without Darius Morris while staying on the floor longer and avoiding foul trouble.

7. Luka Mirkovic – Northwestern
Mirkovic is a great fit in the Northwestern offense, he converts twos at an average rate, can step out and hit the occasional three and does a solid job on both backboards. He’s not flashy, or a difference maker defensively, but he’s productive.

8. Meyers Leonard – Illinois
Leonard had a very quiet freshman season but gained valuable experience playing with Team USA in the FIBA U19 World Championships this summer. He should have ample opportunity to take the next step in his development with the graduation of the Illini frontcourt.

9. Jorge Brian Diaz – Nebraska
Nebraska’s most productive returning starter, Diaz is a solid finisher around the basket but is an underwhelming rebounder that struggles at the line. The Cornhuskers have questions in the backcourt but their offense was effective around the basket last year and Diaz should continue to improve.

10. Brandon Ubel – Nebraska
Ubel wasn’t as productive as Diaz but he was the most efficient scorer on last year’s Nebraska squad. He also posted more impressive rebounding numbers when adjusted for playing time and could be one of the biggest surprises for Nebraska next season.

Also Considered (in no particular order): Derrick Nix (Michigan State), Jared Berggren (Wisconsin), Adreian Payne (Michigan State)

  • ZRL


    • ZRL

      Zeller as 4? I know a lot of Indiana fans are counting on him to save their program but highly touted bigs seem to struggle as freshmen unless they have one-and-done talent, which I don’t think Zeller has.

      • I was nervous about putting him there too but I couldn’t really justify putting anyone in front of him either. Is it that crazy to expect Cody Zeller to be better than Ralph Sampson?

        • SamGoBlue

          No, it’s not, but it is crazy to put both of them ahead of Jordan Morgan, Jorge Brian Diaz, and probably Mike Bruesewitz of Wisconsin. Sampson is probably not top-10 big men in the Big Ten and judging by his brothers as freshmen (I know that isn’t always a fair comparison, but it’s the best we can do right now), Cody Zeller has a couple years before he is a huge contributor. Luke and Tyler were both very highly rated out of high school, albeit slightly lower than Cody, and both struggled in their first and part of their second years. If Indiana is a solid team this year, it will be because of Maurice Creek, Christian Watford, and Verdell Jones III. And maybe a side of Jordan Hulls.

          • Really don’t see any reason to move Diaz up the list. Morgan and Sampson are close — Sampson is the shot blocker, Morgan has impressive 2-point shooting. It will be interesting to watch Zeller, early reports are that he’ll start at the five down there.

          • gpsimms

            my $.02: sampson is the most worthless, soft, big that the world has seen since the days of courtney sim(m?)s

            actually, he’s courtney minus the talent/upside.

          • eddieben

            Thought Creek was hurt again?

          • SamGoBlue

            He is perpetually hurt. I was just saying if he can be healthy and play well he could help Indiana.

  • ABCD

    Zeller ideally is a 4, but he will play the 5, too. I think a lot of college basketball fans have assumed that the overwhelming majority of IU fans have put a lot of expectations on the young man, but I don’t think that’s the case. Also, the reason why so many IU fans see Zeller as a savior is because of the recruits that committed to IU after Zeller because they wanted to play with him. Zeller was a major reason why some of the 2012 commits wanted to play at IU (especially Yogi).

  • GregGoBlue

    Love Basabi’s game, showed a lot of promise as a big (traditionally slow-developing position) even as a freshman. With the continued development of Marble, I see that combination being deadly in a few years. 

  • kennyYe

    No mention of Smotrysz?!. He does have much low post game, but he is 6’9, plays 4 or 5, and can score on you from the outside and take you to the inside, and gives the opponents matchup problem.

    • There will be a big forward/combo forward post. Guys that mostly play the four position but have some perimeter skill: Hummel, Green, etc. Smotrycz would be compared against this group.

    • kennyYe

      I mean not much low post game.