Big Ten’s Top 25 Players: 10-6

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Michigan-67-Northwestern-55-17[1]With the official start of practice less than nine weeks away, Inside the Hall and UM Hoops have partnered to bring you a preseason breakdown of the top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2012-2013 season.

Our selection process was hardly scientific, but it did involve much deliberation and compromise to arrive at a list that we hope will provide plenty of reaction and debate.

The series is broken down into five parts (25-21, 20-16, 15-10) and our third installment of players 10-6 is available below: (Photo: Dustin Johnston)

10. Branden Dawson, Michigan State (6-foot-6, forward, sophomore)
20.6 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 57.7 eFG%

Dawson’s inclusion in the top ten of this list will likely be scrutinized as there’s no guarantee he’ll be 100% when the season tips in November. As a freshman, Dawson was playing some of his best basketball before tearing his left ACL in Michigan State’s loss to Ohio State to close out the regular season. Early reports on his recovery have been very favorable and the graduation of Draymond Green should thrust Dawson into a more prominent role for Tom Izzo this winter. Dawson’s offensive stats were modest in his rookie campaign, but he was the Big Ten’s best offensive rebounder (13.3 OR%) and had emerged as Michigan State’s go-to defender at the time of his injury. If Dawson can become more consistent from the free throw line (59.4% last season) and knock down some perimeter jump shots, it’ll make his knack for getting to the basket even more valuable.

9. Tim Hardaway, Jr., Michigan (6-foot-6, guard, junior)
34.2 mpg, 14.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 48.4 eFG%

Hardaway Jr. was a trendy pick for All-Big Ten honors prior to last season, but his inconsistency from the perimeter derailed an otherwise productive season. Fortunately for John Beilein and the co-Big Ten champion Wolverines, Trey Burke’s fantastic freshman campaign helped negate Hardaway’s spotty shooting. The main crux of the problem a season ago was Hardaway’s shooting from behind the 3-point arc, where he fell from 36.7 as a freshman to 28.3 percent as a sophomore. His Big Ten drop off was even more dramatic: 26.5 down from 44.2% in league games. At his best, the Michigan junior is a future pro with a polished offensive game that allows him to score from anywhere on the court. With an offseason of working with Burke both on campus and at various camps like the LeBron James Skills Academy, Hardaway will benefit from better spacing and in turn, should get the ball in better positions to make shots.

8. Tim Frazier, Penn State (6-foot-1, guard, senior)
37.1 mpg, 18.8 ppg, 6.2 apg, 4.7 rpg

After a surprising run to the NCAA tournament two seasons ago, Penn State fell back to the bottom of the Big Ten last season. The lone consistent bright spot in State College was Tim Frazier, who transformed from role player into the definition of go-to guy. Frazier led Penn State in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals, but forcing one player to do so much, particularly a minute guard, is a poor recipe for winning in a major conference. Still, it’s tough not to respect how valuable Frazier was in getting Penn State to four league wins. His assist rate of 45.3 led the Big Ten and was second nationally and he was also second in the conference to Aaron Craft in steal percentage. The other side of the story, of course, is the lack of efficiency in many of Frazier’s numbers, particularly his 44.6 effective field goal percentage. As Pat Chambers continues to rebuild, expect Frazier to continue putting up big numbers in his senior season.

7. Drew Crawford, Northwestern (6-foot-5, guard/forward, senior)
34.6 mpg, 16.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 56.0 eFG%

While teammate John Shurna grabbed headlines and conference accolades in his final collegiate season, Drew Crawford quietly emerged as one of the league’s best players with far less recognition. Crawford improved his 3-point shooting by close to nine percentage points (32.7 to 41.2) and his effective field goal percentage ranked 12th in the Big Ten. When Northwestern pushed Ohio State to the brink at Welsh-Ryan Arena in late February, it was Crawford’s 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting that nearly pushed them over the top. Shurna’s departure means that Crawford will likely see his usage continue to increase and his scoring numbers continue to rise on a team with few other legit scoring options. As one of the Big Ten’s most complete wings, he should flourish in a more prominent role.

6. Keith Appling, Michigan State (6-foot-1, guard, junior)
30.8 mpg, 11.4 ppg, 3.9 apg, 2.9 rpg

Given his progression from his freshman to his sophomore season, Keith Appling looks like a prime candidate to continue his ascent into the discussion of the Big Ten’s elite players. The former McDonald’s All-American saw a steep regression in his 3-point shooting percentage, but those woes were negated by Appling’s ability to get to basket and either score (50.7 percent shooting on 2’s) or get to the foul line. Only Indiana’s Cody Zeller and Ohio State’s Aaron Craft posted a better free throw rate and Appling converted on close to 79 percent of his 178 free throw attempts. Appling also emerged as one of the Big Ten’s best distributors as his 4.1 assists per game were good for 5th in league play. Provided he continues his hard-nosed defense and regains some of his shooting touch, all-conference honors aren’t out of the question for Appling.

This edition of  the Big Ten’s top 25 players was written by Alex Bozich of Inside the Hall.

  • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

    Curious to hear your thoughts… Is Hardaway too high? Too low? Where should Burke go? Final list comes out tomorrow.

    • Thomas Beindit

      I think Appling is way too high on this list. I don’t think I would have had him in the top 15. I just never felt like he controlled the game at all, even though he was a point guard. I like where Hardaway is, obviously considering my statement regarding Appling. To me, Burke should be top 2 players in the Big Ten. Will be interesting to see who wins out between him and Zeller on a list created by a Indiana and Michigan websites.

    • jblair52

      I think #9 is a good spot – he’s hard to figure out cause he has ups and downs.
      He could play his way to #15 or into the Top 3 IMO

    • John

      Hardaway is perfect at #9. He could be much higher, but he’s too inconsistent. I also think Appling is way too high. I’m not sure if I would even put him in top 15. Burke should be 1 or 2 along with Zeller. Whoever makes the bigger off-season improvements will get big 10 player of the year.

    • Adam

      Appling is definitely way too high. Frazier is a much better player than him.. Appling was never a guy who scared you when you played Michigan State.. maybe he could take the leap forward to being a top 10 player this year, but he’s not there yet.. there are lots of guys ranked behind him who I think should be ahead of him

    • umnyc

      I think the list is fine. Hardaway was too inconsistent to be any higher than #9, but I certainly think deserves to be in the top 10 considering the rest of the talent in the B1G. I would put Appling right in that same category, but I think Appling’s mental toughness carried him through some of his rough spots, where Hardaway’s slump seemed to be more visible, and therefore more cripling. I’m hoping the added frosh talent will take some of the pressure off of THJ, allow him to settle into his game, and get out of his head.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    Agree…Burke & Zeller are great picks for #1 and #2….i agree with the majority of rankings

  • toblav

    Not going to argue, good choices, but as a Mich. fan Jordan Hulls scares me. When he catches fire he can rack up 3’s in a hurry. If he scares like that I wonder if he shouldn’t have a spot in there somewhere.

    • serious

      Hulls can score, you are right- but there is no way he is a top ten player in the Big Ten. He is also a horrible, horrible defender.

      • toblav

        I was thinking top 25, certainly not top 10, you’re right about that.

    • geoffclarke

      Don’t be scurred. You can respect his shooting ability.

  • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

    Michigan released it’s 2012-13 roster. Here are the updates
    http://www.umhoops.com/information/roster/

  • Mattski

    I’m thinking that Michigan may not need Timmy in the savior role so often this year, and that this may reduce his numbers further but be fine with him and the team. He’s still only a junior!