The Big Ten might have more returning talent than any other league in the country but that’s not to say there won’t be superstars in the latest crop of freshmen. Last year’s freshmen class didn’t have near the star power of year’s past but this year’s conference champion might be determined by which freshmen stars are ready to perform.
First, here’s a team-by-team look at the freshmen classes across the league:
*Unranked prospects are given a two star rating or 70 on ESPN.
Ohio State has the top class in the league as they have the top end talent (Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas) and the depth (six players) to make a serious impact. Illinois is close on their tail with a solid trio of prospects with size and athleticism. Michigan State is the third team that belongs in the top tier with a class highlighted by Keith Appling and Adreian Payne.
The middle tier breaks down pretty evenly into Purdue, Wisconsin, and Michigan. These schools have 3 or 4 prospects that are respected but they lack the top 25 high end talent. Penn State, Northwestern, Minnesota, and Iowa fall pretty clearly into the bottom group.
The next question is, individually, who are the freshmen that have the ability and opportunity to make an impact. Last year I predicted Royce White, DJ Richardson, Christian Watford, Drew Crawford, and Maurice Creek would make the all freshman team. White never played a game and Creek missed conference play with an injury, but the other three were all consensus picks on the end of season team.
Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Michigan State’s Keith Appling
Jared Sullinger – Ohio State – 6-9 PF – The consensus top recruit in the Big Ten, Sullinger is a load to handle in the paint, literally: he was measured at 6-foot-9 286 pounds this summer. Sullinger will patrol the paint from day one and very well could be the freshman of the year.
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I recently got a chance to chat with Sean Sheldon, a 2012 big man out of Traverse City. Sean is a versatile big man whose recruitment started really picking up at the end of this summer. Sheldon also really impressed at Michigan’s elite camp. Here’s what Sean had to say:
Describe your game. I like to think of myself as a really versatile player. I can play any position from the 3 to the 5, really. I can go beyond the arc and knock down the 3 or take my defender off the dribble from beyond the arc also. The thing I’m more well-known for is squaring up from the post, but I can also take guys with my back to the basket. So I think a lot of schools are looking at me for my versatility.
Who has offered you? Western Michigan, Miami (OH), Lehigh and Wright State.
There are some bigger schools who have shown interest in you, though. That’s Penn State, of course U of M, USC, Providence, Notre Dame. Those are probably some of the bigger schools along with Wisconsin and Indiana.
What have you and coach Beilein been talking about as far as an offer? Coach Beilein said that they’re at the stage right now where they have to decide to offer their final scholarship for 2012 to a big man or a guard. I talked to him yesterday on the phone and he said they still hadn’t decided, but I’m definitely in the mix. So I’m hoping for an offer from them.
If Michigan were to offer, where would they rank? They’d definitely be one of the top choices, it really depends. It’d be between a lot of Big Ten schools and stuff. It’d be between them and Penn State and USC and stuff like that. But they’d definitely be a top choice.
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The Michigan basketball coaching staff has made social media a point of emphasis over the last several months and it has certainly been beneficial to Michigan fans. Coach Beilein and all three assistants have taken up tweeting and Beilein has also launched his own website. The extra coverage proved extremely valuable during Michigan’s trip to Europe and it’s given fans another perspective on the Michigan program. With the first practice less than a month away it will be interesting to see how the staff continues to utilize social media throughout the season.
Plenty of the content on JohnBeilein.com is fluff, such as this piece about his childhood basketball court, but there is also some useful content. Most recently Beilein posted a number of injury updates:
We’re a little banged up right now, we have several injuries that will keep a couple of guys out for a few weeks. Blake McLimans got tangled up with Jon Horford and injured his elbow so he’s going to be out for at least a couple of weeks. He’s learning at such a great rate, but if injuries are going to happen this is a better time to have them opposed to deep in the season.
Jordan Dumars is going to have minor surgery on his knee and the length of time that he will miss depends on how successful surgery is tomorrow (Tuesday). And Zack Novak had his wisdom teeth pulled, so he’ll be out for a few days. We’re down to 11 guys here for a little bit but Zack will be back soon, we hope to have Blake back within a few weeks and we’re hoping that everything goes well for Jordan tomorrow. We’ll know more about the time frame for when he’ll be healthy after that is completed.
None of the injuries appear to be major issues but the most troubling one is McLiman’s elbow injury. Michigan needs McLimans and Morgan to stay healthy all year but they also need the practice time because of their lack of experience.
Most of the talk about next year’s Big Ten season will focus on the top flight talent that returns and rightfully so. The superstar quotient in the league is high as Kalin Lucas, Robbie Hummel, Demetri McCamey, E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, and Talor Battle have all been named first team Big Ten players at least once in their careers. This post doesn’t focus on those guys because we know what they are capable of. Instead, this is a list of players who have the potential to breakout and go from supporting player to bona fide superstar.
Before I pored across the statistics I tried to come up with some signs that could point out players with the potential to breakout:
- High offensive rating, low usage: These players were efficient but didn’t get enough shots meaning that if they become a bigger part of the offense, their stats should increase dramatically.
- High usage departing player ahead: These players were essentially blocked by a superstar that was the focal point of the offense.
- In-season improvement: Ending the season on a high note isn’t fail proof but sometimes when the light goes on, it stays on.
- Showing signs: This one is a little more subjective and applies to the young players that just haven’t had a chance to shine.
William Buford – Jr. – Ohio State - Can a player that averaged 14 points and 6 rebounds per game really breakout? In Buford’s case I’ll say yes. Buford was a tenth of a percentage point away from Pomeroy’s “major contributors” category (using >24% of team poss.) and had he fallen in that category his offensive rating would have put him fourth – a smidge ahead of all-World teammate Evan Turner and behind only Jon Leuer, John Shurna, and Kalin Lucas. I expect to see Buford on the All-Big Ten first team when all is said and done.
Durrell Summers – Sr. – Michigan St. (Stats) – If you are anything like me you probably have had summer nightmares of Summers’ ridiculous NCAA tournament statline: 18.8 points, 5.6 rebounds with a 67.4 eFG%. We always knew that Summers had the talent but he had never put together a stretch quite like that. He probably got more looks without Kalin Lucas but there should be plenty of shots in the MSU offense with Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen’s departures. If Summers can find consistency this year, forget the Big Ten, the whole country better take note.
Jordan Taylor – So. – Wisconsin (Stats) – Jordan Taylor probably isn’t a household name across the Big Ten because he’s just a cog in the wheel at Wisconsin. That being said, Taylor managed to rank 6th in offensive rating and 8th in assist rate. Here are Taylor’s sophomore numbers compared to Trevon Hughes’ sophomore numbers:
I’m not suggesting he will become Trevon Hughes but he certainly looks ready to anchor Bo Ryan’s backcourt. He’s also lucky enough to have able big men in Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil.
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