NetScouts Basketball continues our college basketball previews with the Big Ten conference.
1. Wisconsin: The clear favorite in the conference and a candidate to make another Final Four run, Wisconsin loses only one major contributor from last year’s squad in Ben Brust. Frank Kaminsky is one of the biggest mismatches in the country as a 7-footer who can step out to the three-point line while Sam Dekker is a physically imposing wing. Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser started every game last season alongside Kaminsky and Dekker and should remain steady backcourt players. Sophomore Nigel Hayes could have a breakout sophomore season ahead at power forward position to form a talented frontline. Fellow sophomore Bronson Koenig should see a bigger role in the backcourt this year. With the combination of size and experience it looks as if the Badgers can contend for a national title.
2. Ohio State: Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. have graduated and leave voids in the backcourt, but senior Shannon Scott and McDonald’s All-American D’Angelo Russell will be viable replacements. Scott could have a similar role as Craft, but could even add a little more offensively. Russell is a smooth scoring southpaw that will add much needed shooting. Sam Thompson is an ultra-athletic wing that should be a defensive stopper. Freshman forwards Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate are ESPN five-star recruits that will contribute immediately. Temple transfer Anthony Lee will also add depth. Senior centers Amir Williams and Trey McDonald showed flashes last season but will need to be more consistent this year. While this team will miss the scoring from LaQuinton Ross, this should be a well-rounded unit competing for a Big Ten title.
3. Michigan State: The Spartans lose three double-figure scorers from last season and a pair of first round picks, but will remain among one of the top teams in the conference. A lot will depend on the production from Branden Dawson, who was typically seen as a glue guy until a big scoring surge in tournament play showed his full potential. Travis Trice thrived in a bench role but is now expected to assume the starting point guard position. Denzel Valentine is an all-around contributor off the ball while Cleveland State transfer Bryn Forbes is eligible to play immediately after averaging 15.6 points per game last year. Matt Costello has been banged up for most of his career but will look for a big junior season. Gavin Schilling played sparingly as a freshman, but will see plenty of minutes this season. There have also been good reports about ESPN 100 point guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn. Most of these players have played well in smaller roles, but how will they respond with added responsibility?
4. Nebraska: Terran Petteway was one of the most underrated players in the country last season and looks like an NBA prospect after averaging 18.1 points per game as a sophomore. Even more undervalued was 6-foot-7 wing Shavon Shields, who can be overshadowed by Petteway, but still averaged 12.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season. Walter Pitchford, a stretch four that shot 41% from deep last season, adds another scoring option. Outside of these three, the Cornhuskers will look for even more production considering Leslee Smith is out with a torn ACL. Georgetown transfer Moses Abraham will try to replace Smith’s spot in the frontcourt while freshman Jake Hammond may be called upon to contribute immediately. Point guard Tai Webster will need to improve in his sophomore season while Benny Parker will add a defensive presence. Nebraska has a solid core, but needs production from role players to make a run at the conference title.
5. Michigan: The losses of NBA draft picks Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III hurt, but the Wolverines still have a chance to become a dangerous tournament team. Caris LeVert will be the top scoring option after averaging 12.9 points per game last season. Sophomore point guard Derrick Walton Jr. improved throughout the course of his freshman year and will be looked upon to continue his development. The Wolverines will look for a breakout season in former five-star recruit Zak Irvin. The 6-foot-6 wing averaged 6.7 points per game while shooting 43% from three last season but could see an improvement similar to Stauskas and LeVert. The frontcourt took a hit with the transfer of Jon Horford and there will be some unproven players seeing major minutes. Max Biedfeldt is the only big man that has played a collegiate game and only averaged only 4.7 minutes per game last year. Mark Donnal, a former ESPN 100 prospect, redshirted last season while freshmen Kameron Chatman, Ricky Doyle, and D.J. Wilson will see action. The backcourt seems talented enough to compete with anyone, but the lack of experience in the frontcourt could become an issue.
6. Iowa: Without Roy Devyn Marble, senior forward Aaron White looks to be the top offensive threat in a deep and talented frontcourt. Adam Woodbury, Gabriel Olaseni, and Jarrod Uthoff are all upperclassmen with plenty of experience. Point guard Mike Gesell is coming off a quality sophomore season and remains a steady primary ball handling option. Senior Josh Oglesby should see a bigger role this season without Marble and JUCO addition Trey Dickerson will see time at both guard spots. Peter Jok could be on pace for a breakout sophomore season on the wing. With an experienced roster and strong frontcourt, Iowa should be a sleeper to watch in the Big Ten.
7. Minnesota: The senior guard tandem of DeAndre Mathieu and Andre Hollins will lead the Gophers as the top-returning scorers. JUCO addition Carlos Morris is expected to contribute immediately and will try to replace some of the production left by Austin Hollins. Senior bigs Maurice Walker and Elliott Eliason had productive seasons last year while Joey King is an effective stretch four. Minnesota may lack some size but returns most of last year’s core and could see an NCAA tournament bid.
8. Illinois: The Fighting Illini took a big hit when it was announced that starting point guard Tracy Abrams, a double-figure scorer last season, would miss the upcoming season with a torn ACL. Without their starting point guard, the Illini will look for Rayvonte Rice to carry an even bigger scoring load after averaging 15.9 points per game last season. Oregon State transfer Ahmad Starks will likely replace the injured Abrams while sophomore Jaylon Tate will see a bigger role. Kendrick Nunn and Seton Hall transfer Aaron Cosby will round out a backcourt that should still have talent without Abrams. Senior 6-foot-11 center Nnanna Egwu will add a shot-blocker inside while freshman Leron Black, ESPN’s number one ranked player from Tennessee, should see plenty of time at power forward. Sophomores Malcolm Hill, Maverick Morgan, and Austin Colbert will see expanded roles in the frontcourt and will look to take leaps forward. The loss of Abrams will be tough, but Illinois still has enough talent to fight for an NCAA tournament bid.
9. Indiana: Point guard Yogi Ferrell will be expected to carry the offense this season after averaging 17.3 points, 3.9 assists, and 3.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore. He’ll be one of the top players in the conference and should have some solid company in the backcourt with sophomore Stanford Robinson, McDonald’s All-American James Blackmon Jr., ESPN 100 prospect Robert Johnson, and Illinois State transfer Nick Zeisloft at the shooting guard spots. With the amount of talented guards on the roster, look for Tom Crean to utilize some three-guard lineups. The Hoosiers lose double-figure scorers Will Sheehey and Noah Vonleh in the frontcourt and will have some glaring holes to fill up front. Troy Williams had a nice freshman season and could be asked to move to the four spot in smaller lineups. Fellow sophomore Devin Davis will see plenty of time as a power forward despite his 6-foot-7 size. A lot of responsibility will be placed on Hanner Mosquera-Perea to improve as a junior and provide rebounding inside. Indiana is going to lack size, but the guard play could be enough to surprise the conference.
10. Maryland: The roster suffered a lot of turnover this offseason when key contributors Seth Allen, Nick Faust, Charles Mitchell, Roddy Peters, and Shaquille Cleare transferred out of the program. Maryland will still return one of the conference’s most underrated performers in Dez Wells. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard averaged a team-high 14.9 points per game to go with 4.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per contest. Jake Layman and Evan Smotrycz were double-figure scorers last year and solidify the frontcourt. Seven-foot Slovankian freshman Michal Cekovsky should contribute immediately at center while Damonte Dodd will see a bigger role. A lot of responsibility will be placed on freshman point guard Romelo Trimble, a McDonald’s All-American, to lead the offense. ESPN 100 prospect Dion Wiley should also contribute as a freshman in the backcourt.
11. Penn State: Leading scorer D.J. Newbill returns after averaging 17.8 points per game as a junior, but do-it-all point guard Tim Frazier has graduated and leaves a void in the leadership department. Geno Thorpe will attempt to replace Frazier’s production this season after playing a smaller role off the ball as a freshman. JUCO transfer Devin Foster should also see time at the point guard spot. The frontcourt could be an issue, but Brandon Taylor returns as an underrated piece to the offense. Upperclassmen Donovon Jack and Ross Travis will compete with freshmen Julian Moore and Payton Banks for minutes. This team should primarily rely on Newbill’s scoring, but will need production from other players to compete in the Big Ten.
12. Purdue: The Boilermakers will suffer big losses in the backcourt as Terone Johnson graduated and his brother, Ronnie, transferred to Houston. They will return possibly their biggest piece however – literally and figuratively – in 7-foot center A.J. Hammons. The junior averaged 10.8 points and a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game last season and looked dominant on occasions. Guards Kendall Stephens and Bryson Scott played well as freshman and will look to fill starting roles. Basil Smotherman is another sophomore to watch after shooting 58% from the field in 18.9 minutes per game last year. Purdue also landed a pair of ESPN 100 recruits with center Isaac Haas and small forward Vincent Edwards. Hammons looks to be the focal point, but there’s a lot of unproven talent that will need to outperform expectations.
13. Northwestern: Head coach Chris Collins didn’t make a monumental impact in his first year at Northwestern, but seems to have the program moving in the right direction. The Wildcats will lose last year’s leading scorer, Drew Crawford, to graduation, but bring back three vital pieces in JerShon Cobb, Tre Demps, and Alex Olah. Cobb and Demps will form an experienced backcourt while the 7-foot Olah will be the main post presence. ESPN 100 recruit Victor Law should make an impact on the wing.
14. Rutgers: Last year’s top two scorers from last season, Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack, return from last season. The duo averaged a combined 29.2 points per game and will remain the primary options offensively. Outside of these two seniors, the Scarlet Knights will need an improvement in the supporting cast to get out of the bottom spot.
Any international players interested in coming to the USA to play in college, prep school or high school can contact us here. We are looking for interns and sales associates. If you’re interested contact us and forward your resume.