Taking a look some of the top Division I conference in college basketball. In this installment, the B1G is profiled.
-Caris LeVert, Jr., G, Michigan
-Rayvonte Rice, Sr., G, Illinois
-Terran Petteway, Jr., G, Nebraska
-Sam Dekker, Jr., F, Wisconsin
-Frank Kaminsky, Sr., F, Wisconsin
Breakdown – The best five players in the B1g (I’m going to keep calling it that, so get used to it) are pretty clear-cut. Except for Rice, I think you’ll see the remaining four players here at the end of the season. Rice, I believe is the one that will break out for the Illini and surprise a few people. As for the front-court being all Badgers? There’s a reason they’re the heavy favorite to win the league.
Predicting the Finish
1.) Wisconsin – Key players like Traveon Jackson, Dekker and Kaminsky are back. Bo Ryan always has his teams near the top and that won’t change.
2.) Nebraska – I’m a bit higher on the Huskers than some. I really like Petteway’s game and Tim Miles has what #Nebrasketball has sorely needed to be competitive: Relentless enthusiasm.
3.) Michigan State – It’s Tom Izzo. And if history tells us anything, the losses of Gary Harris and Adreian Payne won’t hurt them much.
4.) Ohio State – This team is year away from contending for the B1G title. Trevor Thompson will help in 2015-16. This season, Amir Williams could have a year that makes him a first round draft pick.
Sleeper Team – 5.) Illinois – Rayvonte Rice will carry this season with Darius Paul suspended for the season. The emergence of Aaron Cosby will be crucial for the Illini to contend within the conference.
6.) Iowa – After stumbling late but still making the NCAA Tournament, it’ll be interesting to see who steps into the leadership role for the graduated Roy Devryn Marble this year. Aaron White is the top candidate.
7.) Minnesota – Andre Hollins will be looked upon to do a lot. But it will be Elliot Eliason who will be the most important player for coach Richard Pitino. Consistency will be key from him.
8.) Michigan – John Beilein always seems to have his teams “there” when necessary. However, losing Mitch McGary unexpectedly will have a much bigger effect than some realize. No player over 6-9 on the roster.
9.) Indiana – Coach Tom Crean over-coached last season. This season, he should hand the keys to Yogi Ferrell and let players like Robert Johnson and James Blackmon Jr. do what they do best.
10.) Penn State – Can one player carry a team? D.J. Newbill is about to find out. Pat Chambers has to find a sidekick to the senior to have any chance at contending this year. Brandon Taylor could be the guy.
11.) Purdue – It felt like Matt Painter lost a lot of important players in the offseason, whether he did or not. But they return A.J. Hammons and Rapheal Davis, who could have a big year.
12.) Northwestern – Chris Collins did an amazing job of getting and keeping the commitment of Vic Law. But the program is at least a year away.
13.) Maryland – Mark Turgeon needs to win this season. But I can’t see it with the roster he has after all the offseason transfers.
14.) Rutgers – Let’s face it, this move was a dumb one by the B1G. Eddie Jordan might be able to surprise a few teams, but I don’t even see 6 wins in the conference for the Scarlet Knights. It’ll be the Mack And Jack (Myles and Kadeem).
Bryn Forbes, GS, G, Michigan State – He quietly took his spot with the Spartans and could be one of the key players for Izzo this season. He averaged 15.6 ppg at Cleveland State and could do almost as well in East Lansing, where he could be the deep threat Izzo needs. He hit 42.4 percent of his threes last season for the Vikings.
Most Likely To…..end a game in the 90s
-Minnesota at Michigan State – 2/26/15 – Because guessing which game will end in the low 40s is like asking if Bo Ryan wants to press fast forward on his DVR. Richard Pitino has proven to be like his old man in that he likes to run and shoot the three (in his own style) and Tom Izzo is going to have a lot of guards this season who like to get out into transition. If both teams are hitting their shots with consistency, it could finish in the 100s in regulation.
–Marcus Paige, G, Jr., North Carolina – Arguably one of the Top 2 point guards in the nation (more on that below). He’ll be one of the front runners for the Cousy Award and might have to shoulder more of the scoring load with James Michael McAdoo gone. That’ll be interesting considering he clocked 17.5 points per game last season, along with 4.2 assists per.
–Fred VanVleet, G, Jr., Wichita State – Here’s that other member of the Top 2 point guard club I was talking about. I really didn’t want to choose between the two so I went this way. While Paige is more dynamic, VanVleet might be the coolest guy on the floor. Even-keel the whole way. He dished out 5.4 assists per game last season and gets a lot of the Shockers’ production back (sans Cleanthony Early, obviously).
–Georges Niang, F, Jr., Iowa State – I had Niang pegged as a guy that would come out for the 2014 NBA Draft. The college game is better for him not doing it. Niang has the ultimate “old man” game with a variety of moves, both midrange and under the basket. His spot-up game is on point too, hitting 48 threes last season. He’ll be relied on a little more with Melvin Ejim gone.
–Karl-Anthony Towns, C/F, Fr., Kentucky – I normally don’t put freshman in these spots, but Towns has been too hyped since he was an 8th grader to ignore it. I watched him in the UK Scouting Combine/Practice/Brilliant Calipari PR move and was impressed. There aren’t many times when you say that about a player in practice, but you can say that when that practice includes around 8-9 future NBA Draft picks. He’s hitting threes at a decent pace for a non-Durant guy his size, too (127 in three years as a prep).
–Cliff Alexander, C/F, Fr., Kansas – OK SO MAYBE I LIKE THE FRESHMAN THIS YEAR (My 2006, sophomore-in-college self nods in approval) I saw Alexander play a few times in AAU, and every time I did, he was a monster. He tried to rip the rim down every single time he was under the basket. Kansas won’t miss Joel Embiid (that much) with Alexander in, because Alexander isn’t the project Embiid was. His post game is incredibly polished.
–Juwan Staten, G, Sr., West Virginia – Here’s a guy who doesn’t get the love he should. Staten was the best player on a bad team last season, averaging 18.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 5.8 apg as the Mountaineers finished 17-16. In 2014-15, he’ll be looked to for everything as the top 3 scorers behind him are gone. But Bob Huggins brings in host of junior college talent in Jaysean Paige, Jonathan Holton, BillyDee Williams and Tarik Phillip. It’ll be interesting to see if the three freshman (including redshirt Elijah Macon) will contribute early.
–Delon Wright, G, Sr., Utah – Another guy who didn’t get the national respect he should’ve. That’ll change this season. Wright averaged 15.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 5.3 apg for the Runnin’ Utes last season and helped them shock a number of people under coach Larry Krystkowiak (yea, I had to Google the spelling, at least I tried first), going 21-12. Utah could make the NCAA Tournament this season, and Wright will be a big reason why — if they do, or if they don’t.
–Stanley Johnson, G/F, Fr., Arizona – Sean Miller has a type, and that type is “slender with a ton of bounce.” Johnson slides right into the spot vacated by Aaron Gordon. He’s got a better penetration game from the perimeter and a slightly better jumper. He should enjoy his one season in Tuscon. At which point he’ll break up with Miller and the Wildcats head coach will have to find a new crush.
–Montrezl Harrell, F, Jr., Louisville – Everyone said he was gone to the NBA Draft, including this guy. But he went back to Louisville and has landed on everyone’s All-American list. I’m one of the few that put him on their second team. The reason why has nothing to do with his talent. If he lands on all first-team rosters, it won’t shock anyone. But if he does, it’ll be because he improved his midrange game, which was already vastly improved last season, when he finished with 14 ppg and 8.4 rpg.
–Jahlil Okafor, F, Fr., Duke – I swear, I’m not fishing for clicks. I like Okafor. I think he’s a Top 10 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. But it’s the preseason, and in the preseason, I look at what’s coming in. Duke has a lot of talent, per usual. For that, I think that Okafor won’t need to do a lot to start out. I really think he’ll average somewhere around 11 ppg up until ACC play, where coach Mike Krzyzewski will unleash him on the North Carolinas, Virginias and Louisvilles. But there will be an adaptation to the college game, and that lands him on my second team. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m totally wrong and he goes for 20-12 per and is a bonafide first team All-American by mid-season.
–Joseph Young, G, Sr., Oregon – If there’s a player in Division I college basketball who will be asked to do more for his team this season, please show me and I’ll swap him with Young in this spot. After the dismissal of Daymean Dotson, Dominic Artis and Brandon Austin for their alleged involvement in a sexual assault case, combined with the fact that highly-touted recruit JaQuan Lyle didn’t enroll at the school, that doesn’t leave a lot in the metaphorical cupboard for Young. I was against Young’s transfer waiver being granted when he left Houston, but after seeing all that Dana Altman lost, I’m ok with it. Even if it’s just because he has a least one totally competent scorer (18.9 ppg) on his roster.
–Marcus Foster, G, Soph., Kansas State – He was possibly the best freshm— no, he WAS the best freshman no one was talking about last season. The Wichita Falls, Texas native set the Big 12 on fire (in a two-game stretch, he went for 34 against then no.15 Texas and backed it up with 20 against then no.7-ranked Kansas) and came back for more in Manhattan. No one will miss him this season, as he’s got help in the form of senior Thomas Gipson (11.7 ppg), Georgetown transfer Brandon Bolden and junior college transfer Stephen Hurt.
–Andrew Harrison, G, Soph., Kentucky – Once he figured out how to distribute last season, Kentucky was a better team for it. He averaged 10.9 ppg and 4 apg, en route to helping a late-season resurgence in Lexington. Now with a plethora of weapons to hit for threes, midrange jumpers and lobs, he could very well lead the nation in assists. Harrison makes this team go, as he proved it late last season. This year, that shouldn’t change.
–Kelly Oubre, F, Fr., Kansas – Every list has a WTF? pick, Oubre is mine. He’s got the credentials to be an All-American, but can he do it with the likes of Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander in front of him? I think so. He’s got more athleticism than either Ellis or Alexander in the face-up game and if he can stay consistent on defense, this could be his lone season in Lawrence. I see the potential, so I’m giving him a spot. Being left-handed doesn’t hurt.
–Willie Cauley-Stein, F/C, Jr., Kentucky – He didn’t come to Kentucky with a ton of hype, but has really become the most well-developed player in his two seasons under Calipari. Cauley-Stein has a good shot at being a Top 5 pick if he can raise his midrange and baseline jumper game, but he’ll also have to prove to scouts that he’s over the ankle injury. Yea, I’m reaching for reasons that WCS will have to improve, because there aren’t many.
Player of the Year – Marcus Paige
Freshman of the Year – Cliff Alexander
Defensive Player of the Year – Willie Cauley-Stein