10. Christian Watford, Indiana (6-foot-9, forward, senior)
12.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.3 apg, 41.6 FG%
Christian Watford is merely a great all around basketball player. He can defend someone on the perimeter as well as in the post. He is not as good of a rebounder as you would expect from a man his size but improved in the rebounding category last season. He is a 44% three-point shooter and is known for coming up with big shots at a big time. After all, he is the player that hit the game winner last season to upset the number one Kentucky Wildcats. Hoosier fans are hoping that he will continue to make big shots, as now his Indiana Hoosiers are preseason ranked number one.
9. Branden Dawson, Michigan State (6-foot-6, forward, sophomore)
8.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 57.7 FG%
Putting Brandon Dawson into this top ten list could be scrutinized by many, considering he had a modest freshman season that ended with an injury. Even though he did not have the best season last year, he has a lot of athletic potential and is considered to be one of the most athletic players in the Big Ten. Last season he had the fourth best field goal percentage in the big ten and this season it is expected that he will shoot a lot more. He is a very exciting player to watch because he has the ability to attack the basket and elevate way above the rim.
8. Tim Hardaway, Jr., Michigan (6-foot-6, guard, junior)
14.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 41.8 FG%
Tim Hardaway Jr. has the ideal size of an NBA shooting guard at 6’6 with a 6’7 wingspan. He as the ability to score in numerous ways, whether it be driving to the basket, pulling up for mid range jumpers, or taking three point shots. The elevation that he gets with his jump shot makes him hard to defend. His ability to shoot the ball is inconsistent and varies from game to game but when he is on top of his game, he is unstoppable. If he is able to maintain a high field goal percentage this season, the Michigan Wolverines will have a lot of success.
7. Tim Frazier, Penn State (6-foot-1, guard, senior)
18.8 ppg, 6.2 apg, 4.7 rpg
Despite Penn State’s recent lack of success in the Big Ten, Tim Frazier has had no problem putting up big numbers. He was the second leading scorer in the Big Ten last season under John Shurna from Northwestern. He also led the Big Ten in assists last season despite not being on a talented team. Last season he was Penn State’s main threat and this year he will need to continue to be successful in order for Penn State to win games.
6. DeShaun Thomas, Ohio State (6-foot-7, forward, junior)
15.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 52.0 FG%
DeShaun Thomas will look to become Ohio State’s primary scorer this season with Sullinger and Buford no longer on the team. Thomas however, had no problem getting open shots last season despite being on a team full of offensive talent. This year he will have more opportunities but will be expected to do more as well. Another skill that Thomas possesses but goes unnoticed is his ability to get offensive rebounds which leads to second chance points. Not only does he get a lot of scoring opportunities, he is also a very efficient shooter. He made 60% of his two’s and 35% of his threes last season.
5. Keith Appling, Michigan State (6-foot-1, point guard, junior)
11.4 ppg, 3.9 apg, 2.9 rpg, 42.7 FG%
Keith Appling has continued to progress since he came to Michigan State. His three-point percentage declined his sophomore year but this is in part due to the fact that he had a much different role. He has improved greatly at driving to the basket and either scoring, or getting to the free throw line. Appling’s ability to distribute the basketball also makes him such a great point guard. Much of Michigan State’s success this year will come from Keith Appling’s ability to get to the rim, and either dish it to big men Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix, or kick it out to the many Michigan State three point shooters. Defensively, he does a great job of pressuring the ball carrier and forcing turnovers. He should also have a lot more freedom this year due to the fact that Michigan State is very versatile with many offensive threats.
4. Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota (6-foot-8, forward, senior)
14.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 60.4 FG%
Minnesota fans should be excited about the return of second year senior Trevor Mbakwe as the NCAA has granted him a sixth year of eligibility due to the fact that he tore his right ACL last season. Minnesota Gophers definitely benefit with Mbakwe’s presence and that was obvious as Minnesota struggled after Mbakwe’s injury last season. What makes him such a remarkable player is his power in the post and his ability to finish down low. He is also very good at getting to the free throw line and getting his opponents into foul trouble. With his ability to grab rebounds and block or alter shots, his defensive presence is definitely known. It will be interesting to see how forceful and explosive he will be this season coming off of an injury.
3. Aaron Craft, Ohio State (6-foot-2, guard, junior)
8.8 ppg, 4.6 apg, 3.2 rpg, 2.5 spg, 50.0 FG%
Without big talents Jared Sullinger and William Buford, Aaron Craft will have to be the leader for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Although his scoring numbers were not the greatest last season, he makes a huge impact in so many areas of the game. His quick lateral movement and aggressiveness makes him such a great defender. His steal percentage at 4.65 is by far the best in the Big Ten and his ability to defend players on the perimeter is tremendous. Although he is not known as a scorer and does not put up large offensive numbers, he has the ability to score and has a high shooting percentage. It will not surprise me if he becomes a lot more of an offensive contributor this season. Many people believe that defense wins championships and that has been demonstrated through Ohio State’s success during Aaron Crafts tenure there. One aspect of his game that he needs to work on is his ability to not turn the ball over. If he can reduce his turnover percentage (4.65) this season, he will have much more success.
2. Trey Burke, Michigan (6-foot, point guard, sophomore)
14.8 ppg, 4.6 apg, 3.5 rpg, 43.3 FG%
Trey Burke had an outstanding freshman season and now hopes continue improving. He had a huge impact on the team last season and will need to continue to be in order for Michigan to be successful. This year he will have to develop more of a leadership role at point guard, especially since Michigan lost its two leaders Zack Novak and Stu Douglass to graduation. Trey Burke considered going to the NBA last season but decided to stay in Ann Arbor and play another year. One thing he should try to improve this season in order to build up his draft status is his mid range shooting as he shot for 49% on mid range jumpers last season. This year should be exciting for Burke as he and Hardaway Jr. hope to combine to be the best backcourt in the Big Ten. He also will have new additions Glen Robinson III and Mitch McGary in the frontcourt.
1. Cody Zeller, Indiana (7-foot, forward, sophomore)
15.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.4 spg, 62.3 FG%
Cody Zeller had an outstanding freshman season and we can only expect more from him this season. Not only is his statistical numbers great but there is a lot of different aspects of his game that make him spectacular. He demonstrates an outstanding combination of mobility, scoring instincts, and aggressiveness. His ability to dribble drive against his opponent is also impressive especially due to the fact that he is a big man. He is sometimes called the savior of Indiana basketball, considering the season before he arrived (2010-11), Indiana only won 12 games and his freshman season (2011-12), they became a 27-win team. He is one of the main reasons many people believe Indiana could be the best team in college basketball. Hoosier fans should be nothing but excited to watch him continue to grow and develop.