- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Penn State
Player of the Year: Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
Coach of the Year: Tom Izzo, Michigan State
Rookie of the Year: Thomas Bryant, Indiana
All-Conference 1st Team
C/F A.J. Hammons, Purdue
F Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin
G/F D.J. Valentine, Michigan State
G Melo Trimble, Maryland
G Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
All-Conference 2nd Team
C/F Thomas Bryant, Indiana
F Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
G/F Caris LeVert, Michigan
G James Blackmon, Indiana
G Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin
All-Conference 3rd Team
C/F Alex Olah, Northwestern
F Jake Layman, Maryland
G/F Jae’Sean Tate, Ohio State
G Eron Harris, Michigan State
G Malcolm Hill, Illinois
C/F Diamond Stone, Maryland
F Thomas Bryant, Indiana
G/F Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
G JaQuan Lyle, Ohio State
G Corey Sanders, Rutgers
Key Returners: Melo Trimble, Jake Layman, Jared Nickens
Key Losses: Dez Wells, Richaud Pack, Evan Smoltrycz
Key Newcomers: Rashad Sulaimon, Robert Carter, Diamond Stone, Jaylen Brantley
C Diamond Stone; Fr.
PF Robert Carter; Sr. (w/ GT) (11.4/8.4/1.1/0.8/1.1)
SF Jake Layman; Sr. (12.5/5.8/1.4/0.8/0.7)
SG Rashad Sulaimon; Sr. (w/ Duke) (7.5/2.0/1.8/1.0/0.1)
PG Melo Trimble (16.2/3.9/3.0/1.3/0.1)
Reserves: Jared Nickens, Dion Wiley, Damonte Dodd, Michael Cekovsky, Jaylen Brantley
Postseason Projection: 1 Seed
Despite losing second-leading scorer and senior leader Dez Wells, the Terps come into the 2015-2016 as the undisputed Big Ten favorite and one of the favorites to win the National Championship. Looking at their roster, it’s not hard to see why. The electric Melo Trimble leads the Turtles; he is one of the best guards in the country and is looking to improve off his stellar freshman campaign. Trimble was one of the deadliest shooters in the country last season, owning a 62.8% True Shooting %, good for 46th in the nation. Trimble’s unique combination of slashing and splashing ability puts him in top condition to compete for Big Ten POY and First Team All-American.
With Trimble, returns Jake Layman, the athletic three-man turned stretch four. Layman has matured during his three years in College Park, and there’s no reason to think this trend won’t continue. Layman brings versatility to both the Terps offense and defense, shooting 37.8% from deep and averaging nearly one steal and one block per contest as a junior. Paramount to the Terp’s success is two transfers – Rashad Sulaimon and Robert Carter, formerly of Duke and Georgia Tech respectively. Sulaimon provided a spark off the bench for the Blue Devils in 20 games last season. The off-guard averaged 20 minuters per contest with the Dukies and shot a solid 40.4% from downtown. The Terps will expect Sulaimon to start alongside Trimble and provide a leadership presence in the locker room. Robert Carter, the 6’8’’ 250 lbs. glass cleaner, was top ten in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage in 2014 with the Yellow Jackets. Carter will anchor the middle for the Turtles alongside blue chipper Diamond Stone.
Stone, apart from owning an awesome porn name, owns one of the top ten spots in ESPN’s class of 2015 rankings (6th to be precise). The phenom stands 6’10’’ 253 lbs. and sports a polished post game and potent shot blocking ability. Stone is already projected to be a top ten NBA draft pick next season, and if he plays up to his hype, look for the Terps to be hanging around Houston in early April. Adding to Maryland’s already sterling resume is their bench depth.
The Terps will easily go nine or ten deep this year; their reserve unit is highlighted by sophomore swingman Jared Nickens. Nickens is athletic and shoots the ball at a high level (37.8% from deep). Joining Nickens off the pine will be sophomore guard Dion Wiley, junior big-man Damonte Dodd, and sophomore 7’1’’ skyscraper Michael Cekovsky. Wiley may struggle to find time in the crowded backcourt, but when subbed in will be counted on as an outside shooting threat. Dodd and Cekovsky will help bolster the inside for the Terps. Dodd showed promise last season as an effective rim protector and was extremely efficient scoring in the low post. The younger Cekovsky is a bit more of a project, but his potential is vast, expect both him and Dodd to see around 10-15 minutes per contest this season as they spell Carter and Stone. Another promising player this season for the Terps will be JuCo transfer Jaylen Brantley. Brantley is a true point guard and has a sweet shooting stroke; he will be an important piece to this potential championship coming in for Trimble and maintaining Maryland’s offensive flow.
The sky is the limit of the Terps this season - students just hope Turgeon won’t fuck it up.
2. Michigan State
Key Losses: Branden Dawson, Travis Trice
Key Returners: Bryn Forbes, Denzel Valentine, Matt Costello
Key Newcomers: Deyonta Davis, Eron Harris, Matt McQuaid, Kyle Ahrens
C Matt Costello, Sr.; (7.0/5.2/0.7/0.4/1.2)
F Gavin Schilling, Jr.; (5.1/3.8/0.4/0.2/0.6)
G/F Denzel Valentine, Sr.; (14.5/6.3/4.3/0.9/0.2)
G Eron Harris, Jr.; (w/ WV) (17.2/3.5/1.6/0.7/0.2)
G Tum-Tum Nairn, So.; (2.2/1.6/2.4/0.3/0.0)
Reserves: Bryn Forbes, Marvin Clark, Javon Bess, Deyonta Davis, Alvin Ellis, Matt McQuaid
Postseason Prediction: 3 Seed
Tom Izzo and Sparty are in a familiar place to begin the 2015-2016 season – among the favorites to win the Big Ten. After an impressive (and albeit surprising) final four run, Michigan State returns a team that, on paper, is even better than last year. Despite losing senior forward Branden Dawson and leading scorer Travis Trice, the East Lansing Men in Green will be in great shape to start the year.
Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes return to take the senior leader roles for the Spartans. Valentine is Sparty’s leading returning scorer and shot a scorching 41.6% from 3 as a junior. The 6’5’’ swingman brings more than just shooting to the Spartan lineup - he rebounds and passes very well for his position (376th in DR% and 177th in Assist Rate in 2014-2015). Valentine is poised to be a first team All-Big Ten selection and will be the Spartans’ most valuable asset this basketball season.
Competing for a starting spot in the backcourt with Valentine is also-sharp-shooter Bryn Forbes. Forbes’s 42.7% 3-point percentage was good for 96th in the nation last year. Forbes rarely missed last season and the Spartans hope the guard’s accuracy will maintain as he shoulders a bigger offensive load this campaign. Forbes has big-time potential and proved last season he can excel even against the toughest opponents – every aspect of Forbes’s stat-line improved versus top 50 opponents last season as compared to his average line; he sported a 127.2 O-Rating in 17 games versus top competition. Sophomore guard Tum-Tum Nairn will round out the starting backcourt for the Spartans (pending an Eron Harris resolution – more in a bit). Tum-Tum is a great nickname, and last season that’s about all the 5’10’’ spark plug had going for him. He was a dreadful shooter in his, albeit limited, attempts going 32.1% from the field and 54.2% from the line. In addition, the point guard was often prone to turnovers, owning a TO Rate of 25.1. If he can get his yips under control, Tum-Tum has the potential to be a key x-factor for the Spartans leading their offense.
In the middle are two solid vets – senior Matt Costello and junior Gavin Schilling. Both are great rebounders (12.2 and 12.3 OR% respectively) and protect the rim (7.0 and 4.4 Blk% respectively) and should provide stability for the Spartans inside.
State is deep – real deep. The team brings back sophomore Marvin Clark and junior Alvin Ellis, both of which provided key minutes for the Spartans last season. In addition, Javon Bess returns to the lineup after playing only 13 games last season before a foot injury ended his freshman year prematurely. Bess was a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school in 2014 and he should make an immediate impact in the Spartans rotation this year.
If all that wasn’t enough, the Spartans bring in a top 20 recruiting class, highlighted by the #22 player in the land Deyonta Davis and the #67 recruit, Matt McQuaid. Davis is a 6’9’’ power forward and will provide crucial depth for the Spartans’ front-line while earning important minutes. The sharpshooting McQuaid might struggle to find PT in the crowded Sparty backcourt, but should provide solid depth for Sparty – especially if Eron Harris isn’t allowed to play.
Speaking of Harris! What an idiot. Not to get all high-and-mighty, but getting a DUI as a college athlete, particularly a really good college athlete, is one of the dumbest and most avoidable things in the entire world – there just isn’t an excuse. If/when Harris shakes his suspension, he will bring his 17 ppg, 85% FT, 42.2 3p% (from West Virginia) with him to the Sparty lineup (and will most likely challenge Forbes or Tum-Tum for a starting role).
Key Losses: Hanner Mosquera-Perea
Key Returners: Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon, Troy Williams, Robert Johnson, Nick Zeisloft
Key Newcomers: Thomas Bryant, Juwan Morgan, O.G. Anunoby, Max Bielfeldt
C Thomas Bryant, Fr.;
F Troy Williams, Jr.; (13.0/7.4/2.0/1.0/0.5)
G Robert Johnson, So.; (8.9/2.9/2.3/0.9/0.0)
G James Blackmon, So.; (15.7/5.3/1.5/0.6/0.1)
G Yogi Ferrell, Sr.; (16.3/3.2/4.9/0.7/0.0)
Reserves: Max Bielfeldt, Nick Zeisloft, Collin Hartman, Juwan Morgan, O.G. Anunoby
Postseason Prediction: 3 seed
The Hoosiers essentially return everyone from the 10-seed squad of 2014-2015 and despite Tom Crean’s (son-kisser) best efforts, they promise to be a legitimate contender in the Big Ten title race this year. Three reserves from last year, Mosquera-Perea, Robinson, and Hoetzel have all transferred away, but the three incoming freshmen – Bryant, Morgan, and Anunoby - look poised to take their place and project as key cogs for the Hoosier machine.
Thomas Bryant is an enormous snag for Crean; the center is the 20th ranked prospect in the nation and will almost certainly start immediately for Indy. Forwards Juwan Morgan and O.G. Anunoby (great moniker) will look to receive minutes as well in their freshmen seasons, particularly Morgan who will provide inside scoring and rim protection for the Hoosiers coming off the pine to spell Williams and Bryant.
Of course at the center of Indiana’s universe are the star-studded guard tandem Kevin Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon. The two, along with Robert Johnson, make up arguably one of the best backcourts in the country. Ferrell is a bona-fide leader and will be the pulse for the Hoosier offense in his 4th season starting at the point guard position. Yogi played an incredible 86.9% of Indiana’s minutes last season and led the Hoosiers in both scoring and assists; he owned one of the best O-ratings (124.3) in the nation despite his amount of minutes and was among the country’s best ball protectors (14.2 TO rate) despite dominating the ball. Oh and Yogi’s 46/41.6/86 FG/3P/FT line ain’t too shabby either. Ferrell is absolutely a first team All-American candidate and potential Big Ten POY along with his playmaking partner Blackmon. Mr. Blackmon, Jr. is coming off a stellar freshman campaign in which his shooting splits of 45%/38.7%/80.6% were more than acceptable - especially due to the volume of shots he took.
Speaking of volume of shots – holy shit Indiana attempted a lot of threes last season. The Hoosiers attempted 773 threes last year (almost 23 per game!) and hit an unfathomable 40.6% (good for 6th in the country) from deep. With everyone back from prior year, there’s no reason that we shouldn’t see similar efficiency from the arc, but Bryant’s presence should help reign in the trigger-happy guards to give the offense a little more versatility.
The Hoosiers also add to their roster Michigan forward Max Bielfeldt via transfer. Bielfeldt played well for Michigan last season off the bench; he rebounded at a very high rate and possesses 3-point range shooting ability. Bielfeldt provides a safety net for Indiana’s frontcourt in case Bryant develops a little slower than expected. Zeisloft and Hartman return for the Hoosiers to provide knock-down shooting off the bench – the two hit on 45% and 47.5% of their threes, respectively, during the 2014-2015 season.
If Bryant and Morgan can conjure up anything resembling better than average defense, Indiana will be a real contender – it all hinges on the D for a squad that ranked 214th D efficiency a season ago (Williams provided the only shadow of what could be considered solid defense for the Creans last season). It’s because of this uncertainty on the defensive end that that keeps me skeptical on the Hoosiers, and that uncertainty, combined with Crean’s incompetence, equate to a 3 or 4 seed in my mind rather than a 1 or 2.
EDIT: Emmitt Holt has been kicked off the team
Key Returners: Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig
Key Losses: Frank Kaminsky, Josh Gasser, Sam Dekker, Traevon Jackson, Duje Dukan
Key Newcomers: Ethan Happ, Brevin Pritzl, Alex Illikainen
C Vitto Brown; Jr. (1.8/1.3/0.2/0.2/0.2)
F Nigel Hayes; Jr. (12.4/6.2/2.0/0.9/0.4)
F Ethan Happ; Fr.
G Bronson Koenig; Jr. (8.7/1.8/2.5/0.2/0.2)
G Zak Showalter, Jr.; (2.1/1.3/0.5/0.3/0.1)
Reserve: Brevin Pritzl, Alex Illikainen, Charlie Thomas, Khalil Iverson,
Postseason Projection: 4 Seed
The Badgers lost a lot of firepower from their 2015 National Runner-Up squad including POY Frank Kaminsky and first round pick Sam Dekker. Despite this, Wisconsin figures to be right in the thick of things this year in the always- competitive Big Ten. It’s Bo Ryan’s final year as a head coach (much to fellow 3-Man-Weave contributor Jim Root’s dismay), and the sure-fire hall of famer, who by the way has NEVER missed an NCAA tournament while captaining the ship at Madison, doesn’t plan to go quietly into the darkness.
Ryan and the Badgers bring back two of the best players in the conference in Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig. If Hayes’s drastic improvement from his freshman year to last season is any indication, he figures to be in the conversation for Big Ten POY and First Team All-American. Hayes shot a solid 39.6% (40/101) from deep last season after attempting an incredible ZERO three-pointers during his freshman campaign. He also boasts one of the best free throw rates in the country (a.k.a. the dude gets to the line) and improved his FT % to a respectable 74% as a sophomore from a dreadful 58.5% as a frosh. Koenig was one of the nicest surprises for the Badgers last season, stepping in seamlessly for the fallen Traevon Jackson, and he looks to take a bigger leadership role this season for the Badg. Koenig was one of the better three-point shooters in the nation last season, hitting 40.5% of his threes on 153 attempts, and was one of the best at protecting the rock, averaging less than one TO per game in 28.8 mpg.
Reserve big man Vitto Brown and guard Zak Showalter look to be relied on more this season as they both enter their junior year and compete for starting spots. The play of Brown and Showalter will be one of the biggest X-factors for Wisconsin’s success this year; both will have to prove they can help Hayes and Koenig shoulder the load after receiving minimal minutes in the prior year.
The future is bright for the Badgers; they bring in a strong recruiting class highlighted by forward Alex Illikainen and guard Brevin Pritzl, both of who are sure to make immediate impacts. Wisconsin’s best-kept secret may be red-shirt freshman Ethan Happ, a 6’8’’ forward that can shoot, pass, and rebound. Freshman forwards Charlie Thomas and Khalil Iverson both add depth to the Bucky roster.
Overall, the Badgers will once again be a strong team. They have two studs in Hayes and Koenig and a nice incoming class. Their biggest weaknesses this season will be their depth, especially if the freshmen class and reserves take longer than expected to acclimate, and their interior defense/post offense. The Badgers are an overall young squad, but Bo Ryan’s system is a well-oiled machine and a thing of beauty, expect the Badgers to finish anywhere from 3rd to 5th in this year’s Big Ten.
EDIT: Bo Ryan may not be retiring - what the eff Mr. Grinch, shit or get off the pot.
Key Losses: Max Bielfeldt
Key Returners: Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, Aubrey Dawkins, Spike Albrecht
Key Newcomers: Moritz Wagner, Duncan Robinson
F Ricky Doyle, So.; (6.1/3.2/0.3/0.2/0.4)
G/F Aubrey Dawkins, So.; (7.0/2.1/0.4/0.3/0.2)
G/F Zak Irvin, Jr.; (14.3/4.8/1.5/1.0/0.1)
G Caris LeVert, Sr.; (14.9/4.9/3.7/1.8/0.4)
G Derrick Walton, Jr.; (10.7/4.7/3.0/1.2/0.1)
Reserves: Spike Albrecht, Kameron Chatman, Moritz Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman
Postseason Prediction: 6 Seed
Caris LeVert is back!!!!! This guy is awesome – or rather – he has the potential to be awesome. After a foot injury ruined what promised to be a breakout junior year, LeVert returns as the undisputed senior go-to-guy for the up-and-coming Wolverines. In the limited minutes LeVert did play for Big Blue last season, he led the team in scoring, rebounds, and steals, and was good for second on the team in assists. Needless to say, Caris is the key for the Wolverines’ post-season dreams (the good post-season, not the garbage NIT).
With Caris, Michigan returns essentially their entire team. Zak Irvin, the Wolverines’ scoring champ sans Caris, looks to improve on a nice sophomore season that gave him the opportunity to take on a leadership role within the offense. Irvin put up respectable numbers across the board and was an ironman for Michigan, playing 89.1% of their available minutes. Look for his three-point shooting to improve with Caris back creating open looks for him on the perimeter.
Doyle and Dawkins also return for the Wolverines, coming off solid freshmen years in which they were relied on more than expected with the injuries to Walton and LeVert. Dawkins was Michigan’s most reliable three-point option last year, shooting 43.2% from deep on 88 attempts. Look for Dawkins to be more assertive shooting the basketball this year for the Wolverines, and like Irvin, he promises to benefit from Caris’s playmaking ability. Doyle will play a very important role for the Wolverines this year, who are an undersized team by any metric. This year will often see Big Blue playing Doyle with four guards and that will put pressure on the big man to compete on the glass – an area where he was productive in as a freshman, sporting a 10.9% OR%.
In addition, the Wolverines return Spike Albrecht for what seems like his 7th season, but is indeed only his senior year (had to look it up). Spike’s biggest attribute he brings to the team is his motor and that, combined with his leadership ability, will be crucial to Michigan’s success. Spike is a good distributor and is a proven deadly shooter.
Two other key players for Michigan will be Derrick Walton and newcomer Moritz Wagner. Walton, like LeVert, was crippled by a foot injury last season, and his recovery will be a large factor in Michigan’s ability to compete. When Walton played, he averaged 33 minutes a game and rebounded extremely well for his size. Walton will most likely start at point over Spike and could even make a case for an All-Big Ten spot. Moritz Wagner, a freshman from Germany, will truly be an x-factor for Michigan. He’s 6’9’’, making him tied for the tallest player on the Michigan roster (with Doyle and Mark Donnal). If Wagner proves to be an asset (through his shooting and rebounding) the Wolverines will be very, very good this season.
The future is bright in Ann Arbor – shooters surround Caris LeVert and the team is one year older. Like Indiana, their fate will be determined by their ability to play defense (Michigan allowed an atrocious 50.9% opponent effective FG% last season).
Key Losses: Jon Octeus
Key Returners: A.J. Hammons, Kendall Stephens, Rapheal Davis, Vince Edwards
Key Newcomers: Caleb Swanigan, Ryan Cline, Johnny Hill
C A.J. Hammons, Sr.; (11.9/6.6/0.9/0.5/2.8)
F Caleb Swanigan, Fr.
F Vince Edwards, So.; (8.8/4.8/2.7/0.4/0.4)
G Rapheal Davis, Sr.; (10.7/4.4/2.6/0.8/0.2)
G Johnny Hill, Sr. (w/ UT-Arlington) (9.6/4.1/3.4/1.2/0.1)
Reserves: Kendall Stephens, Isaac Haas, Dakota Mathias, Basil Smotherman, Jacquil Taylor, Ryan Cline
Postseason Prediction: 6 Seed
The Boilermakers are back baby. After a 2-year tourney drought, Purdue snagged a 9 seed in last year’s contest and all signs point to them climbing even higher up the seeding list in 2015-2016. Most important to the Boilermakers’ success this season is the return of center A.J. Hammons. Hammons’s decision to forego the 2015 draft sent shockwaves of ecstasy and excitement through the West Lafayette campus (I can only assume). The 7’0’’ beast of a man is coming off a junior season in which he was the 11th best shot blocker in the land (12.3% Blk%), shot 55.3% from the field, and was one of the best rebounders in the conference. As Hammons goes, so do the Boilermakers.
Joining Hammons returns Rapheal Davis, the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. The combination of Davis and Hammons promises to put Purdue in a position to be (once again) one of the best defensive squads in the country (the Boilermakers were 54th in defensive efficiency, 35th in effective FG% allowed, 13th in 2P FG% allowed in 2014-15).
Back too are sophomore Vince Edwards and junior Kendall Stephens. Both men played big minutes for the Boilermakers last season and will be counted on to bring leadership and a veteran presence. Edwards is a great finisher around the basket and rebounds well for his size. Stephens is the Boilermakers best three-point threat (38.7% last season), though he did struggle mightily inside the arc in 2014-15 (26.7%). With the incoming freshman Swanigan, it is very possible Stephens comes off the bench for Purdue, making him a deadly weapon off the bench and leading candidate for 6th man of the year in the Big Ten.
Adding to the depth Stephens already provides will be 7’2’’ Isaac Haas. Haas was super effective in the limited minutes he played a season ago as a freshman, however, the behemoth often had difficulties staying out of foul trouble and staying on the court. This season, Purdue will look to him to provide important breaks for their superstar, Hammons, and may even play him alongside A.J. to form West Lafayette’s version of the twin towers.
Of course one of the most anticipated storylines this season for Purdue will be the emergence of Caleb Swanigan, the former Michigan State commit who chose to spurn the Spartans and stay closer to home to suit up for the Boilermakers. Swanigan is the #9 recruit in the nation, which is big-time for Matt Painter and company. Though he plays more like a center with his back to the basket and size, he most likely will be used as a 4 option alongside Hammons. Whatever scenario,, the prospect of having Hammons/Haas/Swanigan in some combination is enough to strike fear into any frontcourt in the nation.
Adding depth to the wings will be Dakota Mathias and Basil Smothereman. Each showed the ability to step-up and perform last season and Mathias began earning major minutes near the end of the year. Freshman 4-star recruit Ryan Cline brings a sharp shooting presence to the team and may see some floor time off the bench in his rookie campaign.
The biggest question mark for Purdue will be at point guard. Jon Octeus and his 116.2 O-Rating are gone and the Boilermakers will hope to get similar level of production from UT-Arlington transfer Johnny Hill. This will be the third collegiate D1 program for Hill (he is formerly of Illinois State in addition to Arlington). Throughout his career, Hill has been a solid ball-handler and distributor, plays lock-down defense, and shoots when necessary at a high efficiency – basically everything you want in a starting point guard. Hill is not an outside shooting threat, but that may not be a huge issue with Stephens and Mathias firing.
Overall, Purdue will be a force inside, they will defend, and they have the depth to win ball games. This is a top-25 caliber team and the Boilermakers will be an exciting group to watch in 2015-16.
7. Ohio State
Key Losses: D’Angelo Russell, Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, Amir Williams
Key Returners: Jae’Sean Tate, Marc Loving, Keita Bates-Diop
Key Newcomers: JaQuan Lyle, Daniel Giddens, Austin Grandstaff, A.J. Harris, Mickey Mitchell, Trevor Thompson
C Trevor Thompson, Jr.; (w/ VT) (5.0/4.7/0.2/0.3/0.9)
F Keita Bates-Diop, So.; (3.8/2.1/0.5/0.3/0.6)
F Marc Loving, Jr.; (9.4/3.6/0.6/0.5/0.3)
G Jae’Sean Tate, So.; (8.8/5.0/0.3/0.9/0.6)
G JaQuan Lyle, Fr.;
Reserves: David Bell, Austin Grandstaff, Daniel Giddens, Kam Williams, A.J. Harris, Mickey Mitchell
Postseason Prediction: 8 Seed
One of the most intriguing teams to watch this season will be Ohio State (for other people, not for me, I personally don’t really like the Buckeyes). The source of this intrigue is the amount of newcomers that cycle into Columbus this season. Gone is All-World guard D’Angelo Russell and graduated seniors Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, and Amir Williams. But, as is usually the case, Thad Matta is bringing in a stellar class of freshmen headlined by former Oregon commit JaQuan Lyle, other 4-star recruits Austin Grandstaff, Daniel Giddens, A.J. Harris, and Mickey Mitchell, and Virginia Tech transfer Trevor Thompson. Lyle is a big point guard (6’5”), he’s smooth and very skilled, and has the potential to be the best player on the roster this season. He’s had conditioning problems in the past, but recent reports have him coming in at 14 pounds lighter and in significantly better shape than what most are used to seeing. Grandstaff is a knockdown shooter and will provide solid depth for the Buckeyes on the perimeter. Giddens is ESPN’s 10th ranked center in the class of 2015, and he will help fill the pothole left in the lane by the Amir Williams and Sam Thompson departures and provide much-needed rim protection for the Buckeyes. A.J. Harris will likely be overshadowed by Lyle this season, but the 5’9’’ PG could find some important PT off the bench. Harris is super quick and an excellent passer, but is, as his aforementioned height suggests, undersized.
Key returners for the Buckeyes in 2015-16 are sophomore guard Jae’Sean Tate, junior forward Mark Loving, and sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop. Tate is the early favorite to lead the Buckeyes in scoring next season; he is a very good finisher (63.1% 2p%), albeit a lousy free throw shooter (52%). In addition, Tate rebounds and blocks shots very well for his 6’4’’ frame and has the athleticism to defend multiple positions. This sophomore campaign should be a big one for Tate. Marc Loving is easily Ohio State’s best returning shooter, in fact he’s one of the best returning shooters in the entire nation – his 46.1% 3p% (holy God) was good for 20th in the country. Loving, along with newcomer Grandstaff, will help space the floor for the likes of Lyle this season.
Bates-Diop didn’t see a whole lot of floor time in his inaugural season, but the sophomore was incredibly efficient while he was on the court. Bates-Diop went 18/39 (46.2%) from deep last season and managed to pull down 2.1 rpg in less than 10 mpg. Expect Bates-Diop to see a major increase in minutes and responsibility this season; he should be a big factor for the Buckeyes going forward.
Kam Williams provided solid minutes off the bench last season for Ohio State but despite his efficiency in limited time, he may be faced with a similar situation this season due to the crowdedness in the Ohio State backcourt. The depth at guard is a good problem to have if you’re the Bucks, there will be no shortage of bodies that Matta can throw at opponents this season.
Suring up the inside for Ohio State in addition to Giddens this season will be Va Tech transfer Trevor Thompson and redshirt freshman David Bell. Thompson was primarily a reserve for the Hokies during his freshman year and didn’t offer much in the ways of scoring, but he did prove that he could protect the rim and rebound at an effective rate. Not much is known about the 6’10’’ Bell; he was a dominant high school player and fairly well recruited coming out. If nothing else, he provides another option at center for Matta when Giddens and Thompson need a blow.
Ohio State could potentially be a top 5 team in this conference – they could also finish 10th. With Matta at the helm and a small group of experienced veterans, the odds seem to be in the Buckeyes’ favor in turning the newcomers into valuable assets and making a run in the tourney this season.
Key Losses: Aaron White, Josh Oglesby, Gabriel Olaseni
Key Returners: Jarrod Uthoff, Mike Gesell, Adam Woodbury, Anthony Clemmons
Key Newcomers: Isaiah Moss, Brandon Hutton
C Adam Woodbury, Sr.; (6.6/5.2/0.9/0.6/0.4)
F Jarrod Uthoff, Sr.; (12.4/6.4/1.7/1.1/1.6)
F Peter Jok, Jr.; (7.0/2.6/1.3/0.6/0.1)
G Anthony Clemmons, Sr.; (4.8/1.9/1.9/0.7/0.0)
G Mike Gesell, Sr.; (7.4/1.9/4.0/1.0/0.1)
Reserves: Isaiah Moss, Dom Uhl, Brandon Hutton
Postseason Prediction: 10 Seed
Per KenPom, Iowa was the 19th best team in the country last year, far better than their 7 seed would suggest. The Hawkeyes might struggle to reach that level this season as they lose Big Ten 1st Team All-Conference selection and team leader Aaron White to graduation, but they do bring back a veteran team that could be dangerous in the crowded middle of the league.
Iowa looks to start four seniors this season in Woodbury, Uthoff, Clemmons, and Gesell. Jarrod Uthoff is the top-returning weapon for the Hawkeyes; he led the team in blocked shots and was second in scoring, rebounding, and steals. Uthoff is a potential All-Conference performer and does everything well on the floor – 37.2 3p%, 17.2 DR%, 6.2 Blk% a season ago. He will be relied on to bring consistent scoring and defense for the tough veteran squad. Point duties will be handled by seniors Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons, both of who are experienced and take care of the basketball – Gesell particularly was 60th in the country last season in assist rate at 32.0. Both guards need to improve their shooting for Iowa to maintain their high level of offensive efficiency from a season ago – Gesell shot a measly 26.7% from 3 and Clemmons shot 38.8% from 2 in 2014-15. In fact shooting was really the only weakness this Iowa team had a season ago, they collectively shot 33.3% (210th) from 3 and their effective FG% was 48.1% (210th).
In the middle, the Hawkeyes will rely on 7’1’’ Adam Woodbury. Woodbury was farily efficient for a center last season (98.7 O-rating), but he had trouble staying on the court (5.3 FC/40). With Iowa’s lack of big man depth this season, it is crucial that Woodbury finds a way to stay out of foul trouble.
Rounding out the starting five will likely be athletic swingman Peter Jok. Jok was inconsistent last season, but the Hawkeyes hope the experience he gained coming off the bench as a sophomore will pay dividends for his development this year.
Iowa brings in five freshman in 2015-16, three 3-star recruits in Brandon Hutton, Ahmad Wagner, and Andrew Fleming, and one 4-star recruit, Isaiah Moss. Moss is a Chicago product and will all but certainly earn big minutes for the Hawkeyes off the bench this season.
The other major reserve is forward Dom Uhl. Uhl was a freshman last season and turned in a pretty lackluster campaign (82.0 O-rating). He will need to step up for the Hawkeyes if they want to make the postseason.
Depth is the biggest weakness for Iowa this season; however, the team has a go-to scorer in Uthoff and a cast of savvy veterans. This should be a tournament team and they could finish anywhere from 5th to 8th in the Big Ten.
Key Losses: JerShon Cobb
Key Returners: Tre Demps, Vic Law, Bryant McIntosh, Alex Olah
Key Newcomers: Aaron Falzon, Joey Van Zegeren
C Alex Olah, Sr.; (11.7/6.9/1.5/0.6/1.8)
F Aaron Falzon, Fr.
F Vic Law, So.; (7.0/4.8/1.3/0.7/0.5)
G Bryant McIntosh, So.; (11.4/2.5/4.7/0.3/0.2)
G Tre Demps, Sr.; (12.5/3.0/2.6/0.3/0.1)
Reserves: Sanjay Lumpkin, Scottie Lindsey, Nathan Taphorn, Joey Van Zegeren
Postseason Prediction: 11 Seed (Play-In Game) – THAT’S RIGHT!
Things are looking up for basketball fans in Evanston, IL. This may be the year that their beloved Wildcats finally pop their cherry and enter the Big Dance. It’s common knowledge by now that Northwestern is the ONLY power conference school to never make an NCAA tourney, but third year coach Chris Collins and his cast of veterans hope to break that laughable streak in 2015-2016. The Purple Cats return all five starters and lose only one contributor in JerShon Cobb.
They are led by what could be one of the better backcourts in the nation in senior Tre Demps and sophomore Bryant McIntosh. Demps led the Cats in scoring a season ago and shot a respectable 47% from 2 and 35.7% from 3 while taking the most the shots on the squad. McIntosh was voted a member of the Big Ten All-Freshman team last season and put up a 2/3/FT split of 45.2/36.4/85.3, all while leading the Cats in assists and sporting one of the best assists rates in the country (32.6). Another super soph. coming back for Coach Collins is forward Vic Law. Law was a top 100 recruit coming out of high school last season, and while he had his inconsistencies a year ago, he is expected to make a huge leap and be a key piece in Northwestern’s tourney plans.
The man in the middle for the Cats is senior Alex Olah, who had a quietly strong year a season ago. The big man sports excellent touch around the basket (52.5% 2FG) and protects the rim for the Cats (7.4% Blk%). Last season he was Northwestern’s only meaningful offensive rebound threat and only one of 2 (with Law) on the defensive end. The Cats hope Olah can take a bigger leap in the rebounding department this season and continue doing his thing on both sides of the ball.
Supporting Demps, McIntosh, Law, and Olah will be junior Sanjay Lumpkin and sophomore Scottie Lindsey, both of whom earned a substantial amount of clock last season and look to take steps forward in the coming season. In addition, Virginia Tech transfer Joey Van Zegeren will provide depth at center behind Olah. Van Zegeren only played in 13 games last season for the Hokies, (his season was limited by a non-contact knee injury), but the center was effective when he did play, averaging almost 10 points a game and over 5 rebounds in only 20 mpg. Van Zegeren will be huge off the bench this season for the Cats.
An exciting new addition for Northwestern will be 4-star recruit Aaron Falzon, who ranks #92 nationally in his class. Falzon could be an offensive force for the Cats, he can shoot from anywhere and he is very skilled. The concern for Northwestern will be how he defends and rebounds.
Northwestern is a very good 3-point shooting team (2nd in the Big Ten last year to unconscious Indiana) and they attempt a lot of threes as well. They knock down free throws, but unfortunately were one of the worst teams in the nation last year at getting to the line. Rebounding was a glaring weakness for Northwestern last year, as was their perimeter defense, both of which will hopefully improve this coming year with the added experience and chemistry of their key players.
It should be an interesting year for the Cats. While they most likely finish 9th or 10th in the Big Ten and make the NIT, the glimmer of hope for the Dance has never been shinier for this school as it is in 2015-2016.
Key Losses: Rayvonte Rice, Nnanna Egwu, Tracy Abrams (cry face), Ahmad Starks
Key Returners: Malcolm Hill, Kedrick Nunn
Key Newcomers: Mike Thorne, Jalen Coleman, D.J. Williams, Aaron Jordan
C Mike Thorne, Sr.; (w/ Charlotte) (10.1/7.3/0.8/0.1/0.9)
F Leron Black, So.; (5.0/4.3/0.1/0.3/0.2)
G Malcolm Hill, Jr; (14.4/4.8/1.3/0.8/0.2)
G Kedrick Nunn, Jr.; (11.1/3.5/1.9/1.2/0.2)
G Jaylon Tate, Jr.; (3.6/1.2/2.9/0.8/0.1)
Reserves: Jalen Coleman, D.J. Williams, Aaron Jordan, Michael Finke
Postseason Prediction: NIT
The Illini are a pretty intriguing team this season. On one hand, you’d think they would regress from their disappointing 14-15 season with losing star player Rayvonte Rice, point guard Ahmad Starks, tree impersonating a human Nnanna Egwu, and point guard Tracy Abrams to yet another devastating injury. On the other hand, there is much to be excited about this season with the influx of talent; it’s very fathomable that the Illini actually improve on their previous season and make a serious push for the tourney in the always-competitive Big Ten.
Illinois is loaded on the wing. They return second-leading scorer Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn, and Jaylon Tate. On top of that, they add three 4-star recruits in Jalen Coleman, D.J. Williams, and Aaron Jordan. The question will be – can these guards actually score this year? Illinois was the worst shooting team inside the arc last season in the Big Ten and 300th in the nation (they attempted 65% of their shots within the 3 point line). Hill and Nunn will handle the bulk of the scoring. Both players took a plethora of mid-range jumpers in 14-15 (Hill took 54% of his shots from mid-range last season), and both players were not too successful – 37.9% and 33.6% respectively. Hill actually shot the ball well from 3 at 39%; Nunn owned a less impressive but still not awful 36%. Both guards hover around 80% from the line (in fact Illinois owned the best FT% in the country last season – though they didn’t get there often), so the focus for them this season needs to be attacking the rim and avoiding settling for 15 footers.
Losing Abrams hurts. His return was much anticipated and Illinois looked poised for a potentially deep run with him at the helm. Unfortunately his recent Achilles tear will force him to watch his teammates from the stands for the second straight season. Heartbreaking. And yet, the show must go on, and Illinois will need to find a solution at point to be successful. The most sensible choice is Jaylon Tate who was serviceable while spelling Starks last season, posting an assist rate of 25.7 in 20 mpg.
The infusion of fresh blood will be key for the Illini this season; they sport the #21 recruiting class in the nation headlined by Coleman, Williams, and Jordan. All three newcomers are excellent scorers and shooters, which should help the scoring woes the team suffered last season. Coleman, the #8 SG in the land, could also potentially lend a hand at point on occasion.
Replacing Egwu’s rim protection got a little easier with the transfer in of Mike Thorne from Charlotte. Though he doesn’t possess quite the prowess on defense as human tree, he more than makes up with it on the offensive end and the glass – in both areas he is an improvement over the departed Egwu. Helping out inside will be redshirt freshman Michael Finke and junior Maverick Morgan, both of whom will be counted on to provide depth in the frontcourt; if they can’t it could be rough sailing in Champaign. Sophomore Leron Black will also be an early favorite to fill the starting power forward slot, though he is a bit undersized at 6’7’’.
Last year the Illini had a stellar defense, but Egwu and Rice were their two best defenders. If Illinois can conjure up some sort of defensive presence, they have more than enough scoring potential to succeed.
Key Losses: Andre Hollins, Maurice Walker, Deandre Mathieu
Key Returners: Nate Mason, Carlos Morris, Joey King
Key Newcomers: Jarvis Johnson, Kevin Dorsey, Ahmad Gilbert
C Bakary Konate, So.; (2.2/2.1/0.2/0.4/0.4)
F Joey King, Sr.; (9.7/3.0/1.5/0.5/0.4)
F Ahmad Gilbert, Fr.
G Carlos Morris, Sr; (11.1/3.2/2.1/1.8/0.2)
G Nate Mason, So.; (9.8/2.8/2.8/1.8/0.1)
Reserves: Jarvis Johnson, Kevin Dorsey, Charles Buggs
Postseason Prediction: NIT
Andre Hollins is gone; ring, ring, ring tolls the bell. Also gone are starting point guard Deandre Mathieu, forward Maurice Walker, and funny big white guy Elliott Eliason. But there is hope in the land of the north, well not much hope, but hope nonetheless!
The Gophers return three centerpieces from last year’s team in big Joey King, third-leading scorer Carlos Morris, and sophomore point guard Nate Mason. Mason had a terrific freshman season – he distributed the ball nicely, didn’t turn it over often, shot 37% from 3, and sported a 4.0% Stl% (37th best in the land). Big things are expected out of this little guy, and the Gophers are counting on him to be their floor general and overall best player. He will have help in Morris. The 6’5’’ guard was a superb finisher at the rim (72% around the bucket) last season and owned a 3.9% Stl% - meaning this backcourt is going to have some sticky fingers. In fact Minnesota as a team last season was 7th in the nation in forcing turnovers and 6th in Stl%; unfortunately, the Gophers allowed teams to shoot a very high percentage, did not protect the three-point line, and rebounded at a piss poor rate. Mathieu was one of Minny’s better defenders last season and Walker was far and away its best rebounder making it difficult to believe that the Gophers will improve upon their defending woes from prior year.
The rebounding chasm left by Walker’s departure will look to be filled by raw sophomore Bakary Konate and stretch 4 Joey King. Neither musters much hope, although Konate does have potential – King’s rebounding numbers last season were on par with the guards on his team, much worse so on the defensive side of the ball. Joey King can shoot though and that makes him a tough matchup and great asset on offense for the Gophers; the big shot 41.2% from three last season.
It’s unfortunate for the Golden Gophers that Reggie Lynch (the transfer from Illinois St. who also looks like Jamal, the guy they replaced Cleveland with on Family Guy) has to sit this season out, as he would have been a major factor in the middle.
Rounding out Minnesota’s front line depth is junior Charles Buggs, who I only mentioned in this article because I like his last name. Buggs saw the court for about 13 minutes per game last season and does have three-point range (he just unfortunately isn’t very accurate from out there).
In addition to the incumbents, Minnesota brings in a nice class of freshmen in 2015-16. The incoming class is highlighted by two 4-star PG recruits Jarvis Johnson and Kevin Dorsey. Johnson is lightning quick and was scouted to be an excellent floor leader and deadly on the break. Dorsey is also lightning quick but has shown weaknesses in his shooting ability. Both point guards will see the floor this season and will add nice depth to the guard position.
The other three incoming freshmen are Dupree McBrayer, Jordan Murphy, and Ahmad Gilbert. Gilbert will be the most likely of the three to make an immediate impact on the lineup, he is athletic and a very good rebounder and will hopefully fill the void that is the 3 spot in the Gophers’ rotation.
Minny probably won’t shock too many people this year, they aren’t a bad squad but in the competitive landscape of the Big Ten, they just don’t have the firepower to finish anywhere higher than 10th. I’m looking forward to next year though.
12. Penn State
Key Losses: D.J. Newbill, Geno Thorpe
Key Returners: Shep Garner, Brandon Taylor
Key Newcomers: Josh Reaves, Mike Watkins
C Jordan Dickerson, Sr.; (2.6/3.3/0.3/0.3/1.6)
F Donovan Jack, Sr.; (3.5/2.7/0.3/0.4/0.8)
F Brandon Taylor, Sr.; (9.1/5.3/0.9/0.5/0.8)
G Josh Reaves, Fr.;
G Shep Garner, So.; (9.2/2.7/2.3/1.0/0.1)
Reserves: Mike Watkins, Deividas Zemgulis, Payton Banks, Julian Moore
Postseason Prediction: CBI/CIT
The Nittany Lions actually turned in a pretty okay season in 2014-15 – by their standards – with a record of 18-16 and a 4-14 Big Ten conference record. Majority of that “success” however was thanks to one man - now-departed guard D.J. Newbill. Newbill poured in over 20 points per contest for the Cats last season while none of his other teammates averaged double figures. Gone also is guard Geno Thorpe (transfer) who provided key minutes for the Nittany Lions as a starter.
Penn State, though, is not such a broken team in 2015-16. They return nearly everyone else, including guard Shep Garner and swingman Brandon Taylor. Garner will be relied on heavily as he takes over sole possession of point guard duties. Shep had a strong freshman season in 2014-15, posting in O-rating of 102.4, an Assist rate of 16.7 and shooting percentage slashes of .405/.337/.793. Look for his scoring to dramatically increase this season with the Newbill departure, and (hopefully) his percentages as well. Taylor will be the Lions’ other go-to-guy; the senior is a strong rebounder and shot blocker for his size and he has proven he can shoot the deep ball (33.5% on 161 attempts last year). Adding more depth to the backcourt will be newcomer Josh Reaves, a 4-star recruit from Oak Hill Academy. Reaves is a big-time recruit for Coach Pat Chambers and should provide an immediate impact on the defensive end with his athleticism and versatility (I agree, Penn State is an odd choice).
Penn State has some uncertainty in the middle; the Lions went small most of the time in 2014-15. They do have two experienced bigs returning in 7-footer Jordan Dickerson (17 mpg in 14-15) and 6’9’’ Donovan Jack (13 mpg in 14-15). Dickerson will be interesting to watch this year; in his limited minutes, the center put up a block % of 10.0, good for 29th in the country. It’s really no secret why he didn’t play more last season though, as he was the owner of an ungodly 7.2 FC/40. Penn State would love him to be able to stay on the floor, his rim protection ability coupled with the projected defensive feistiness of the backcourt potentially make this squad one of the best defenses in the Big Ten. Jack was solid in limited minutes last season, shooting good percentages and rebounding at an average rate; his development will be a key for Nittany going forward. Assisting in bolstering the inside will be 4-star incoming freshman Mike Watkins. Watkins is a big body, strong and athletic; however, he is still raw and will need coaching to mold his potential. There will be plenty of opportunities for Watkins to shine with the thin frontcourt and Dickerson’s affinity for hacking limbs. Freshman Deividas Zemgulis, a 3-star, should also see plenty of time on the wing for Penn State this season.
The Nittany Lions aren’t a bad team really; they will be stout defensively and may sneak away with a couple big-time wins. But they do not however possess the consistency or the offensive fortitude to make any real waves in one of the toughest conferences in the country.
Key Losses: Terran Petteway, Walter Pitchford, Tarin Smith
Key Returners: Shavon Shields, Benny Parker, Tai Webster
Key Newcomers: Ed Morrow, Jr., Glynn Watson, Jack McVeigh, Andrew White
F Ed Morrow, Jr., Fr.
F Andrew White, Sr.; (w/ Kansas) (2.4/1.2/0.2/0.3/0.2)
F Shavon Shields, Sr.; (15.4/6.0/2.2/1.1/0.2)
G Tai Webster, Jr.; (3.9/1.9/1.2/0.7/0.1)
G Benny Parker, Sr.; (4.2/2.2/1.7/1.5/0.0)
Reserves: Glynn Watson, Jack McVeigh, Jake Hammond
Postseason Prediction: CBI/CIT
I really wish Terran Petteway stayed for his senior season; it’s mind-boggling when underclassmen unnecessarily come out of school early and enter the draft. Petteway was a talented player, but how easy would it have been to consult maybe a few people and see where his draft chances stood? Alas. Hey also Walter Pitchford turned pro HAHAHAHAHA. Now that is an absolute joke. Pitchford’s O-rating as a junior was 90.3 (not good). He averaged 7 and 4 for the 13-18 Nebraska Cornhuskers. If that isn’t delusion in your abilities, I don’t know what is. Anyways, I digress, on to the preview.
As previously mentioned, Big Red loses Petteway and Pitchford, but they also lose guard Tarin Smith to transfer and starter David Rivers to graduation. Not all is bad for Tim Miles’s program though - the Cornhuskers bring in a top 30 recruiting class and bring back second-leading scorer Shavon Shields. Shields will be the main source of offense for a program that couldn’t produce any a season ago. Shields was very effective at getting to the rim and shot a ton of free throws (168 attempts, 82.7%), but his 3-point shot was pure garbage (17/87 19.5%). Simple “nowhere to go but up” theory points to Shields improving on that mark this season. Besides Shields, the returning bodies are pretty sparse. Tai Webster and Benny Parker are the only two other returners to average over 13 minutes a game. The 5’9’’ Parker, a senior this year, struggled mightily last season, shooting 29.4% from 3, 37% from 2, and owning an Assist rate of 12.8 compared to a TO Rate of 22.9. Parker logged a lot of minutes last season and will need to provide a much higher level of consistency at point this season for Miles and Co. Tai Webster had a similar story as Parker last season posting a shooting slash of .474/.231/.737 and submitting a TO Rate of 26.2. Both Webster and Parker had O-Ratings below 90 and will look to subscribe to Shields’s “nowhere to go but up” theory in 2015-16.
The one bright spot in the abyss that is Nebraska basketball is their incoming freshman class led by ESPN Top 100 members Ed Morrow, Jr. and Glynn Watson. Given that Nebraska’s post game this season will be almost non-existent, the arrival of Morrow is more than welcome. Morrow is terrific finisher and has a variety of post moves, he most likely won’t provide much rim protection right away, but the offense is a good start. Watson is a point guard who excels at playmaking and is capable of playing lock-down defense; the 5’11’’ guard should make an immediate impact and will challenge Parker for a starting spot as the year progresses. Michael Jacobson, Bakari Evelyn, and Aussie Jack McVeigh round out the recruiting class and will add much-needed depth to the Husker rotation. Another huge addition for the Huskers is Kansas transfer Andrew White. White saw limited action with the Jayhawks but was a highly-recruited 4-star coming out of high school. He should be a huge factor for the Huskers and add to their already pretty athletic squad.
Nebraska most likely won’t win many games next season and they will end up somewhere between 12th and 14th in the Big Ten, but the future is bright for Tim Miles and the Big Red – that is unless some of his freshmen decide to take the Pitchford road to (non) success.
Key Losses: Myles Mack, Kadeem Jack, Junior Etou
Key Returners: Mike Williams, Bishop Daniels, Greg Lewis
Key Newcomers: Corey Sanders, Deshawn Freeman
F Greg Lewis, Sr.; (5.3/4.5/0.9/0.6/0.9)
F Deshawn Freeman, Jr. (JUCO)
G Bishop Daniels, Sr.; (8.4/2.1/1.7/0.6/0.5)
G Mike Williams, So.; (6.3/2.2/1.2/0.7/0.5)
G Corey Sanders, Fr.
Reserves: D.J. Foreman, Shaquille Doorson, Jonathan Jean Laurent
Postseason Prediction: None
I give you now what everyone has been waiting for – the 2015-16 Rutgers Scarlet Knights basketball preview. They beat Wisconsin last year!!!!! That in itself is shocking and unbelievable, even though Frank Kaminsky didn’t play and Traevon Jackson broke his foot during the game. The Scarlet Knights, however, also lost their last 15 games of the 2014-15 season. It’s your classic sell-your-soul to the basketball devil for one huge win, the price of which is eternal damnation.
This year Rutgers won’t be much better, if at all, than the previous squad. They lose their two senior leaders, Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack (both played over 30 minutes a game and their names rhyme). They also lose reserve Malick Kone to graduation and Junior Etou to transfer. Normally this would be pretty crippling news to a basketball program, but frankly, Rutgers was awful last season, so maybe losing these players won’t have such an impact on their overall (un)improvement. Returning for the Knights and Coach Eddie Jordan are Bishop Daniels, Mike Williams, and Greg Lewis. Daniels is the returning leading scorer (8.4 ppg) and should improve on his dastardly efficiency from a season ago (because how can you not). Daniels posted an O-rating of 82.3 and turned in shooting slashes of .421/.283/.718. This isn’t really that surprising considering Rutgers was one of the worst shooting teams in the nation last season (334th from 3, 322nd from 2, and 304th from FT). Mike Williams should make the biggest jump development-wise this season. He turned in a fair freshman season coming off the pine for the Knights and managed to maintain a super low TO Rate (10.2) despite how much he handled the ball (yes he shot a laughable 24/100 from 3). Greg Lewis will play the big man role for the Knights this year; he is the returning leading rebounder (4.5 rpg) and shot-blocker (0.9 bpg, 4.4 blk%). Lewis and Daniels will be looked at as senior leaders this season, and it will be interesting to see how they handle leading a team that’s certain to be bottom-feeders in such a strong conference.
Amazingly, the Scarlet Knights have a gem of a recruit in Corey Sanders, the #9 ranked PG in the class of 2015. Sanders should start immediately for Rutgers and will hopefully be a bright spot in a team cloaked in darkness. Other newcomers that should provide a spark for the Knights are 3-star swingman Jonathan Jean Laurent and JUCO transfer Deshawn Freeman, the latter of which should challenge for a starting spot. Big men D.J. Foreman and Shaquille Doorson earned minutes last year as freshmen and they will be counted on to improve on their so-so rookie campaigns and provide key depth inside.
There really isn’t much to say about Rutgers, we all pretty much know what we’re going to get. Anything over 10 wins this season should be considered a success for Coach Jordan and the Knights, anything other than a 14th place Big Ten finish would be jaw dropping.