The Big Ten's State of Flux

Submitted by Ace on April 24th, 2018 at 1:15 PM


Uncertainty ball. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

The deadline for putting one's name into the NBA Draft has come and gone, so we now enter the period of uncertainty as players who didn't hire agents go through the pre-draft process before deciding whether to return to school. The Big Ten already has several notable early entrants who will hire agents and stay in the draft, including Moe Wagner and the duo of Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges at Michigan State. (Also, uh, Nebraska's Jack McVeigh?)

Even more are testing the waters without an agent, including Charles Matthews, and those decisions will go a long way towards determining the Big Ten outlook for 2018-19. College Basketball Talk's Rob Dauster put together a list of the most influential early entry decisions from a college hoops perspective; of the 12 teams listed, five are from the B1G, and two of those teams (Maryland and Nebraska) have two players with NBA choices to make.

Here's a look at who's gone, who's testing, and how the draft could impact the conference standings next season.

Gone For Sure


...bye. [Campredon]

These players have declared and will hire an agent, locking them into the draft.

ILLINOIS

F Leron Black — A big loss for an Illinois team that relied heavily on Black's scoring and rebounding. The Illini have some decent young talent and a solid incoming class but this is a setback for Brad Underwood after a rough first year. As for Black, he's probably going undrafted.

MARYLAND

F Justin Jackson — Jackson had the misfortune of getting injured after coming back for his sophomore season, and he'd already been off to a stock-hurting start. Still, he's a talented player who made a solid impact as a freshman, and the Terps could be losing a lot depending on a couple other draft decisions.

MICHIGAN

C Moe Wagner — I don't need to tell you about the impact of this one for Michigan—we've covered it extensively and there will be plenty more to come. Wagner is currently a late first- or second-round prospect who's considered a safe pick without a ton of upside (his defense remains a sticking point).

MICHIGAN STATE

F Miles Bridges and F Jaren Jackson Jr. — Bridges was overdue to enter and probably slipped a few spots in a loaded draft year because he returned to jack up 25-footers over a 2-3 zone. Jackson, after taking a strangely long time to make a decision that seemed quite obvious after that Syracuse game, made the obvious choice—he could go as high as #3 overall. Both are obviously major losses for an MSU team that may end up starting Kenny Goins at the four. They could lose the third member of their starting frontcourt, too.

NEBRASKA

F Jack McVeigh — Is not an NBA prospect, to be frank. He barely played for the Huskers this year after being useful rotation piece in his first two seasons. Nebraska's fates are much more closely tied to the decisions of two players who haven't hired agents.

OHIO STATE

F Keita Bates-Diop — An expected departure as KBD put together a Player of the Year-caliber junior season that earned him first-round projections. The Bucks also lose Jae'Sean Tate and Kam Williams from the starting lineup. They're set to drop back after a shockingly good first year under Chris Holtmann.

PENN STATE

PG Tony Carr — Remember that brief moment when Penn State was a dark horse conference title contender for 2018-19? It's over now. Pat Chambers still has a team that could make some noise but they're going to have a very tough time replacing Carr's high-usage, high-efficiency offense. Carr should go in the second round.

RUTGERS

PG Corey Sanders — A huge loss for Rutgers, as Sanders dragged that offense out of the KenPom 300s in efficiency the last couple years by taking all the bad shots he could handle and making a respectable number of them given the circumstances. While bad-shot-making is an NBA trait, Sanders isn't expected to be drafted.

[Hit THE JUMP for the water-testers.]

Up In The Air


Maryland has a lot riding on two decisions. [Paul Sherman]

These players have declared for the draft without hiring an agent, allowing them to go through the NBA combine (if they're invited) and team workouts to determine their stock before choosing whether to keep their name in the draft.

IOWA

F Tyler Cook and G Isaiah Moss — Neither player makes the ESPN (formerly DraftExpress) top 100 list, so returns from one or both seem likely. Cook isn't enough of a rim protector to be the small-ball center he'd have to be at the NBA level while Moss could show more shooting efficiency—defense is also a question for both given how horrid Iowa was on that end this season. Iowa is hoping to push for the bubble with these guys; they'd be in rough shape without them.

INDIANA

F Juwan Morgan — Another player outside the top 100, but unlike the Iowa duo, I could see Morgan catching the eye of some NBA teams as a potential second-rounder. As a junior, he's in a position where his draft stock probably won't get higher no matter what he does in his final season in college; it wouldn't shock me if Morgan leaves, and that'd be a massive blow to the Hoosiers.

MARYLAND

C Bruno Fernando and F Kevin Huerter — Maryland is arguably the team with the most to lose in the draft. They have a strong recruiting class coming in and would contend for the conference title if Fernando and Huerter come back. While Huerter is the better college player—an ideal college stretch four—it's the jacked-up Fernando who intrigues NBA scouts more. Fernando also has some extra incentive to leave; he's tangentially connected to the FBI probe. While the Terps have a five-star center on the way, Jalen Smith is listed at 6'10", 195 pounds—he may need some time before he's making an impact in the paint like Fernando, and by that time he may be eyeing the NBA, too.

MICHIGAN

F Charles Matthews — Again, you generally know the story here. Matthews is either projected as a second-rounder or a 2019 prospect most places. When The Athletic's Brendan Quinn poked around for pre-draft evaluations, Matthews' choice was laid out in clear terms:

It will be up to Matthews whether he wants that development to occur at the next level or at Michigan. Each evaluator who spoke to The Athletic, including an NBA G League executive, projected him as an undrafted free agent.

“Basically, he’s got a decision to make,” the assistant GM said. “He can choose to play at Michigan next year and continue to grow and have playing time or he could be maybe playing in the G League next year. The differences are really wide between the two of them.”

You never know, but given that choice, I'd expect Matthews to return. If he leaves, Iggy Brazdeikis likely gets thrust into a starting role from the get-go, and the offense would lean heavily on Jordan Poole for shot creation. If Matthews comes back, Michigan should be the conference favorites heading into next season; it gets murkier if he bolts.

MICHIGAN STATE

F Nick Ward — I'm just gonna say it: Poor Damn Nick Ward. After Tom Izzo spent two years toying with Ward and often sitting him for lesser players, Ward doesn't have much in the way of draft stock—he'd likely go undrafted—but he also doesn't have a ton of incentive to return to East Lansing. The problem is he'd have to sit a year if he transfers to another school, which would really be the ideal scenario for Ward—go somewhere he'll be allowed play enough to show scouts he can be dominant over long stretches. Perhaps there should be a waiver for coaching malpractice.

If Ward leaves in whatever fashion, State is scarily thin up front and hoping hard for breakout years from Josh Langford and Matt McQuaid.

NEBRASKA

F James Copeland and F James Palmer — If Maryland has the most riding on draft decisions as  a team, Tim Miles may have the most riding on draft decisions as an individual, despite his recent one-year extension. It wasn't long ago that Miles was on the hot seat and if both Copeland and Palmer leave, there's almost nothing left from last season's roster aside from Isaiah Roby and Glynn Watson. Dauster laid out the stakes and why Copeland and Palmer could decide to leave even if their stock isn't high:

They are a borderline top 25 team that should get Tim Miles back to the NCAA tournament. They are also both transfers that might opt to turn professional with a degree in hand, and if that were to happen, the Cornhuskers are going to be heading back into rebuilding mode.

Actually, I've changed my mind. Nebraska has the most riding on this year's draft.

PURDUE

G Carsen Edwards and G Nojel Eastern — Edwards may have the single toughest decision of the players listed here. While he's currently listed as a second-round pick, he's a player I suspect will see his stock rise—this is a draft light on shooting guards and Edwards is a modern NBA off-guard with some point guard skills. On the other hand, he'd be the featured player on a team that lost every other starter if he comes back—that could be a very good or very bad thing for his 2019 draft standing depending on how he performs.

Eastern, meanwhile, is an oversized combo guard who can't shoot, so I expect he'll be told in no uncertain terms that he needs more seasoning.

WISCONSIN

C Ethan Happ — Continue trying to drag what's quickly become a glorified MAC team outside of Happ to the NCAA Tournament or hope a team likes Happ's all-around game enough to use a second-round pick on a player who may not fit well in the modern NBA? That's the choice Happ faces, and it'll determine whether the Badgers bounce back from a disastrous 2017-18 season or continue to linger in the bottom half of the conference.

THE UPSHOT

This is a really wide open conference next year in largely the same way it was this year—it's going to be a relative down year for the Big Ten—except there isn't an preseason top-ten team like last year's MSU and Purdue outside of (gulp) maybe Michigan. Every contender has already taken a significant hit or could take one before the May 30th deadline to withdraw. It's wide open at the top, and even if Matthews leaves, I like Michigan's chances in the conference next year, especially if Maryland loses at least one of Huerter and Fernando.

Comments

Rumsey

April 24th, 2018 at 1:30 PM ^

The conference schedule seems to line up well for us too:

Home: Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue Away: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers Home/Away: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin

ScruffyTheJanitor

April 24th, 2018 at 1:33 PM ^

I guess Mathtews is very important, but geesh-- every other top team isn't just loosing important pieces-- they are loosing multiple stars. I know, I know, Moe is a huge deal too, but his replacement is already a known quantity (Teske) and that' more than ANY of these teams can say.

ak47

April 24th, 2018 at 1:43 PM ^

We are also losing Duncan and Maar. I think the team is going to have some real early season struggles, especially on offense but we should definetely be considered a top 4 and one of the favorites for the conference.

Bruno likely isn't going back to MD but even if he does Turgeon is a terrible in season coach so they likely wouldn't win the conference despite being the most talented team on paper.

4th phase

April 24th, 2018 at 2:10 PM ^

Agree, Maryland is probably the favorite but after the lackluster year they just had it's hard to not like Michigan's chances to win the conference. Especially with the friendly schedule.

Also seems like MSU is going to have a rough year. They lose a lot and none of their freshman are the instant impact types they usually have. Winston is going to have to carry them.

Alumnus93

April 24th, 2018 at 5:05 PM ^

What I don't think people fully appreciate is how mentally tough Wagner is... He staved off MSU bullying and without him I'm quite concerned they may fall to that again. We will still have Matthews which is huge, yet I'm wondering how me tally strong we will be vs thier thug antics.

TrueBlue2003

April 24th, 2018 at 4:01 PM ^

agaisnt good teams last year until he started playing better defense and making some shots at the end of the year.  Replacing his production shouldn't be difficult and the upside is there to improve quite a bit on it.

Replacing MAAR is a bit more variable and we'll miss his steady leadership (that I expect Z to fill) but it again could be an improvement at the 2 if Poole makes a Sophomore Leap.

If Matthews comes back, I think we come out of the gates sprinting. We'd have three starters returning and two subs that were excellent as underclassmen stepping into the other two spots.  If Matthews doesn't come back, there will be some growing pains with freshmen being relied upon, agree there.

CTSgoblue

April 24th, 2018 at 1:36 PM ^

Jack McVeigh signed a 3-year contract to play in Australia for the Adelaide 36ers.  He previously captained Australia's U19 team.  This probably explains the decision...

1VaBlue1

April 24th, 2018 at 2:04 PM ^

I've been to Canberra, which is the only 'big' city in Australia that is not on the coast.  And, while not having ever been to Lincoln, I have spent copious amounts of time in Omaheeha, and can generally assume they (Lincoln and Omaha) are the same thing.  That said, Canberra trumps the best that both NE cities can combine to offer.  And Canberra is land-locked, very much unlike Adelaide.

So, to summarize - I've never been to either Lincoln or Adelaide, but I will say that Adelaide is better, because I have been to Canberra and Omaheehaw.  I hope that clears up any conusion for you...

outsidethebox

April 24th, 2018 at 1:41 PM ^

I agree with "The Upshot". As it stands now a number of teams, including Michigan, could be anywhere from very good to pretty bad. Beilein and his staff had a breakout season last year-next year they will have to be even better to finish at or near the top. Lots of talent and potential...a huge challenge to put the pieces together.  I hope the coaching staff is excited for this challenge...can only imagine their current discussions...so many options.

outsidethebox

April 25th, 2018 at 9:07 AM ^

Optimism is a great thing...except when it isn't. All the "leaps" and freshmen playing to high expectations are not givens. I do expect Poole to be an outstanding offensive contributor and adequate on defense and I expect a lot of good play from most of the returnees and the incoming freshmen.

However, if y'all do not think PG is going to be a major issue for this team you are in very serious denial. Z sneaked up on people the second half of the season-until the NCAA tournament...and folks made a concerted effort to assess the tapes and figure out how to account for him on the offensive end of the court. Teams determined (correctly) that you pretty much do not need to guard him. Fortunately Michigan had the weapons to mitigate most of Z's significant offensive deficiencies. When the PG can't shoot the 3, can't shoot off the bounce, can't create for his teammates and can't make free throws...so why should a defense account for him??? Any arguements against that list of deficiencies falls in the delusional thinking category and anyone believing that the conference opponents have not taken serious note here are crazy. And here will be the crux of the success of Michigan's season...will Z suddenly develop proficiency in at least 2 of his 4 areas of deficiency??? Otherwise, will DeJulious be ready to take over the team by mid-season. Will Brooks be the one making the "leap" and providing the answer??? And here, can Poole be MAAR??? How will the coaching staff wade through all the conundrums presented with this matter-if Z cannot mitigate his weaknesses can the coaches successfully negotiate a move to a back-up role??? This is reality-the real world...and I guarentee you that, here, the coaches are coaching, assessing, discussing and planning for the possibilities.

The loss of Wagner will surely change this team significantly on both ends of the floor...that's not necessarily good or bad-it simply is what it is. I believe Teske and Davis in the post will be one of the team's pleasant surprises. I believe the in-coming freshmen will be as good or even better than advertised. But, once again, the "HOWEVER" with regard to the PG will IMO be the deal-maker/breaker. 

Each of us are informed by our personal knowledge and life experiences. Playing PG is the ultimate, consummate postion in all sports-bar none. I offer what I state for a reason...this is what I know. Regardless, it is nothing more and nothing less than MY OPINION...and at this time everything is speculation. If you are offended here that is your problem-not mine.

Ziff72

April 25th, 2018 at 9:41 AM ^

You are overstating the issues.  Z can't create for his teammates?   Please review the Purdue BIG Ten Champ game please.   He got better with the FT midseason with a routine change.   No reason to not expect even more improvement with an offseason to work on it.  He can't shoot 3's off the bounce and it's not reasonable to expect that to improve so he has 1 weakness.   It will be ok. 

Blue_In_Texas

April 24th, 2018 at 1:53 PM ^

Ace - Good work. I agree that it is very wide open next year. One thing you didn't explicitly mention is the improvement our guys are likely to get, and how much of a factor that is. Definitely feeling good about our BIG chances next year. 

A2MIKE

April 24th, 2018 at 2:01 PM ^

Huge risk but a potential huge payout for Mathews.  He is getting older, and if next season does not go according to plan, it could be very harmful to his draft prospects.  However, if he develops under a traditional Beilein 2nd year player he could be a B1G POY candidate and possible lottery pick.

TrueBlue2003

April 24th, 2018 at 3:06 PM ^

and probably the G League as an undrafted FA.  If he comes back and doesn't improve his shot (3 and FTs), he might not even get that chance, but I think he still would get a G league contract.

Like the guy in the quote said, it's either come back to Michigan and work on your shot or work on it in the G League.  Not sure what he meant by there being a big gap between the two.  Seems like the talent is maybe a little better overall in the G League, you'd get paid some, you'd have more time to work on your shot, so there are benefits.

At Michigan, you get to play in front of fans, you get to earn a degree, you get to play under coaches that are (probably?) superior to G League coaches (I say probably because Beliein is certainly a better coach overall than G league coaches, but I'm not sure how much resources NBA teams provide to G League players because they can have more coaches and more instructional time so Matthews could theoretically have a dedicated shot coach focus only on him).

I would expect him to be back but not shocked if he leaves.

umchicago

April 24th, 2018 at 3:49 PM ^

comes back.  he actually has a decent-looking shot, so i would expect his % to improve with all the volume summer shooting.

this is different than simpson with his ugly shot.  he can still improve but will never be a good shooter.  that said, noah and his ridiculous looking shot became a decent mid-range and FT shooter with the bulls in the nba. so anything can happen. 

Double-D

April 24th, 2018 at 5:53 PM ^

Beilein has proven to develop players as well as treat them with respect. He knows the system, the coaches, the players and the college routine. He knows his usage is going to increase and would increase exponentially with an improved shot over summer workouts.

Why risk all of that opportunity for an unknown developmental league grind? If he was Nick Ward and trying to get away from Izzo...but that’s not the case.

Unless he lights up the tryouts and gets some unlikely feedback I just don’t see the logic in leaving now.

BroadneckBlue21

April 24th, 2018 at 6:40 PM ^

This is not always true. Fringe prospects benefit from returning, unless they Mitch McGary it up in tourney. Most players in third year or older are not impacted by returning because the late first and second rounders are typically perennially where the junior/senior/redshirt soph go.

Matthews hurt his stock by not playing much at UK—and is think his stock has only risen since this year.

TK

April 24th, 2018 at 3:10 PM ^

I’m thinking lottery pick is not in Matthews future no matter how long he stays. But he could return, improve his game and get drafted and be more prepared than he is now. Which i suspect he will do.

Whole Milk

April 24th, 2018 at 2:30 PM ^

I was hesitant to give Foster Loyer any credit as a potential game changer, but after watching him in the state tournament, he is very, very skilled. May still be too limited size wize to have a huge impact however, Other than that, I don't see it. Tillman is solid, Mcquaid is the standard Just a Shooter type, and everyone else is bleh. 

EDIT: Forgot all about Winston for some reason, which was a huge mistake. A fan of that kid and think he will keep them together and be solid. Also, I was assuming Ward is gone, which may or may not be the case.

Maison Bleue

April 24th, 2018 at 4:30 PM ^

Isn't Loyer like 5'10"? I have a hard time seeing his high school production translating to college. He probably gives Winston a rest for a couple minutes a game, but it's not like you can put him in at the 2. I guess they could move Winston over to the 2 for stretches of small ball, but that would be a liabilty on D. 

Michigan4Life

April 24th, 2018 at 5:19 PM ^

with Z within the next couple seasons. Winston struggled big time when Z is on him because Winston lacks the quickness/explosion to beat Z off the dribble.

Also, both are defensive liability especially if they have to guard players who can drive on them. Izzo cannot play both Foster and Winston together because they're small and a huge defensive liability. Only way Izzo can hide both of them is zone defense but Izzo isn't a believer in zone defense.