Big Ten Basketball Landscape: Second Tier Comment Count

Brian April 3rd, 2012 at 2:57 PM

aaron-craft[1]Ohio State

Out: William Buford, probably Jared Sullinger, possibly Deshaun Thomas

In: Nobody yet. LaQuinton Ross may qualify here since he didn't get until the second semester and did not play.

Status: Yes, it is odd to see OSU in this section, but fresh off a heartbreaking choke job in the Final Four Ohio State faces the prospect of life without 80% of its shots. William Buford is definitely gone. Jared Sullinger is presumed gone. Deshaun Thomas could go. He said "of course I might come back" in the aftermath of the exit. Interpret that as you will. To me that sounds like a guy who will get a first round grade from the NBA and take it. If Thomas is back, upgrade the Buckeyes into the contender tier. FWIW, he's #41 on Chad Ford's board. That seems low to me.

Replacing those lost will be… no one. At least right now. Ohio State is after a guy named Tony Parker who makes it seem odd that you associate such a bland name with French point guards. This version of Tony Parker is a 6'9" post from Georgia. OSU acquiring him is far from certain (the current leader seems to be UCLA) and the Buckeyes seemingly aren't in on any of the other one-and-done types who are probably headed to Kentucky.

Without reinforcements it's hard to see OSU keeping pace at the top of the league. The two returning starters are efficient players that provide a lot of value when they are not asked to be alpha dogs. They are unproven as go-to-guys. The backups will have to make quantum leaps if they're going to take up the mantle.

One probably will. These are highly touted guys, after all. One doesn't seem like enough given the additions at the top of the league.

Question in need of resolving: Can any of OSU's backups actually play basketball?

There are talented recruits behind the starters, but early returns on everyone except maybe Amir Williams are poor. No one could get on the floor for more than about 25% of OSU's minutes; no one save Evan Ravenel and the possibly-transferring, definitely-low-sample-size-possessing JD Weatherspoon cracked 100 in ORtg.

Five star point guard of the future Shannon Scott was particularly awful, shooting 22% from the line, 36% from two, and 5% from three and managing a turnover rate of 34.4. That's good for a 67.8 ORtg, which is the worst I think I've ever seen. Let's click over to his comparables… UNC PG Larry Drew is the #1 hit. He still managed a 79.1 in 2009.

OSU's going to need two or thee of these guys to step up and become quality starters or they're doomed.


Out: PG Bryce Cartwright, SG Matt Gatens, C Andrew Brommer

In: C Adam Woobury (4.5*, right), PG Mike Gesell (4*), C Kyle Meyer (3*), SG Patrick Ingram (3*), PG Anthony Clemmons (3*)

Status: While Iowa barely scraped their head above .500 this year, things are looking up for the Hawkeyes. They should break their NCAA tourney drought and if things go right they could be one of the nation's surprise teams.

Their only major loss is Gatens, who went ham at the tail end of his senior season. Cartwright was an assist machine who also manufactured copious turnovers and missed shots; Brommer was the end of the bench.

They return Andrew White, everyone's Big Ten Third Best Freshman of the Year winner, Roy Devyn Marble, budding wing snipers Zach McCabe and Josh Oglesby, and enigmatic but potentially lethal Melsahn Basabe. To this they add a seven-foot center they grabbed from everyone in the world and the point guard who set up most of Glenn Robinson III's dunks in that All Star game. He, too, is a consensus top 100 guy.

There's enough recruiting hype and proven Big Ten production here to see Iowa taking a significant step forward from its Big Ten form. That would have been a game away from a tourney bid if the Hawkeyes hadn't started off so poorly. Losses to Creighton, Campbell, Clemson, Northern Iowa, and Iowa State doomed the Hawkeyes to NIT aspirations before the Big Ten even started. That won't happen next year. The Hawkeyes should find themselves comfortably in the tournament.

Question that needs resolving: Melsahn Basabe was Tim Hardaway Jr Jr last year. Which way will he go?

Basabe hit the Big Ten running. His freshman year he was near top 100 in true shooting percentage, blocked a ton of shots, rebounded very well on both ends of the floor, and generally looked like he was going to be an All Big Ten player for multiple years. Like Hardaway, he backslid as a sophomore. He was worse at virtually everything, losing 5% off his FT and 2PT percentages, rebounding less effectively, and seeing slight declines in blocks, minutes and usage.

You'd think Basabe gets a boost playing next to White and Woodbury; last year he had to play a lot of time out of position at the five. Free to take short jumpers and slash into the post he should rebound, figuratively and literally.


Out: C Ralph Sampson

In: PF Trevor Mbakwe (essentially), PF Charles Buggs (3*), SG Wally Ellenson(3*)

Status: When Trevor Mbakwe went out for the year in Minnesota's seventh game, the world left them for dead. This was the right thing to do. The Gopher stomped through a weak nonconference schedule before stopping dead against Big Ten opposition. Eighteen games later, the Gophers were 6-12 with one win against a team that made the tournament (@ Indiana).

Was Mbakwe really that big of a deal? Yes. If you forget his thunderous first year in the Big Ten—something Zack Novak never will—here's a reminder: 58% shooting, top 20 in defensive rebounding, top 30 in getting to the free throw line, and a healthy number of blocks and offensive rebounds. His absence robbed Minnesota of a potential All Big Ten player.

They've got him back. Their only personnel loss is Ralph Sampson, a guy who played 42% of Minnesota's minutes and was no better than his projected replacement, rising sophomore Elliott Eliason. Two of their starters will be making freshman-to-sophomore transitions, and the silver lining to the Mbakwe injury was Rodney Williams bursting onto the scene, often through people's chests.

Minnesota has been a bear defensively since Tubby Smith arrived; they'll be good enough on offense next year to knock off anyone in the conference.

Question that needs resolving: Can Williams and Mbakwe play together?

While they're not quite the same player—Mbakwe is bigger and a much better rebounder—they fill the same niche in the offense. There are only so many alley-oops and thunderous putbacks to go around. I'd guess Minnesota plays Mbakwe at the five quite a bit; having that work out on the boards and on offense will go a long way towards determining how good the Gophers can be.


Out: PF Robbie Hummel, PG Lewis Jackson, SG Ryne Smith, SF Kelsey Barlow

In: PF Jay Simpson (4*), PG Ronnie Johnson (4*), C AJ Hammons (3*), SG Rapheal Davis (3*)

Status: If Minnesota and Iowa are going to rise without the teams that finished at the top of the standings sliding back, it will be Purdue that suffers.

They've lost the heart of their team in Hummel and Jackson. They used almost 50% of Purdue's possessions between them. Ryne Smith was Just Another Three Point Shooter, but he was really good at that (43%). Those three guys were the linchpins of an elite offense that saw Purdue scrape into the tournament as a ten seed, and now they're gone. (Also out the door is the dismissed Kelsey Barlow, but Purdue played a lot better without him.)

What's left behind is alarming given the talent already listed in these posts. Purdue's best returning player is… DJ Byrd? Terone Johnson? Anthony Johnson? It doesn't matter who it actually is, because any of them would be a third banana on a Big Ten contender. Meanwhile, Purdue spent most of the year running Hummel out at the 5 because their best post guy was Travis Carroll. Carroll was invisible offensively and had a defensive rebound rate only 0.4 percent better than 5'9" Lewis Jackson. Jackson created all the shots, too.

All this sounds grim. The Boilers do have a couple of quality recruits incoming who may be able to pick up some of the slack, but their guys are on the 3/4 borderline and seem like they'll take a year or two to get adjusted to the Big Ten. They can't provide enough in a Big Ten that looks even deeper than last year.

Question that needs resolving: Who, like, does stuff now?

About the only thing that Purdue can feel good about next year is Byrd raising up for an open three. The Johnsons drive to the basket with abandon and do not finish well when they get there. They were crappy defensively and their most experienced post is all but useless. Now they have to play him. Robbie Hummel is not walking through that door.



April 3rd, 2012 at 3:03 PM ^

Don't tell Ohio fans they are in the second tier, though I agree.  I'm not sure why Sullinger would come back.  He probably hurt his draft stock with his injuries and play down the stretch this year.  He should leave ASAP so he can collect his NBA money before his career ending injury.  I think the Angry Big Man Hating Gods share time between Portland and CBus.


April 3rd, 2012 at 3:11 PM ^

...can certainly be placed in the 2nd tier if Thomas leaves, because they are a mysterious team to figure out with so many new guys.  However, Matta is perhaps one of the more underrated coaches in the game, and returning actual players and not having to rely on freshmen gives me a little hope.  Most likely star next year - Sam Thompson.


April 3rd, 2012 at 3:38 PM ^

Out: Robbie Hummel

the last time Hummel was not on a big ten basketball team Bo was still alive, Crash won the best picture over King Kong and Brokeback Mountain, W had just quit trying to redo social security (not political) and the best selling album was High School Musical.


April 3rd, 2012 at 3:36 PM ^

I'm surprised that OSU doesn't really have the recruits coming in like they have before.  I'm sure that the Goblin that is Thad Matta will weasel himself into some living rooms to secure some commits.


April 3rd, 2012 at 4:02 PM ^

Minnesota and OSU seem a bit underrated, especially if Thomas comes back.

I like them both better than Wisconsin, but then again, I have no idea how Wisconsin keeps winning.


April 3rd, 2012 at 5:02 PM ^

I look forward to the conclusion of this series. I do hope that Brian manages to (quite appropriately) use the phrase "tire fire" when describing the state of the program of my alma mater. 


April 3rd, 2012 at 7:13 PM ^

Brian, do you think there is any chance Aaron Craft could go to the NBA?   Obviously, losing Craft would kill OSU, and he is only a sophomore, but I wondered whether he was considering a move.


April 3rd, 2012 at 11:19 PM ^

The announcers are always drooling over Craft's defense, making me also wonder if he might not be a candidate for early out.

Also, I can't help but notice that the talking heads always are gushing about Craft much more than Trey Burke. It makes me think that if Craft doesn't have NBA prospects yet, that Trey certainly doesn't.

If anyone has insight into this, I'd like to hear a little about it. I don't claim to be an NBA scout by any means, so if you're basketball smart, feel free to share.

PS - I guess this is common sense, but apparently there has not been a one-and-done that was shy of six feet, or at least that got drafted. (As best I can tell. If you know otherwise, please chime in)

PPS - To Tripp Welbourne above, you are radically underestimating the span of Robbie Hummel's career. When I was really young and my great-grandfather was alive, he would tell me how when he was just a tyke, his dad would take him to go see M play Robbie Hummel. I guess Robbie was a good shooter back then too, and was very courteous. When he scored, he would always climb the ladder himself in order to get the ball out of the peach basket. I think that speaks a lot about him.


April 3rd, 2012 at 11:56 PM ^

Well, Craft has already stated he is coming back next year (and even said so while laughing because I don't think he even considered an alternative). 

I think the gushing over Craft as opposed to Burke has to do with the NCAA tournament - Craft's profile went up ten-fold over the past few weeks with the national spotlight.  Burke had an amazing season, but it ended on a bad note with the early exit and relatively poor performance against Ohio. 

Here is the thing about Craft.  I love the kid, but I just don't see him being anything more than a benchwarmer in the NBA.  His biggest attribute is his on-the-ball permieter defense - and that skill will be VERY marginilzed in the NBA due to the much stricter hand-checking rules.  With NBA refs/rules, he commits an average of 28.4 fouls per game (might be an exaggeration).  I'm sure he would adjust, but he wouldn't be nearly as dominant defensively.  Other than that, relative to other NBA PGs, he would be below average at ball-handling, passing, shooting, and driving.  In other words, he would be a huge liability on the offensive end.  

I do expect him to be drafted after his senior year simply due to his tenacity and defense, but I think Burke's game translates much better to the NBA than Craft's.