What Role Will Rodney Williams and Others Play in the 2012-13 Big Ten Season?
While the college basketball season is still more than three months away, it's never too early to start figuring out starting lineups for the upcoming season.
While there are still question marks for each team due to graduation, transfers and injuries, you can make an estimated guess at each team's rotation.
This article is meant to figure out what roles certain players will have this season, which will remain unanswered until they hit the hardwood this winter.
Hulls' statistics during his sophomore and junior seasons were nearly identical, roughly averaging 11 points, two rebounds and three assists per contest. Most of IU's key players from 2011-12 return for the top-ranked Hoosiers, while they also add five incoming freshman (one player for each position on the floor). Hulls did most of the ballhandling this past season, but highly touted Yogi Ferrell is a more natural fit for the point guard position.
While the addition of Ferrell may suggest that Hulls should come off the bench for his senior season, I definitely do not see this happening. Hulls shot 49 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line a year ago. Hulls is too good not to have on the floor, let alone start. He scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games in March. Although he is undersized (6-feet tall), I think moving Hulls to the shooting guard position and playing a small lineup would be in the Hoosiers' best interest.
Recommendation: PG-Ferrell, SG-Hulls, SF-Oladipo, PF-Watford, C-Zeller
Hulls can also play point guard when Ferrell is out of the game, moving everyone else down a spot to their more natural positions.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Tim Hardaway Jr. played well during his sophomore season, but for whatever reason didn't get the same hype that came with his surprisingly good freshman season where he was a member of the league's All-Freshman Team. The soon to be junior from Miami, as well as son of former NBA star Tim Hardaway, was often overlooked for stud freshman Trey Burke during the Wolverines' Co-Big Ten Championship season in 2011-12. Nonetheless, Hardaway Jr. averaged 14.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
Hardaway Jr. is known as a second half player, often not getting into the flow of the game until after halftime. Michigan will likely shy away from their four-guard lineup in 2012-13, with some key freshman additions, moving Hardaway Jr. to the shooting guard position. At 6'6", he has both size and athleticism over most of the Big Ten's shooting guards. Hardaway Jr. does need to come out of the gates stronger though, otherwise he could see himself falling to the team's fourth option on offense.
Recommendation: PG-Burke, SG-Hardaway Jr., SF-Robinson III, PF-McGeary, C-Morgan
Hardaway Jr. can move to small forward when Michigan decides to go with a better three-point shooting lineup.
Adreian Payne made great strides and was incredibly effective when he played during his sophomore season.
The key words in that last sentence though were "when he played."
Payne and Derrick Nix split time at center in 2011-12, giving Payne only 17.9 minutes on the floor each night even though Payne was a starter. During the playing time he did receive though, Payne averaged 7.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots.
The Spartans are now without do-it-all player Draymond Green, making Payne's role much more vital. Payne came into East Lansing as primarily a low post scorer and dunker, but by season's end had a respectable jump shot. Not to take anything away from Nix, but Payne should be out on the floor more as a junior. Now the question begs, will Izzo play Payne and Nix together?
Recommendation: PG-Appling, SG-Harris, SF-Dawson, PF-Payne, C-Nix
Although Nix is in much better shape now than he once was, he will be unable to play extended minutes. So although Payne should start at power forward, he will still see time at center as well.
Bruesewitz was supposed to step up last season and become the Badgers second option on offense behind Jordan Taylor. Unfortunately, that did not happen and Bruesewitz only averaged 5.5 points and 5.1 rebounds, while shooting only 29 percent from three-point range. Bruesewitz was effective on defense, though, despite only being 6'6" and playing the power forward position. He brings energy every time he is on the court, despite no longer having the league's best (or worst) hairstyle.
Jordan Taylor graduated, leaving the Badgers without a starting point guard. They do however bring in Sam Dekker, who was Wisconsin's Mr. Basketball this past winter. Bruesewitz will need to provide more offense in his senior season, otherwise he could find himself coming off the bench.
Recommendation: PG-Gasser, SG-Dekker, SF-Evans, PF-Bruesewitz, C-Berggren
This was a tough call, especially not knowing if Bo Ryan will move Josh Gasser to point guard or letting redshirt freshman George Marshall start. Dekker is a natural small forward, but it appears as though the Badgers will have a solid core of eight players, also including guard Ben Brust and center Frank Kaminsky.
Lenzelle Smith Jr.
The Buckeyes advanced to the Final Four in New Orleans this past March where they blew a double-digit lead to the eventual runner-up Kansas Jayhawks. Of the Buckeyes five starters, Smith Jr. was by far the least heralded. Jared Sullinger and William Buford have both moved on, but fellow juniors Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas return to Columbus. If Smith Jr. can play this entire season like he did during March Madness, the Buckeyes should once again be in good shape and have established a "big three."
Smith Jr. averaged 15 points in the team's final three games of the NCAA Tournament, while shooting 8-for-15 from behind the arc. He also shot 11-for-13 from the foul line, despite being only a 63 percent shooter from there during the season. Thad Matta's trust in Smith Jr. is evident by the number of minutes he played in the team's Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four games: 35, 35, 34. For Ohio State to contend for their fourth straight Big Ten Championship, Smith Jr. needs to become a prolific scorer.
Recommendation: PG-Craft, SG-Smith Jr., SF-Ross, PF-Thomas, C-Williams
Smith Jr. can also play the small forward position, as he averaged 4.6 rebounds last season.
As shown in the picture here, Williams may be the Big Ten's best leaper or even athlete. During his first two seasons in Minneapolis, however, Williams never really figured it out leaving Gopher fans frustrated with the once thought-to-be future lottery pick.
To say that Trevor Mbakwe's injury last season was a blessing would be downright dumb. However, it did help players like Williams find their niche on the team. During the team's first seven games (when Mbakwe was healthy), Williams only scored in double figures twice. In the team's final 31 games, Williams scored in double figures 24 times including a streak of the final nine games of the season which was finished off with a loss to Stanford in the NIT Final.
I believe that two things were the main causes for Williams' sudden emergence. First, he suddenly became the team's go-to-guy with both Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III falling to injuries. Also, Williams moved from small forward to power forward due to the loss of these two big guys. Williams played power forward in high school, and although he is not a low post player, he is also not an outside shooter. Williams is a slasher that is lanky enough to guard and block shots on taller players. Now that Williams and Mbakwe should both be healthy again in 2012-13, what is Tubby Smith to do?
Recommendation: PG-Hollins, SG-Coleman, SF-Hollins, PF-Williams, C-Mbakwe.
Now although this starting lineup is unlikely, this would have the Golden Gopher's top five players on the floor at once (with the exception of maybe Julian Welch in for Joe Coleman). Williams should see time at both small and power forward this season, but this lineup is at least worth trying for a team as deep, both at guard and in general, as Minnesota.
Hearn went above and beyond most walk-on's dreams last season, starting all 33 games for the Northwestern Wildcats. And not only was Hearn just a starter, but he was effective and became the team's third option offensively at times. Hearn finished his junior season averaging 7.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists, after averaging one point the season before. The highlight of Hearn's season was a 20-point performance at Illinois in February, followed up by two 16-point efforts.
Despite the loss of Northwestern's all-time leading scorer, John Shurna, the Wildcats appear to be much deeper in 2012-13 with the additions of two transfers, four freshmen and a healthy JerShon Cobb. So despite doing everything coach Bill Carmody asked of Hearn as a junior, he may lose out on many of those minutes he earned to younger players as a senior. The Wildcats are guard-heavy, which will likely move Hearn's duty to role player off the bench. Hearn does provide size from the shooting guard position and is also a tough defender at the top of NU's 1-3-1 Zone.
Recommendation: PG-Sobolewski, SG-Cobb, SF-Crawford, PF-Swopshire, C-Cerina
Hearn and Alex Marcotullio should be the first two guards off the bench, although Carmody has never been a fan of going deep into his roster. Now that he has that luxury though, he should use it.
Basabe was truly an enigma during his sophomore campaign. After averaging 11 points and being selected to the All-Freshman Team, he only averaged a disappointing 8.2 points while being moved to a reserve player in February. To statistically show how inconsistent Basabe was last season, take a look at these numbers: During a four game span in November, Basabe scored two points in four consecutive games. Then a month later, Basabe scored 14 points in four consecutive games. That right there is the definition of being consistently inconsistent.
Despite the up-and-down year, Basabe finished strong and scored 32 points in 32 minutes during the Hawkeyes' two NIT contests. For Iowa to become a contender in the Big Ten, Basabe will need to play like he did as a freshman and avoid getting into foul trouble as he often does. Coach Fran McCaffrey signed Basabe to play at Siena before being hired by Iowa, so the two of them go way back. But until Basabe proves to be a consistent force, McCaffrey may be better off bringing him off the bench.
Recommendation: PG-Gessell, SG-Oglesby, SF-Marble, PF-White, C-Woodbury
If this holds true, Basabe could be the best sixth man in the conference. He can play at any of the three frontcourt positions, as he only stands 6'7" but has a long wingspan.
Robbie Hummel, Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith have all graduated, automatically making Byrd the team's new leader. After a slow start to his junior season, Byrd emerged as a scorer in the second half of the season by reaching double figures in 11 of the team's final 13 contests. Byrd finished the season shooting 43 percent from deep, while averaging just a tad under nine points per game. Byrd stands 6'5" and weighs 234 pounds, and could be the Boilermakers' top player on both offense and defense as a senior.
Purdue got nothing from their post players in 2011-12, leaving Hummel to play either the power forward or center positions almost exclusively. Purdue, like many other Big Ten teams, is guard-heavy. With that in mind, Byrd should find himself playing power forward regularly despite almost exclusively shooting behind the arc. This upcoming season could be Matt Painter's best coaching job yet if he can find a way to get the Boilers to the NCAA Tournament.
Recommendation: PG-R. Johnson, SG-T. Johnson, SF-A. Johnson, PF-Byrd, C-Hammons
Byrd could also see time at small forward if any of Purdue's big guys emerge as legitimate offensive weapons.
After hardly playing to start the season, Bertrand had his coming out party last December 22nd when he scored 19 points on perfect 9-for-9 shooting in a hard-fought loss to rival Missouri. Bertrand later had a 25-point game on 11-for-12 shooting against Nebraska. Although his final average was only 6.5 points, Bertrand proved he can be an efficient scorer, despite having a minor slump during Big Ten play. Bertrand played many of his minutes at the power forward position, in the Illini's four-guard offense.
Bertrand finished the season again coming off the bench, although he played starter's minutes. I predict the same will happen in 2012-13, with Bertrand emerging as the Fighting Illini's third scorer along with Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson. The Illini's big men are all still unknowns, so it seems likely that new coach John Groce will have to implement the four-guard offense at times this season as well especially if the team is trailing.
Recommendation: PG-Abrams, SG-Richardson, SF-Paul, PF-McLaurin, C-Egwu
Bertrand will be the team's sixth man, playing either small or power forward when on the court.
Tim Frazier was a one man show for extended amounts of time during 2011-12. For Penn State to have any ounce of success and improvement this season, Marshall has to emerge as the team's second scorer. Marshall finished his sophomore season scoring in double figures in nine of the final 11 games, highlighted by a 27-point effort against Michigan. Marshall finished the season averaging 10.8 points and 4.1 rebounds.
Despite averaging in double figures, Marshall only shot 33 percent from long range, where he attempts over four shots per contest. Marshall also has a knack for getting into foul trouble, which limited him to only 27 minutes on average last season. If the Nittany Lions do not want a repeat performance of coming in last place in 2012-13, Marshall has to step up as an upperclassman and become Frazier's right hand man.
Recommendation: PG-Frazier, SG-Marshall, SF-Newbill, PF-Graham, C-Travis
Marshall could also see some time at small forward as he is a good rebounder.
Talley only started one game in 2011-12, despite averaging nearly nine points in 24 minutes of playing time. However, he was nearly always on the court at the end of close games because of his ability to score both from the outside and off the dribble. 2012-13 looks to be a rebuilding year for the Cornhuskers under new coach Tim Miles. Talley and Brandon Ubel are the only returning players who played significant minutes a year ago.
Talley, a Binghamton transfer, may become the Cornhuskers' go-to-guy and top scorer this season if he can find some consistency. Talley did finish the season strong, averaging 13 points in Nebraska's final two games which ended in the Big Ten Tournament. Talley is 6'5" and is the definition of a prototypical wing player.
Recommendation: PG-Biggs, SG-Talley, SF-Shields, PF-Ubel, C-Almeida
There is a good chance that the Cornhuskers second season in the Big Ten is just as unsuccessful as their first. Talley will need a huge season for this not to happen.