Big Ten Basketball: Predicting the 2012-13 Big Ten Stats Leaders
Question: Is it possible for a national Player of the Year candidate to not lead any of the major statistical categories in his own conference?
Answer: In the 2012-13 Big Ten basketball season it is.
The upcoming Big Ten basketball season promises to be one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory.
No less than six teams could walk away with the league title.
Obviously, if you have so many great teams, you are also going to have quite a few exceptional individual players dotting the rosters of the teams that make up that kind of conference.
Here are my predictions for the leaders in eight key major statistical categories in the Big Ten for the upcoming season
Is it really possible that Cody Zeller may not be the conference leader in any of these?
Take a look and let me know what you think!
FG Percentage: Jordan Morgan (Michigan)
Jordan Morgan has started 68 games in his first two seasons at UM.
He has scored a combined 8.3 ppg and shot 62.3 percent from the field.
Morgan was just slightly behind Indiana's Cody Zeller last year for the 2011-12 Big Ten shooting percentage lead.
With all of the exposure and attention that Zeller is getting for national Player of the Year considerations, he may get tougher defenses thrown at him in his upcoming sophomore season.
Because of that, I'm giving the Wolverines 6'8", 250-lb PF the nod here.
FT Percentage: Christian Watford (Indiana)
Christian Watford is one of the best shooting PFs in CBB.
Very few stretch 4s can do what Watford can in terms of shooting the basketball from distance.
While the 6'9" forward from Birmingham can knock down three's with most guards, he can really hit his free throws.
For his first three years at IU, Watford has hit 375-of-457 (82.1 percent) of his charity tosses.
In the Hoosiers' last 15 games last year, the big guy hit 60-of-65 (92.3 percent), including perfect games against Minnesota (7-7), Purdue (6-6) and Penn State (10-10).
3-Point Shooting Percentage: Jordan Hulls (Indiana)
Jordan Hulls is a big-time sniper for the Hoosiers.
Hulls, who grew up in Bloomington, is the top returning three-point shooter in the Big Ten.
Last year, the 6'0" guard hit 49.3 percent from beyond the arc, the sixth highest single season in school history.
In his first three years at Indiana, Hulls has knocked down 174-of-396 (43.9 percent) threes.
Steals: Aaron Craft (Ohio State)
Aaron Craft could be the best on-ball defender in college basketball.
He impacts games by the pressure that he applies and the disruption that he creates.
Craft has led the Big Ten in steals in both of his seasons at Ohio State.
Last year, he pinched 98 steals (2.5 spg). His two-year total is 171.
Craft came up big in the Buckeyes' Sweet 16 matchup this past NCAA tournament against Cincinnati. He scored 11 points, grabbed four rebounds, dished out five assists and pocketed six steals.
Look for the 6'2" guard from Findlay, OH to again lead the league in the upcoming season.
Blocked Shots: Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota)
Trevor Mbakwe was off to a fantastic start last year.
He was averaging 14 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game over the first seven games of the season.
And then he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during the second half of a game in late November.
The Gophers expect the 6'8", 245-lb forward to return to full strength for what is actually his sixth year of eligibility.
With that, Mbakwe is a good bet to lead the league in blocked shots.
Assists: Trey Burke (Michigan)
Many Wolverine fans expected Trey Burke to enter the 2012 NBA draft after his fantastic freshman season.
If you've seen him play, you already know that Burke is a heady player who can knock down shots and score the ball or set up his teammates to score equally as well.
Besides averaging 14.8 points and 3.5 rebounds, the 5'11" PG handed out 4.6 assists per game.
While Burke will have no problem maintaining his scoring average, there's a good chance, with the talent returning and arriving, that he will increase his assists output considerably.
Rebounding: Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota)
Trevor Mbakwe will not only lead the conference in blocked shots, but he will again prove that he is the best rebounder in the Big Ten.
As a junior, Mbakwe led the league in rebounding (10.5 rpg). He also averaged a team-high 13.9 points per game, becoming the first Gopher player to average a double-double since Kris Humphries did so during the 2003-4 season.
He was on his way to doing that again last year until he blew out his knee and was out for the rest of the season.
If Mbakwe gets all the way back, watch out for Minnesota as a conference dark horse.
Points: Tim Frazier (Penn State)
Very few college basketball fans know much about Tim Frazier.
Even some people who follow the Big Ten are not well-versed in how good Penn State's rising senior PG is.
Frazier averaged 18.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg and 6.2 apg last year, and he's ready to improve on those numbers across the board.
Even if the Nittany Lions' opponents key on him, Frazier is just so good that he is likely to put up at least 20 per night in his last season playing collegiate ball.