Top 10 Players in the Big Ten and What Their NBA Prospects Look Like
The Big Ten has been the best conference in all of college basketball all season long. Michigan was number one in the last AP poll before losing to number three Indiana. Three other teams also made the top 25.
The conference not only has the best group of teams, but also some of the best individual players in the nation. This is a look at the best players in the conference and how they project as NBA prospects.
Glen Robinson III, Michigan
As a freshman coming into a team with two established playmakers, Glenn Robinson III had his working cut out for him this season. The son of the 1994 first overall pick has had little trouble fitting into the starting lineup as Michigan fights for a Big Ten title.
Behind Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Robinson is averaging 11.7 points per game and is second on the team with 5.7 rebounds per game.
Robinson's biggest asset has been his efficiency on the offensive end. He has scored ten or more points 14 times, yet has only shot 10 shots or more five times. He has been able to have so much success by shooting 58.6 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from behind the arc.
Robinson projects to be a very solid prospect, although 6'6" is an inch or two short for an ideal small forward. His athleticism helps him make up for his height.
Robinson is ranked 11 on NBADraft.net's big board and 18 on ESPN's. Coming back for a sophomore season could help his draft stock. It could give Robinson a chance to show NBA teams an assertive side that he has been missing all season.
Aaron Craft, Ohio State
While his offensive numbers have been very pedestrian this season, Aaron Craft has remained one of the top defensive players in the Big Ten, if not the entire country.
The 6'2" junior point guard has tallied 40 steals already this season, giving him 211 for his career. He now has more steals than any other Buckeye in history. He constantly pressures opposing guards and does a great job jumping passing lanes.
Craft has had the worst offensive season of his career playing without Jared Sullinger for the first time at Ohio State. Craft is shooting 38.3 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from three. Last season he shot 50 and 35.9 percent, respectively.
If Craft plans to play at the next level he will have to regain his shooting touch; he is currently ranked 83rd on ESPN's big board. If he can prove that he can consistently shoot the three, he could make an NBA rotation.
Andre Hollins, Minnesota
Minnesota's best offensive player is sophomore point guard Andre Hollins. After a solid freshman campaign, Hollins is averaging 14.2 points and 3.7 assists per game. He is top ten in the conference in both statistics.
Hollins has played efficiently, shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 41 percent from three. He also has shot 78.9 percent from the free throw line, which is sixth in the Big Ten.
At 6'1" and 200 pounds, Hollins has decent size for an NBA point guard. His shooting range and scoring ability will make him an intriguing prospect in the future. He needs to cut down on his 2.6 turnovers per game if he wants to be a point guard at the next level.
Keith Appling, Michigan State
Michigan State is 18-4 and only one game behind Indiana in conference play. Keith Appling has played a big role in the team's success.
The 6'1" combo guard has a stat line very similar to Hollins. Appling averages 14 points and 4.2 assists (Hollins averages 14.1 and 3.5). He shoots 42.6 percent from the field and makes one-third of his threes.
Appling is a difference-maker on the defensive end as well. He pulls down 3.6 rebounds and averages 1.5 steals per game.
As a prospect, scouts aren't as high on Appling as they are on Hollins. NBADraft.net ranks Appling at 69 on its big board. Hollins is 31.
Brandon Paul, Illinois
The Fighting Illini may only be 2-7 in Big Ten play, but senior guard Brandon Paul has done everything he can to help the team win.
Paul is third in the conference in scoring with 17.4 points per game and has only scored less than 10 points in one game. He has also been fairly efficient for a high-volume scorer, shooting 41.3 percent from the field.
Paul is one of the only players in the conference that can take over a game with his play making. His 43-point game against Ohio State last season is the best example.
When he leaves Illinois, Paul will get his chance to play in the NBA. He has the size and scoring ability to play shooting guard in the NBA, though he isn't an elite athlete. ESPN lists him as the number 38 overall prospect for the 2013 draft.
Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan
Tim Hardaway Jr. is one of the biggest reasons that Michigan is an elite basketball program this season.
Last season Hardaway scored 14.6 points per game, but he didn't shoot well from the field, just 41.8 percent and 28.3 percent from three.
This season Hardaway averages 15.6, but has shot much more efficiently, 48.3 percent from the field and 41 percent from three. Hardaway has taken smarter shots this season, playing within the flow of the offense more often than last season.
Hardaway has the pedigree, scoring ability and size to become a first round draft pick when he leaves Michigan. A big March could prompt him to leave Ann Arbor.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana
One of the players that has boosted his draft stock the most this season in the Big Ten has been Indiana's Victor Oladipo. The junior wing has been both electrifying and efficient, filling both stat sheets and highlight reels.
Oladipo has quite possibly been the best two-way player in the conference this season. He currently leads the conference in shooting at 64.4 percent and steals with 2.5 per game. Not only that, but he shoots 51.4 from behind the arc and grabs 5.8 rebounds per game.
If Oladipo continues his success this season he, like Hardaway, may be able to crack the first round. NBADraft.net currently lists Oladipo as the 25th prospect and Hardaway as the 26th.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
While Aaron Craft leads the Ohio State defense, junior Deshaun Thomas is by far the most important player offensively on the team.
He is the highest-scoring player in the conference, averaging 20 points per game on 46.7 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 81. 6 percent from the stripe.
Possibly the most impressive part of his game is that he scores so much while turning the ball over only 1.4 times per game. A high-volume shooter that doesn't turn the ball over is a real asset.
While Thomas has been able to fill it up at Ohio State, scouts don't believe it will translate to the NBA. He lacks NBA-level athleticism and he is already 22 years old. ESPN ranks him as the 49th-best prospect available.
Trey Burke, Michigan
Trey Burke made the leap from a solid starter to player of the year candidate in the course of a year, to the delight of Michigan fans everywhere.
Burke's scoring has increased from 14.8 to 18.2 points per game, second in the conference. His assists per game are up from 4.6 to 7.2, which leads the conference. He is shooting 5.4 percent better from the field and is averaging .9 turnovers less per game. Burke has improved his game in virtually every aspect.
While Burke is only listed at 6 feet and 190 pounds, he has proven that he has the talent and basketball IQ to be an NBA point guard. ESPN currently ranks him as the number 14 prospect available, but a deep run in March could move him closer to the top ten.
Cody Zeller, Indiana
Cody Zeller has been one of the very best players in college basketball this season and will be competing with Burke for player of the year awards. The 7-foot big man has elite size and length and is very skilled for a college big man.
Statistically, Zeller is fourth in the conference in points (16.3) and second in rebounds (8.3). He shoots an excellent 59.6 percent from the field and is not a liability from the line, making 73.9 percent of his free throws.
Zeller is also very disruptive on the defensive end. Not only does he average 1.4 blocks a game, but the big man also manages to get 1.2 steals per game.
As a pro prospect, Zeller was thought to be a possible number one pick, although he has fallen a bit throughout the season. NBADraft.net still has him as the number two overall prospect, while ESPN now ranks him seven.
While Zeller may not be worthy of the first overall pick, it appears that he will certainly be a top 10 pick and will have an excellent chance to hear his name called in the top five.