Big Ten Basketball: Top 5 Freshman of the Year Candidates Before Conference Play

Isaiah ClarkCorrespondent IDecember 18, 2011

Big Ten Basketball: Top 5 Freshman of the Year Candidates Before Conference Play

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    There aren't as many star-studded freshman like in years past this season in the Big Ten. However, the one name that comes to mind when you not only think freshman in the Big Ten, but freshman in general, is Cody Zeller.

    To start the season you would say he was the clear cut favorite to win the honors of Freshman of the Year in the Big Ten. Right now it seems like that's how things will end up when the awards are given out at the end of the season.

    There are a few other players on my list that have something to say about that. Who can surpass Zeller as the top freshman? The choice is yours!

1. Cody Zeller, Indiana

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    There is no question that right now the award for Big Ten Freshman of the Year is Zeller's to lose. Not only does he lead all freshman in scoring, rebounds, field goal percentage and minutes, he leads Indiana in the same respective categories except for minutes.

    His presence has made the Hoosiers a competitive team once again. Whether it's on the offensive end or defensive end, he has made this team a completely different squad from last season. Not only is he a freshman, but he is the best player on his team. No other freshman can stake that claim.

    Once conference play begins then that is when he will truly be put to the test. Can he withstand the tough defenses that the Big Ten presents or will he fall off his pass for an outstanding freshman campaign?

    Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

    Key Stats

    15.6 ppg

    7.5 rpg

    1.6 blk

    64.4% fg

    77.2% ft

2. Trey Burke, Michigan

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    After losing Darius Morris to the NBA, the Wolverines weren't quite sure who would step into his role. Well, Burke seems to be that guy. Former Mr. Basketball in Ohio hasn't missed a beat in his first season thus far with the Wolverines.

    He is leading his team win assists per game and is only behind Tim Hardaway Jr. in scoring. Burke is going to play a key role for the Wolverines come Big Ten play. There really isn't a cupcake of a team in the conference and you can be sure the defenses will be putting him to the test. 

    Key Stats

    13.1 ppg

    4.7 apg

    3.2 rpg

    45.3% fg

    39.2% 3-point

3. Branden Dawson, Michigan State

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    There is nothing like your first taste of college basketball than playing UNC and doing so on a Navy ship. Dawson fared extremely well in his first collegiate game, putting up 10 points and pulling down seven rebounds.

    He has been a solid contributor for the Spartans thus far. By no means is he an outstanding player or matches up to the level of Zeller, but gaining this experience is very important with Draymond Green leaving at the end of the season.

    One of my biggest concerns with Dawson is that he turns the ball over a little too easily and often. If he can have better control with the basketball then he will be a very formidable player down the stretch.

    Key Stats

    7.7 ppg

    4.5 rpg

    1.5 apg

    55.4% fg

4. David Sobolewski, Northwestern

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    Much like Burke from Michigan, Sobolewski has some big shoes to fill. He is taking over the reigns at point guard which were controlled by Michael Thompson for the past four years.

    So far head coach Bill Carmody has been impressed with the composer of the freshman. He has been shaky at times with his shooting but controls the floor well in a very tough offensive system.

    They are hoping he eventually turns the corner and relieves the likes of Drew Crawford and John Shurna of the pressure they face every game. If he can become a little more consistent offensively, then things could be looking nice for the Wildcats. Maybe even a berth to the NCAA Tournament could be in their forecast.

    Key Stats

    7.9 ppg

    3.7 apg

    3.2 rpg

    40% fg

    34.8% 3-point

5. Josh Oglesby, Iowa

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    OK, some of you may question Oglesby as being in the top five, but everyone needs a dark horse and he is it for me.

    One thing I like about his game is he shoots, shoots and shoots some more. Even if he is struggling with his shot and can't catch a break, head coach Fran McCaffery is yelling at him to just keep shooting.

    If they want to compete when conference play kicks off they will need the likes of Oglesby to light it up from beyond the arc because their defense is atrocious. If you can't stop them, then you simply need to score more than them. 

    Key Stats

    7.4 ppg

    2.0 rpg

    1.5 apg

    42.4% fg

    39.5% 3-point