Mar 23, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Indiana Hoosiers forward Cody Zeller (40) reacts after scoring against the Kentucky Wildcats inthe second half during the semifinals of the south region of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE
After two days of talking about the players out of the Big Ten that will never play another conference game, it’s time to look at the players who still have time left in the B1G. The graduating senior class in the Big Ten is among the strongest in the past decade, but the conference still holds plenty of talent.
In the latest mock draft for next year’s draft, there are currently seven players that are from the Big Ten, all of whom played this past season. The Gophers have two being drafted, so does Indiana. The five forwards and two guards on the list will make it tough for expects to chose who will be preseason Big Ten All-Americans.
Not mentioned in next year’s draft are talented players like Trey Burke, Branden Dawson, and Aaron Craft. Incoming freshman talents like Mitch McGary and Gary Harris are also not listed in the latest 2013 mock draft. Needless to say, the Big Ten is currently loaded with talent eager to play at the next level.
Zeller is currently locked in as the number one pick in next year’s draft. The 6’11" forward played beyond expectations in his freshman year at Indiana. The Hoosier is already being proclaimed as better than his older brother, Tyler. The skilled and crafty power forward was eager to return to Bloomington for a sophomore season with a chance to bring Indiana back to glory and win a National Championship.
His footwork for a big man is solid, and he was able to create his own shots during his freshman year. Shooting over 60 percent along with a high free-throw percentage for a big man will make any scout approve. Zeller does not have elite talents and could drop down in draft boards once the season begins. He is a safe pick with good (not great) upside. The biggest thing that Zeller needs to work on next year is rebounding as he averaged less than seven a game.
Signs were all pointing to Mbakwe to have an amazing senior year for Minnesota and to be on his way to a mid-first round pick in the draft. Mbakwe then tore his ACL early in the season for the Gophers. He was able to get a sixth year of eligibility at Minnesota. Mbakwe is an interesting player to evaluate for scouts. He has a knack for rebounding and being physical in the paint, but he is only 6’8" tall. Another thing that hurts Mbakwe is his age; he will be 24 by next June.
Unless Mbakwe gets hurt again or digresses greatly next season at Minnesota, he should be able to hear his name called in the first round. His shooting percentages have improved over his career and plays really hard on both ends of the court. If he can show consistency this year, there won’t be much of a worry for scouts.
Crawford has played instantly since he stepped on the campus of Northwestern. He has improved his percentages since his freshman year, and Crawford is finally the alpha dog for the Wildcats. The shooting guard learned how to draw fouls on him during his junior year at Northwestern and should continue to enhance his game as the main option in their offense. Similar to Mbakwe, Crawford needs to be consistent all season. His NIT numbers in two games in March were 27 points followed up by only five points against Washington.
The Michigan Wolverines have a litter of talents guards at their arsenal and probably have the strongest point guard through center lineup in the Big Ten for next season. While that’s great to have as a program, the immense amount of talent could hurt Hardaway Jr. as a draft prospect. He had a very similar sophomore year to his freshman year at Michigan. The lanky guard settles for jump shots too much and struggled mightily at three pointers during his sophomore year. Since he is the son of a very talented former NBA player, Hardaway Jr. will get his look in the NBA. The question is whether he will be the first option in the Wolverine’s offense or the third behind Burke and McGary.
The inconsistency of Williams has been noted time and time again during his stay at Minnesota. Yet, Williams decided to star in Minnesota’s run in the NIT in March. He averaged over 19 points a game in the five game stretch. The athleticism and size of Williams has allowed him to see his name mentioned in the draft lottery for a couple years. Now, in his senior year, Williams will have to battle it out with Mbakwe to give Minnesota complete consistency and show that he has a quality jump shot to make it in the NBA. There is no denying that Williams has the dunks to make NBA arenas combust.
It’s unsure of how much Thomas will improve this upcoming season for Ohio State with the departure of Jared Sullinger. He instantly becomes the main option in the post for the Buckeyes, but he also gets the best defender glued on him now. Thomas looked sleeker and unafraid in his sophomore year at Ohio State. While he played second fiddle to Sullinger, Thomas averaged over 15 points a game and looked extremely athletic as he roamed all parts of the court. The undersized power forward will see a lot of pick and roll chances next season as a Buckeye.
The final player that is currently listed as a second round pick in next June’s draft is Watford. Watford’s huge wingspan and pure athleticism will allow for teams to take a flyer on him. It’s unsure of how Watford fits into the offense for Indiana. The Hoosiers have a lot of talent to go around, and Indiana will surely have Zeller as its main point in the offense. Watford dropped almost four points a game from his sophomore to junior year. His jump shot needs to develop slightly, and he needs to be more active on the defensive end of the Hoosiers in order for Watford to be drafted.