There are thousands of previews written before every college basketball season. They focus on many things, but the biggest sections often revolve around off-season "losses" and "additions", but what about the player's that remain on the team? Each year, numerous players take the step forward to become legitimate stars not only on their team, but also on a national scale. Victor Oladipo did this last season for the Indiana Hoosiers and the question becomes: who will be able to match what Oladipo did last season during 2013-2014 and specifically, who in the Big Ten?
Before jumping into the topic, let's take a look at Victor Oladipo's rise to fame. Oladipo played three seasons for the Hoosiers from 2010-2013. During his first year, he started five games and played in 32. As a sophomore, he started 34 games and played in 36 games. Finally, as a junior (during Oladipo's rise to fame), he started and played in all of Indiana's 36 games over the course of the season. Along with playing and starting in more games, Oladipo's numbers went up in practically every traditional statistical category:
Now, Oladipo wasn't terrible as a freshman or a sophomore, but he certainly wasn't close to what he became in 2012-2013. Not only was Oladipo an All-Big Ten player according to both the coaches and the media in 2012-2013, but he was also an All-American according to the Associated Press. Just a year prior to receiving All-American status, Oladipo didn't even make the 3rd team All-Big Ten according to the coaches or the media. That's a pretty substantial jump in one year for a player that already had two seasons under his belt.
So, who will be this year's version of Oladipo in the Big Ten? Of course, no two players are the same or in the same situation, but there are players who already have college experience and have shown the potential to become something special next season just like Oladipo did last year. The only players considered for this list are those that are returning Big Ten players, those that have not been named 1st, 2nd or 3rd team All-Big Ten, and have not received a major conference or national award (player, freshman, or 6th man of the year).
Let's take a look at some of the top candidates in 2013-2014:
LaQuinton Ross (Ohio State):
Ross has to be the favorite out of any player on the list to repeat what Oladipo accomplished last season. Not only is he an experienced player that improved his game tremendously last season, but he also has a great opportunity for more playing time and touches with the early departure of Big Ten scoring champion Deshaun Thomas. Ross is certainly not Thomas, but he does have some similarities to Thomas' game such as solid perimeter shooting. This was evident near the end of the season during Ohio State's Elite Eight run when he scored some key baskets against Iowa State and Arizona had had a few big games. He will certainly need to show more consistency and play more like he did in the late season, but there's definitely a big opportunity for Ross on a really talented roster.
AJ Hammons (Purdue):
The Boilermakers had a nightmarish non-conference performance last year, which is why Hammons remained so under the radar over the course of the season. Despite this, he probably showed the most improvement of anyone on this list. He scored double digits in eight of the team's final 14 games including 14 in a key win over Minnesota and 15 in the opening round of the CBI Tournament. Hammons still struggles with consistency and fouling, but with almost everyone returning for the Boilermakers, expectations will be much higher for the once 4* recruit.
Glenn Robinson III (Michigan):
Masked by the National Player of the Year Trey Burke, 1st team All-Big Ten selection Tim Hardaway, Jr., and All-NCAA Tournament team selection Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III actually had a pretty good season. He certainly wasn't the best player on Michigan's roster, but he filled a key role vacated by the transfer of Evan Smotrycz before the year started. Now, with Michigan's entire front-court returning, GR3 will get to spend more time at his natural position (small forward) and display his athleticism and shooting in a more comfortable position. Last year, he struggled with defending bigger players and with the challenge of creating his own shot, but with more freedom in an offense no longer dominated by Burke and Hardaway, GR3 has the opportunity to become something special for the Wolverines.
Yogi Ferrell (Indiana):
Who better to match the rise of Oladipo than a member of the Hoosiers? Despite playing with two NBA Lottery picks, two seniors, and the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year in Indiana's main rotation, Ferrell had a good freshman campaign. Some of his best performances include his 14 points against Michigan, 19 points against Iowa, and 8 assists against Butler. He struggled against some of the slower and more defensive teams like Wisconsin and Syracuse and had trouble getting around players like Aaron Craft, but for a freshman, that isn't a major surprise. Now, with a full year under his belt and the Hoosiers' lineup cleared out, Tom Crean is going to have to look to Ferrell to provide leadership for his young team and carry much of the load. Whether he can match the improvement of Oladipo is unknown, but Ferrell will certainly have more than enough opportunities next year.
Joseph Bertrand (Illinois):
Illinois liked to shoot the ball last season, especially with Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson. This year, not only are both players gone, but so is Tyler Griffey who was 4th on the team in field goal attempts. With the Illini scrambling to find players to make up for over 87 minutes and nearly 30 field goal attempts per game from just these three players, John Groce will definitely look to his roster for increased production. Though there are many players who could try to make up this hole, Bertrand appears to be a good choice because of his high efficiency rate (111.2) and his high usage rate. Beftrand hasn't shown the ability to be that effective for the amount of possessions he will likely get next season, but there's certainly some evidence to suggest that Bertrand will take the step forward from role player to star in Champaign.
Honorable Mention: Tracy Abrams (Illinois), Aaron White (Iowa), Adam Woodbury (Iowa), Nik Stauskas (Michigan), Branden Dawson (Michigan State), Denzel Valentine (Michigan State), Shannon Scott (Ohio State), Jermaine Marshall (Penn State), DJ Newbill (Penn State), Ben Brust (Wisconsin), Sam Dekker (Wisconsin)