Sophomore Stud Finder: Who is the Big Ten's Most Improved Underclassman?

Sophomore standout Sam Dekker dunks over sophomore center Alex Olah - David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Knight famously noted that the best thing about freshmen was that they became sophomores. Last year's terrific class has made that jump - who has improved the most?

Last week, we took a look at how the Big ten's true freshmen have come along so far. This week, I'd like to "build" on that article and take a look at how freshmen that were in that position last year improved this season. So, I'm going to look at all the players from the 2012 class that played more than 40% of available playing time(16mpg) to see whether they're playing more or less and why.

Considering the minutes played restriction, there are 18 players eligible for the purposes of this article. The sophomores we'll be looking at are Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Alex Olah, Kale Abrahamson, Yogi Ferrell, Mike Gesell, Anthony Clemmons, Adam Woodbury, Gary Harris, Denzel Valentine, AJ Hammons, Ronnie Johnson, Rapheal Davis, Sam Dekker, Brandon Taylor, Shavon Shields, and Benny Parker. Without further ado, let's dive into the numbers.

Get ready for a B1G table.

By the Numbers

Player Pos. Program 247Sports Composite MPG PPG ORtg FG% FT% 3PFG% RPG APG BPG STL TO
Mitch McGary 12'-13' F/C Michigan 28 19.7 7.5 113.0 .598 .442 .000 6.3 0.6 0.7 1.1 1.2
Mitch McGary 13'-14' F/C Michigan 28 24.8 9.5 112.8 .545 .667 .300 8.3 1.5 0.8 1.9 1.6
Difference +05.1 +2.0 -000.2 -.053 +.225 +.300 +2.0 +0.9 +0.1 +0.8 +0.4
Nik Stauskas 12'-13' F/G Michigan 82 30.5 11.0 122.8 .463 .851 .440 3.0 1.3 0.2 0.6 1.1
Nik Stauskas 13'-14' F/G Michigan 82 34.4 17.8 130.8 .484 .805 .462 3.5 3.6 0.2 0.9 1.6
Difference +03.9 +06.8 +008.0 +.021 -.046 +.022 +0.5 +2.3 0.0 +0.3 +0.5
Glenn Robinson 12'-13' F/G Michigan 17 33.6 11.0 128.4 .572 .676 .324 5.4 1.1 0.3 1.0 0.8
Glenn Robinson 13'-14' F/G Michigan 17 30.3 13.5 122.2 .500 .727 .318 4.7 1.6 0.4 1.2 0.9
Difference -03.3 +02.5 -006.2 -.072 +.051 -.006 -0.7 +0.5 +0.1 +0.2 +0.1
Kale Abrahamson 12'-13' F Northwestern 141 16.3 4.9 95.0 .361 .625 .351 2.0 0.4 0.1 0.3 0.6
Kale Abrahamson 13'14' F Northwestern 141 11.7 3.8 105.1 .419 .500 .375 1.6 0.5 0.1 0.1 0.4
Difference -04.6 -1.1 +010.1 +.058 -.125 +.024 -0.4 +0.1 0.0 -0.2 -0.2
Alex Olah 12'-13' C Northwestern NR 22.2 6.1 88.8 .415 .583 .214 4.1 2.0 0.9 0.5 1.5
Alex Olah 13'-14' C Northwestern NR 25.4 9.1 110.7 .562 .703 .200 5.4 1.1 1.8 0.3 1.2
Difference +03.2 +3.0 +021.9 +.147 +.120 -.014 +1.3 -0.9 +0.9 -0.2 -0.3
Yogi Ferrell 12'-13' G Indiana 22 28.1 7.6 105.3 .403 .798 .303 2.8 4.1 0.2 0.8 2.1
Yogi Ferrell 13-14' G Indiana 22 31.2 17.7 118.3 .454 .833 .452 3.2 4.0 0.1 0.9 3.1
Difference +03.1 +10.1 +013.0 +.051 +.035 +.149 +0.4 -0.1 -0.1 +0.1 +1.0
Mike Gesell 12'-13' G Iowa 88 25.1 8.7 99.4 .403 .794 .317 2.6 2.6 0.3 1.2 1.7
Mike Gesell 13'14' G Iowa 88 20.4 6.2 111.3 .397 .619 .375 1.9 3.4 0.1 1.1 1.0
Difference -04.7 -2.5 +011.9 -.006 -.175 +.058 -0.7 +0.8 -0.2 -0.1 -0.7

Adam Woodbury 12'-13'

C Iowa 46 16.5 4.9 92.4 .488 .748 .000 4.8 0.6 0.8 0.4 1.3
Adam Woodbury 13'-14' C Iowa 46 16.5 5.9 113.9 .516 .720 .000 4.3 1.3 0.4 0.4 1.0
Difference 00.0 +1.0 +021.5 +.028 -.028 .000 -0.5 +0.7 -0.4 0.0 -0.3
Anthony Clemmons 12'-13' G Iowa 258 16.8 4.3 91.9 .377 .731 .362 1.6 2.8 0.2 0.6 1.7
Anthony Clemmons 13'-14' G Iowa 258 18.0 4.6 117.7 .576 .667 .462 1.9 2.9 0.3 0.5 1.2
Difference +01.2 +0.3 +0.258 +.199 -.064 +.100 +0.3 +0.1 +0.1 -0.1 -0.5
Gary Harris 12'-13' G Michigan State 20 29.7 12.9 114.7 .456 .755 .411 2.5 1.4 0.2 1.3 1.5
Gary Harris 13'-14' G Michigan State 20 30.7 18.2 114.8 .408 .896 .333 4.5 2.9 0.2 1.6 1.9
Difference +01.0 +05.3 +000.1 -.048 +.141 -.078 +2.0 +2.5 0.0 +0.3 +0.4
Denzel Valentine 12'-13' G/F Michigan State 107 20.8 5.0 93.9 .445 .667 .281 4.1 2.4 0.3 0.8 2.0

Denzel Valentine 13'-14'

G/F Michigan State 107 26.6 7.4 106.5 .406 .750 .324 5.2 4.0 0.4 1.1 1.6
Difference +05.8 +2.4 +012.6 -.039 -.083 -.043 +1.1 +1.6 +0.1 +0.3 -0.4
Brandon Taylor 12'-13' F Penn State 172 20.2 5.3 88.0 .349 .688 .286 3.3 0.3 0.4 0.3 1.0
Brandon Taylor 13'-14' F Penn State 172 26.3 10.8 112.2 .421 .900 .324 5.3 0.5 1.3 0.0 0.7
Difference +06.1 +05.5 +024.2 +.072 +.212 -.038 +2.0 +0.2 +0.9 -0.3 -0.3
Sam Dekker 12'-13' F Wisconsin 12 22.3 9.6 116.7 .476 .690 .391 3.4 1.3 0.4 0.7 1.1

Sam Dekker 13'-14'

F Wisconsin 12 29.4 14.5 119.7 .531 .627 .370 6.4 1.5 0.4 0.8 1.4
Difference +07.1 +04.9 +003.0 +.055 -.063 -.021 +3.0 +0.2 0.0 +0.1 +0.3
Ronnie Johnson 12'-13' G Purdue 90 31.2 10.3 89.2 .385 .596 .167 3.4 4.1 0.1 1.0 2.6
Ronnie Johnson 13'-14' G Purdue 90 25.6 11.1 105.4 .414 .679 .381 2.6 3.7 0.0 0.5 1.8
Difference -05.6 +00.8 +016.2 +.029 +.083 +.214 -0.8 -0.4 -0.1 -0.5 -0.8
Rapheal Davis 12'-13' G Purdue 94 18.9 5.7 101.6 .482 .662 .303 3.9 0.9 0.2 0.5 1.2
Rapheal Davis 13'-14' G Purdue 94 16.4 4.8 94.9 .379 .667 .231 3.1 1.1 0.3 0.6 1.2
Difference -02.5 -0.9 -06.7 -.103 +.005 -.072 -0.8 +0.2 +0.1 +0.1 0.0
AJ Hammons 12'-13' C Purdue 76 23.1 10.6 103.2 .495 .681 .000 6.0 0.6 2.0 0.3 1.6
AJ Hammons 13'-14' C Purdue 76 20.8 8.8 102.1 .557 .667 .000 7.5 0.8 3.8 0.4 2.2
Difference -02.3 -1.8 -001.1 +.062 -.014 .000 +1.5 +0.2 +1.8 +0.1 +0.6
Benny Parker 12'-13' G Nebraska 169 20.6 2.7 79.0 .356 .667 .154 1.3 2.1 0.1 0.7 1.3
Benny Parker 13'-14' G Nebraska 169 12.9 1.6 88.3 .400 .600 .000 0.6 0.9 0.1 0.6 0.4
Difference -07.7 -1.1 +09.3 +.044 -.067 -.154 -0.7 -1.2 0.0 -0.1 -0.9
Shavon Shields 12'-13' G/F Nebraska 227 28.7 8.6 96.9 .471 .676 .359 5.1 0.9 0.3 0.8 1.7
Shavon Shields 13'-14' G/F Nebraska 227 30.7 11.9 105.0 .423 .724 .304 5.1 1.7 0.3 0.9 1.6
Difference +2.0 +3.3 +008.1 -.048 +.048 -.055 0.0 +0.8 0.0 +0.1 -0.1

Whew. Bold indicates the greatest positive change among those surveyed.

Most Improved Scorer

Yogi Ferrell - G - Indiana - Show of hands, who thought that Yogi would improve his scoring average by better than 10 points this season? Ferrell has been very impressive for Indiana, improving his numbers in every shooting category despite the fact that his teammates couldn't throw the ball into the ocean from the beach. Yogi began his career as an able facilitator, now he has added scoring to his versatile game.

Most Improved Shooter

Ronnie Johnson - G - Purdue - Ronnie Johnson's improvement is especially impressive if you watched the young guard flounder at Purdue last season. Johnson couldn't shoot a lick last season and didn't display much understanding of what his best shot was. This year, Johnson's shot selection, especially beyond the arc, is much more judicious and that has helped him to boost his percentages. If that floater starts to drop for him as an upperclassman he'll really be a dangerous player.

Most Improved Rebounder

Sam Dekker - F - Wisconsin - Sam isn't quite slight, but a cursory glance at the Wisconsin native wouldn't belie his rebounding prowess. Dekker has become one of the best rebounders in the Big Ten, and he's adept at using his speed and athleticism to get positioning. His quick burst is especially helpful for him on the offensive glass, where he does his best work.

Most Improved Passer

Gary Harris - G - Michigan State - Gary Harris can do it all. He's a great scorer, rebounder, defender, shooter... there's a reason why Harris has been all over NBA draft boards since before he enrolled in East Lansing. His passing has always been very high level for an off-guard and that part of his game is starting to become comfortable with the speed of college play, to the delight of his teammates.

Biggest Surprise

Nik Stauskas - G/F - Michigan - There's a lot to like about this kid. If I had written an article on the 2012 class last year, Stauskas probably would've won biggest surprise then too. Not much was expected of the Canadian forward headed to Ann Arbor, but Stauskas quickly got Beilein's attention with his sharpshooting. Now, Nik is poised to get the entire nation's attention thanks to a stellar sophomore campaign. That Stauskas has been able to improve his efficiency along with his usage is really amazing.

Biggest Disappointment

A.J. Hammons - C - Purdue - Hammons' frame is an NBA scout's dream. At 7'0" and with plenty of girth, the sophomore big even moves with an easy, fluid motion. That hasn't translated to much improvement as a sophomore, though. To be fair, Hammons is improved - he converts more field goals, he defends better, and he protects the rim better than most big men in the country. But when your name is showing up on draft boards, that is to be expected. Hammons' efficiency should be much higher considering that he has the body to physically dominate most of his opponents at this level.

Most Improved Player(to date)

Nik Stauskas - G/F - Michigan - Let me gush for a bit longer. Stauskas has gotten so much better as a passer that he could play point guard in a pinch for Beilein. He looks much more athletic and confident with the ball in his hands, and has been a leader for a Michigan team that has struggled to steady itself somewhat. Though his usage rate is much higher, his efficiency has only gotten better. Every statistical category is better for Nik this year than last, save his FT% which has dipped slightly. If I had told you Nik Stauskas was going to be Michigan's best player this year, how hard would you have laughed at me?

What to Watch For

How good will Gary Harris be? Harris has struggled wth an ankle injury this season, which I believe has impacted his shooting numbers. After reporting that he felt healthier than he had in some time before yesterday's tilt at Indiana, Harris scorched the Hoosiers for 26 points, a career high. Harris was my preseason Player of the Year in the Big Ten. He's still got time to claim that crown if he plays like he did yesterday.

How many of Michigan underclassmen become upperclassmen? Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary should all play a few NBA minutes after their careers end, but how soon will that be? I thought Glenn Robinson may have been playing himself out of the first round, but he has been great lately. Stauskas is bound to appear on draft boards sooner or later if he keeps it up. McGary was playing well before he got hurt, though he was injured, and could still opt for the draft if he's healthy enough to participate in the NBA combine. Beilein could lose nearly his entire sophomore class after this season, which would leave the Wolverines in a bad spot.

How many of Purdue's underclassmen become upperclassmen? As of now, I think Hammons should return to West Lafayette, but who will join him as a Boilermaker next year? I think it's a bit disconcerting that players like Ronnie Johnson and Rapheal Davis have lost playing time to freshmen and transfers. Johnson has responded positively, but Rapheal appears to have lost confidence and seems uncertain of his role on the team. Will he stick around to work through it or will he make like Donnie Hale or Sandi Marcius?

Review

The Big Ten has a ton of talent in their sophomore class and like most Big ten classes, we can expect most of its stars to return. Players like Gary Harris and Glenn Robinson aren't too likely to be with us this time next year, but we'll get to continue to see Yogi Ferrell, Ronnie Johnson, and Adam Woodbury grow as players. The future of the conference looks to be in very good hands with this group.

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