Today we kick off our Top 25 Big Ten players list with the first five guys up.
In order to determine the listing we voted on which players should be in the top 25. After narrowing down the player list down to 25 guys, we had 15 voters rank each player from 1st to 25th. For the scoring system a 25th place vote was worth 1 point, while a 1st place vote was worth 25 points. To see who voted you can head to the bottom where there is a list of the voters, including a mix of BTP staff and outside writers that cover the Big Ten.
Anyway's, let's start the list.
25. Walter Pitchford (89 points)
Nebraska blew up late last season and found it's way into the NCAA Tournament. Part of that had to do with the performance of forward Walter Pitchford, a major presence inside. As a sophomore Pitchford established himself as the third main scoring threat for the Cornhuskers while also being able to bring in almost five rebounds per game. Besides being one of the few offensive threats on the Nebraska roster, Pitchford also was able to hit from outside, making 41% of his 117 three point attempts. To see how important Pitchford was, look no further than Nebraska's hot streak to make the tournament. The Cornhuskers finished the year 8-3. Outside of a close four point loss to Ohio State, the other two losses were by 11 and 14 points. What did those two games have in common? Pitchford scored a combine two points, leaving Nebraska's offense vulnerable and unable to keep up with opposing teams. Now that Pitchford won't be forced to be utilized as a center this season, the stretch four should be able to flourish as he'll be able to work more from outside. He led Nebraska in three point shooting percentage last year and should be an explosive inside-out threat for Nebraska on offense.
24. James Blackmon Jr. (91 points)
James Blackmon Jr. was a huge get for Tom Crean and company and should make an immediate impact in the Indiana backcourt. The true freshman will likely start alongside Yogi Ferrell and should lead to one of the better guard duos in the conference. While untested and inexperienced, Blackmon rightfully has Indiana fans excited and if he lives up to potential he'll be a game changer from the get go. He's an explosive guard that has the range to shoot from anywhere on the court and his presence alone should improve the Hoosiers three point shooting ability. With Indiana lacking depth in the frontcourt, it'll need it's backcourt to carry the slack. The need for an improved backcourt will likely hinge on how quickly Blackmon gets up and running and how well he plays this winter for Indiana. Either way, he should be the next guard looking to break out and work his way on the fast track to the NBA.
23. Troy Williams (98 points)
The Hoosiers are decimated with roster turnover and Williams is one of the few returning players that Tom Crean will need to perform if the Hoosiers want to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Williams freshman campaign was up and down and his inconsistency on both side of the balls is something that he'll need to address. That being said, the sophomore leap could be a big one for Williams as he had a strong outing in Canada this offseason. The additions this offseason in the backcourt means Williams won't need to lead the team in scoring, which is a plus because he wasn't particularly solid from outside or the free throw line. But his ability to convert from inside means he'll be one of the Hoosiers main frontcourt weapons and he could see plenty of time playing at the four even though he's only 6'7. With Noah Vonleh gone for the NBA, the frontcourt will need Williams to be a major contributor on both sides of the ball. Williams knack to make plays on defense and force turnovers is a definite plus and if he can continue to develop his offensive game and cut down on making mistakes on the court then he could be on the verge of a breakout season.
22. Shannon Scott (107 points)
With Aaron Craft exhausting his NCAA eligibility that means someone needs to take over the starting point guard spot and that role will go to senior Shannon Scott. While Scott is a bit under noticed, he's not far removed from Craft outside of not having the same leadership qualities exhibited by Craft, though that likely stems from his prior role with the team. Similar to Craft, Scott's offensive game won't set the world on fire as he shot 30.2% from beyond the arc and only 68.3% from the charity stripe. Only averaging 7.5 points per game in almost 27 minutes a night, his offensive performance could use an improvement this season. He'd also benefit from cutting back on turnovers as he got a little loose with the ball last season. That being said, the strength in Scott's game is his defensive ability, forcing two steals per game and creating a pesky duo with Aaron Craft. Besides his ability to create turnovers himself, he was also pivotal in helping Craft wreck havoc and will likely develop into Ohio State's best defender. If he can keep his defensive performance on a similar level, trim his turnovers and improve offensively he could have an explosive senior season. As is, as long as he can take control of the team and thrive at the point guard position, he should be set for a solid send off in his senior season.
21. D'Angelo Russell (111 points)
Five star stud D'Angelo Russell was the highest rated recruit from Thad Matta's 2014 class and should be a key factor in determining if Ohio State is capable of competing for a Big Ten title. Russell was one of the top recruits in the nation and while he had some eligibility issues that delayed his enrollment at Ohio State, everything has been taken care of for the incoming freshman. With Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. departing, Ohio State has an immediate hole in the backcourt for the 6'5 guard. Even more so as both Scott and Sam Thompson aren't major offensive weapons. With Ohio State needing a scoring presence in the backcourt, Russell should provide an immediate impact. The guard is an explosive athlete that can make plays from all over the court and should be a solid weapon from the perimeter. With Ohio State's guard not being that efficient last season, Russell could provide a major improvement this season for the Buckeyes. Both Matta and Russell's teammates have been raving about his performance in practice, stating that Russell can take over the game and is capable of playing both guard positions and even the three spot if need be. Russell's immediate presence will be key for Ohio State and if he continues at this pace he could wind up as one of the best all around players in the Big Ten this season. There's some questions to how his skill set will translate once the season begins, but if the summer was any indication, Ohio State fans should be excited about Russell's potential.
List of Voters
Thomas Beindit (BT Powerhouse), Bryan Steedman (BT Powerhouse), Scott Manning (BT Powerhouse), Benno Martens (BT Powerhouse), Andrew R Holmes (BT Powerhouse), Chad Markulics (Black Shoe Diaries), Andrew Emmer (Testudo Times), Drew Hallett (Mazine N Brew), Chris Vannini (SpartanTailgate.com), Jim Vainisi (the Champaign Room), Bucky's 5th Quarter, Travis Miller (Hammer & Rails), Mike Wilson (SpartanDigest), On the Banks, @OSUBballInsider