As the 2014-15 college basketball season approaches, BTPowerhouse will be taking a look at some of the top players from around the conference and how they fit into the conference fold. This time, we will be looking at the top guards in the conference. Last season, the Big Ten had a plethora of great guards including NBA Draft picks Gary Harris, Devyn Marble, and Nik Stauskas.
Will this year's set of guards be able to math their production? Let's take a look.
Top 10 Guards In The Big Ten In 2014-15:
10. Deandre Mathieu - Minnesota
Though last year was Mathieu's first season with the Gophers, he had a remarkable first year as he averaged 12 points, 4.2 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Mathieu was a great passer with a 31.0% assist rate, which was 14.9 points higher than any other player on Minnesota's roster and ranked 2nd in the Big Ten. This year, he might lose teammate Austin Hollins, but he is set for another big year.
9. Derrick Walton - Michigan
Despite only being Michigan's 4th leading scorer last season, Walton finds himself at #9 on this list. Walton was never the major piece for the Wolverines last season, but as he approaches his sophmore season, there are high hopes. Walton was limited last season, but even his biggest critic would admit that this had more to do with his teammates than anything else. Michigan had 3 NBA Draft picks, a 2nd team All-Big Ten player, and a 5th year senior playing last season. This year, Walton is expected to have a bigger role. There's no doubt that the Wolverines will need Walton to produce more than he did as a freshman, but he has the potential for a breakout season in year two.
8. Shavon Shields - Nebraska
In one of the most surprising performances of last season, the Cornhuskers went from predicted Big Ten bottom dweller to an NCAA Tournament team. A big part of that was Shavon Shields, who averaged 12.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. He was one of the more diverse guards in the conference last season as he not only ranked 2nd on his team in scoring and 3rd in usage, but was also one of the better passers and rebounders on his team. He will look to build off those skills this year.
7. Andre Hollins - Minnesota
Another Gopher makes the list at spot #7. Hollins may not have been an All-Big Ten player last year, but he was very effective and one of the more overlooked players in the conference. He averaged 13.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. He was arguably the team's most efficient offensive player and ranked first on the team in offensive rating, usage, and 2nd in offensive win shares. With the exit of Austin Hollins, Andre will have to keep his rigorous offensive pace if the Gophers can move forward.
6. James Blackmon, Jr. - Indiana
Blackmon is the only true freshman to appear on this list and for good reason. He is an elite shooter and has the skills to not only score from the perimeter, but also to get inside. On a team that likes to run and that has a great point guard like Yogi Ferrell, Blackmon is going to fit in very well and should be able to light up the scoreboard quickly. Blackmon will have to prove he can be a consistent weapon and capable defender, but he looks like he could instantly become of the best offensive players in the conference. If so, he deserves his spot on this list.
5. Shannon Scott - Ohio State
Though the Buckeyes will be undergoing many roster changes this year, one player that will be back is Shannon Scott. Last year, Scott averaged 7.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game, but it was his play on the defensive end that really made him a very good player. Scott led the Buckeyes in steal rate and led the team in defensive rating (excluding Jake Lohrbach). For as much attention as Aaron Craft got on the defensive end, Scott could certainly hold his own as well. Add in that he had a 25.5% assist rate and there is plenty to like about Scott this season.
4. Dez Wells - Maryland
This year, Wells is not only very likely the best on Maryland's team, but he also likely represents the best newcomer to the Big Ten conference. His dynamic gameplay and ability to score makes him a real threat to not only compete for best guard in the conference, but perhaps even All-Big Ten honors. Wells accounted for about 25% of Maryland's possessions last season, led the team in scoring, was 2nd on the team in minutes, and led the team in usage. He was Maryland's biggest offensive weapon and looks to build off some big performances against teams like Virginia last year in a deeper and tougher Big Ten.
3. DJ Newbill - Penn State
Though the Nittany Lions weren't exactly a dominant team last season, one of the exciting players on the team was DJ Newbill. Last season, Newbill was an offensive and scoring machine for Penn State. Not only did he lead the team in scoring, had the best true shooting percentage and offensive rating of any contributor, and was arguably the team's best perimeter shooter. He also played 85.2% of the minutes for PSU last season. His role could change with the loss of Tim Frazier this season, but he should still not only be able to light up the scoreboard, but lead Penn State in their goal of getting back to the NCAA Tournament.
2. Yogi Ferrell - Indiana
One player that may have - surprisingly - flew under the radar last season was Indiana's Yogi Ferrell. Despite being able to score inside, off ball screens, in transition, from outside the arc, and effectively pass to teammates, he failed to make the All-Big Ten team last season. A lot of this had to do with an underwhelming season for Indiana, but Ferrell is back and looks like he could be lined up to have an even better year this season. He has shown that he can be a consistent all around player and with a few more guys around him like James Blackmon, Jr., this could be the year he could go to that next level. If so, it could really help out Indiana's goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament.
1. Caris LeVert - Michigan
Our top guard will be playing in Ann Arbor and will try to make it the 3rd season in a row that the Big Ten's best player is a Wolverine. Two years ago, Trey Burke won Big Ten Player of the year and last year, Nik Stauskas won Big Ten Player of the Year. Now, Caris LeVert will try to do the same thing. LeVert should be one of the most diverse college players in the nation this year. He has a great handle, can shoot the ball, can drive, can pass, can rebound, and has good defensive potential. The question will be whether he can turn a few of these categories into elite level skills. If he can take that next step, he could become a great college player and potentially challenge for an NBA Lottery spot in next year's Draft. There will be some uncertainty with LeVert, but this could be a special year for him.