Every once in awhile, BTP bring its writers together for a roundtable to discuss some of the things going on in the conference. With college football's signing day upon us, it seemed like a good time to do an evaluation on the Big Ten's 2014 recruiting classes. This will be part 2 of 4 evaluating the classes (read Part 1 here):
3. There are many elite players coming to the Big Ten in 2014, but who has the best prospect in the conference?
Thomas Beindit - I'm going to go with D'Angelo Russell here. Not necessarily because I believe he will have the best season, but he has all the tools to be something special. If he can improve with his potential, he could be the best player not only in this class, but maybe even the Big Ten in a year or two. He just has some of those abilities that make you say wow, this kid is going to be special.
Drew Hamm - It will probably be a popular pick, but Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell is the best player coming into the B1G. The combo guard should be able to distribute as well as get his fairly easily by using his 6'5" frame to post up and shoot over smaller guards.
Jason Dorow - Barring a commitment to Ohio State by Myles Turner, the best incoming player is D'Angelo Russell. The lefty has unreal range, able to knock down the deepest of threes. Russell is also a strong ball handler and passer, so he's often considered a combo guard. He could head the point at times after the departure of Aaron Craft.
Jeremy Michael Haynes - I like Indiana, who nabbed James Blackmon Jr. after he decommitted from the program. Blackmon has always been a special shooter, but he has expanded his game to be able to do a number of things off the bounce. Now, he can drive and finish or pull up from nearly any spot on the floor. Blackmon's offense is well ahead of his defense but he has all the makings of a special player.
Josh Stern- D'Angelo Russell is the most exciting prospect. With the Buckeyes returning a ton of talent, it will be interesting to see where Thad Matta plays Russell. He could easily start at point guard, allowing guys like Sam Thompson, LaQuinton Ross and Shannon Scott to all start alongside him. With the talent that Ohio State has coming back besides for Craft and adding a player of Russell's caliber, it should be interesting to see what type of year they have.
Aaron Yorke - I would say the Buckeyes with D'Angelo Russell. He's ranked the highest by most recruiting services, is able to play either guard position, and should finally be able fill the scoring void left by Deshaun Thomas. Russell won't cause the mainstream media to drool all over itself the way Aaron Craft does, but he will score a whole lot of points; and believe it or not, points help win basketball games.
4. Who will win Big Ten Freshman of the Year?
Thomas Beindit - James Blackmon, Jr. is going to continue Indiana's recent tradition of having either the best or second best freshman in the Big Ten. Not only is he one of the best prospects in the conference, but he is a perfect fit for what Indiana needs. What a lot of people forget is that Big Ten Freshman of the Year is often based more on contributions than it is based on how great the guy is playing. Blackmon is going to get time immediately and he has the skills that the Hoosiers desperately need.
Drew Hamm - This is a tricky question, because you have to find the freshman with the perfect combination of talent, exposure, and playing time. With Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith graduating, the aforementioned D'Angelo Russell should have ample opportunity to seize some playing time in Columbus, I'm going to go out on a limb and say Victor Law from Northwestern will win freshman of the year. He is arguably the best prospect Northwestern has ever recruited and should step in to fill the graduating Drew Crawford's role as small forward that can also play other positions. There is no one on the depth chart holding Law back, and the Wildcats will need someone to provide a spark on offense...so, why not Law? Northwestern Basketball 2014: Why Not Us.
Jason Dorow - I'm tempted to also pick Vic Law, but Northwestern's offense really lacks talent, and Law probably cannot turn it around by himself. James Blackmon Jr. is my early pick for B1G Freshman of the Year. His game is already very polished, and like D'Angelo Russell, he's got in-the-gym range. Noah Vonleh could bolt for the NBA, and Will Sheehy is graduating, so Indiana will need offense from someone beside Yogi Ferrell.
Jeremy Michael Haynes - I think this award will come down to a race between guards D'Angelo Russell and James Blackmon Jr., with D'Angelo ultimately taking the award. While Blackmon will get plenty of opportunities at Indiana right away, I just don't see him having the opportunity to make the sort of impact that the Buckeyes will need D'Angelo Russell to make. Ohio State is offensively challenged this year and is going to lose Craft and Lenzelle Smith. They'll need Russell's scoring in a big, big way and he is going to fill it up for the Buckeyes.
Josh Stern- I think Victor Law has a shot at winning the B1G Freshman of the year. While Blackmon and Russell are probably better players, Law will be able to make the biggest impact most quickly. Northwestern does not have as much talent as Indiana or Ohio State, and I can't imagine Law wouldn't start right away. Seeing the job that Chris Collins has done this year makes Northwestern fans even more optimistic for next year, and Law has the size and the talent to make a huge splash.
Aaron Yorke - I'll go with James Blackmon Jr. because of his ability to provide an influx of shooting to an Indiana team that sorely needs it. Playing alongside a great space creator like Yogi Ferrell should allow Blackmon plenty of opportunity to shine in 2015.