Have we mentioned at all lately how much individual talent there is in the Big Ten this year? We have? Ah, well forgive me for harping on it one last time, but with the release of today's Preseason All-Big Ten team, we couldn't help but pump our Big Ten flag in the air. The list isn't too shocking with some of the Big Ten's best mainstays coming in on top -- players that we are itching to see lace up the kicks and take the court again.
James Blackmon, Jr., G, Indiana
One of the Big Ten's freshmen last season was James Blackmon and thanks to his decision to return for another year, he could be a key piece in setting up Indiana for a postseason run. Blackmon is a fantastic offensive player who uses his elite perimeter shooting to do damage. Thanks to his skillset, he came in at #11 in the BTPowerhouse preseason Big Ten player rankings and should be set for a great year.
Yogi Ferrell, G, Indiana
Ferrell is a Tasmanian Devil in an Adidas jersey. Like Trimble, he's one of the best point guards in the country that excels in getting into the paint and wreaking havoc. He's a geometry problem with the ball in his hands. He leaves you scratching your head at some of the angles he uses to beat the opposition. It's quite mesmerizing. He's also a sure fire shooter from long distance and has one of the best step back jumpers in the Big Ten.
A.J. Hammons, C, Purdue
This Purdue frontcourt is no joke and it all begins with Hammons. He's a bolder down low that bullies his opponents with his physicality. He's probably the best shot blocker in the Big Ten and it's not even that close (sorry Uthoff). He's an already made NBA rim protector that will surely have GM's salivating. If he can continue to sure up his all encompassing offensive game, he'll be turning heads while leading Purdue back to the NCAA Tournament.
Nigel Hayes, F, Wisconsin
As far as this season, Wisconsin is going to go as far as Hayes takes them. Having been behind the giant shadow left by Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, the spotlight is now blaring bright on the Badger forward. He's a jack of all trades type who can shoot, rebound, pass and play hard nosed defense. He's a nightmare to match up against. Hayes can bang in the post with players that aren't able to match his tenacity and size just as well as he can spread the floor and absorb Big Ten giants away from the basket leaving driving lanes all over the floor.
Bronson Koenig, G, Wisconsin
Though Koenig was far from an elite player last season, his rise was one of the key factors that allowed the Badgers to get back to the Final Four. He was great with the ball in his hands and kept the offense moving in the rare instances when Sam Dekker or Frank Kaminsky couldn't get a great shot. Koenig was also an underrated shooter and with more opportunites, could be set for a big year. He came in at #14 in the BTPowerhouse preseason Big Ten player rankings.
Jake Layman, F, Maryland
The Terps are going to be absolutely loaded for the upcoming season and Layman is one of the big reasons. He is a matchup problem for most opponents and should be a consistent threat on the wing. He will have to compete for possessions with so many other great Maryland players, but he should be excellent this season. He came in at #8 in the BTPowerhouse preseason Big Ten player rankings.
Caris LeVert, G, Michigan
One of the biggest blows for the Wolverines last year was when star guard LeVert was lost for the season. His diverse style of play makes him extremely difficult to guard and perhaps a higher ceiling than anyone in the conference. He can shoot, drive the hoop, pass, rebound, and has the length to be a consistent defender. The question will just be whether he can get back on track after a few injuries. He came in at #6 in the BTPowerhouse preseason Big Ten player rankings.
Melo Trimble, G, Maryland
Our No. 1 ranked player in our 'BTPowerhouse 25', Trimble is one of the best point guards the country. He's effective in the same way's Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook are; he's a score first bolt of lightning that also has great vision, finding passing lanes while on the move. He's perfected the art of drawing contact in the Big Ten and punishes opposing teams when they send him to the line. Not only is a Preseason All-Big Ten type player, but he could easily be a National Player of the Year with what is to be expected from this Maryland team.
Jarrod Uthoff, F, Iowa
One of the most overlooked players in this year's Big Ten appears to be Uthoff. He played on a very good Iowa team last year, but Aaron White was the player that got most of the attention. However, this year, Uthoff is set to be "the guy" and will have to push the team. He is a great shot creator and shooter and should be able to use those skills to keep Iowa in NCAA Tournament contention this season. He came in at #9 in the BTPowerhouse preseason Big Ten player rankings.
Denzel Valentine, F, Michigan State
Valentine is yet another Tom Izzo special in the mold of Draymond Green. He's that super-forward that can run the offense and be the lead ball handler in the break or to start offensive sets. He's a tremendous shooter and what he may lack in defense, he makes up in rebounding and creative passing. There were so many times last season when Valentine would whip a pass to a cutting teammate that left me speechless. He's Izzo's most important player and needs to lead this somewhat young Spartan team.
Again, nothing too surprising here. In fact, it wouldn't be shocking to see a few of these guys knocking on the door for both Big Ten Player of the Year and National Player of the Year considerations. It's also interesting when you look at the time these guys have put into their particular programs; having grown within the culture their coaches have built and taking the time to mature while taking virtuous step after virtuous step on their way to this prominence. And there is little doubt that watching these upperclassmen push and maneuver their teams through the Big Ten is going to be exciting to watch.