With the season only 36 days away, Sports Illustrated has also increased their preview coverage. One of their recent recurring features has been a top 20 players list for each position group, posting their rankings for wings and bigs so far this week.
Sports Illustrated Top 20 Wings for 2015-16:
- Vince Edwards (Purdue)
- Jake Layman (Maryland)
- Jae'Sean Tate (Ohio State)
- Troy Williams (Indiana)
The most interesting player on this list is probably Purdue sophomore Vince Edwards. In his first season with the Boilermakers, Edwards proved to be incredibly versatile for the team, providing a much needed scoring option both inside and out. Besides providing Purdue with some much needed offense, he also was a competent rebounder, was capable of moving the ball efficiently (2.7 assists per game) and had an impressive debut season. So why is his inclusion on this list somewhat surprising? Well, as good as Edwards was, Purdue's crowded frontcourt means he could lose some playing time. With Hammons and Swanigan down low, Hill set to run the point and Big Ten defensive player of the year Rapheal Davis set to take up another starting spot, Edwards will be in contention with Kendall Stephens and Dakota Mathias for playing time at the last open starting spot, with Purdue's need for perimeter shooting likely influencing playing time. That means if Edwards can't improve on his 32.6% three point shooting he could play more of a sixth man role this season.
I guess the inclusion of Edwards still makes sense considering his potential, even more so with Jae'Sean Tate making the list. Wings like Troy Williams and Jake Layman already have sizable roles with their teams, with their roles in 2015-16 more or less known heading towards the season. While Edwards playing time could take a dip, Tate making the cut is likely based on a combination of his potential with Ohio State and the reality that he's one of the more important players if the Buckeyes want to be successful in 2015-16. Tate had a solid enough start to his career, averaging 8.8 points and 5 rebounds per game over 22 minutes, but he's going to need to increase his production this season to justify his inclusion here. With the offense needing some firepower after the loss of D'Angelo Russell, it appears SI believes Tate will be one of the main players to help fill the void.
Sports Illustrated Top 20 Bigs for 2015-16:
- A.J. Hammons (Purdue)
- Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin)
- Diamond Stone (Maryland)
The Big Ten's representation here seems pretty logical and what you would expect. The reality is Hammons and Hayes are two of the most hyped players in the conference, while Diamond Stone was one of the top recruits in the nation. Some Indiana fans might have liked to see Thomas Bryant make the cut, but the list already has a handful of more touted freshmen included.
Hammons role with Purdue was pivotal for the Boilermakers postseason run last season and it appears it'll be more of the same this year. Besides proving to be a solid scorer inside (improving considerably from his first two seasons), Hammons has proven to be effective cleaning on the boards and was one of the top defensive players in the Big Ten last year (in my opinion he was more deserving of the conference's DPOY award than Davis was). With Swanigan set to take the four, that means Hammons should be able to keep doing his thing in 2015-16. The only potential pitfall is the increase in size down low for Purdue will put pressure on their ability to shoot from outside and if their guards/wings can't convert, it could clog things inside.
As for Badger Nigel Hayes, it's finally his turn to be the guy in Madison. Hayes has always had the potential to be one of the top players in the Big Ten, but he was overshadowed last season by Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker. With both of those players now in the NBA, Hayes is easily the most talented Badger and the only question is if the lesser surrounding cast will allow opponents to put more effort in slowing him down. Last season the forward added 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while also proving to be a capable three point shooter (39.6%), showing that he should be more than capable of playing the role of Frank Kaminsky this year for the Badgers.
All in all it's hard to argue with both lists Sports Illustrated have posted so far. However, there are a vast number of opinions when it comes to sports so was there anyone on the list you disagreed with (or someone you felt was snubbed)? If so, let us know in the comments.