Earlier this year, we here at BTP voted on and published a list of the top 25 Big Ten players going into the 2016/17 season. A lot of folks had a lot of different thoughts on our list. The most surprising thing was that you readers actually made some shockingly valid points. Which I guess means we made some mistakes.
Now, in our defense, these lists can be affected by many factors, including random things like mood (and sometimes a glaring omission by a voter). Still, Thomas and I felt our list deserved a second look through a critical lens. Thus, I have cobbled together some thoughts on our list and where it can be improved.
Here is the whole list before we get started:
#24 (tie) - Josh Langford (Michigan State)
#24 (tie)- Kam Williams (Ohio State)
#23 - Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (Michigan)
#22 - Jalen Coleman-Lands (Illinois)
#21 - Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State)
#20 - Jae’Sean Tate (Ohio State)
#19 - James Blackmon (Indiana)
#18 - Eron Harris (Michigan State)
#17 - Corey Sanders (Rutgers)
#16 - Derrick Walton, Jr. (Michigan)
#15 - Isaac Haas (Purdue)
#14 - JaQuan Lyle (Ohio State)
#13 - Bryant McIntosh (Northwestern)
#12 - Miles Bridges (Michigan State)
#11 - Zak Irvin (Michigan)
#10 - Vince Edwards (Purdue)
#9 - Bronson Koenig (Wisconsin)
#8 - OG Anunoby (Indiana)
#7 - Thomas Bryant (Indiana)
#6 - Ethan Happ (Wisconsin)
#5 - Malcolm Hill (Illinois)
#4 - Caleb Swanigan (Purdue)
#3 - Peter Jok (Iowa)
#2 - Melo Trimble (Maryland)
#1 - Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin)
Bryant was definitely too low on our list. This is a player that should be in the running for POTY in the conference, and may be a Naismith candidate if he plays up to his sky-high potential. I think the question is not whether he was underrated on our list, but where should he be slotted.
Our top three right now are Hayes, Melo Trimble, and Peter Jok. I would say he should definitely be over Jok, who is probably a bit overrated in his own right. Hayes and Melo have both struggled with consistency at times, but I’d say as of the start of the season they deserve to be ahead of Bryant. Therefore, I’d rank Bryant at the third spot.
Here is the thing, even putting him third seems a little low due to his potential. He is extremely efficient on the offensive end. If he can maintain that efficiency as his usage goes up and start putting up higher numbers elsewhere in the box score, he could easily be in the conversation for the Naismith trophy.
Everyone below #22 is a toss-up.
Guys like Shep Garner, Nate Mason, Tai Webster, and either of the other two Michigan State freshmen could have replaced anyone in the last four spots and I wouldn’t have been shocked or had any issues with it. Also, Robert Johnson and Duncan Robinson would have at least gotten a mention if it was up to me. I think the role players in the Big Ten are some of the best in the country, but man are they hard to separate.
James Blackmon vs. Robert Johnson
I’ve never been a big fan of Blackmon, and that is mostly because of his shaky defense. I appreciate that he is a great scorer and knocks down the majority of the shots that he takes, but the same could be said about Robert Johnson. Johnson does take nearly as many shots as Blackmon, and isn’t quite the offensive weapon that James is, but he does everything else better. Robert Johnson is much better on defense, and dishes out more assists. However, that isn’t even the biggest reason I think he deserves Blackmon’s spot on the list. The thing about Blackmon is, his injury last year changed the complexion of the Hoosiers for the better. Oh, and his injury was a severe one, so he might not be back 100% right away. For me, those two things lead me to believe he isn’t a top 25 player in the league right now, and yet, his teammate is deserving.
Is Bryant McIntosh too high?
I asked our fearless leader Thomas Beindit for his biggest quibble with the list and he immediately pointed to Northwestern’s point guard. I don’t think he is way too high, but you could make the argument that he doesn’t deserve to be much higher than #20. Playing at Northwestern leads to a bit of a strange dichotomy when it comes to player rankings. NU players tend to get completely overlooked by national writers, but when it comes to Big Ten rankings like ours, everyone’s second favorite Big Ten team gets a boost.
McIntosh is the best of the Wildcats, but he struggled shooting the play in conference games last year and defenses should be able to focus on him more than ever with Alex Olah and Tre Demps gone. Now, I don’t think McIntosh will struggle too much this year, but he still has a bit left to prove. I think at the end of the day he slots in just a bit lower than we have him. I’ll say around the Corey Sanders range.
Who could jump onto the list by the end of the year?
Obviously, the first guys we want to talk about are the freshmen. Nearly every top team is bringing in one or two guys who could be game-changers, but aren’t on our list yet. A few to keep an eye on: Tyler Cook, Xaiver Simpson, Carsen Edwards, De’Ron Davis, Nick Ward, Cassius Winston, Amir Coffey, Tony Carr, Kevin Huerter, and Derek Funderburk.
OK...phew...so that was a few more than a few, and there were a few more I could have added on to that list.
Then we also have some transfers and guys stepping into bigger roles who could make a move if some of the guys on our list under-perform. That group includes: Anton Gill, Vitto Brown, Jordan Murphy, Vic Law, Josh Newkirk, Dom Uhl, and Mike Thorne Jr..
If had to pick one guy from each list I expected to see climb up the board, it would be Tony Carr from the frosh and Anton Gill from the older group.
I probably shouldn’t have voted for P.J. Thompson at #25
However, I think he has worked his ass off to become the best player he can be and earn a starting spot on a Big Ten contender. His assist-to-turnover rate last year was insane, he has good leadership qualities, and he as gritty as anyone. Still, he probably didn’t deserve a vote, but no one missed the list because I voted for him, so no harm done.