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Big Ten News: 2016-17 Blue Ribbon All-Americans

Three from the Big Ten made Blue Ribbon’s preseason first team All-American list.

Kansas v Maryland Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook released the cover for its 2016-17 edition. The cover features the yearbook’s all-american picks for the upcoming season, with three coming from the Big Ten conference. Those three players were Melo Trimble (Jr., Maryland), Nigel Hayes (Sr., Wisconsin) and Thomas Bryant (So., Indiana). Duke’s Grayson Allen and Cal’s Ivan Rabb also made the list as well.

Maybe it’s a bit surprising that the list is 60 percent Big Ten, particularly when the conference had no representation on last year’s Blue Ribbon preseason all-american list. (No, not even Denzel Valentine earned a spot.)

Additionally, the 2016-17 list doesn’t include any freshmen, when last year’s had three seniors and two freshmen. 2016-17 is very well balanced this time around, with two juniors, two sophomores and a senior. Not that we can read too much into the no freshman thing, because two years ago the list included four juniors and a senior.

Either way, let’s spend a bit talking about each Big Ten player on the list.

Melo Trimble

Maryland’s season was a success, but likely ended much sooner than they had hoped (a Sweet Sixteen loss to Kansas). Stacked with talent, the Terrapins had visions of a Final Four and ultimately making a title run.

Last season Trimble, the team’s point guard and offensive fuel, struggled at times, particularly in the back half of the year. He didn’t shoot the ball well (31 percent from three last year versus 41 percent as a freshman) and didn’t look as explosive as he had been.

Some attributed his struggles to a lingering hamstring injury, one that he was possibly concealing a bit from the public and trying to play through. When healthy, he’s one of the most dynamic players in the country. Just look at his performance against North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge last year, when presumably 100 percent.

His struggles could also be attributed to him navigating a different role. The team upgraded its talent pretty significantly from his freshman to sophomore season, adding Rasheed Sulaimon, Robert Carter and Diamond Stone. He had weapons around him and as the point guard, it was his responsibility to involve others first. He ended up averaging nearly five assists a game last year, which was almost two more than his freshman season.

Both of those (playing through injury and selflessness) are admirable qualities, but he’s better in attack mode. Off the dribble, there may not be a better point guard in college basketball.

Nigel Hayes

Hayes and Trimble (sort of) had similar seasons. Neither of them played badly, but neither totally met expectations. In many ways, though, Hayes’s season was the inverse of Trimble’s, at least in terms of roster construction.

Wisconsin lost so much talent and production from 2014-15 to 2015-16 (three starters and two key bench contributors), which forced Hayes into a larger role (just in terms of leadership and offensive production).

Last year his shooting dipped to 36 percent overall and 29 percent from three, compared to 49 and 39 percent respectively his sophomore year. Obviously he took more shots (about four more per game) and with so many key players gone from the previous year, the shots were more difficult and contested then in the past.

Presumably he now understands what it means to be the number one option and the primary focus of opposing defenses. So Hayes should be better prepared heading into next season, something that Blue Ribbon apparently thinks as well.

Thomas Bryant

Undoubtedly Bryant will take his talents to the NBA someday (maybe even after next season). But at least for now, he opted to return to Indiana, knowing he wasn’t yet ready for the next level.

As a sophomore Bryant will look to build on a very good freshman year. He averaged nearly 11.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. More impressively, he played only 22 minutes per game and shot 68 percent from the field.

The Hoosiers, a Sweet Sixteen team last year, will look much different this season. Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams, Max Bielfeldt and Nick Zeisloft are all gone. With a decent dose of roster turnover, Bryant’s role ought to expand next season, both in minutes and as a scorer, which makes him a legitimate All-American pick.