Since 2000, the Big Ten conference has been loaded with elite talents and some of college basketball’s greatest players. Fans have seen numerous Big Ten players earn All-Americans and National Player of the Year honors during that time.
But who have been the best?
With the offseason in full swing, BTPowerhouse has decided to sit down and break down the Big Ten’s greatest players since the start of the 2000-’01 season. We will be taking a look at each program and how it fits into the league.
This time, we will look at the greatest players from the last 17 seasons for the Michigan Wolverines. Please note that this evaluation only looks at college contributions at the particular school. It does not include a player’s contributions at another school or at the professional level.
Brief Recap Since 2000
However, before we jump into the discussion regarding Michigan’s greatest players over the last 17 seasons, let’s take a second to recap what the program has done during that time frame. After all, 2000 may not seem that long ago, but there are kids literally on the verge of graduating high school who were born then. As such, it’s probably worth a quick recap.
Basic Stats Since 2000
- NCAA Tournament Appearances: 7
- Winning Seasons: 11
- Big Ten POTY Winners: Two
- Consensus All-Americans: One
While Michigan fans are used to very good to great teams over the last six seasons, the Wolverines struggled mightily at the beginning of the 2000s. The Wolverines first NCAA Tournament period in the 2000s came in 2009, and that team finished the year 21-14.
Michigan’s luck turned around with Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, the only two players on that 2009 team to average double figures.
In the 2000s overall, Michigan has made it to the National Championship once (2013), the Final 4 once, the Elite 8 twice (‘13 and ‘14) , and three Sweet 16s. With that, we present Michigan’s Mount Rushmore since 2000.
Manny Harris (2007-2010)
When Harris stepped on campus in 2007, he became Michigan’s best player. The Wolverines had been dreadful prior to his arrival, not making the NCAA Tournament since 1998. John Beilein’s first season was a dumpster fire, as the Wolverines went 10-22 in 2008, but Harris averaged 16 points, four rebounds and three assists per game.
The following season, Michigan managed a major turnaround. Harris and DeShawn Sims were the stars, willing Michigan to a 21-14 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance. Harris had 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists in Michigan’s win over Clemson, but the Wolverines were knocked out in the next round by Blake Griffin and Oklahoma.
While Michigan didn’t fare too well in Harris’ junior campaign, the point guard was still electric, finishing with 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and nearly two steals per game. Harris’ most important accomplishment was putting Michigan back on the map, while paving the way for the players who came after him.
Trey Burke (2011-2013)
Every team needs a floor general, and Burke fits that bill better than anyone. Despite only playing for the Wolverines for two seasons, Burke put together one excellent season and another historic campaign for Michigan.
In his freshman year, his 14.8 points per game, 4.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds led Michigan to their first Big Ten title since 1986. Burke was spectacular alongside sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr., but Michigan suffered a brutal loss to Ohio in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Many thought Burke had a chance to bolt to the NBA, but the point guard returned for an even better sophomore year. Burke finished the year with staggering statistics, averaging 18.6 points, 6.7 assists and 3.2 rebounds while playing 35 minutes per game. He led the baby Wolverines to the National Championship game, where the Wolverines lost to Louisville 82-76.
Burke was voted as the National Player of the Year, a consensus All-American, and one of the greatest players to ever wear the Michigan jersey. His numbers would have been mind-boggling had he stayed all four years, but it was a pleasure to watch Burke in Ann Arbor for two seasons.
Nik Stauskas (2012-2014)
During his freshman season, Stauskas flanked the wings alongside Burke and spotted up for three-point shots. He was lethally efficient, finishing the year at 44% from 3 while attempting 61% of his shots from behind the arc. Stauskas averaged 11 points and three rebounds on the year, and was a big reason Michigan made it to the National Championship game.
When Burke departed, Stauskas became the alpha on the team. It was clear from the get-go, as the Wolverines’ shooter turned into a playmaker and the team’s overall best player. Stauskas finished his sophomore year as the Big Ten Player of the Year, averaging 17.5 points, three rebounds and three assists on a Michigan team that went 15-3 in the Big Ten.
Like Burke, Stauskas scored over 1000 points in his two seasons, and led Michigan to two deep runs in the NCAA Tournament. He bolted for the NBA after his second season, and would have had his jersey hanging in the rafters had he decided to stay for one or two more seasons in Ann Arbor.
Derrick Walton Jr. (2013-2017)
This could be seen as a recency bias pick, but no player over the last 10 years of Michigan basketball better resembled a gritty, “stay in school for four years and get better” example than Walton Jr. While Caris LeVert was also at Michigan for four years, injuries ultimately derailed his Michigan career and probably kept him off this list.
Walton Jr. was handed the keys to the point guard position when Burke left, and averaged eight points per game his freshman year on the Elite Eight team. His sophomore year he battled through injuries and averaged just under 11 points per game, and his junior year the Wolverines were a good but underwhelming team, losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
However, the Detroit native was at his best his senior year, when he carried Michigan down the stretch to improbable victories. His performances in the Big Ten Tournament were ridiculous, and he nearly willed Michigan to a victory over Oregon, but the Wolverines lost 69-68.
Overall, Walton’s steady improvement as both a floor leader and a player put him on this list. Fans will remember that Big Ten Tournament run, his shotmaking down the stretch and his ability to make Michigan a great team.
Honorable Mention: Tim Hardaway Jr., DeShawn Sims, Spike Albrecht, Caris LeVert, Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, Daniel Horton