As one of the nation's major conferences, the Big Ten usually brings in a few McDonald's All-Americans in any given season. Last year, if it weren't for Noah Vonleh signing with the Indiana Hoosiers in the spring, the Big Ten would've failed to bring in a single McDonald's All-American. Last week the nominees for the 2014 McDonald's All-American game were announced, and a bevy of Big Ten signees made the not-so-short list. The 24 boys and 24 girls selected for the final roster will be revealed on February 14th on ESPNU. These are the Big Ten commits that made the first cut:
Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State
Javon Bess, SF, Michigan State
Leron Black, PF, Illinois
James Blackmon Jr, G, Indiana
Kameron Chatman, SF, Michigan
Ricky Doyle, PF, Michigan
Vincent Edwards, SF, Purdue
Shep Garner, PG, Penn State
Isaac Haas, C, Purdue
Josh Martin, PF, Minnesota
Dakota Mathias, SG, Purdue
Bryant McIntosh, PG, Northwestern
Lourawls Nairn Jr., PG, Michigan State
Trayvon Reed, C, Maryland
D'Angelo Russell, SG, Ohio State
Gavin Skelly, PF, Northwestern
Jae'Sean Tate, SG, Ohio State
Romelo Trimble, SG, Maryland
Dominique Uhl, PF, Iowa
Dion Wiley, SG, Maryland
Mike Williams, SG, Rutgers
Now, before you get excited, bear in mind that the initial list of nominees often has about 150 boys and 150 girls. Though being named as a McDonald's All-American nominee is still an impressive honor, some of these players clearly have very little chance of making the final roster. Mike Williams, Gavin Skelly, Bryant McIntosh, Dakota Mathias, and a few others listed above don't have much of a chance to make the next round of cuts, let alone the final roster. There are occasional surprises and snubs(Sam Dekker missed the final cut two years ago, despite having a stellar senior year and enjoying a meteoric rise in his pro prospects during that time), but these are fairly safe bets. So how do we figure who is most likely to make the final roster?
The McDonald's All-American Game selection committee doesn't exhaustively list its qualifications for selections, but a cursory glance at the McDonald's All-American Game's website reveals some of the things they value in prospective players - they want to attract future pros. In most years, all of the players on the final boys' roster are comfortably within the top 50 collegiate prospects and when all things are relatively equal they'll select the player with the better pro body. Diminutive scorers, like Lourawls Nairn, are typically left off the list unless they're very highly regarded prospects like Yogi Ferrell or Marcus Paige, who each made the roster in 2012.
Alarmingly, the Big Ten doesn't have a near-lock to make the McDonald's All-American game like Noah Vonleh was last year. D'Angelo Russell and Keita Bates-Diop both have a solid chance, but neither is a sure thing. If the selection committee wants to make sure they have some shooting on their roster, they could skip James Blackmon Jr. or Romelo Trimble ahead of more highly regarded shooting guards like Russell, Kelly Oubre, Isaiah Whitehead, or Daniel Hamilton. But it isn't likely. Nationally, the 2014 class is especially strong in the post and on the wing, which makes me hesitant to endorse Leron Black as likely to make the final roster. Though I like his game, Cliff Alexander, Karl Towns, and Trey Lyles are the exact sort of larger, likely future pros that the McDonald's All-American game loves to tout as alumni of their program.
As much as I love the corps of players joining the Big Ten in 2014, the group doesn't feature a stand-out, obvious future pro with the size and length to match. Because of this, landing one of these prospects on the final McDonald's All-American roster will be an uphill battle. Russell looks like the conference's best bet, but there is a bumper crop of bigger, stronger shooting guards that may push Russell to the margins when it's all said and done. As it stands, it looks like Myles Turner may be the Big Ten's best shot at landing a player on the McDonald's All-American roster. Turner is a surefire selection that is still considering the Ohio State Buckeyes, but few think the big man is likely to land in Ohio. While it would be nice to boast a few incoming players on the final roster, one thing that is certain is that the 2014 class will add tremendous depth of talent to the conference, some of which will be headed to schools that have more often been have-nots. Whether a future Big Ten player makes the final roster or not, there is plenty to look forward to as the 2014 class comes closer to joining the Big Ten.