Nnanna Egwu, C, So.
Why he’s in spotlight: Last season’s breakout big man Meyers Leonard was a first-round NBA pick, meaning Illinois needs a big body, someone to fill the role down low.
Why he can deliver: Egwu has the body, at 6-foot-11 and 235 pounds, and he’s athletic enough to be a factor – at least in short spurts – in John Groce’s new up-tempo system.
Yogi Ferrell, PG, Fr.
Why he’s in spotlight: He’s a highly celebrated recruit, he played AAU ball with teammate and AP preseason All-America Cody Zeller, and he brings a dimension (speed, athleticism) Indiana didn’t have at point guard last season.
Why he can deliver: Just about any point guard could have success dishing the ball off to Indiana’s deep collection of scoring options, let alone one with Ferrell’s skills. With his speed and decision making, he’ll be an assist machine.
Melsahn Basabe, F, Jr.
Why he’s in spotlight: Look up “sophomore slump” in the dictionary, and you might find Basabe’s mug next to it. If Iowa is to reach the NCAA tourney, it’ll need its forward to reclaim his freshman play.
Why he can deliver: On his good nights, the inconsistent but talented Basabe can play with just about any Big Ten forward. It’s about desire and determination, which the junior should have following a disappointing campaign.
Tim Hardaway Jr., G, Jr.
Why he’s in spotlight: Hardaway failed to improve upon his terrific 2010-11 debut season as a sophomore. Truth be told, the Wolverines are better when there’s a debate over whether this is Hardaway or Trey Burke’s team.
Why he can deliver: Hardaway can get to the rim, create his own shot and score in bunches, plus there’s no doubt he’s a better shooter than he showed last season, particularly from distance.
Branden Dawson, F, So.
Why he’s in spotlight: The athletic marvel is coming off a season-ending knee injury and he’s the best rebounder on a team that is now without Big Ten Player of the Year and Big Ten rebounding king Draymond Green.
Why he can deliver: When healthy, Dawson’s combination of strength and athleticism is as good as it gets in the Big Ten. He’s a force around the basket and he can man-up on the other end of the floor.
Rodney Williams, F, Sr.
Why he’s in spotlight: Williams finally took that proverbial next step last season when he moved to the 4 position following Trevor Mbakwe’s season-ending injury. With Mbakwe back for one final season, how will it impact this high flyer?
Why he can deliver: The Big Ten’s premier highlight machine is slated to start at the 4 – a good sign – and he said he’s worked hard on improving his overall game.
Dylan Talley, G, Sr.
Why he’s in spotlight: First-year coach Tim Miles inherits a team that lost six of its top seven leading scorers. The lone exception: Talley, who averaged 8.9 points per game, as the sixth man.
Why he can deliver: Despite starting only one game last season, Tally is the most experienced scorer on the Nebraska roster, so he figures to play a big part in the offense.
Reggie Hearn, G, Sr.
Why he’s in spotlight: With John Shurna in the NBA and JerShon Cobb suspended for the season, Northwestern will lean on Hearn to provide a scoring punch and compliment stud Drew Crawford.
Why he can deliver: One of the Big Ten’s most improved players a season ago, Hearn showed he has the ability to score, when needed, and he has Dave Sobolewski, one of the Big Ten’s best distributors, feeding him the rock.
LaQuinton Ross, F, So.
Why he’s in spotlight: Ross arrived with plenty of fanfare last year, only to miss most of the season due to academics and then receive very little run upon his debut. With Jared Sullinger and William Buford gone, he’ll have a much larger role and be asked to contribute right away as a sophomore.
Why he can deliver: He’s a big-time athlete, and he plays on a team where opponents must focus much of their attention on defense to one of the Big Ten’s most prolific scorers (Deshaun Thomas) and one of the Big Ten’s elite point guards (Aaron Craft).
D.J. Newbill, G, So.
Why he’s in spotlight: The Philadelphia native arrives from Southern Miss, where he averaged 9.2 points and 6.2 rebounds as a freshman, and Patrick Chambers says he and Tim Frazier may form one of the best backcourts in the nation.
Why he can deliver: Tim Frazier desperately needs a sidekick – a role Newbill figures to share with Jermaine Marshall – and he’ll have Frazier, last year’s Big Ten assists leader, helping him find scoring opportunities.
Terone Johnson, G, Jr.
Why he’s in spotlight: The Big Ten is loaded with top-end talent, however Purdue is one of the rare few teams that doesn’t return a proven star. The Boilers will need a star to emerge, and Johnson is the top candidate.
Why he can deliver: Johnson flashed his potential down the stretch last season, averaging 15.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists in the final eight games. He’s a guard who can get to the basket, and once he learns to hit free throws, he’ll be a very reliable scorer.
George Marshall, G, Fr.
Why he’s in spotlight: Let’s see: Jordan Taylor, the three-year standout, graduated and his replacement, Josh Gasser, just suffered a season-ending knee injury. Someone has to run the swing offense, and Marshall will play a big part.
Why he can deliver: Marshall, a redshirt freshman, went up against Taylor all of last season in practice. He had to learn a little something doing that, right? Plus, he has Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson to help ease him into the role.
|BTN.com web editor Brent Yarina covers football and men’s basketball for BTN.com. He writes the popular uniform feature “Clothes Call,” which also focuses on the latest cosmetic changes across Big Ten arenas and stadiums. Read all of his work here. You can subscribe to Yarina’s RSS feed and follow him on Twitter @BTNBrentYarina.|