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With the nonconference season now in the books,’s basketball panel decided to release its best of the 2013 nonconference season. From superlative honors to All-Big Ten teams, our guys offer their picks.  See it all in this post. Don’t agree? Feel free to leave your picks in the submission box at the bottom of the post.

[ MORE: Big Ten Geeks hand out nonconference report cards ]


Brent YarinaWisconsin. We knew the Badgers would be good. Bo Ryan is still the coach, after all. But not a single person thought they would enter Big Ten play with a 13-0 record, especially not with the schedule that faced them.

joshreedPurdue. Not in a good way, of course. These sophomore-laden Boilers were supposed to be a big upgrade over last year’s version. Instead, they’re worse. Either D.J. Byrd is a lot better than any of us thought, or Purdue is just wildly underperforming this season.

Sean MerrimanIllinois. After losing both Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson from last season, many thought this would be a rebuilding year for Illinois. Not so fast. The Fighting Illini are 11-2 and have one of the top rising stars in the conference in Rayvonte Rice. An impressive win over Missouri proved that John Groce’s team is the real deal.


Brent Yarina Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin. It’s not even close, really. Even without Kaminsky’s Wisconsin single-game record 43-point effort, he’s as surprising as any Big Ten player. He leads the undefeated Badgers in field goal percentage (56 percent), scoring (14.2), steals (1.1) and blocks (1.8).

joshreedTerran Petteway, Nebraska. He plays for the Cornhuskers, so he’s been a bit under the radar, but the last time we saw Petteway, he was a truly awful freshman at Texas Tech. Even with a sophomore leap and a sit out year to work on his game, no one could have predicted this (an efficient 16.8 points per game).

Sean MerrimanFrank Kaminsky, Wisconsin. Like Brent said, it’s not even close. This is a guy who barely saw the court last season, averaging 4.2 points in 10 minutes per game. He now leads the Badgers in just about major statistical category, outside of assists. Most importantly, he gives Wisconsin a legitimate presence down low, which was a huge question mark for this team heading into the season.

[ MORE: Here are 14 (random) thoughts as we enter 2014 ]


Brent YarinaRayvonte Rice, Illinois. There are several worthy candidates – whether it be freshmen or transfers – but the Drake transfer has been an all-around star for the Illini. Look at these numbers: 50 percent shooting, 18.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.2 spg.

joshreedNoah Vonleh, Indiana. Rayvonte Rice probably wins if we limit this to transfers, but I think Vonleh’s rebounding pushes him to the top of a very competitive category. If you were to line up his line against that of Julius Randle, you’ll probably be surprised at how close they look.

Sean MerrimanRayvonte Rice, Illinois. This could go to either Rice or Indiana’s Noah Vonleh, both have been exceptional. But I’m giving a slight lean to Rice just because of how much he impacts this Illinois team. Without Rice, I’m not sure if Illinois (10-2) would be above .500 right now. Yes, he’s that good.

[ MORE: Big Ten nonconference reports, in 140 characters or less ]



Brent YarinaAdreian Payne, Michigan State. Arguably the Big Ten’s biggest matchup nightmare, Payne continues to improve his outside stroke (16-of-35 from distance; 45 percent), all while remaining one of the Big Ten’s top inside weapons (56 percent on 2s; 7.9 rpg; 1.1 bpg).

joshreedTim Frazier, Penn State. Yeah, yeah, he plays for Penn State. But look closer—Frazier consumes more possessions than Payne, Dekker, Kaminsky, Ross, Stauskas, and Marble. And only Stauskas has a sizable lead in efficiency. If we were only considering offense, I’d probably pick Stauskas. But while Frazier isn’t going to be the cornerstone of a lock-down defense, he at least pretends to play defense. Which is more than I can say about Stauskas.

Sean MerrimanAdreian Payne, Michigan State. Payne may very well be the most complete, well-rounded player in all of college basketball. He is exceptional on both ends of the court, leading the Spartans in scoring (18.1) and ranking second in rebounding (8.0) and blocks (1.0). Oh, did I mention he ranks third in the conference in 3-point percentage. And yes, he’s 6-foot-10.

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Brent Yarina Richard Pitino, Minnesota. Yes, there are two undefeated Big Ten teams (Ohio State & Wisconsin), however Minnesota has taken an immediate liking to Pitino’s new up-tempo attack en route to jumping out to its surprising 11-2 clip.

joshreedBo Ryan, Wisconsin. It might be boring to applaud Ryan for somehow getting so much out of his roster, but it’s deserving. The Badgers lost about half of the minutes from last year, and Dekker is the only true sophomore in the rotation. And the team doesn’t miss a beat. Even crazier, despite losing three of the Big Ten’s best defenders in Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren, and Mike Bruesewitz, the Badgers are still an elite defensive team. Go figure.

Sean MerrimanBo Ryan, Wisconsin. Ryan has been doing it year-in and year-out now, but this is the Badgers’ best start to a season under him. Ryan has been known as a defensive wizard during his head coaching career, but the Badgers are putting up more than 75 points per game this season and have topped the 80-plus point mark on five separate occasions.


Brent YarinaAaron Craft, Ohio State. So much for the new handchecking rules affecting Craft. The senior pest, once again, leads the Big Ten in steals (2.4 per game). Really, what can be said about Craft’s defensive prowess that hasn’t already been said?

joshreedAmir Williams, Ohio State. The truth is that there are three Buckeyes who have a legitimate claim to the nation’s best defensive player. Well, at least two, and Craft is close. But I don’t see how you pick Craft over Scott. Scott has a higher steal percentage and rebounds more. And they both foul at the same rate. Craft is excellent, but Scott is better. But rather than choose them, I’m going with Williams. Take away his rim-protecting ability (he blocks 9 percent of opponents’ two-point attempts), and OSU’s guards can’t be nearly as aggressive on the perimeter. Knowing he’s back there allows Craft and Scott to get into the opponent’s shirts.

Sean MerrimanAaron Craft, Ohio State. You love him if he’s on your team, but you can’t stand him if you’re playing against him. He ranks first in the conference in steals (2.4) and is a true pest to opposing backcourts. The Big Ten is loaded with talented point guards this season (Appling, Frazier, Hollins, Ferrell), which makes Craft’s defensive prowess that much more important to this Buckeyes team.

[ MORE: View Stephen Bardo’s latest Big Ten Power Rankings ]


Brent YarinaNoah Vonleh, Indiana. The heralded Hoosier leads the Big Ten in rebounding (9.5), is shooting 56 percent and has rattled off six double-doubles, including one in each of his first four games.

joshreedNoah Vonleh, Indiana. See above. Just in case, I’ll type it here again: If you were to line up Vonleh’s season statistics against that of Kentucky’s Julius Randle, you’ll probably be surprised at how close they look.

Sean MerrimanNoah Vonleh, Indiana. Vonleh has lived up to the hype… and then some. The Hoosiers’ big man leads the conference in rebounding (9.5) and is a double-double machine. We hear so much about the Freshman Fab Four of Parker, Wiggins, Randle and Gordon, but it’s time to start including Vonleh’s name in that group as well.


Brent YarinaJarrod Uthoff, Iowa. It’s easy to see why Bo Ryan hated to lose Uthoff and why Fran McCaffery feels he is one of the best players in the Big Ten. Uthoff can score – he’s reached double figures in eight games – but his biggest impact often is made on the glass (6.7 rpg) and on defense (1.4 bpg, 5.1 defensive rpg).

joshreedI have to admit, I’m always confused by this award. Should it be given to the best, sixth-best player on the team? That’s an odd thing to recognize. Do we give it to the best player that isn’t technically starting, which is, well, a technicality? Or do we give it to the player we think should be playing more, which is more of an insult to the coach than recognition for the player?  All of this is to say that I find this award very confusing. In any event, any one of Tre Demps, Jared Uthoff, Jay Simpson, and A.J. Hammons checks most of those boxes. I’d probably go with Uthoff, of that group.

Sean MerrimanDenzel Valentine, Michigan State. Valentine doesn’t get a ton of publicity playing with guys like Harris, Payne and Appling, but make no mistake about it, he is one of the most important pieces on this Spartans roster. The 6-foot-5 sophomore averages 7.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game off the bench. He is a phenomenal playmaker and has done a tremendous job on cutting down his turnovers, sporting a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranks among the top-10 in the conference.

[ MORE: Check out the latest Big Ten standings ]


Brent YarinaG: Tim Frazier, Penn State
G: Nik Stauskas, Michigan
F: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
F: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
F/C: Adreian Payne, Michigan State

joshreedG: Tim Frazier, Penn State
G: Andre Hollins, Minnesota
F: Nik Stauskas, Michigan
F: Devyn Marble, Iowa
C: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

Sean MerrimanG: Tim Frazier, Penn State
G: Rayvonte Rice, Illinois
F: Nik Stauskas, Michigan
F: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
F/C: Adreian Payne, Michigan State