Yarina: My All-Big Ten most improved team

We’re fast approaching the end of the regular season, so that means it’s time to start considering an All-Big Ten most improved team. Who would make your 2013-14 team? Mine is headlined by a quartet of sophomores, including Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Nik Stauskas. See my full team, plus vote for your most improved player, in this post.

[ MORE: Check out Sean Merriman’s top 10 Big Ten freshmen ]

G: Yogi Ferrell, Indiana. Ferrell has done a masterful job picking up the scoring load in the absence of last season’s four 1,000-point scorers. Don’t hold the sophomore’s drop in assists or rise in turnovers against him, either, because the former is the result of Indiana lacking other consistent scorers and the latter is the product of having the ball in his hands far more often.
2012-13 stats: 40%; 7.6 ppg; 2.8 rpg; 4.1 apg; 0.8 spg; 2.1 topg
2013-14 stats: 43%; 17.9 ppg; 2.9 rpg; 3.7 apg; 0.7 spg; 2.6 topg

G: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State.
A week or two ago, I tweeted that Valentine and Nigel Hayes will be battling for Big Ten Player of the Year in a couple years. It was a bold claim, but whoever Valentine’s main competitors are, I like his chances. This is an exciting/flashy player who has triple-double ability and a game that should continue to develop.
2012-13 stats: 45%; 5.0 ppg; 4.1 rpg; 2.4 apg; 0.8 spg; 0.3 bpg; 2 topg
2013-14 stats: 41%; 8.3 ppg; 6.3 rpg; 3.9 apg; 1.1 spg; 0.4 bpg; 1.8 topg

G/F: Caris LeVert, Michigan. My coworker Stephen Bardo is trying his best to spread the LeVert love, and it’s a pretty easy sell. The sophomore has gone from an huge afterthought to Michigan’s second-best player. Yes, better than NBA prospect Glenn Robinson III.
2012-13 stats: 32%; 2.3 ppg; 1.1 rpg; 0.8 apg; 02. spg; 0.1 bpg
2013-14 stats: 44%; 13.3 ppg; 4.4 rpg; 2.7 apg; 1.2 spg; 0.3 bpg

G/F: Nik Stauskas, Michigan. Perhaps you’ve heard Michigan lost Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the NBA, plus Mitch McGary to injury? Despite being without all of that top-end talent, Stuaskas, somehow, has improved his efficiency and is Michigan’s best distributor. The only complaint would be his recent four game funk, in which he averaged an inexplicable six shots per game.
2012-13 stats: 46%; 11.0 ppg; 3.0 rpg; 1.3 apg; 0.6 spg; 1.1 topg
2013-14 stats: 49%; 17.0 ppg; 3.4 rpg; 3.5 apg; 0.7 spg; 1.9 topg

[ MORE: See Yarina’s latest Big Ten Player of the Year Tracker ]

C: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin. Sam Dekker gets most of the headlines, but Kaminsky has been Wisconsin’s most productive and most complete player. Who predicted that in the preseason? Exactly. The fact Kaminsky’s improved shouldn’t surprise – he is a Bo Ryan big, after all – but no one could have predicted this kind of jump. I mean, he’s 54 percent from the field despite shooting 64 3-pointers.
2012-13 stats: 44%; 4.2 ppg; 1.8 rpg; 0.8 apg; 0.4 spg; 0.5 bpg
2013-14 stats: 54%; 13.2 ppg; 6.4 rpg; 1.3 apg; 0.7 spg; 1.7 bpg

About Brent Yarina BTN.com senior 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.

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10 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (10 Comments)
TyL on 2/26/2014 @ 6:36pm EST Said:

Where the heck is Gabe Olaseni? BTN fail

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com Senior Editor on 2/26/2014 @ 6:39pm EST Said:

    Big fan of Gabe, and he’s improved so much this year. I probably would have had him on this list a week ago.

ZT on 2/26/2014 @ 7:10pm EST Said:

If I’m being completely objective, it’s Caris Levert by a mile. I understand the improvements of the other players on this list and they’re all excellent players that deserve great consideration for their improvements. However, Caris came completely out of left field and has been the second best player on the 1st ranked team in the conference. Coming into the season people didn’t even think he was our 4th best player and probably even our 5th best player, but he’s been the biggest story of the year, according to John Beilein and I have to agree with him.

Brian on 2/26/2014 @ 8:35pm EST Said:

You forgot Mo Walker, Minnesota. Night and Day from last year.

matt on 2/27/2014 @ 12:41am EST Said:

so many good choices this year….. my fav for most improved is still kaminsky not just for his improvement in numbers…… but from where he was last year, a spot up 3 pt shooting big man with NO inside game to speak of to a big that can legitimately hurt you in every way on the court inside , outside, rebounding, blocked shots. his scoring output of course went up but his entire game did as well, its like hes two completely different people from last year to this one. In short I see a lot of guys improved one aspect of their game, and its showed, but none of them have improved every aspect of their game , like Kaminsky has done.

matt on 2/27/2014 @ 12:47am EST Said:

on a side note, how scary good will wisconsin be the next 2 years? this team is great, no doubt, but its also young AND gone thru a huge growing pain with the defensive/offensive mini-slumps mid season….. and 1 contributing senior (brust) on the roster. this has been great couple decades to be a badgers fan!

bob on 2/27/2014 @ 9:00am EST Said:

Mike Gezell from Iowa. Check out his performance! Wow should have been on you list

Ryan on 2/27/2014 @ 10:05am EST Said:

Frank the tank all the way.. bench player, small contributor, last year. best big man in the B1G this year.

John Murphy on 2/27/2014 @ 10:31am EST Said:

Yogi had to go from being a role player to being Talor Battle. Not only the best player, but on most nights a one-man-band.

Danny on 2/27/2014 @ 10:36am EST Said:

All good choices. I believe that Olaseni should be on this list. May have had a bad week or so but Stauskas is guilty of the same thing. I think Josh Oglesby could be considered too.