Brent Yarina, BTN.com Senior Editor, December 21, 2011
The start of the Big Ten men's hoops season is just around the corner. Next Tuesday, in fact, Minnesota-Illinois (BTN) and Wisconsin-Nebraska tip off the conference slate. With the holiday break here, BTN.com web editor Brent Yarina decided to release his latest Big Ten Player Rankings.
Watch our interview with Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. now and see Brent's complete top 10 list in this post. Agree? Disagree? Tweet @BTNBrentYarina.
1. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State – Sullinger can't seem to stay healthy, but the super sophomore continues to produce. In two games since returning from back spasms, not including the South Carolina game where he hurt his foot six minutes in, he's tallied a pair of double-doubles.
2011-12 stats: 61%, 16.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.8 bpg
Last time: No. 1
2. Cody Zeller, Indiana – Whether you choose to look at the numbers or the overall impact, Zeller has been one of the Big Ten's best players, if not the best. He's a force on both ends of the floor, he's the only real difference from last year's team to this one, and he's answered the questions about whether he can do it against equal or superior talent (16.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2 bpg vs. NC State, Butler, Kentucky and Notre Dame).
2011-12 stats: 66%, 15.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.1 apg, 2.3 spg, 1.6 bpg
Last time: No. 10
3. John Shurna, Northwestern – The Big Ten's leading scorer, Shurna already boasts two 30-point games, including a career-high 37 against LSU earlier this season. Like most shooters, the senior has his off nights, but when he's on, look out. After all, he hit nine treys, one away from tying the Big Ten record, last time out.
2011-12 stats: 19.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1 spg, 1.6 bpg
Last time: No. 4
4. Draymond Green, Michigan State – Few, if any, Big Ten players are playing as well as Green since the calendar flipped to December. In five games – all wins – he's averaging 18.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists, to go along with a 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Most impressive, he exploded for a career-high 34 points in the Dec. 10 win at Gonzaga, one of the Big Ten's best victories of the nonconference season.
2011-12 stats: 15.4 ppg, 9-.8 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.8 bpg
Last time: No. 9
5. Tim Frazier, Penn State – Put Frazier on, say, Ohio State, Michigan State or Indiana, and he'd be getting all the publicity in the world. Yes, his numbers would be down by virtue of playing on a deeper team, but there's no doubting the Penn State point guard's all-around game and what he's been able to accomplish as the team's lone consistent scorer.
2011-12 stats: 17.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 7.3 apg, 2.3 spg
Last time: No. 5
6. Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State – Everybody knew about Thomas' scoring ability entering the season, but now he's consistently living up to the hype that he brought with him from his prolific high school days. Thomas has been in double digits every game since the season opener (9), and he's averaging 22 points per game the last four times out, all while shooting 63 percent (36 of 57).
2011-12 stats: 55%, 15.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.1 apg
Last time: NR
7. Aaron Craft, Ohio State – It's a well known fact that Craft impacts the game without scoring a lot of points; in fact, if there's a better one-on-one defender in the Big Ten, I'd love to hear who it is. Basically, the sophomore is much better/has a bigger impact than the statistics indicate.
2011-12 stats: 8.6 ppg, 3 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.9 spg
Last time: No. 8
8. Robbie Hummel, Purdue – The one consistent for Purdue, Hummel is contributing a career-high 31 minutes per game and has scored in double digits every time out this season. His shooting percentage (42 percent) is down from seasons past, but he's asked to do a lot more now as the go-to guy. And even with that added responsibility, he's committing a career-low 0.8 turnovers per game.
2011-12 stats: 17.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.5 bpg
Last time: No. 6
9. William Buford, Ohio State – It's no surprise Buford's scoring has dipped a bit during teammate Deshaun Thomas' torrid stretch. When a guy's as hot as Thomas has been, it's going to result in less production for others, and that's what has happened to Buford, who's averaged 12.2 points per game the last five times out after pouring in 18 the first seven contests.
2011-12 stats: 15.6 ppg, 4 rpg, 3.5 apg, 0.8 spg
Last time: No. 7
T-10. Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan – The way Hardaway Jr. can fill it up, it's a bit surprising he's averaging only 11.5 shots. The sophomore has yet to attempt more than 14 field goals in any game, however he's still scoring 15.4 points a night. Once Big Ten play begins, expect John Beilein to open it up for his talented and prolific sophomore.
2011-12 stats: 46%, 15.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.7 apg
Last time: No. 3
T-10. Drew Crawford, Northwestern – Flying well below the radar, Crawford is busy compiling one of the Big Ten's most diverse stat lines. Consider this: Forty-three percent of Crawford's shots are from downtown, and yet he's shooting 51 percent. It's a crazy stat, and he's also becoming a reliable force on the defensive end.
2011-12 stats: 51%, 16.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.2 bpg
Last time: NR
Dropped out: Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin