Jon Crispin, BTN men's basketball analyst, October 25, 2017
Everyone knows Miles Bridges, Ethan Happ and Mo Wagner. They are a few of the biggest names in Big Ten basketball entering the 2017-18 season. I'm here to talk about some of the under-the-radar names, though. You know, the players who aren't being talked about too much but who mean so much to their teams.
Here are my 5 players to watch.
1. Cassius Winston, Michigan State. All of the talk and hype about the Spartans is primarily surrounding Miles Bridges, and understandably so. While Bridges' return to East Lansing for a sophomore season makes Michigan State a national contender, Winston may be the most important piece of the puzzle. Tom Izzo spoke of his immense improvement both in physical conditioning and in his ability to shoot it from the perimeter. Winston will have to be both floor general and playmaker, at times, when defenders are keying on Bridges.
2. Isaiah Moss, Iowa. There's no question that the Hawkeyes are going to be an exciting team to watch this season. The youth that gained a lot of experience last year will take a big step forward in 2017-18. One key may be found in Moss and his ability to find consistency on the floor. He may be the Iowa player with the highest upside, but inconsistency could limit his time on the floor and his ability to contribute. If Moss can get settled in and make good decisions, he could be that dynamic scorer the Hawkweyes need to fill in for the departure of Peter Jok.
3. Matt Haarms, Purdue. Haarms may have the vertical presence of Isaac Haas, but his game is different in many ways. His slender build may make him look like a target for opposing post players, but many said that about Kristaps Porzingis. While he may not be a 300-pound skyscraper, his skillset will cause serious matchup issues for opponents. The ability to shoot from the perimeter and defend out to the perimeter is the great equalizer and the perfect bit of lightening to Haas' thunder.
4. Aaron Falzon, Northwestern. Northwestern's run last season was just the beginning for Chris Collins and his team. Getting the 6-8 redshirt sophomore shooting guard back puts the Wildcats in the top 5 in the conference. Falzon has tremendous length, and the experience of sitting out is actually a key piece in developing as a player, particularly after playing significant minutes as a freshman. The wing combination of Vic Law, Scottie Lindsey and Falzon will be tough to match up against and will give Collins plenty of flexibility in the lineup.
5. Josh Reaves, Penn State. This may be the year for Penn State to take a big jump forward in the Big Ten. The middle of the pack is wide open for the taking, and the talent and experience gained for the young Nittany Lions will pay dividends this season. Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins will get much of the talk, but Reaves is a huge key to their success, both offensively and defensively. He is a high-motor guy with the ability to make big plays in the open court and at the rim. Although he is not the PG, his pace and energy will create the tempo this team needs to succeed.