Preseason Player of the Year

Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue

In a year where the Big Ten lost a lot of its star power, a year where the Purdue Boilermakers lost their four senior starters, one player remains a prominent part of the fabric of both the conference and the Purdue program and that would be electrifying junior point guard Carsen Edwards. A year removed from averaging over 18 PPG on a hyper-efficient 46-41-82 shooting season, phenomenal numbers for a high-volume, 6’1” guard.  The leading returner in scoring in the Big Ten, Edwards will have big shoes to fill following the departure of the class of 2017, a group of guys with over 100 wins and several hundred combined starts.  Purdue will go as he goes and, with the lack of returning scorers, his efficiency may take a dip but he has the opportunity to potentially be relied on for crazy scoring numbers this year.  It’s Carsen’s team now, and with such a burden of expectation on his shoulders, it will be interesting to see just how far he can take the Boilermakers.

Others to Watch

Ethan Happ, PF/C, Wisconsin

Perennial conference title contender Wisconsin finally showed some major cracks last season, ending with a losing record not only in the Big Ten but overall.  But this is the team that boasts the #2 returning scorer in the conference, a guy who was a member of the team that was a few more points or minutes away from a national championship in 2015.  Ethan Happ is now a seasoned fourth year starter and one of the nation’s premiere big men.  He’s a throwback kind of player, a back-to-the-basket 5 with little to no shooting range beyond 10 feet, but he can also put the ball on the floor as well as create for his teammates.  He’s stellar on the defensive end, too.  Happ led a young team last season, and many times, the load he was asked to carry was too much for him and the team to be successful.  But this year, with a supporting cast that includes a one-year-older Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice, the paint should hopefully be opened up more for Happ to go to work down low, the thing he does best.  Last year’s #4 scorer in the Big Ten is primed for a monster season as he tries to get Wisconsin basketball back on the map.

Charles Matthews, SG, Michigan

Another year, another Michigan team led by an athletic wing player with a smooth shooting stroke.  Following in the footsteps of the likes of Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas, and Caris LeVert, Charles Matthews will run the show in Ann Arbor this season following the departures of Mo Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.  Averaging 13 PPG on 50% shooting, the one-time Kentucky transfer is the most key piece for a Wolverines squad expected to be among the most likely challengers to front-runner Michigan State this year.  

Nick Ward, C, Michigan State

Miles Bridges is currently averaging 7.8 PPG for the Charlotte Hornets and will be averaging 0 for the Spartans this year.  It’s the third year for the stellar class of guys that came to MSU in the fall of 2016, but the crown jewel of that class, Bridges, has left for the NBA.  And yet, the Spartans fine themselves ranked 10th coming into the season.  This could be way too high for the Spartans, but it could also be substantially low.  The biggest X-factor, and probably the most talented player on their roster, is Nick Ward, a tough, relentless big man who is among the best rebounders and inside scorers in the league.  But the Spartans have played more minutes without him on the floor than with him the last couple seasons because his conditioning has capped his minutes.  The difference without him is significant, and with no Miles Bridges, Ward will be relied on in a big way.  In his career, he averages 27 points per 40 minutes, as well as 14 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.

Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana

As an Indiana resident myself, I can attest to the fact that the Romeo hype is huge within the state.  Coach Archie Miller nabbing the national top 5 recruit has reinvigorated the fanbase of a program that has won 5 championships but none since Keith Smart’s shot sunk Syracuse in 1987.  Langford is a smooth shooting guard with length and the ability to create for his teammates.  Which he will need to do as last year’s team lost 4 contributing seniors from a squad that went merely 16-15. But Langford is the kind of transcendent player who could lift this player back to not only a tournament berth and the top 25, but even greater heights than that, even if it’s only for a year.  Perhaps his impact will draw more 5-star recruits to Bloomington in the future.

Preseason All-conference Selections

Carsen Edwards, Purdue

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

Nick Ward, Michigan State

Charles Matthews, Michigan

Jordan Murphy, Minnesota

Jordan Palmer, Nebraska

Lamar Stevens, Penn State

Cassius Winston, Michigan State

Tyler Cook, Iowa

CJ Jackson, Ohio State

Top Five Freshman To Watch

Romeo Langford, Indiana

Jalen Smith, Maryland

Ayo Dosunmu, Illinoia

Aaron Wiggins, Maryland

Daniel Oturu, Minnesota

Five Breakout Candidates

Bruno Fernando, Maryland

Jordan Poole, Michigan

Kaleb Wesson, Ohio State

D'Mitrik Trice, Wisconsin

Isaiah Roby, Nebraska

Top 5 NBA Prospects

Jalen Smith, Maryland

Romeo Langford, Indiana

Bruno Fernando, Maryland

Charles Matthews, Michigan

Lamar Stevens, Penn State

Big Ten Power Rankings

1. Michigan State

2. Michigan

3. Purdue

4. Maryland

5. Ohio State

6. Penn State

7. Indiana

8. Nebraska

9. Wisconsin

10. Minnesota

11. Iowa

12. Illinois

13. Northwestern

14. Rutgers


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