This being the slow time of the year for basketball (and with player previews on temporary hiatus - more are coming), I thought I'd take my cue from Jason King and Dylan Burkhardt and get the discussion started about newcomers and potential breakout players for the coming year.
Last Fall I posted my picks for sleepers in the Big Ten I thought had a chance to break out. My criteria were pretty rigorous; perhaps too rigorous, in retrospect. To be eligible, players had to
- Play no more than 30% of the available minutes in the prior year (not counting injuries)
- Be an incoming Freshman outside the top-100
The idea was to really reach for guys who would be true surprises. All things considered, I think I did OK. Here are my picks and my highly subjective grading of them:
|Tim Hardaway Jr
My only out and out whiff was Taran Buie. You could probably argue that the Nittany Lion mascot has made more positive contributions to the team, and he got popped for a DUI back in 2008. Buie had a sketchy start, got suspended from the team for the remainder of the season and ended up asking for and receiving his release to transfer. It would be hard to have a more unsuccessful season.
I nailed it with Basabe, who looks like a potential all-conference performer, Craft and Gasser. And, although Tim Hardaway, Jr. may have had an even greater impact, I'm still going to pat myself on the back about Jordan Morgan, who became a major part of the Michigan resurgence.
Oladipo and D.J. Byrd were also solid picks. Oladipo probably would have earned me an A if Crean had been willing to play him more minutes and no one else on Indiana would have been a better pick. Ryne Smith may have been more valuable to Purdue than Byrd, thanks to his long-distance shooting prowess, but Byrd did step up admirably in the absence of Robbie Hummel.
There were some teams that just didn't have anyone break out last year. Tyler Griffey was pretty much the only choice for Illinois and he actually regressed. I think I may have been a year early with him, though, as many more minutes will be available for the Illini in the coming year. Michigan State and Minnesota - eh, what are you going to say there?
So I think that gives me about a 2.7 GPA. I'm not sure what the rules are these days, but I think that should keep me eligible for the coming season. I'll probably be coming out with my official picks sometime in the Fall but for now, what do you guys think? Who are the stars in waiting in the conference? I won't hold you strictly to my requirements, but you get bonus points for voluntary compliance.