Ranking the Big Ten’s 25 best players

With the Big Ten Tournament already begun, some of the IU media core got together and voted our list of the top 25 players in Big Ten basketball. The vote came from Dustin and I, Zach Osterman of Inside Indiana, Alex Bozich of Inside the Hall, and Connor O’Gara and Kevin Bowen of the IDS with 25 points awarded to a 1st-place vote and 1 point awarded to a 25th-place vote (and everything in between).

Without further ado, here’s our list of the top 25 players in Big Ten basketball.

1. Draymond Green, Michigan State (150)

The consensus No. 1 player across all ballots, Green boasts what Tom Izzo calls the nation’s most versatile game. And his coach may have a point. With an improved perimeter game and added explosiveness, the powerful forward dominated the conference in his farewell campaign.

2. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State (144)

Sullinger actually saw his numbers drop year-over-year, but he’s still the most dominant post player in the Big Ten. His strength and ability to finish through contact is unmatched by his peers and his competitiveness was on full display when the Buckeyes spoiled Michigan State’s outright league title last Sunday.

3. Cody Zeller, Indiana (134)

Zeller not only lived up the tremendous expectations bestowed upon him by fans and media alike, he exceeded them. Zeller led the Big Ten in effective field goal percentage, was third in fouls drawn per 40 minutes and was the catalyst for Indiana’s turnaround this season.

4. Robbie Hummel, Purdue (126)

The fifth-year senior carried the Boilermakers down the stretch and put up 16.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game without much interior help. But more importantly, Hummel returned from two devastating knee injuries and will finish his career with a NCAA Tournament berth.

5. Trey Burke, Michigan (120)

The departure of Darius Morris to the NBA left many wondering how the Wolverines would compete for a league championship following the loss of their star. Burke not only filled the void left by Morris, he was the best point guard in the Big Ten as a freshman.

6. John Shurna, Northwestern (119)

It might not be the prettiest at times, but Shurna simply finds a way to put the ball in the basket. He is the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 19.8 PPG and his 80 3-pointers made is tied for first in the conference. Shurna’s name resides atop the Northwestern record books as the program’s leading scorer but he has made it clear that he won’t be satisfied unless he leads the Wildcats to their first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.

7. Tim Frazier, Penn State (118)

Frazier has logged the most minutes of any player in the Big Ten this season and has carried the load for a young Nittany Lions squad. To some people, Frazier might have been a questionable first team All-Big Ten selection, but not only is he the second-leading scorer in the conference, he also leads the Big Ten in assists at 6.3 PPG.

8. Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin (114)

During the preseason, Taylor was many people’s pick to be an All-American point guard. After struggling through the non-conference portion of Wisconsin’s schedule, Taylor has regained his form of year’s past and leads the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio.

9. Matt Gatens, Iowa (99)

Nobody in the Big Ten has put together a better final month of the season than Gatens. In his last six games, Gatens is averaging 23.1 PPG while sitting just a total of five minutes for his hometown Hawkeyes.

10. William Buford, Ohio State (97)

If this were based on NBA potential, Buford would be much higher on the list. At times, Buford has been quiet during some Big Ten games but he hit arguably the biggest shot of the season for the Buckeyes against Michigan State on Sunday, which helped give Ohio State a three-way share of the conference title.

11. Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State (80)

Thomas stayed true this season to Mark Titus’ assertion that there’s no shot he doesn’t like, but for a pure scorer, is that such a bad thing? He’s gained the consistency that made him one of the best Indiana high school basketball players of all time, and if he sticks around next season, Ohio State will in all likelihood be his team.

12. Meyers Leonard, Illinois (78)

Speaking of sometimes-frustrating inconsistency, welcome to Meyers Leonard. Still, what’s impressive about the kid is the jump he made from year one to year two, and amid a winter collapse, it was encouraging — if painful — to see him show real emotion over Illinois’ struggles. Another that, if he stays a third season, could be dominant.

13. Keith Appling, Michigan State (72)

Can we just name players 10-15 The Inconsistent Five? Appling has exceptional talent for his position, and outside of Draymond Green, he’s easily Michigan State’s most important piece. As evidenced in the Spartans’ loss to Indiana, Michigan State needs Appling to bring its secondary players into the game.

14. Drew Crawford, Northwestern (71)

A prolific scorer and more athletic than you’d think, Crawford is the perfect foil to John Shurna. As good as the two have been though, will it be enough to get Northwestern to the tournament? They need a signature win in Indy.

15. Aaron Craft, Ohio State  (63)

In terms of inconsistency, people rag on Craft, I think, more than they should. The kid is definitely a starter for his defense, and his effect on his team’s intensity. He’ll need to be more of a scorer soon, but right now, he’s excellent in what he does.

16. Victor Oladipo, Indiana (61)

Oladipo is on the short list of best pure athletes in the Big Ten, and the development of his dribble-drive game made him a much more potent offensive weapon this season. He earned a spot on the All-Defensive team with 1.5 steals per game and he’s averaging 14.8 points per game since the Purdue game on Feb. 4 when coach Tom Crean expanded his ball-handling role.

17. Brandon Paul, Illinois (54)

As evidenced by his 43-point effort in Illinois’ win over Ohio State on Jan. 10, Paul is one of the most explosive scorers in the conference when he’s on. His 17.7 points per game in conference contests were third in the league. However, he also turned the ball over 102 times and couldn’t stop the Illini’s February collapse.

18. Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan (53)

Trey Burke is Michigan’s most important player, but the Wolverine’s often go as Hardaway Jr. goes. He’s not what you’d call efficient, shooting 28.9 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, but he gets his points, and when he’s shooting well, he’s all-conference caliber.

19. Christian Watford, Indiana (43)

Watford has notoriously struggled with consistency and he’s never fully embraced the rugged nature of Big Ten post play, but as a 6-foot-9 forward with perimeter skills, he’s one of the toughest matchups in the league when he’s operating at a high level. He can also defend 1-5, and his improving ability to defend point guards has done wonders for Indiana’s defense.

20. Bo Spencer, Nebraska (41)

The only player in the Big Ten who carries a heavier offensive burden than Spencer is Penn State’s Tim Frazier. He’s the only Cornhusker averaging double figures, but he can handle that because he can make almost any shot on the floor and doesn’t need much space to do it. His 23-point effort against Indiana almost single-handedly beat the Hoosiers.

21. Lewis Jackson, Purdue (23)

The senior point guard has quietly racked up a nice career in West Lafayette where the Boilermakers are on their way to their fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The 5-foot-9 Jackson doesn’t get the accolades that senior Robbie Hummel does, but he still handles the ball and distributes as well as any Big Ten point guard. Oh, and he can absolutely fly.

22. Rodney Williams, Minnesota (18)

At this point in his career, many would’ve predicted Williams to be higher on this list. But the once highly-sought after forward has struggled to emerge with the injury of teammate Trevor Mbakwe. However, Williams has shown flashes this season of becoming one of the elite players in this conference.

23. Jared Berggren, Wisconsin (13)

Berggren wreaked some serious havoc upon the likes of Jared Sullinger and Cody Zeller in big Wisconsin wins. The 6-foot-10 Berggren has epitomized Bo Ryan’s defensive philosophy and done so while averaging double-digit points. Berggren is one of the Big Ten’s most improved players and will be a major part of a Wisconsin team that will lose Jordan Taylor next season.

24. Zack Novak, Michigan (12)

No player in the Big Ten has played the type of role Novak has in his four years in Ann Arbor, Mich. The senior has played bigger than his 6-foot-4 frame for an undersized Michigan squad and while being a reliable three-point threat. Michigan isn’t celebrating its first Big Ten regular season crown in 25 years without Novak.

25. Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa (8)

The Iowa guard has shown a lot of consistency for a sophomore. Marble scored in double figures in 13 of his last 14 games for an Iowa team that snuck up on a few of the Big Ten’s best. If Marble could shore up his turnover woes, he has the potential to become one of the Big Ten’s top frontcourt players.

Honorable Mention: D.J. Richardson, Illinois (7); Adreian Payne, Michigan State (6); Aaron White, Iowa (3); D.J. Byrd, Purdue (3); Branden Dawson, Michigan State (2); Jordan Hulls, Indiana (2); Mike Bruesewitz, Wisconsin (2)


  1. No, Hulls isn’t a top 25 player in the conference. The kid is ONIONS! So much game..so little respect. Who shows up when the rest the team looks like they’re on spring vacation? You guys should be collectively ashamed.

  2. Hulls is on fire right now. VJ3 down. I am not a fan of his game most of the time, but damn I hope he is okay. Does not look good.

  3. this list is ridiculous. let me just break it down for you. 1. Matt Gatens should never and will never be considered a better Basketball player than Victor Oladipo. 2. Who is Roy Devyn Marble???????????? 3.Who is Bo Spencer??????? 4. Why is Sir Chucks-a-lot (Deshaun Thomas) even on this list. He is mediocre at best. he cant make it up and down the floor. Hes lazy on defense and hes got no mind for basketball. YOURE AN IDIOT

  4. Downings 5th, sometimes known as D-5, currently known as Harvard For Hillbillies, now that’s a clown. Don’t worry Geoff, you are close to the top of the clown list.

  5. Not a bad list..Hulls is not a top 25 B1G player…VO over CWat does raise an eyebrow.

  6. Chitown – why does VO over Wat raise an eyeball? There is only one aspect of the game where Wat is superior – perimeter shooting – other than that Dipo is equal or much better…

    He is a better ball-handler, creator, finisher, rebounder, athlete, and defender.

    The last 10 games have really exposed the abilities of these 2 players. Not that Wat has been bad, but Dipo has just proven that he is better. Not only have his personal numbers gone up with his increased role, but the team’s performance has risen dramatically.

  7. Geoff when VO can finish and dribble with his left hand a hit a jumper from…I don’t know ANYWHERE…I will think he is a better player than CWat.VO is more athletic but CWat has inside outside game and hits shots with a hand in his face. It is what it is.

  8. I am endeared to Watty for obvious reasons, but he moves like a dinosaur out there (a brontosaurus, to be specific). I’d like to see him be able to post up and hit a fadeaway or consistently beat people off the dribble, but I don’t ever see him adding that to his game.

    VO, on the other hand, has the obvious jump-shot weakness, but if he is able to develop that aspect of his game a little bit more, his ceiling is way higher than Wat’s/

  9. It’s not who’s going to be a better player…its who is the better player right now…CTC has even been putting CWat ( the dinosaur) on the best player on the other teams because VO hasn’t been effective(Burke,Gatens)..I’m glad both are Hoosiers

  10. Chitown – Vic has been extremely successful attacking with a left-handed dribble over the last 10 games. I definitely haven’t noticed his inability to finish with the left either, although he is certainly better finishing with the right.

    CWat cannot attack effectively with either hand. He doesn’t have the blow-by ability so he is 1 or 2 dribbles and a pull-up. That is nice for a guy his size to have, but it ultimately is the reason he only shoots 41% from the floor, while Dipo shoots 48%…. That is a huge difference. Dipo is also averaging more points and rebounds over the last 9 games (new role). Since he has been put at the point of attack Dipo’s driving ability has been a huge factor in getting the Hoosiers into the bonus early – has shot as many FT’s in those game 63 as the other 23 games combined. And of course he changes the game with his defense.

    Do you think that Cody is less of a ball-player than Wat because he hasn’t been an effective perimeter shooter this year?

    Why would you knock Dipo for it?

    They both are more effective shooters and scorers than Watford, and they both create more opportunities for their teammates…. That’s the bottom line

  11. Chitown – if you think Wat is a better defender than Dipo then there is no point in having this conversation with you.

    CTC hasn’t been putting CWat on the other team’s best player. Hes been putting him occasionally on the other team’s PG to take advantage of his length and give the smaller guy something to think about.

    Dipo has been a world class defender this year – there’s a reason why he was all-defense. My guess is that CWat didn’t get a single vote for that team.

  12. HT so you are saying the kids only flaw is that he can’t shoot…thats a small flaw in baseball not in bball…”hello is this thing(mic) on” …Wow Hoosier fans are wild…#iubb forever

  13. Here are the season stats:

    Player 1: 11.2 pts on 48% shooting

    Player 2: 11.8 pts on 41% shooting

    Here are the stats since VJ3 went down and Dipo’s role expanded (9 games):

    Player 1: 13.7 pts and 6.4 reb on 44% shooting

    Player 2: 10.2 pts and 6.2 reb on 31% shooting

    So which player, when used in their full role, performs better and shoots better – Player 1 or Player 2?

  14. Geoff,CWat is very limited with his back to the basket we all no this ..his shots and production have gone down because of VO having the ball out top makes it very hard for catch and shoot guys without a passing PG Jordy and Cwats numbers went down when VJ3 went out. Now Jordy has to create shots with pump fakes and off the dribble and Cwat doesn’t get open looks and goes 1 on 1 more..tell the whole story…VO being able to get by players and to the rack has been awesome..but has hurt others in the offense….love your passion:)

  15. Pritch did a nice job developing his jump shot. Jeremiah Rivers also fought through some mechanical issues and couldn’t miss in his final season.

    I still think Watford is the 3rd or 4th best perimeter shooter on the team. His struggles are more the result of some confidence/rhythm issues when he doesn’t get going early(same with Hulls at times)more than the mechanics/ball rotation/touch categories. A lot of his misses today rattled halfway down into the cylinder and came out..His invaluable versatility on the floor, and the respect he still commands from the outside(pointed out numerous times by the announcing crews and analysts), keeps the defense honest and allows Oladipo to get those wider lanes to the bucket. Watford carries himself in a rather cumbersome and lackadaisical fashion, but his first step is still very good for a guy his size. He’s also been very strong on the defensive boards lately. The meshing of Oladipo’s and Watford’s skills make for a far greater dangerous sum than the individual parts. You could take other player comparisons on our roster and find the same complimentary relationships between strengths and weaknesses. We don’t have anyone on this squad that can dominate and take over a game…As Crean has said all season, it’s always “finding ways to win”…finding different guys stepping up depending on what match-up advantages and hot shooting hands may dictate the best mix on the floor to get to the same victory town a different route. Sometimes it’s the interstate freeway and it looks easy..Sometimes it’s multiple detours and bumpy gravel roads until something begins to click. The only vulnerable facet this team is not having a singular player that can really put the game on his shoulders; a go-to dominant guy in any terrain, or in any speedometer the game, that can carry a team in a tight contest when the rest may be just a bit out of sync or out of their comfortable element.

  16. Very hard to agree that Jackson of Purdue is #21 (23) and Hulls is not listed (2) based on B1G play. IU beat Purdue twice and Hulls was better than Jackson both times. Hulls has defensive problems. Jackson has offensive problems, but he is not great at defense either.

  17. Chitown – you’re turning it into another debate, but I would certainly argue with you there as well. CWat is averaging about a point-and-a-half less on .5 fewer shot attempts. Hulls is averaging About .5 fewer points on .5 fewer shots, but shooting about the same %. However, overall the offense is running the most efficiently it has since we started playing teams of at least Butler’s merit.

    In the last 9 games we are 8-1 and +104 pts against 8 B1G teams… So including a 12 pt loss we still average winning by 11.5 pts/gm and scoring 74.7 ppg

    In the 18 games prior to that (Butler – UM) we were averaging 71.4 ppg and that includes 3 games against low-major programs where they averaged 93.3 ppg.

    We are also averaging fewer TO’s…

    So I don’t think that saying Dipo’s aggressiveness has hurt other players’ offense is either fair or accurate.

  18. Btw “It’s Official”, although I’m clearly not B1G 25 material – and in my prime wasn’t B1G bench material – I did have a decent night tonight. Dropped 57 in my men’s league game. Granted it is a 4-on-4 league so you have more shots and a little more room to operate, but still a pretty good shooting night – 15 3’s and 6 lay-ups make up the total…

    Thanks for the vote of support up there!

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