Three Big Ten Seniors Who Need to Break Out This YearPosted by Max Jakubowski on November 8th, 2013
A player entering his senior year will be filled with all sorts of emotions. He might be a little glum that this is his last ride or he might be filled with excitement that he could lead his team to a conference crown and possibly more. No matter the feelings, each senior needs to be a leader on the court for his team and provide a little extra production when called upon. Michigan State’s Draymond Green, for example, put up incredible numbers in his senior campaign for Michigan State two years ago and Brandon Paul of Illinois emerged as an All-Conference player to lead the Illini to a surprising NCAA Tournament bid last season. There have been many others and there will be more, but here are three Big Ten players who need to step up in a big way for their final seasons on campus:
Joseph Bertrand, Illinois, Shooting Guard: The Illini graduated their top two perimeter players in Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson. Groce’s perimeter-oriented offense was a perfect fit for the duo, who hoisted threes any chance they got and made enough of them to drive their team into postseason play last year. With those two now gone, Bertrand will become a primary scoring option. He has great athleticism and leaping ability which allows him to get to the rim, and when he gets fouled, the senior sports a 77 percent conversion rate from the line. The Illini might at times run with a smaller lineup featuring Bertrand at the four because he is a decent rebounder for his size. On the offensive end, Groce has to allow Bertrand to isolate occasionally, as he can either beat his defender to the rim or force opponents to bring help defense and leave the shooters wide open on the perimeter. If Illinois wants to get back to the NCAA Tournament, it will need a big year from the senior Bertrand.
Melsahn Basabe, Iowa, Power Forward: In his freshman season, Basabe made a statement by averaging 11.0 PPG and 6.8 RPG, leading everyone to believe he was going to be a double-double machine in coming years. But Basabe’s sophomore and junior seasons never quite matched his freshman year and his minutes fell off. Now in his senior year, Iowa has a legitimate shot to make the NCAA Tournament but a lot hinges on the shoulders of Basabe. Talented players in Aaron White and Adam Woodbury join him in the frontcourt, so Basabe doesn’t need to worry as much about points. Rebounding is the area where Fran McCaffery wants Basabe to focus, as the senior has the physical tools dominate on the glass. If he can pick it up on the defensive end and become a legitimate glass-eater, look for Iowa to ride its balanced attack all the way to the NCAA Tournament and perhaps beyond.
Ray Gallegos, Nebraska, Shooting Guard: Tim Miles starts his second season at Nebraska in a new arena, but he will not return two of his top three returning scorers. Gallegos begins his senior year as the best offensive option for the Cornhuskers and Miles will take every point Gallegos can give him. Nebraska brings in two key pieces this season in Florida big man transfer Walter Pitchford and Australian freshman point guard Tai Webster, and Gallegos and Webster will need to bond and develop good chemistry in the backcourt. These two have to be the backbone for the Cornhuskers to avoid finishing in the cellar of the Big Ten again. Gallegos likes to shoot it from deep, as he attempted 271 three-point shots but only made 31 percent of them last season. He will need to show significant improvement in that area in order to provide some consistent offense. His 12.5 PPG was a solid average last season, but he will need to bring that up to go along with better three-point shot selections to make this team competitive.