Pending NBA Draft Decisions Will Shape Next Season’s Big TenPosted by Brendan Brody on April 2nd, 2014
Even with this season not completely over yet, it’s hard to avoid projecting what the future holds for the 2014-15 edition of the Big Ten. Last year at around this time, only five conference underclassmen ultimately put their names in and heard their names called on NBA Draft night. Three of the five were selected in the first round (Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, and Michigan’s Trey Burke), while two went in the second round (Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr., and Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas). This year, that number could potentially double. Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross and Indiana’s Noah Vonleh have already declared; Michigan State’s Gary Harris is reportedly about to do so; and many others face some rather tough decisions between now and April 27. Unless super-recruit Myles Turner decides to go to Ohio State, their aren’t really any other incoming one-and-done types on the horizon for any of the teams in the league. That makes some of these upcoming early entry decisions all the more important in terms of projecting next year’s Big Ten championship. What follows here is an outline of what those teams will look like if they lose some of their key players over the next few weeks.
Michigan is likely going to lose as many as three of their sophomore trio of Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, and Glenn Robinson III. McGary and Robinson flirted with coming out of school last season, but opted to stay in Ann Arbor for another year. If the Wolverines lose only Stauskas, they’ll have a ready-made replacement in Zak Irvin. Some play-making ability would be lost, but they’d keep another deadly shooter on the floor. If Robinson goes, then look for Kameron Chatman and redshirt freshman Marc Donnal to get John Beilein’s first looks in replacing his minutes. Losing McGary to the draft along with Jordan Morgan to graduation would leave Jon Horford as the primary big man with Ricky Doyle — a 6’9″ incoming freshman from Florida — also potentially in the mix.
- Best Case Scenario: All three come back because they want to win a National Championship. They are automatically a top five preseason team and a Big Ten co-favorite with Wisconsin.
- Worst Case Scenario: All three leave, with Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. left to pick up the pieces. An eight-man rotation of LeVert, Walton, Irvin, Horford, Donnal, Chatman, Doyle and Spike Albrecht would still be a fringe Top 25 team, but their would be a good deal of question marks here.
Michigan State expects to lose Gary Harris, meaning that the Spartans are facing one of their most uncertain offseasons in quite some time. They could also lose Branden Dawson, although this possibility isn’t nearly as certain. The loss of Harris means Tom Izzo would have to replace three double-figure scorers from this year’s team (Harris, Adreian Payne, and Keith Appling). Alvin Ellis III played well in spots, and they have four-star recruit Javon Bess on the way, but Dawson would be a difficult loss. He led the team in rebounding, and showed in the NCAA tournament — save for the UConn game — what he’s capable of producing.
- Best Case Scenario: As far-fetched as it may be, Harris decides to give it one more year in East Lansing. He becomes a first-team All American and leads the cast of former role players back into a deep Tournament run.
- Worst Case Scenario: Harris and Dawson both leave, which puts Michigan State in the middle of the pack in the league, similar to the dip that Indiana took this year. Their core of Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice, Kenny Kaminski, Matt Costello, Gavin Schilling, Ellis, Bess, and freshman Lourawls Nairn simply doesn’t have the talent to hang in the Big Ten race, leading to a mediocre NCAA seed or a trip to the NIT.
Wisconsin looks to be in the best shape of the top three teams from this year’s Big Ten. They’ve not only advanced further than both of the Michigan schools, but they’re also less likely to lose key players. Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky could jump ship, but unless Kaminsky continues his NCAA Tournament dominance and Dekker has a phenomenal Final Four as well, they aren’t necessarily ticketed for the first round. If the Badgers just lost Dekker, Nigel Hayes could slide right in without much dropoff. Losing Kaminsky would hurt much more, forcing Bo Ryan to play small ball next season with no real backup who can come close to what he can do.
- Best Case Scenario: Both players return, giving the Badgers seven of their top eight players returning. They start the season in the top five with a return trip to the Final Four completely in play.
- Worst Case Scenario: Kaminsky and Dekker both leave school, with the onus on Hayes, Duje Dukan, and Vitto Brown to try to step in. This would be a fringe Top 25 team that would have to get huge jumps from Josh Gasser, Traveon Jackson and Bronson Koenig to stay afloat.
There hasn’t been much talk of Nebraska losing Terran Petteway, but at one point he was a projected first round pick on NBADraft.net. Obviously his loss would be a huge blow for the Cornhuskers, but even without him, they’d return much of their core from this year’s surprising NCAA Tournament unit. With Petteway in the lineup, Nebraska should finish in the top four once again. Without him they’d be expected to slip some, but still would have a good chance to perform about as well as they did this season.