By all accounts, this is the year of the freshmen. Not since the 2007-08 class of Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, Michael Beasley and Kevin Love has an incoming rookie class had this much talent. Players like Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon are expected to dominate college basketball for one year and then bolt for the NBA as lottery picks. Unfortunately for Big Ten fans, none of these top recruits chose one of its 12 schools as their destination. However, this doesn’t mean the conference is devoid of incoming talent. According to RSCIhoops.com, 13 of the top 100 recruits entering college basketball will play in the Big Ten but only one freshman stands out from the rest. Noah Vonleh, the conference’s highest ranked recruit at #8, is a big man from New Hampshire who will play for Indiana. He, perhaps not coincidentally, is the most prepared freshman to have immediate success in the rugged Big Ten.
Vonleh gives the Hoosiers something they’ve lacked since DJ White was in crimson and cream — a physical, back-to-the-basket big man with pro talent. Though he only recently turned 18 years old, the 6’9″, 240-pound Vonleh already has a Big Ten body — add a 7’5″ wingspan to his size, and you realize that he is plenty big, long and strong. He’ll need all of these tools when conference play begins in order to handle the physical play of the Big Ten. He will need to get acclimated quickly to begin to replace what they lost in the frontcourt. Last year’s trio of Cody Zeller, Christian Watford, and Victor Oladipo contributed 47.4 PPG and 20.6 RPG — a rather tall order for the freshman and his colleagues. It could take a while — as a case in point, last year’s best freshman big man, Michigan’ s Mitch McGrary, didn’t start putting it all together until March.