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.