Big Ten's Top 10 Players
Northwestern is the only major-conference team that's never made the NCAA tournament, and if the Wildcats are to end a 71-year drought, Shurna will undoubtedly play a chief role. The 6-foot-8 wing burst on the scene last season, averaging 18.2 points and 6.4 rebounds. The strange exit of Kevin Coble doesn't hurt as bad as one would think because Shurna basically plays the Coble role, and plays it at a very high level.
With the early exit of Evan Turner, Buford takes on a much bigger role on the perimeter. He is the team's top returning scorer (14.4 ppg) and continues to expand his game with each passing season (putting in valuable work with the USA Select Team this past summer). No longer Turner's sidekick, the junior will need to create his own shots for the first time in his college career.
As one of the more cerebral players in the nation, Green has the ability to facilitate the offense from the elbow as a point forward. Last year's Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year will probably start this season, especially with an improved jump shot that makes him even more versatile. He also dropped 15 pounds in the offseason in a continuing effort to cut his body fat from the 23.75 percent mark that he entered Michigan State with.
As a one-man army on one of the Big Ten's lesser teams, Battle is one of the nation's best-kept secrets. He finished second to Evan Turner in the conference's scoring race last season with 18.5 points per game, scoring 20 or more points 14 times. Not to mention the 6-footer led the team in rebounds (5.3), assists (4.2) and steals (1.1) per game. Penn State hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 2001, but the Nittany Lions have a chance with No. 12 leading the charge.
Born and raised in Columbus, Sullinger decided to stay home for college and attend Ohio State. The beastly, 280-pound forward was a consensus top-five overall recruit and possesses a power post game that should translate very well to the rugged Big Ten. "Big Sully" headlines a six-man freshman class that should mix in well with veterans David Lighty, Jon Diebler, William Buford and Dallas Lauderdale and keep Ohio State at the top of the conference.
Leuer led Wisconsin in scoring (15.4 ppg), rebounding (5.8) and blocks (1.6) last season, but a broken wrist that caused him to miss nine conference games and reduced the national buzz on this highly versatile forward. Leuer is a matchup nightmare for opposing teams; at 6-10, he's a very effective post threat, but he also displays a sweet midrange stroke and shot 39.1 percent from beyond the arc.
McCamey may be the most underrated point guard in America. He's the nation's leading returner in assists per game at 7.1. The first-team All-Big Ten pick also led the Illini in scoring last season with 15.1 points per game, but he needs to provide a more consistent effort in his senior campaign. With McCamey leading the way, this may be Bruce Weber's most talented team since the 2005 national runner-up.
The injury to Robbie Hummel was an enormous hit to Purdue's national title aspirations, but the Boilers still boast some of the nation's top talent, including multi-faceted big man JaJuan Johnson. Johnson flirted with the NBA draft, but decided to withdraw his name to make one more run at the Final Four. He's a steady scoring force in the paint and has steadily extended his shooting range over the years. Defensively, Johnson is a menace, leading the Big Ten in blocks per game (2.0) and averaging a team-high 7.1 rebounds.
Moore has led the Boilermakers in scoring in each of his first three seasons with the program. He's on pace to become the fifth 2,000-point scorer in Purdue history. Moore isn't a bad three-point shooter, but his strength is a silky-smooth midrange game. The senior is also relentless on the defensive end; he has the ability to shut down just about anyone on the perimeter with good length (6-4) and fierce competitiveness.
The senior point guard has been the heart of Tom Izzo's squad for some time now. After earning honorable mention All-Big Ten as a true freshman, Lucas became the conference's player of the year as a sophomore. He struggled with injuries all last season, eventually suffering a ruptured Achilles' tendon in the Spartans' NCAA tournament win over Maryland. This injury put an end to any NBA early-entry thoughts, but it also forced Lucas to endure five months of grueling rehab. It may take him a while to return to 100 percent, but when healthy, Lucas is a triple-threat floor general with extreme comfort in Izzo's system.