You can see the "official" selections here, but we thought we'd honor our own Big Ten Geeks All-Freshman team as well (numbers are for conference games only):
Mullens came into Columbus bearing huge expectations (#8 RSCI), but got off to a bit of a muted start, scoring in double figures just twice in his first 12 games and shooting a mortal 53% from the field. Once the calendar turned to 2009, however, the athletic big man figured out that dunks usually go in and proceeded to assault rims across the midwest. For the conference season, Mullens shot 70% from the field, which in itself makes you an efficient scorer even if you can't hit free throws (49%) and have a turnover problem (23.0 TO Rate). Mullens was also Ohio State's best rebounder by a longshot (13.6 OR%, 19.5 DR%) and was the conference's 7th best shotblocker (6.5 Block%). This may not have been quite the freshman season that was expected of Mullens, but it's a good one by any measure.
William Buford - BTG Freshman of the Year
Another highly touted Buckeye (#12 RSCI) that took a little time to get comfortable, Buford was a superb offensive weapon on the wing, shooting 50% from two and 35% from three in conference play. When David Lighty went down, Buford soaked up the extra minutes and provided an instant upgrade on the offensive end (on the defensive end, not so much). The one disappointment with Buford's offensive game is his inability to get to the line - he earned only 23 free throw attempts during the entire Big Ten season (making all but one), and a guy of his size and athleticism should be able to add that dimension. Assuming he's back next year, I expect he'll improve in this area and really terrorize defenses, as long as he doesn't go all E'Twaun Moore on us.
Tired of seeing guys from the state of Ohio yet? Roe lost his senior season of high school to knee surgery, leaving him unable to practice at full-speed until the nonconference season had already started. As he rounded into form, Roe proved himself not only a capable scorer, but, more importantly, an absolute monster on the glass. He was the Big Ten's second best offensive rebounder (behind only Minnesota's Paul Carter) and was sixth in the conference in DR% (which, amazingly, put him only third-best on his own team). Roe also swatted away 5.5% of Big Ten opponent's twos while on the floor. If Kalin Lucas and Roe both stick around, Michigan State will be well on their way to another championship run next season.**
The expectations for Gatens weren't quite as high as the previous players on this list (#89 RSCI), but he may have been more important to his team than any other Big Ten freshman. Gatens was an ironman, starting all 18 conference games and playing 89.1% of the available minutes. More impressive is the efficiency with which he played all those minutes - Gatens posted a eFG% of 50.9, while keeping his turnover rate to a low 13.4. He shot 36% from downtown, and was the conference's second-best foul shooter (87.3%). Gatens seems to be a perfect fit for Todd Lickliter's offense, and I expect he'll be a big part of Iowa's resurgence in the next year or two.**
Ralph Sampson III**
Like Delvon Roe, Sampson wasn't especially aggressive offensively, but he did put up a nice efficiency in his smaller role. Sampson's biggest contributions to his team's success occurred in the paint on the other end of the court - his Block% of 7.1 was sixth in the conference and second among freshmen (slightly behind teammate Colton Iverson). Consider that Minnesota won with their defense, and their defense was driven by two things - turnovers and limiting 2-point FG%. The 2-point portion of that formula is where Sampson came in (along with Iverson and Damian Johnson). Sampson was also solid on the glass (8.4/15.9 OR/DR) for a team that needed it.
Purdue fans will surely make note of our sole difference from the official selections - Ralph Sampson over Lewis Jackson. We realize that Jackson played meaningful minutes for a good team, and that in itself is worthy of recognition, but the individual numbers just aren't there for Jackson. His offensive contribution (92.9 ORtg, 18.8 Shot%) puts him pretty far behind these other freshmen, and his defense (while good) doesn't quite make up that ground for us. Jackson does have his offensive positives, but they're all matched by corresponding negatives - he's a great distributor, with the conference's third best assist rate (30.2), but he also had a huge turnover problem (27.6 TO Rate). He amazingly shot pretty well from two-point range (48%), but hit just 6 for 20 (30%) from downtown and rarely got to the foul line. It's tough for a 5'9'' guy to be a great player when he can't shoot outside, so that will be the challenge for Jackson going forward. His defense and penetration will continue to be weapons for Purdue.
Other notables include:**
Matt Roth* - The sharpshooter did one thing and did it well, hitting 38% from downtown. Now if only he played for Todd Lickliter.*
Luka Mirkovic* - An under-the-radar performer that was solid offensively (118.5 ORtg, 14.5 Shot%) and provided an inside presence for Northwestern (7.3/17.6 OR/DR%, 3.6 Block%). The most impressive thing about this big man is his passing - 18.7 Assist Rate vs 15.2 TO Rate. Put in more conventional terms, he had a 2.4 Assist-to-Turnover ratio, good for 5th in the conference. I expect Mirkovic to be a part of an NCAA Tournament team before he's done at Northwestern.*
Zack Novak** - Put up a nice efficiency (109.8 ORtg) in a smallish role (14.1 Shot%), and even contributed a bit on the glass. Fits the Beilein system perfectly.
There's quite a few other guys who showed promise in their freshmen campaigns - John Shurna, Nick Williams, Verdell Jones, Stu Douglass, Devoe Joseph, Tom Pritchard, Colton Iverson... when combined with the excellent sophomore class, it appears the conference is in good hands for years to come.