Big Men of the Big Ten

Besides a slow pace, another stereotype of the Big 10 is that it's a breeding ground for post players, and not exactly guard-friendly. I'm not sure that actually was the case - plenty of great guards hail from the Big 10 - but I know it's unlikely to be the case this year. Most of the best post players from a season ago have moved on, and I don't see a heck of a lot of elite PFs to take their places. Consider that the following post players are no more:

  • DJ White
  • Brian Butch
  • Shaun Pruitt
  • Greg Steimsma
  • Kosta Koufos
  • Othello Hunter
  • Brian Randle
  • Dan Coleman
  • Geary Claxton (I know, we didn't get much of a conference season from him, unfortunately)
  • Ekpe Udoh
    And keep in mind that I've only put the most effective big men on this list. Just about all of these guys were exceptional players, or at least very exceptional in one specific area (such as Udoh's unreal 11.4 in-conference Block%). This year, I just don't see nearly as many elite tall talents. Here are the top returning defensive rebounders (omitting the super small sample size miracles):
  1. Marquise Gray (27.3)
  2. Goran Suton (24.5)
  3. Ivan Peljusic (20.3)
  4. Cyrus Tate (19.0)
  5. Dallas Lauderdale (19.0)
    At first glance, this list is nothing to sneeze at, as all of these are impressive rates. But let's take a few things into account. First, Gray's on-court time was limited (30.2 Min%), likely because he can't help turning it over (TO Rate of 31.0). He's had this problem his entire, frustrating career, and I don't see it going away now. Second, Peljusic also played in limited minutes (24.8% Min%), likely because he couldn't shoot (41.0 eFG). Now, that might actually change. He's 6-8 after all, and was a freshman last season, so we can expect big gains as he gets acclimated to the college game. But does that DReb% really make sense for a guy with a 0.8% OReb%? Personally, I have my doubts. Lauderdale also saw limited action (13.1% Min%), because his TO Rate (37.5%) makes Gray look like Drew Neitzel. Now, he was a freshman, and did a lot of other things very well, so it's possible he can get this fixed. But I think it's reasonable to express some doubt here.

Now, what if take those guys out of the equation?

  1. Goran Suton (24.5)

  2. Cyrus Tate (19.0)

  3. Mike Davis (18.8)

  4. Mike Capocci (18.0)

  5. Joe Krabbenhoft (17.5)
    Still not bad, but not very intimidating either. And still, guys here have issues - Capocci has TO problems (29.4), and it appears that Davis has hardly locked down his spot. What if we limit the list to the guys with at least a 50% Min% in conference?

  6. Goran Suton (24.5)

  7. Cyrus Tate (19.0)

  8. Joe Krabbenhoft (17.5)

  9. Kevin Coble (17.3)

  10. Anthony Wright (16.3)
    Ladies and gentlemen - your top returning "post" players, featuring 2 guys who devoted 1/3 or more of their shots last season to three pointers. Now, to be fair, incoming C BJ Mullens and PF Devlon Roe will almost certainly be elite talents in the league. Suton and Tate figure to be formidable as well. Krabbenhoft is a nifty player, but he's not someone who lives on the block. So there's really only a handful of solid big men this year in the Big 10. There are a couple of takeaways I can imagine:

  • The pace of the conference might increase a tick (though that's a guess on my part at this point).
  • MSU, who lost only Naymick off their front line (and bring in the aforementioned Roe), will be a matchup problem for virtually every team in the conference.
  • If your team is a bit thin on the interior, well, that's not as big of a problem as it would have been a year ago.

I firmly believe this is the Year of the Guard in the Big Ten. Next up, we'll look at who those guards will be...

[Ed. note: As a commenter pointed out, I missed Jamelle Cornley. This was not due to his size, but rather my lack of mastery over a spreadsheet. Cornley returns an 18.5 conference DReb% to Penn State, and indeed figures to be one of the top returning big men in the Big 10. I apologize for the error.]