2022-23 Conference Previews: Big Ten
With the start of the college season rapidly approaching, the No Ceilings crew preview some of the key conferences and players to watch for the coming season. Up next: The Big Ten.
The college basketball season is rapidly approaching, but we here at No Ceilings have already kicked off our season in style. After releasing our Preseason Guide and new merch in our No Ceilings store, we could have decided to slow down until early November. However, that’s just not how we roll over here. The crew gathered to preview the biggest conferences in college basketball, along with highlighting some potential mid-major stars. Up next: the Big Ten.
1. Ignore “consensus” boards and Twitter groupthink. Who is the best NBA prospect in this conference?
Albert: Jalen Hood-Schifino is going to have a TON of fans by the time the draft rolls around. With 6’6” size and awesome playmaking ability, it’s gonna be hard for front office execs to not freak out while watching him play. I think the shot definitnely needs work, as everyone else has been saying, but he’s good enough from the mid-range to get people believing in the outside shot.
Stephen: This guy got some real buzz last season playing with his now-pro brother. It’s Kris Murray. I love the fact that he knows where to be on both sides of the ball on virtually every play. Offensively, he is a marksman from deep that knows how to attack mismatches. Defensively he plays very sound off the ball. With Keegan in Sacramento now, Kris will get the opportunity to expand his game like his brother did last year. It’s in his blood!
Maxwell: It’s MY GUY, Jalen Hood-Schifino! He’s a special passer, an outstanding point-of-attack defender, and a polished mid-range scorer. He just needs to be respectable from three.
Paige: Jalen-Hood Schifino. JHS was a highly-touted recruit coming from national powerhouse Montverde Academy, and the hype is definitely real. The 6’6” combo guard possesses almost everything you would want in a freshman: playmaking, passing, defense, and scoring versatility. If JHS can improve his shot from behind the arc, I think there’s a real chance he has the potential to be a high lottery pick.
Evan: I truly don’t have a great answer for this question, as I think there are several players who could end up being the best NBA prospect in this conference. I’ll agree with Stephen, though, and also choose Kris Murray for many of the reasons he already laid out. He’s not quite the shot-maker his brother Keegan is, but that doesn’t mean Kris isn’t an intriguing talent in his own right. I’m very interested to see how Murray handles being the focal point for the Hawkeyes this season, especially on the offensive end of the floor.
Nathan: Jalen Hood-Schifino is the answer to this question. He’s a lead guard at 6’6” with plus length, excellent passing vision, and pick-and-roll capability. A slithery finisher around the rim, growing pull-up shooter, and TENACIOUS defender, JHS has all of the skills to rise up boards in a hurry and challenge fairly high in this class so long as his three-point shooting continues to progress.
Corey: The combination of size, playmaking, pace, and defensive switchability makes Jalen Hood-Schifino a name to look out for in the Big Ten. Hood-Schifino ran the Montverde offense to perfection and was the perfect backcourt partner to complement Dariq Whitehead. There are questions surrounding Hood-Schifino’s shooting, but he’s displayed good touch in the mid-range and only needs slight functional tweaks and the confidence to let it fly to really make a jump as a shooter. The point guard spot is absolutely loaded at the next level, but Hood-Schifino has all the tools of a modern NBA starting point guard. Expect the Hood-Schifino hype to build early.
Rucker: I got to give my podcast co-host Tyler Metcalf some love with this one. I’m finding myself drinking the Kool-Aid when it comes to Jett Howard. While there are going to be plenty of Jalen Hood-Schifino fans around here, Jett Howard has my intrigue for the upcoming season. The size and tools have the potential to get scouts in their feelings early.
Metcalf: Jett Howard. Size, shooting, on-ball defense. What else do you want from a 6’8” freshman?
Nick: Jalen Hood-Schifino. His playmaking chops, defensive intensity, and shifty offensive game will shine through in Big Ten play, and he’ll be able to put up box score numbers while also passing the eye test. If he can pair his consistency from the mid-range with improved outside touch, he could easily be a lottery prospect by the end of the season.
2. Admittedly, one of the most satisfying parts of analyzing the draft is being able to look back and say “psh, about time you guys took notice of him. I’ve been hyping him up for ages.” Who is the prospect that you are irrationally high on?
Albert: I remember watching Trayce Jackson-Davis on television while in Vegas for the Pac-12 championship last season with Tyler Rucker. Rucker talked my ear off about him for a cool 10 minutes; since then, I’ve been a believer. I don’t think he has a single elite skill, but he does have some elite effort. The man just goes around trying to destroy things, and that can be perceived by evaluators as a skill. He is a little undersized and will have to continue to show growth in all areas of his game, but I like betting on guys that care as much as he does.
Stephen: Trayce Jackson-Davis! I know he’s been a jumper away from being drafted for a couple of years now, but I truly believe this is the year that he’ll finally be interested in doing so. His switchability on defense is something that the league will value. He is a glass eater supreme that also deters drives to the basket. Adding that jumper will be vital to his stock, and he knows it. I believe, Trayce!
Maxwell: The Illini’s Coleman Hawkins! He’s a great passer at 6’10” who can guard multiple positions. If his three-point shot takes another step forward, he’ll have everything NBA teams look for in a modern big man.
Paige: Michigan State’s AJ Hoggard. Not only does Hoggard play for my alma mater (Go Green), but I’m expecting him to have a HUGE year for my Spartans with there not really being “the guy” on the team that puts up 20+ points per game. He averaged 7.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, and 4.8 APG last season. If Hoggard can come anywhere between the 15, five, and five range, things are going to get real spooky in East Lansing and among draft discussions.
Evan: Brice Sensabaugh. Ohio State’s roster is loaded this season with talented freshmen prospects, but none of them excite me as much as Sensabaugh. The 6’6”, 235-pound swingman is a bonafide bucket. He should be one of the more talented scores and shotmakers in the conference. I won’t be shocked if he leads the Buckeyes in scoring this year and ends up as a one-and-done.
Nathan: I think Caleb Furst has a chance to break out in a big way for Purdue. The 6’10” sophomore is coming into this year on a high note despite a more limited role with Jaden Ivey and Trevion Williams commanding the usage within the offense. Furst was the only high-major freshman last year to put up a 50/40/70 slash line and score at least 100 points. Building on his perimeter game, continuing to hunt for offensive rebounds, and improving his help defense could propel him into draft conversations if everything breaks right.
Corey: RJ Melendez from Illinois is super intriguing! Melendez didn’t have a huge role for the Illni last season, but when he got minutes, he flashed all the tools that NBA teams want to see. At 6’7” and 205 pounds, Melendez has consummate wing size to go along with a smooth stroke and the makings of a versatile floor game. Every NBA team is looking for two-way shooters with size, so Melendez is an easy sell, but he’s going to have to show out in bigger minutes for scouts to buy in. My stock is already purchased.
Rucker: I don’t care if he’s a potential National Player of the Year…I absolutely love Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis. The upperclassmen might not have the upside as some of the other prospects in the 2023 class, but TJD has an ABSOLUTE role at the NBA level. He’s got a desire to cause chaos around the basket, and he should be in line for another big season.
Metcalf: Roddy Gayle is my top pick to be this year’s surprising one-and-done. I expect to see a Branham-esque emergence from Gayle this season as he steadily takes over this Ohio State team.
Nick: I think that Kris Murray will really turn heads as a prospect this season. He showed serious two-way potential when he got on the court during his first two years at Iowa, and his twin brother Keegan’s departure for the NBA and the Sacramento Kings will free Kris up to blossom this season. He might be on the fringes of the first round now, but I fully expect him to solidify that status this season–and maybe even make a push for the top of the draft like his brother just did.
3. Unfortunately, there are two sides to that coin, and they do not have equal probabilities. Which prospect do you like but think has the most likely chance of failing to meet expectations?
Albert: Kris Murray is going to be my answer. I actually liked a lot of what I saw from him last season playing alongside his brother. The issue with Murray is that I don’t think he’s going to make the leap that his brother made last season, and I think people may be expecting that type of leap. I’ve always been a fan of lefties, but I don’t know if I’m going to be a huge fan of Murray. I think he’s stiffer than his brother, not as good of a shooter, and thought there was a general awkwardness to his game and takes last season. If he comes out with more alpha to his game, I may end up changing my answer; for now, though, I think he will be the lesser Murray brother. I’m talking about his basketball skills, of course–no indictment of his character here. I’m sure he’s very nice.
Stephen: I know someone on the No Ceilings team isn’t gonna like this, but it’s Matthew Mayer. It’s always easy to fall in love with a Forward that can shoot, but Mayer just has not shown to be a good decision-maker in college. He’s a bit of a chucker. At Baylor, it seemed like he felt he had to shoot when he touched the ball because of the egalitarian style of play. The transfer to Illinois seems to have solidified that line of thinking. Sure, he’ll get a chance to shoot. But is that going to help?
Maxwell: Look, I really like AJ Hoggard. I noted him as a multi-year player to watch last season. But it seems like a lot of folks are hopping on his bandwagon, and I’m still not confident that he can be a reliable shooter from the outside or at the free-throw line.
Paige: Purdue’s Zach Edey. Yes, Edey is a GIANT at 7’4”, and of course, there is intrigue with any prospect with that size, but he doesn’t have enough versatility to his game to be a threat at the NBA level. If Edey somehow starts making it rain from three-point land, or even more from the mid-range, then I could see the idea of him being an NBA-level big. Barring that, especially given his limited athleticism, I don’t really see Edey having the kind of breakout year he needs to have in front of NBA scouts.
Evan: Given that most of my comrades view him as the best pro prospect in the Big Ten this year, my answer to this has to be Indiana freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino. Don’t get me wrong, I think the kid is talented, but I walked away from his film at Montverde much less impressed and convinced of his NBA potential than the majority here. He’s far more flawed offensively, in my opinion, especially with his current shooting ability, and I’m very curious to see if he can justify the preseason lottery hype he’s getting.
Nathan: I get Zach Edey’s appeal at his ridiculous size. The NBA doesn’t have many 7’4” guys with his offensive potential just walking through every team’s door. But how many minutes will he actually play at the next level? How many minutes CAN he play if he can’t stay out of foul trouble? Will there ever be more development on extending his range out past the paint with the touch he’s shown on certain hooks and runners? A throwback post-up big with slow feet and very little range isn’t the direction the NBA is going, so I’ll say Edey remains out of the Top 60 conversation after this season concludes.
Corey: With no Big Ten prospect currently ranked as a consensus first round guy, it’s going to be hard for a player to really fail to meet expectations. If I have to pick, I’d have to go with Terrance Shannon Jr. He is a fantastic athlete and has the look of an NBA rotation wing, but there are still questions about his shooting consistency and whether or not he has enough ancillary NBA-level skills to fill that role. Illinois has a loaded roster and should win a ton of games, so he’ll certainly have the stage to show whether or not he can take the next step.
Rucker: I like where Stephen’s head is during this preview. I’m also going with Matthew Mayer. He’s going to be an exciting transfer coming from Baylor and Mayer has been a Draft twitter darling over the years. He’s got to become more consistent, especially if he’s going to carry the “shooter” tag. He will need a big year if he’s going to convince scouts that he’s flipped the switch.
Metcalf: Jaden Akins is tremendously fun, but if the shot doesn’t improve, I’m not sure declaring for the draft would make sense. He’s an excellent defender and has legitimate upside, but his lack of exceptional size makes a shooting improvement imperative to his NBA projection.
Nick: I think I believe in Zach Edey more than most of the rest of the No Ceilings crew, but I still think he’s the answer here. If he gets more minutes in the wake of the departure of Trevion Williams for the NBA, will Edey be able to stay on the court? Will he be able to stay out of foul trouble or avoid being blown by if forced to cover in space? I genuinely believe that there’s a role in the NBA for Edey as a deep-bench offensive weapon, but I worry about how he might look in expanded minutes–and how his draft stock might fall if he can’t handle a larger role.
4. The shiny new thing is always the most enticing to go after, but there is always a ton of value in older prospects. Based on their previous college seasons, which returning player are you most excited to watch and has the best NBA potential?
Albert: I’m going to go with Terrence Shannon Jr., a transfer from Texas Tech. I think Shannon may benefit from playing at Illinois with fellow transfer Matthew Mayer and incoming freshman Skyy Clark. Shannon has always been an aggressive guard with two-way potential. I know he had a rough end to his season last year, but a change of scenery may benefit him.
Stephen: I love me some Mason Gillis! I honestly think that he and Caleb Furst can really hurt opposing Frontcourts if they share the floor together on a regular basis. Gillis has NBA size and such a pretty shot. I think he’ll be a solid defender as well. I get that having a dinosaur like Edey on your team is a (excuse my phrasing) huge advantage, but so is spacing. Everyone loves geometry.
Maxwell: Kris Murray. He’s not the sexiest player, but he has size, he can shoot, he can finish at the rim, and he can comfortably guard a few positions. He has NBA role player written all over him, in a good way. Winning teams have players like Kris Murray.
Paige: Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis. TJD is such a powerful player who changes the game with his energy and intensity, which I love. Yes, he has a solid post-up game and is a threat in the mid-range, but he needs to expand his game to make it as a big man in the NBA. I think his intensity as a player will make more of a case for him getting a job in the NBA, but I’m very intrigued to see if TJD can expand his game and stretch the floor more this year.
Evan: I would also go with Kris Murray for my answer here, but for the sake of not being redundant, I’ll choose Minnesota’s Ta’Lon Cooper. The Morehead State transfer is a vastly undervalued guard prospect who can contribute on both ends of the floor. He’s a conductor in the pick-and-roll game, can shoot it from deep, and is just a stat sheet stuffer. I look forward to seeing him lead the Golden Gophers this season.
Nathan: Kris Murray is my answer to this question. I made a case for him on a recent Draft Deeper episode that he is NOT his brother, but he could still come into the NBA playing a ready-made role. A capable line-drive finisher, legitimate three-point shooter, particularly off the catch and from the corners, solid rebounder, and improving defender all add up to a real player at 6’8”. He’s on the older side for his class, as was Keegan, but Kris has the tools to break out at Iowa and thrust himself into first round conversations.
Corey: I don’t believe that Kris Murray is going to explode on the Draft scene in quite the same way that his brother did last season, but I think that he has a pretty clear path to developing into an NBA rotation guy. There’s a world in which Kris shows more of an off-the-bounce game with an expanded role in the absence of Keegan, but I believe he’s more likely to continue to build off the skills he’s already good at as an all-around contributor from the wing that can do a bit of everything. He may not be exciting in the typical sense, like, say, the Thompson twins are exciting, but I love fundamentally sound hoopers that just go about their business and do smart basketball things.
Rucker: If anyone thought I wasn’t going to use the chance to give some love to Keegan Murray’s brother, then you must not know me. On a serious note, Kris Murray is going to be a fascinating talent to monitor closely this year. If his game can take another step in the right direction developmentally, Murray could be a riser in the scouting world.
Metcalf: I know I’m going to come off as a homer here, but it wouldn’t be shocking if Hunter Dickinson works his way into the first round. Last season, Dickinson proved he was a viable threat from outside, and he’s one of the best passing centers in the country. He has to show that he can move a little more fluidly on defense, but the offensive tools are there.
Nick: Since I’ve already given Kris Murray as an answer, I’ll go with Trayce Jackson-Davis for this one. He’s been an enigma to evaluate, and I’ll fully admit that I’ve changed my mind about him multiple times over the course of his college career, but the best version of TJD is the best returning prospect in my mind barring Murray.
5. Whether it’s Anthony Edwards dropping 37 points against Michigan State or Austin Rivers ripping the heart out of UNC fans, or De’Aaron Fox vs. Lonzo Ball, fans are provided with mesmerizing matchups and performances every season. Which matchup, whether team vs. team, player vs. player, or player vs. team, are you most looking forward to?
Albert: Give me Illinois and Indiana. I like the matchup between Jalen Hood-Schfino against Shannon Jr. and Skyy Clark. This should be a fun matchup with some potential NBA guys.
Stephen: I love the potential of the matchup between Indiana and Iowa. I think the battle of both of those Front Courts will leave NBA front offices with a little more of an understanding in how those prospects look against higher levels of competition. It’s matchups like these that can help a scout establish a pecking order in players Hood-Schfino, Jackson-Davis, and Murray.
Maxwell: I want to see how Jalen Hood-Schifino looks with Terrence Shannon Jr. getting up in his business. Conversely, I want to see how Shannon looks in a new setting, and a great test for him would be proving he can generate offense against a defender like JHS.
Paige: Michigan State vs. Indiana. I’m really looking forward to how Hoggard and Akins square up against Jalen Hood-Schfino as well as another IU touted freshman, Malik Reneau. Another matchup that I’ll be paying close attention to is how MSU’s frontcourt handles Trayce Jackson-Davis. Combined, junior Mady Sissoko and true freshman Jaxon Kohler have played less than 300 minutes of college basketball. However, I expect Jaxon Kohler to really develop at center/power forward for MSU as the season progresses, and this matchup with TJD will only help him in his development.
Evan: Illinois vs. Ohio State. I’m probably most interested in watching these two teams play this season, because of the entire Big Ten conference, they’ve got the most interesting pro prospects in my opinion. It’s that simple for me, personally.
Nathan: Michigan-Michigan State. I can pick out matchups with some of my other favorite prospects in this class, but Michigan has Jett Howard, who could end up as a real riser in the 2023 draft class depending on how his year goes. The Spartans have plenty of wings and tough guards to throw at someone like Howard, so I’ll be curious to see how he performs against one of the best programs in the country, not to mention it’s a heated rivalry. Hunter Dickinson could also put himself on the map as a draftable prospect, and Jaden Akins, along with Kobe Bufkin, are two guards I’ll be paying attention to on opposite sides. AJ Hoggard could be a real wild card in the draft conversation if he builds on the progress he made last year offensively.
Corey: As per usual, I’ll be in attendance for many Rutgers home games, so I’m most excited for Indiana vs. Rutgers, as I’ll get a chance to get an up-close look at Jalen Hood-Schifino who, as noted above, I feel can really explode as an NBA prospect during this draft cycle.
Rucker: Michigan Wolverines vs. Indiana Hoosiers. That game might not have potential Top 10 picks, but it will be a barfight of guys who can definitely play at the next level.
Metcalf: Michigan vs. Indiana. This matchup should have the most NBA talent in it, and I expect both these teams to be in the running for the Big Ten title.
Nick: Indiana vs. Iowa. I’m pretty sure heading into the year that Jalen Hood-Schifino and Kris Murray will be my favorite prospects to watch in the Big Ten, and Trayce Jackson-Davis has fascinated and confused me for a while now. It’ll be interesting to see how those two teams line up against each other.