With the official start of practice just a few weeks away, UM Hoops and Inside the Hall have partnered to bring you our annual preseason breakdown of the top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2020-2021 season.
15. Ron Harper Jr., Rutgers (6-foot-6, junior, wing)
Harper might not be the most exciting player on Steve Piekell’s roster and he’s not the fan favorite, but he is Rutgers’ best player. At 6-foot-6, 245-pounds, Harper’s size and toughness is the embodiment of what Rutgers basketball is about. He’s a fantastic weapon on the defensive glass, scores efficiently and led the team in 3-point makes and accuracy last season. Harper is also still in the ascendancy of his development. He improved statistically in nearly every category from his freshman to sophomore season and he’s poised to build on that progress as a junior.
14. Joey Hauser, Michigan State (6-foot-9, redshirt junior, forward)
Hauser was one of the most coveted transfers in the country following a successful 2018-19 freshman season at Marquette. In his first road game for the Golden Eagles, he scored 18 points in a loss at Indiana. He went on to start 31 of the team’s 34 games and averaged 9.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
Hauser was a big get for Michigan State because of his ability to stretch the floor. At Marquette, he led the Big East in 3-point shooting percentage in league play at 45.2 percent and shot 42.5 overall from distance for the season. After sitting out last season in East Lansing, Hauser will slide right into the starting lineup for Tom Izzo. Given the departures of Xavier Tillman and Cassius Winston, look for Hauser to assume a heavy scoring burden immediately in his redshirt junior season.
13. Rocket Watts, Michigan State (6-foot-2, sophomore, guard)
No player in the Big Ten has a wider range of possible outcomes in 2020-21. We know that Watts is going to have no shortage of opportunities in the Michigan State backcourt but it is impossible to project how efficient he’ll be as a sophomore.
Is Watts the guy who averaged 17.8 points per game with a 51.9 effective field goal percentage over Michigan State’s final four games last season? Or is he the player who shot 33 percent on twos and 21 percent on threes during the first eight games of the year?
We know that Watts was good enough on defense to earn Tom Izzo’s trust as a freshman and that he’s confident enough on offense to get shots up quickly. We don’t know what Watts will look like without Cassius Winston flanking him in the backcourt and we don’t know if he can and will pass well enough to run the offense.
Watts tallied more than three assists in one Big Ten game last season compared to six games with double-digit shot attempts. Tom Izzo knows how to win with a score-first point guard and Watts could easily be an All-Big Ten First-Teamer if he hits threes and expands his game, but he has a lot of questions to answer first.
12. Nate Reuvers, Wisconsin (6-foot-11, senior, forward)
Reuvers was more of a complementary piece over his first two seasons in Madison, but as a junior, he shifted into a featured offensive piece for the Badgers. The 6-foot-11 forward had the eighth highest usage rate of any Big Ten player in league play last season and he averaged a solid 12 points and four rebounds. He’s an effective floor spacer as he knocked down 35.7 percent of his 3-point attempts in conference play.
But the value of Reuvers doesn’t end with his offense. As a junior, he averaged 1.9 blocks per game and was sixth in the conference in block percentage. On a Wisconsin team that is once again expected to challenge for the Big Ten title, the duo of Reuvers and Micah Potter is one of the nation’s best in the frontcourt.
11. Marcus Carr, Minnesota (6-foot-2, redshirt junior, guard)
Carr wasn’t short on production as a redshirt sophomore. He averaged 15.4 points, 6.7 assists and 5.3 games for the Gophers but will have to adapt to life without Daniel Oturu in 2020-21. Carr is the most productive returning ball screen player in the conference, creating 15.2 points per game out of pick-and-roll actions according to Synergy Sports, and he should have every opportunity to facilitate for a depleted Minnesota roster.
Expectations for Minnesota are the only thing keeping Carr from floating another five spots higher on this list. The Gophers were just 8-12 in the league last year and only won one game against a team other than Northwestern or Nebraska after January 24th. With Oturu off to the NBA, it is tough to imagine a situation where the Gophers improve over last season.