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The 2024 Big Ten men’s basketball All-Stars

Lots and lots of names to choose from.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Seventy-four days have passed since college basketball tipped off on Nov. 6. In 80 days, someone will cut down some nets in Phoenix, Arizona, and two more will be coming down in Cleveland the day before that. The halfway point of the season is quickly approaching.

With that, and NBA All-Star voting in full swing, it’s the perfect time to identify the best players of the most chaotic conference in college basketball. Of course, this accolade doesn’t actually exist, but it’s a fun exercise that I’ll be doing for the men (down below) and the women’s side (on Monday).

For the rosters, I’ll use the basic NBA construction rules: 12 players, with the five starters consisting of two backcourt players and three frontcourt ones. As for the reserves, it’ll be two guards, three forwards/centers and two players from any position. I’ll split the teams into the football Big Ten West and East, which, when the conference standings on the men’s side look like this...

...Could lead to some tough choices. Anyway, here we go. Sound off with your picks in the comments!

Note: Illinois’ Terrence Shannon Jr., who was suspended from all team activities in late December after he was charged with rape, isn’t included here. All stats are as of Jan. 19.

Big Ten West (Coach: Brad Underwood, Illinois)

Starters

G Boo Buie, Northwestern Wildcats

Stats: 4.6 adjusted points over replacement per game (PRPG!), 18.4 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game, 5.1 assists per game, 1.0 steal per game, 2.3 turnovers per game, 45.2% FG%, 35.5% 3PT%, 85.3% FT%, 57% TS% on 35.6 minutes per game

Chances are you’ve watched Buie play. If so, not a lot else needs to be said about how vital he is to Northwestern’s success. He improved on his All-Big Ten First Team showing in 2022-23, which speaks volumes. Almost no one in the conference is as important to their team as Buie is to his. It is mind-blowing — and a testament to No. 0 — that Northwestern is 4-2 in league play after playing Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin and Illinois.

G Braden Smith, Purdue Boilermakers

Stats: 3.9 PRPG!, 12.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 7.1 APG, 1.7 SPG, 2.6 TOPG, 44.7% FG%, 43.5% 3PT%, 78.4 FT%, 54.9% TS% on 31.9 MPG

The biggest reason why Purdue now looks (almost) unbeatable? The significant improvement of its young guards. That’s started with Smith, who has taken leaps on both ends of the floor. He’s looked terrific working off high pick-and-rolls, whether it’s with Zach Edey or Trey Kaufman-Renn.

At first, Smith flashed that prowess with his scoring. Had he continued attacking the hoop at will with his quickness against Northwestern as he did early on, there’s a good chance Purdue would have won that game comfortably. He dropped 27 points against Alabama, and 26 in the following game to beat then-No. 1 Arizona.

While his shot hasn’t fallen at the same clip in Big Ten play, Smith has excelled with his decision-making off the dribble. Even though he shot just 2-of-14 at Indiana, he thrived as a facilitator with nine assists. That followed up an 11-dime showing against Penn State. His three-point shooting has been great, and Smith has been a solid defender. Oh, and he’s only a sophomore.

F Coleman Hawkins, Illinois Fighting Illini

Stats: 3.2 PRPG!, 10.5 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 40.5% FG%, 35.5% 3PT%, 75.8 FT%, 56.6% TS% on 29.5 MPG

Hawkins is Brad Underwood’s joker card. Illinois has played some of its best basketball with the senior as a five who can stretch opposing bigs off the floor. His three-point shooting clip isn’t bad to begin with, but it doesn’t reflect how great he’s been the last few weeks. In Hawkins’ last seven games, he’s shot 18-of-37 from long range. He’s averaged 15 points a contest in his last eight.

It also helps that Hawkins is one of the best defenders in the country. He’s been just as switchable on the defensive end as the offensive one, and has fared well against perimeter players when he’s had to step up in pick-and-rolls. It makes Illinois’ wing-heavy defense even more nightmarish for other teams. Just look at his box score against Michigan.

F Dawson Garcia, Minnesota Golden Gophers

Stats: 3.8 PRPG!, 17.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 45.9% FG%, 20.9% 3PT%, 83.9% FT%, 55.7 TS% on 30.1 MPG

With Jamison Battle transferring to Ohio State, it seemed like Minnesota was easily the worst team in the Big Ten. Yet, the Gophers have held their own in conference play, and Garcia’s offensive output is the primary reason why. He’s notched double figures in every game he’s played more than 10 minutes in.

Garcia went nuclear against Ohio State in December, as he exploded for 36 points in a game that Minnesota somehow lost by 10. Although he missed three weeks after suffering a lower leg injury against Nebraska the following game, the senior has settled back into his groove. He scored 30 points against Iowa, and put up 22 points and nine rebounds in a road loss to Michigan State. It was a close call between Garcia and Iowa’s Ben Krikke for the last forward spot, but it’s pretty admirable that Minnesota is hanging around in January.

C Zach Edey, Purdue Boilermakers

Stats: 6.7 PRPG!, 22.9 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, 2.2 BPG, 62.7% FG%, 75.6% FT%, 67.4% TS% on 29.4 MPG

He’s 7-foot-4, and he’s pretty good at basketball. Chris Collins compared him to Tim Duncan, which was cool.

Reserves

G Marcus Domask, Illinois Fighting Illini

Stats: 3.4 PRPG!, 14.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.2 APG, 0.3 SPG, 2.3 TOPG, 44.4% FG%, 23.5% 3PT%, 90.3% FT%, 54.1% TS% on 32.4 MPG

If Hawkins is Underwood’s joker, then Domask is his ace of spades. He does an incredible job at utilizing his 6-foot-6, 215-pound frame to bully smaller defenders and confuse helping ones. He put that on full display against Northwestern, who he torched for 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field. Domask almost led the Illini to a comeback win over Purdue in West Lafayette, and he dropped 33 in a December win at Madison Square Garden over Florida Atlantic. Many expected Illinois to collapse when Shannon was suspended in late December, but the Southern Illinois transfer hasn’t missed a beat as his team’s new primary scorer.

G AJ Storr, Wisconsin Badgers

Stats: 3.4 PRPG!, 15.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.5 TOPG, 44.6% FG%, 32.3% 3PT%, 84.7% FT%, 53.9 TS% on 26.4 MPG

Storr has been an incredibly consistent scorer for the conference leaders. As Wisconsin’s No. 1 option, the 6-foot-7 sophomore is great at attacking the paint from the wing. Like Domask, he does a terrific job at wreaking havoc in the post with his size while creating for himself at the other two levels. It’s the Year of the Portal in the Big Ten, and the St. John’s transfer’s growth is a huge reason why Wisconsin is sitting at the top of the conference right now.

F Steven Crowl, Wisconsin Badgers

Stats: 4.7 PRPG!, 12.0 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.6 BPG, 58.6% FG%, 54.5% 3PT%, 70.6% FT%, 64.9% TS% on 28.8 MPG

Crowl is pretty much doing exactly what he did last year: providing low-post scoring, rebounding, floor-stretching and solid defense. The difference is that Wisconsin is much more threatening from the perimeter than it was last year, which has taken attention off the big man. An underrated part of Crowl’s game is his ability to avoid foul trouble, as he’s only picked up four fouls in a game once since Dec. 1. For the Badgers, who play at a slow place dependent on rebounding, that’s been critical.

F Ben Krikke, Iowa Hawkeyes

Stats: 4.1 PRPG!, 16.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 59.5% FG%, 45.5% 3PT% (on 0.6 attempts per game), 73.7% FT%, 63.5% TS% on 28.6 MPG

Krikke has contributed a ton on the offensive end. The Valparaiso grad transfer has filled the scoring void that Kris Murray left behind, keeping Fran McCaffery’s high-octane offense flying. Krikke’s midrange touch has been terrific, too. Although he has lots of room to improve as a defender, the big man played a critical role in each of Iowa’s wins over Nebraska, Rutgers and Minnesota, and that deserves some credit.

F Brooks Barnhizer, Northwestern Wildcats

Stats: 2.9 PRPG!, 13.9 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 42.9% FG%, 32% 3PT%, 74.7% FT%, 52.1% TS% on 35.5 MPG

Barnhizer’s defense puts him over the top. After a rough December, he’s been Northwestern’s best defender in Big Ten play. Per Barttorvik, No. 13 is worth 4.3 defensive PRPG!, which is the seventh-highest mark of anyone in the Big Ten (and that metric might be skewed against him, as point guards like Smith and Jahmir Young have higher marks due to great interior defense behind them).

The junior has excelled at jumping passing lanes once the ball enters the post, and he put that on full display against Maryland. He’s been tasked with guarding players of all types of sizes, and has more than held his own. Barnhizer has also become a more consistent scorer; he’s averaging just under 17 points a contest on a 53.8% shooting clip over his last four games.

F Rienk Mast, Nebraska Cornhuskers

Stats: 3.3 PRPG!, 12.8 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.8 APG, 0.4 SPG, 44% FG%, 30.4% 3PT%, 80.5% FT%, 52.5% TS% on 30.1 MPG

If you can stop Zach Edey, you deserve to be here. Mast dominated against Kansas State and Purdue, and played well against Wisconsin.

F Owen Freeman, Iowa Hawkeyes

Stats: 2.8 PRPG!, 11.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 0.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.8 BPG, 66.7% FG%, 64.7% FT%, 66.9% TS% on 19.2 MPG

The star freshman’s minutes have ticked upward now that Big Ten play is in full swing, and it’s paid major dividends. Freeman has notched double figures in each of his five games, and he’s been a force down low. He torched Nebraska for 22 points and 10 rebounds last week in Iowa’s blowout victory over the Huskers. He’s a major reason why the Hawkeyes are on a three-game win streak. Freeman is the Big Ten Freshman of the Year favorite right now, and he should only get more buzz as he gets more touches.

Honorable Mentions: Tyler Wahl (Wisconsin), Brice Williams (Nebraska), Payton Sandfort (Iowa), Keisei Tominaga (Nebraska), Quincy Guerrier (Illinois), Ty Berry (Northwestern)

Big Ten East (Coach: Mike Woodson, Indiana)

It was between Woodson and Ohio State’s Chris Holtmann. Yes, this is incredibly funny.

Starters

G Jahmir Young, Maryland Terrapins

Stats: 4.8 PRPG!, 20.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.5 SPG, 2.8 TOPG, 43.7% FG%, 32.6% 3PT%, 89.5% FT%, 57.4% TS% on 34.1 MPG

I mean, did you watch him play at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Wednesday? The most absurd part of Young’s 36-point game was that it wasn’t even his season-high. He erupted for 37 of Maryland’s 69 points on 13-of-19 shooting in a December win over UCLA. The rest of the team shot 7-of-29.

A few weeks later, he played all 40 minutes at Champaign and backpacked the Terps with 28 points in a 76-67 road upset over No. 10 Illinois. Maryland might be the most disappointing team in the Big Ten thus far, but Young is the reason why it isn’t disastrous. He’s dropped 20 points in every conference clash but one. It’s very close with all of the guard talent, but one could easily argue that Young is the third-best player in the Big Ten right now behind Edey and...

G Tyson Walker, Michigan State Spartans

Stats: 4.5 PRPG!, 19.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.4 TOPG, 48.2% FG%, 39.3% 3PT%, 71.4 FT%, 57.5% TS% on 31.1 MPG

It’s difficult to overstate Walker’s two-way impact. With one of the non-conference harder schedules in the country, the senior has managed to eclipse the 12-point threshold in every single game this season. Walker shredded a then-undefeated No. 6 Baylor team in December, going for 25 points to the tune of a 24-point blowout. The MSU star is incredible at creating for himself and others, even when the perimeter shooting around him has been inconsistent.

On the other end, Walker constantly gets his hands in passing lanes. Only five players in the conference average more steals than he does, and the Spartans don’t play especially fast. He’s kept Michigan State afloat amid some early struggles, and he hasn’t slowed at all in Big Ten play.

F Jamison Battle, Ohio State Buckeyes

Stats: 3.6 PRPG!, 14.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.4 SPG, 46.1% FG%, 44.4% 3PT% (on 6.9 attempts a game!!), 90.9% FT%, 61% TS% on 30.8 MPG

Battle has been a fantastic add for the Buckeyes. He is comfortably the best shooter in the conference right now, and went 11 straight games dropping 12 points or more before a rough game against Michigan on Monday. Battle only shot under 40% during that stretch once. He’s led the way in both of OSU’s Big Ten wins, dropping 25 and 22 against Minnesota and Rutgers, respectively. If he keeps it up, the Minnesota transfer should warrant some All-Big Ten First Team consideration.

F Olivier Nkamhoua, Michigan Wolverines

Stats: 4.0 PRPG!, 17 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 53.5% FG%, 37.5% 3PT%, 69.2% FT%, 60.3% TS% on 33.9 MPG

It was either Indiana’s Malik Reneau or Nkamhoua here, and the latter has been one of the most consistent offensive players in the entire country. He’s scored double digits and has shot north of 40% in every game but one. The Tennessee transfer has vastly improved at stretching the floor, too. His three-point attempt average went up from 1.5 a game in Knoxville last year to 3.6 in Ann Arbor, and his shooting clip has improved along with it. Nkamhoua’s been the beacon of consistency for a Michigan team that’s as inconsistent as any in the Power Six.

C Kel’el Ware, Indiana Hoosiers

Stats: 3.4 PRPG!, 14.2 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 54.5% FG%, 41.7% 3PT%, 67.6% FT%, 60.1% TS% on 30.8 MPG

Ware is a really great rebounder, even relative to others his size. He snared 17 boards against Rutgers, and 14 against Minnesota to rack up consecutive double-doubles. The big man has also begun to flash his potential to stretch the floor, knocking down five of his seven threes in the last three games he’s played.

Frankly, I haven’t watched enough Indiana basketball to say a lot about Ware’s defense, but his defensive rebounding numbers look pretty good from looking at advanced stats and box scores. Outside of Nkamhoua, he’s probably the best big in the Big Ten East. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares tonight against Crowl in Madison.

Reserves

G Bruce Thornton, Ohio State Buckeyes

Stats: 5.1 PRPG!, 16.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.9 TOPG, 42.6% FG%, 33% 3PT%, 81.4 FT%, 55.5% TS% on 32.9 MPG

Without positional restrictions, Thornton would easily be a starter here. As Roddy Gayle has become extremely inefficient, Ohio State’s floor general has been relatively steady. He erupted for 29 points in the Buckeyes’ December victory over Alabama, and his 26 points led the Buckeyes to their win over Minnesota. With the exception of the Indiana loss, in which Thornton shot 4-of-17, he’s been an elite guard on both ends of the floor.

The most impressive part of Thornton’s game, though? His ball security. No one in the conference who has played more than half their team’s minutes has a higher assist-to-turnover ratio than Thornton. His mark of 4.4 is fifth in the entire country when taking that minutes threshold into account.

G Kanye Clary, Penn State Nittany Lions

Stats: 3.9 PRPG!, 19.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, 2.1 TOPG, 48.5% FG%, 36.8% 3PT%, 82.7% FT%, 57.6% TS% on 31.2 MPG

Most thought it’d be Ace Baldwin Jr. leading the way. While Baldwin has done so on the defensive end, Clary has taken a gigantic leap on offense to become Penn State’s primary option. His 27 points against Wisconsin handed the Badgers their only Big Ten loss, and he dropped 25 against Northwestern and Maryland on shooting north of 45%. Clary hasn’t scored fewer than 16 points in a game since Dec. 2!

F Malik Reneau, Indiana Hoosiers

Stats: 3.1 PRPG!, 15.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 57.3 FG%, 40% 3PT%, 62.5% FT%, 61.1% TS% on 29.4 MPG

Reneau and Ware form Indiana’s twin towers. At 6-foot-9, Reneau’s playmaking skills are incredibly unique for someone his size, too. He can work off the dribble, and no one taller than him in the Big Ten has a higher assist percentage. The sophomore has mostly stayed out of foul trouble in Big Ten play, and he’s a pretty efficient leading scorer for the Hoosiers who can stretch the floor. When Northwestern heads to Assembly Hall in February, it’ll be interesting to see how Mike Woodson will deploy Reneau.

F Malik Hall, Michigan State Spartans

Stats: 3.1 PRPG!, 10.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.7 SPG, 50.7% FG%, 29% 3PT%, 67.9% FT%, 56.8% TS% on 25.2 MPG

His goose egg against Northwestern notwithstanding, Hall has been very good on both ends of the floor. That Jan. 7 loss was the only game of MSU’s last seven in which Hall shot less than 50% from the field. At 6-foot-8, he’s been a versatile stopper in the post and occasionally on the perimeter, which has helped Tom Izzo lead one of the nation’s best defenses.

F Julian Reese, Maryland Terrapins

Stats: 2.3 PRPG!, 13.6 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.2 SPG, 2.2 BPG, 51.2% FG%, 57.4% FT%, 53.8% TS% on 31 MPG

Frankly, this is where it starts to get tricky. Is Reese the most consistent player in the conference? Heck no. But, especially for a frontcourt player, No. 10 can score at a good clip. He has stepped up in critical ways, as his 20 points and 11 rebounds provided the support Young needed to take down Illinois in Champaign. A few weeks earlier, he dropped 24 points and 15 boards on Penn State. Reese’s defense is also really good; his 4.8 adjusted points over replacement per game is the highest mark in the conference, per Barttorvik.

G Dug McDaniel, Michigan Wolverines

Stats: 4.1 PRPG!, 17.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 5.0 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.8 TOPG, 43.8% FG%, 38.9% 3PT%, 79% FT% 54.4% TS% on 36.3 MPG

The fact that McDaniel is a wild card in this exercise speaks to the immense guard depth in the Big Ten. He’s been one of the conference’s best offensive players, especially during non-conference play. No one else plays more minutes than McDaniel does, yet he’s managed to consistently contribute as a scorer and a playmaker. Because of his suspension for six road games, it’ll be tough for the guard to make an All-Big Ten team, but he’s a very good offensive player.

C Cliff Omoruyi, Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Stats: 1.6 PRPG!, 10.2 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 0.6 APG, 3.4 BPG, 50% FG%, 59.7% FT%, 52.7% TS% on 27.4 MPG

While Omoruyi has been relatively disappointing on the offensive end (and it’s not entirely his fault), he’s continued to play some of the best interior defense in the nation. That’s exactly why he’s here. At 14.1%, Omoruyi’s block rate is the second-highest mark in the country behind Ole Miss’ Jamarion Sharp. The fact that he’s averaging 3.4 blocks per game in January doesn’t seem real. The Rutgers center has a really good shot at winning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. All of his advanced defensive metrics are among the best in the country. Plus, maybe his 14-point, 15-rebound game against Nebraska is a sign of things to come on that end of the floor.

Honorable Mentions: Terrance Williams (Michigan), A.J. Hoggard (Michigan State), Ace Baldwin Jr. (Penn State), Felix Okpara (Ohio State), Qudus Wahab (Penn State)