The basketball fans at Off Tackle Empire may not watch many basketball games, but we watch enough to know that preseason all-conference teams are stupid. What are we even rewarding, anyway? Past performance? Hype? It’s a great way to make “writers” look stupid while setting up fan bases for disappointment.
But you know what else these teams are good for? Page views, comments, and those glorious, glorious clicks. That’s why today, on this first day of the college basketball season, we’re presenting our very own First and Second All-Big Ten Preseason Teams.
First Team Preseason All-Big Ten
Point Guard: Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern
Chris Collins has done it. He’s transformed Northwestern from a lovable loser to a program that we expect to see in the NCAA Tournament this March. Leading the charge will be McIntosh, who last year posted the highest scoring average in his career. It will be interesting to see if he can return to being the more efficient player he was in 2015-16, when he averaged nearly seven assists per game and shot for higher percentages than he during last year’s historic campaign.
Shooting Guard: Nate Mason, Minnesota
While McIntosh appeared on every First Team ballot in our poll, Mason had the voters split between First and Second Team. He’ll once again be controlling the ball for a Minnesota squad that might be the deepest in the Big Ten. Mason posted one of the top assist rates in the country last year, but Gopher fans would love it if some more of his shots find their mark this winter. He was under 40 percent from the field in 2016-17.
Small Forward: Vincent Edwards, Purdue
There are big shoes to fill in West Lafayette with Caleb Swanigan moving on to the NBA, but Purdue is returning plenty of talent as well. Matt Painter’s most important asset this year could be Edwards, who did a little bit of everything last year with more than three assists and 12 points per game while sporting lethal accuracy from three-point range. Edwards might have to create a few more of his looks this season, but the potential is there for him to be the best player in the conference.
Power Forward: Miles Bridges, Michigan State
Yeah, we know. It was a bad idea to talk about “best player in the conference” without mentioning this guy. For once, our selfish college basketball dreams came true, and an incredible one-and-done talent decided to stick around and blow our minds for another year. Bridges has point-guard athleticism in a powerful 6’7” frame that allows him to score from anywhere on the floor. He’s already figured out how to make 39 percent of his three-point attempts, so this year look for him to create for his teammates more often. It’s not like he’s going to be left alone very often, anyway.
Center: Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
Happ doesn’t have to develop a jump shot to be a monster in the Big Ten. His incredible skill in the post and rebounding ability already allow him to do that. However, if the big guy is thinking about an NBA career, he’s going to have to expand his range at least a little bit. It will be fun to see if Happ does work on the ole jumper or if he’s content to just live in the paint for another season.
Second Team Preseason All-Big Ten
Point Guard: Amir Coffey, Minnesota
He won’t be playing point guard for Minnesota this winter, but this is what happens when two point guards make the First Team and two shooting guards make the Second Team. Coaches these days don’t care much about positions, anyway, and Coffey is an example of why that is. He’s a 6’8” wing with point-guard skills and a decent three-point shot. Plus, the length that he and Dupree McBrayer bring to the perimeter is going to make Minnesota one of the top defenses in the league again.
Shooting Guard: Scottie Lindsey, Northwestern
Lindsey was one of the most improved players in the country last year, as he more than doubled his scoring average to 14 points per game. He’ll assume a similar role in 2017-18 with the Wildcats bringing back most of the starting five that came one win short of a Sweet 16 berth. Maybe this time around, though, Lindsey can be a more efficient shooter. He shot 32 percent from beyond the arc during last year’s historic campaign after hitting on 41 percent as a role player two seasons ago.
Small Forward: Moritz Wagner, Michigan
The German sensation might have been on our First Team if he took more shots last year, but Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr. demanded a lot of attention. With those two out of the way, Wagner is expected to star in a John Beilein offense that encourages its big men to shoot three-pointers. That makes Wagner a perfect fit at Michigan, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him earn First Team honors at the end of the season when it really matters.
Power Forward: Nick Ward, Michigan State
These last two players are very similar in that they both played in about half their team’s minutes last year but were dominant when they were on the court. Ward scored 14 points per game despite the limited time and he was second in all of Division I in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. Ward’s lack of NBA height and limited range are going to hurt his value at the next level, but as an old-school big man, it’s hard to be more dominant.
Center: Isaac Haas, Purdue
I still don’t know how opponents prevented the Boilermakers from scoring last season when both Haas and Swanigan were on the floor together. The high-low action was pristine, and I’m going to miss that. This year, Haas has an even better chance to break out than Ward because he’s better at avoiding fouls on defense and is nearly as good at drawing them on offense. Purdue will obviously miss Swanigan in 2017-18, but if Painter just surrounds Haas with shooters like Edwards and Dakota Mathias, the Boilers will be nearly as hard to defend as they were last year.
Also receiving votes: Justin Jackson (Maryland), Jae’Sean Tate (Ohio State), Robert Johnson (Indiana), Dakota Mathias (Purdue), Jordan Bohannon (Iowa), Charles Matthews (Michigan)