Big Ten Basketball: 2017-18 Season Preview

The Big Ten Conference saw 7 teams receive bids to the NCAA Tournament last season. While getting half your conference into the the Tournament is good, they only saw 3 teams make it to the second weekend, and none of them made it to the Elite Eight. This year is expected to be different. Michigan State is predicted by many to be a Final Four team, and a few others could make a run as well. Let’s look at some of the Preseason nods as voted on by Big Ten coaches.

Projected Finishes

  1. Michigan State – An NCAA tournament season last for what was a very young team, Michigan State had lofty expectations before Bridges announced he would come back. His return and the arrival of talented freshman Jaren Jackson make Tom Izzo’s club the no-brainer favorite in the conference.
  2. Purdue – Despite losing Caleb Swanigan, the Boilermakers do return a lot of production from last year’s team. Vincent Edwards will be one of the better guards in the conference and Isaac Haas’s improvement will correlate with how Purdue fairs this year.
  3. Minnesota – I think Minnesota has a chance to finish right behind Michigan State in the conference this year. The Golden Gophers return their top four leading scorers, including Preseason First Teamer, Nate Mason. Richard Pitino also brings in talented freshman Isaiah Washington and Jamir Harris to add additional fire power to a team that was a 5 seed in last year’s tournament.
  4. Northwestern – It was a historical year for Northwestern last season. This season won’t be a Cinderella story for NU, as the conference is well aware of Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsay. Two strong senior seasons from these two could have Northwestern dancing again in March.
  5. Maryland – The Terps have a trio of sophomores that will create a lot of buzz this year. Anthony Cowan will be the primary ball handler, Justin Jackson will lead the team in points and rebounds, and Kevin Huerter will lead them in three pointers made. Any sort of contributions elsewhere and I think the Terps can finish higher than 5.
  6. Michigan – What was a balanced team last season will now not be, as Michigan loses three key pieces. Moe Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman will be the one-two punch for John Beilein. I also like freshman Eli Brooks’s game a lot. There’s just not enough after that to compete with the top
  7. Wisconsin – Same story as Michigan. Koening and Hayes are big losses for the Badgers. Ethan Happ is a preseason All-American, but who knows how he will fair without the support he had last season.
  8. Iowa – Iowa has a talented group of sophomores themselves this year. The Hawkeyes will look to Jordan Cook, Jordan Bohannon and Cordell Pemsl to shoulder more of a load with Peter Jok having graduated. The key for Iowa will be their ability to win on the road.
  9. Indiana – The Hoosiers lost a heap of talent and their head coach to a team that did not meet expectations last year. It will be a tough transition year for Archie Miller. Josh Newkirk and Juwan Morgan will get a bulk of the shots. I look for Curtis Jones to have a breakout year after showing glimpses last season.
  10. Penn State – I think Penn State is trending in the right direction, despite being picked by the conference to finish 10. They return their top 3 leading scorers, as well as 5 of their top 6. Tony Carr could end up being one of the best guards in the Big Ten this year. A strong year from him could have them up a couple spots higher.
  11. Ohio State – Jae’Sean Tate returns, who led the team in scoring last season, but not much production returns outside him. A change at the helm also impacted who OSU brought in this year. Rebuilding year to say the least.
  12. Illinois – The Illini struggled last year and lost a strong recruiting class when they fired John Groce. Some Illini fans wanted Groce to stick around and see how he did with the talent he was able to recruit. Brad Underwood does have ESPN Top 100 Da’Monte Williams and Mark Smith, ranked 78 by 247Sports, to start his foundation, so that’s promising.
  13. Nebraska – Isaac Copeland’s transfer appeal was positive news for the Cornhuskers. Unfortunately, they may not have much positive news passed this. Glynn Watson could be the team’s leading scorer, or at least be second depending on how well Copeland adjusts.
  14. Rutgers – It’s been a tough stretch for Rutgers basketball lately. Slowly but surely, Steve Pikiell is changing the program and bringing in recruits that will help change this program. Corey Sanders returns as the team’s leading scorer, and is a good center piece to have for a team that is littered with freshman and sophomores.

Preseason Awards

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon might be a dark horse to win Coach of the Year, but I think Maryland has the most upside in the conference this season

Player of the Year (Voted) – Miles Bridges (Michigan State)

No surprise here. Bridges is NBA talent and a physical freak of nature. He was Freshman of the Year a second-team All Big Ten member last season. Bridges’s stat line last year was 16 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists a game last year. With Michigan State expected to be much better, a stat line similar to that would be enough to take home POY honors this year.

Coach of the Year (Prediction) – Mark Turgeon (Maryland)

I think Izzo is the easy guess based on the team he is being given. I think Turgeon wins the award similar to how Richard Pitino won it last season. Maryland was voted in the top half of the conference, but there is potential to jump up a spot or two with the team he has. I think Justin Jackson will be a monster this year and Anthony Cowan will look a lot better with Melo Trimble gone. Coaching without huge expectations could allow Maryland to play freely and win a couple games they weren’t expected to.

All Big Ten Teams

First Team (Voted On)

Miles Bridges – Michigan State*

Bryant McIntosh – Northwestern*

Ethan Happ – Wisconsin*

Nate Mason – Minnesota

Moritz Wagner – Michigan

Vincent Edwards – Purdue

Justin Jackson – Maryland

Nick Ward – Michigan State

Amir Coffey – Minnesota

Scottie Lindsay – Northwestern

*unanimous selection

Al-Amir Dawes Ready For Increased Role at The Patrick School

Al-Amir Dawes from The Patrick School will have a lot of responsibility placed on his shoulders this season and judging off his performance at the Hoop Group Fall High School Showcase, he is ready for it. Dawes came into the high level event with a winning mindset.

“I just wanted to come out here and help my team win,” said Dawes. “I’m trying to put my teammates in a better position to score and do whatever I can to come away with a win.”

With Dawes undertaking a bigger role this season, he plans on doing a bit more on the court than he usually does.

“This year I am facilitating it a bit more, when last year I was doing a lot more off the wing,” he said. “This year I’m focusing more on getting the ball to my teammates so they can score. I’ve also worked on being more communicative on the floor.”

The class of 2019 guard has collected offers from Rutgers, Seton Hall, Minnesota and DePaul. Three of those schools have made him a priority.

“I would say that Rutgers, Seton Hall and Minnesota have been making me a priority,” Dawes said.

He also said Maryland and Rhode Island have expressed a lot of interest in him and could be close to offering.

The Patrick School won the TOC last season and they are looking to bring it back home this year.

“We have to take home the TOC, a lot of teams haven’t won it back to back,” said Dawes. “I know I can speak for all of my teammates and say that we all want it really bad this year.”

With Kentucky center Nick Richards, Minnesota guard Jamir Harris, Seton Hall point guard Jordan Walker, Monmouth guard Marcus McClary all graduating The Patrick School lost a lot of talent. Dawes wants to prove doubters wrong that don’t believe they will be able to compete at the same level this year.

“I’m just trying to prove that it doesn’t matter how many players we lost from last year,” he said. “I want to prove that every year The Patrick School will be ready.”

Rutgers Nabs Montez Mathis, Mac McClung

Rutgers finished with its best record since its time in the Big Ten last year under newly-appointed Steve Pikiell…And things are still on the up-and-up for the men’s program.

Rutgers Nabs Montez Mathis, Mac McClung

Pikiell just added a pair of weapons to his arsenal, starting with a nationally-rated member of the class of 2018.
Montez Mathis took to Twitter to announce his decision to commit to Rutgers, Friday.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Mathis, a 6-4 guard from John Carroll High in Baltimore, Md., is a four-star recruit who made his pick for Rutgers amid offers from programs in North Carolina State, St. John’s, Minnesota, West Virginia, USC, Memphis and Virginia Tech.
Mathis was ranked nationally No. 69 from scout.com, No. 77 by 247Sports and No. 86 by rivals.com.
The shooting guard sees the open floor and is bettering himself making the open shots. Impressive nonetheless, he has yet to grow as a similarly impactful defender.

Montez Mathis

Montez Mathis

Mathis is the third player from his class to commit to Pikiell. Mac McClung gave the Rutgers program the nod the day before.

Mac McClung

 

McClung, a 6-2 point guard who hails from Virginia, favored the Scarlett sea despite receiving more than 27 other offers. McClung is a highlight reel on his own, dropping as high as 50 points in high school games. It was his growth over the summer that sparked the attention of Pikiell.
Also committing to Rutgers is the four-star forward Mamadou Doucoure.
This comes with a glimmer of hope for a team that finished last in a competitive Big Ten conference a year ago.

Bigger Than Ball Vol. 4: Souleymane Koureissi

Known as the mecca of basketball, New York City is home to a large percentage of the world’s top youth basketball talent.  In a one block radius in Harlem you’ll find one future NBA lottery pick in Mohammed Bamba, and at least two other high level Division I prospects (Jalen Carey & Anthony Nelson).  6’9” wing Souleymane Koureissi grew up in these same houses, but took a much different road to success than that of his peers.  

Souleymane, or Sal as his friends call him, was the definition of a late bloomer.  Two years ago Koureissi was three inches shorter, less skilled, and playing the Center position for his High School-Iona Prep in New Rochelle, NY.  Sal was forced to watch his friends be courted by college coaches and spoiled by shoe companies, while he struggled to make a name for himself in the basketball world.  His AAU team, Castle Athletics, was not a shoe sponsored team at the time, and he was playing in a limited role for his high school.  Koureissi had no scholarship offers.  

Both of Sal’s parents immigrated to United States from the African country of Mali in search of a better life for their children and Sal seems to have adopted the same attitude of personal advancement as his parents  He was very vocal about witnessing the success of others and aspiring to have a better life than he’s had.  Growing up and seeing his peers achievements inspired Koureissi to be better–to want more.  Sal had an impressive summer on the Adidas Circuit in 2017, proving his name belongs on the short list of elite basketball players.  He now holds more than a dozen scholarship offers, including one from St. Louis University.  He is an example to younger basketball players around NYC who have yet to receive their break, that hard work makes anything achievable.  We sat down for a brief Q & A with Souleymane Koureissi, the Most Outstanding Prospect of Hoop Group Elite Camp.

 

 

We saw you play a few years ago at the gotham league when you were relatively unknown.  You’re obviously a completely different player now..so what’s the motivating factor behind you wanting to take your game to the next level?  

 

Wanting to change my family’s lives and going to school for free…hopefully making the pros some day. I want my family to have a different lifestyle.  But, honestly it’s just fun for me.  I love to play so…

 

Over the last couple of years, your mindset on the court has grown to be more determined. What drives you? Why do you play?

 

I don’t have really have a set thing to think about — but I would say I play because my older brother played it before me – he was good and he always used to beat me.  So I was just always determined to beat him.  So, I play it because I’m determined to be better than him.  

 

What made you choose to go to Iona Prep to play high school basketball?

 

Honestly? I didn’t really have a lot of options at the time.  I was going to go to a school in Washington Heights – a public school called WHEELS, and then last minute I played for an AAU team – Castle Athletics, and my coach helped me get in there.

 

How has it been for you playing there?

 

They actually recently just got a new coach, he coached the JV originally.  He’s tough, he’s gonna make us run a lot, but it will be good.  

 

Do you have any teammates who are going through the same recruiting process as you?

 

Yeah its funny, me and my teammate Josh were both unknown – now we have a competition to see who can pick up the most offers.  I think I’m up two or three right now.  

 

Who’s the best player you’ve played against at hoop group camp so far?

 

Probably Adrian Nelson.  I didn’t know who he was at first – he was strong and athletic, and it was an early morning game so it was tough.

 

Your sophomore year of high school, you had no college scholarship offers.  How has your opinion of recruiting and selecting a school changed from then to now?

 

Then I just wanted to get an offer bad.  I was seeing everyone else getting offered and I just wanted one bad.  I needed one.  But, now that I have plenty, I’m looking at the schools actually, and looking into the academic and athletic aspect and where I can fit in.  So there’s a lot more thinking that goes into it.  

 

What are you looking for in recruiting? What do you expect out of the coaches and university?

 

Definitely a good academic school first – because basketball always stops and I want to be able to get a job after college.  After that, I want to go to a school where I can play and where I’m comfortable with the coaches and basketball side of it – just a good fit.  

 

How do your parents feel about you getting scholarship offers?

 

Honestly, they’re just excited that they don’t have to pay.  I was probably going to college regardless..they’re actually proud of my grades.  This year I ended up with an 86 average. I put in a lot more work in the classroom this year.  When I try hard, usually I get good grades so-   

 

What do you like to do when you’re not playing basketball?

 

When I’m not playing I’m usually just hanging out with my girlfriend – chillin with my brothers, my friends – a lot of stuff.  I play a lot of 2k…I’m the best in my house though.  I’m a Cavs fan but I usually play with Toronto, but as long as I know who the player is I get buckets.  Like the Nets..they’re from brooklyn and I can’t name half the players on their roster.  

 

Do you have any siblings or family that lives with you?

So there are five people in my house other than me and my parents.  There are two sets of twins – my brother and sister are older than me, they’re twins.  Then there’s my younger brother – he’s 16.  Then there are twins under him, and they’re 9.

 

Where is your family from?

 

My family is from Mali in West Africa.  We all speak mandingo.  I always get jokes…you know the movie, I never watched it – it was some movie where the guy is like “I’m the captain now”.  [laughing] I hate that.  

 

New York City is known for its basketball talent.  How does the talent level in your area compare to others? Do the better players ever play together?

 

We have the most talented basketball block in the country.  Jalen Carey actually lives there, Mohammed Bamba lives across the street, Anthony Nelson’s also from that block – so there’s a lot of talent.  We do something called midnight madness every once in awhile.  At like 12 o’clock at night everybody just comes out to the court and plays basketball.  It’s cool.  

 

What do you think the difference is between you and somebody who is ranked in the top 50?

 

Honestly I think it’s athleticism.  I think if I was able to take my strength and athleticism to the next level I would be right there.  I think skill wise I’m there already.  

 

Favorite Rapper?

 

Right now? It’s Jay kritch.  Listen to him.  He’s from my area.  He’s gonna blow up, remember the name.  

 

Who has been the most influential person in your life?

 

Probably my dad.  He’s a hard working guy – seeing him wake up every morning and go to work.  He drives a truck – so he wakes up at 4 am everyday and comes in at like 6 – he’s a hard working guy – seeing him go to work everyday motivates me.  

 

How was it playing on the Adidas circuit?

 

We didn’t play on it last year, so this was our team’s first year – just the amount of coaches that we’re there – the competition level was great all around.  It really helped me explode with my recruiting – I played great so that helped…I remember we had a game versus Exum Elite.  They had Emmanuel Akot I think his name was, who’s committed to Arizona and some 7’2” kid. They had a good team.  We ended up losing, but it was a good game for me.  

 

You grew up in an area in Harlem, the Foster Buildings, that had so much basketball talent. Growing up with these guys, seeing them grow and seeing yourself grow, what sets you apart from everyone else who’s not in your position?

 

I think I was kind of a late bloomer.  As far as them, they’ve always been pretty good, but for me I just started getting offers so yeah – but it’s been really competitive.

 

What advice would you give to someone else who’s also a late bloomer and is in the same position you were in a couple years ago; undiscovered, with no college offers?

 

Just to keep working.  You can’t hide talent – so if you keep working and keep putting in work day in and day out you’re bound to get seen.  Trust the process.  

 

You have had a huge jump in your game over the last couple years and have had to work extremely hard to take your game to the next level.   How do you plan on taking your game up a notch again when you reach college, playing against better competition?

 

I’m going to do the same thing that got me here. Keep working.   Getting in the gym as much as I can, putting up shots as much as I can, and hopefully I can continue to improve.  

 

-Thomas Hayden

NJ Tip-Off Game 4 Preview

Game 4 7:00: Roselle Catholic vs Pope John

A big time Top 20 matchup between #2 (NJ Hoops) team in New Jersey, Roselle Catholic, against #19 ranked Pope John.  Roselle Catholic will feature some of the best players this state has to offer, starting with ESPN #10 2018 Naz Reid. The 6’10 forward is as talented as anyone in the country. If you haven’t seen him play live, you will not want to miss this game. Roselle has more than just Reid, including Temple Commit Nate Pierre-Louis, and do-it-all forwards Alanzo Frink and Khalil Whitney both of whom have a host of major scholarship offers. With all this talk about Roselle Catholic, I should warn you not to sleep on Pope John. Starting with 6’7 forward Samba Diallo, who is as impactful as any player in the state! Aiding him will be ’18 Aaron Clark and ’19 Jack Cavanaugh, both of which are hoping to make a statement in the state. Coach Vincent Johnson will have his team ready to go as they look to make a splash in their first game of the year!