Big Ten basketball has been stronger than ever on the collegiate level over the course of the past five seasons, but its professional prospects have been slightly less rosy. With underwhelming draftees that were seen as potential stars like Evan Turner to go with injury-riddled top-five picks like Eric Gordon and Greg Oden, the conference hasn't been particularly notable in the NBA recently.
With that said, what would happen if Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski was forced to choose his team for the FIBA World Cup from this unenthusiastic cornucopia of #B1G basketball? What would the roster look like? Would they be able to medal or even win the tournament?
We at Land-Grant Holy Land have gone ahead and mapped out a potential roster. The starters have an asterisk next to their name.
Mike Conley, PG, Memphis Grizzlies (Ohio State)*
Conley would be the starting point guard and primary ball-handler for this roster, where he would be asked to steady the ship and create offense for his teammates. Also, he'd take the toughest guard matchup on the defensive end, as he's built-up and excellent reputation as a two-way player in Memphis.
Deron Williams, PG, Brooklyn Nets (Illinois)*
At one point, Williams had an argument as the best point guard in basketball. Now, he's something of a shell of his former self, struggling a bit to stay healthy and getting into the lane with less authority than in the past. On this team, he'd play more off-ball, where he'd be asked to space the floor (he's still good at that) and slash into the paint to keep defenses honest.
Trey Burke, PG, Utah Jazz (Michigan)
Burke was a top-ten pick in 2013, and had an okay rookie season for the Jazz after injuring his hand early in the season. That injury hurt his shooting from deep in his maiden NBA voyage, but don't mistake it: Burke is still a shot-maker through and through that could help space the floor for this team off the ball next to either of the aforementioned point guards. He'd most likely not see a ton of time, but he'd be an interesting weapon for Coach K if he needed a burst of offense.
Victor Oladipo, SG, Orlando Magic (Indiana)
Oladipo was probably the best rookie in the NBA last season (sorry, Michael Carter-Williams), averaging 14 points, four assists and four rebounds per game for the Magic. On this team, he'd be able to slide back and forth between both wing positions, allowing his length to cause problems for slightly less athletic international players.
Eric Gordon, SG, New Orleans Pelicans (Indiana)
Gordon makes this team for his shooting ability. Injuries could be taking a toll on the rest of his game, as he had a down season for the Pelicans last year, but he still shot 39 percent from three and can be counted on to space the floor for the slashing Conley and Williams.
Devin Harris, SG/PG, Dallas Mavericks (Wisconsin)
Harris has been one of the most underrated players in the NBA for a couple of years now. Simply put, his teams perform much better with him on the floor than when he's off of it, as his +10.2 on/off rating shows from last season. There are basically no weaknesses to Harris's game, and he'd be a good swing guard for the Team USA rotation.
Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, New York Knicks (Michigan)
This spot -- designated microwave to come off the bench and create offense -- came down to Hardaway or Jamal Crawford. The LGHL selection committee ended up taking Hardaway because he's a bit more reliable, and because this is a youthful tournament where we want to see the future of #B1G basketball.
Draymond Green, SF/PF, Golden State Warriors (Michigan State)*
Green would be the defensive starter on this team, taking the toughest wing assignment each night. He's turned himself into an excellent role player in Golden State, where he plays well in the post, shoots well from three, and defends both 3s and 4s.
Zach Randolph, PF, Memphis Grizzlies (Michigan State)*
Far and away the best forward that would play for the #B1G USA, Randolph would be the team's offensive anchor inside. He'd be able to bully opponents on the block, rebound against any international opponent, and play physical defense on the block to protect the rim. Given the dearth of front court options, Randolph would be the most important player on this team.
Jared Sullinger, PF, Boston Celtics (Ohio State)*
Sullinger enjoyed an excellent second season for the lowly Celtics, averaging 13 points and eight rebounds per contest. He does exactly what he did at Ohio State on the NBA level: he plays physical in the post and rebounds the basketball. He's started to incorporate a three-point jumper that he shot at a 27 percent clip last season. He'd be much better off stepping into the 16-20 foot range, where he knocked down 45 percent of his attempts last year.
Cody Zeller, PF/C, Charlotte Hornets (Indiana)
This is where the team starts to fall apart. The lack of big men is a problem that haunts the current team USA, and it's also one that will haunt #B1G USA. Zeller came on at the end of last season, with a 60 percent true-shooting rate in the last two months of the season. He'd be asked to play here, and would hopefully not be a complete liability.
Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin
Just for fun, we also decided to take a current Big Ten player to round out the roster. Kaminsky is far and away the best choice. In fact, he's actually a perfect fit for international rules as well. Excellent in the post and a solid shooter from three point range, Kaminsky would give this team a dimension they lack in the front court from distance. Plus, he's an underrated rim protector that should be able to hold his own against international competition.
So how well would this team perform? I think they probably would have won their group, as the United States was placed in a weak group with Turkey, the Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Finland, and the Ukraine. That would have still set up a Round of 16 matchup of with Mexico, who they would handle easily. After that, #B1G USA would be in a dog fight in every game. Slovenia was excellent in the group stage, Lithuania would cause them problems in the post, and then any of France, Spain, or Serbia would be difficult for them to beat.
My final result if you made me wager on #B1G USA in this entirely ridiculous situation? They medal, but do not win the gold.