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You’re Nuts: Which Big Ten freshman will have the biggest impact this season?

Which freshmen are going to be difference makers for the league’s championship contenders?

Nike Hoop Summit Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

It doesn’t seem like it, but we are rolling through summer at a breakneck pace and it’ll be college basketball season before you know it. Ohio State men’s basketball’s yearly tip-off event, “Buckeyes on the Blacktop” is only two months away. Then, we’ll have #SecretScrimmageSeason, and after that, real games! So just grit your teeth for two more months, and we’ll have basketball.

Since we’re basically 23 of the way through the offseason, it does not seem unreasonable to start previewing teams and players. This week, we’re looking at this year’s batch of Big Ten freshmen.

Last week, Connor and Justin each picked a team they thought would make sense to steal from the PAC-12 and add to the Big Ten. Connor took Stanford, and Justin took Washington. 51% of people sided with Justin, and literally hours later Washington and Oregon joined the Big Ten. Ball don’t lie!

After 112 weeks:

Connor- 48
Justin- 48
Other- 12

(There have been four ties)

This week, we’re starting a series where we look at each class of players in the Big Ten by graduating year and pick the one we think will have the biggest impact. We’re starting this week with freshmen.

Today’s Question: Which Big Ten freshman will have the biggest impact this season?

Connor: Mackenzie Mgbako

2023 McDonald’s All American Game Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images

One of two five-start recruits heading to the Big Ten this season, Mackenzie Mgbako is a projected first-round pick in the 2024 NBA Draft before even stepping on the court at Indiana. A former Ohio State target, Mcgbako de-committed from Duke earlier this year and then committed to play for Mike Woodson — Ohio State was not involved post-decommitment, it seems.

Mgbako checks a ton of boxes the NBA is looking for — he’s tall, filled out, and has a smooth three-point shot. He’ll have an opportunity to play as much as he earns at Indiana, as Woodson hasn’t shied away from rolling with the hot hand since taking over at Indiana two years ago. Mgbako can play the three or four, and it would be a shock if he didn’t start for the Hoosiers this season — if not right away, then he will before the calendar flips to 2024.

The Big Ten has some intriguing freshmen entering the league this year, but there’s only a few that I think have the potential to storm in and become of the league’s premier players. Mgbako is one of them, along with Michigan State’s Xavier Booker and Coen Carr, and maybe Wisconsin’s Gus Yalden.

Mgbako is going to be a tough guard one-on-one for anyone. He’s already chiseled and up to 215 pounds at 6-foot-8. The perimeter shot is there, and he’ll be a demon in transition for a Hoosier team ran by Tre Galloway and Xavier Johnson. Freshman of the Year is certainly on the table for Mgbako, but I think that first or second-team all-Big Ten could be in the cards as well. I fully expect this to be a Brice Sensabaugh-like situation where he comes in, completely dominates for one season, and then heads to the league.

Justin: DeShawn Harris-Smith

Syndication: Naples Daily News Jonah Hinebaugh/Naples Daily News / USA TODAY NETWORK

I think this is very simple. If you don’t know who Harris-Smith is now, you will by the time December and January hit.

Harris-Smith is an incoming freshman for Kevin Willard and the Maryland Terrapins. He played for Paul VI Catholic High School in Chantilly, Virginia, and was a top-30 recruit in the country and the top player in the state of Virginia.

He is a 6-foot-4, 180-pound shooting guard/small forward. A versatile defender with a solid offensive game, he is gritty and tough and fights every possession. He is a good shooter that will only develop his offensive game more and more at College Park, and if he is able to create offense from all three levels, he can be one of the better two-way players in the conference.

He will be playing next to one of the top point guards in the Big Ten and quite possibly the country in Jahmir Young. Young can get his own bucket, but he is also great at facilitating, and Harris-Smith seems to be one of the top guys on the team that will benefit from that.

Not to mention, he is a DMV guy staying home. I have been very vocal about this, and it is not a crazy opinion, but the best thing Maryland can do is keep the DMV guys in the DMV. The high school talent there is crazy, and Maryland should, in theory, be the main benefactor.

Speaking of high school, as I mentioned above, Harris-Smith is from Paul VI Catholic, a powerhouse in high school basketball. VJ King (VCU), Josh Reaves (Penn State), Erick Green (Virginia Tech), Jeremy Roach (Duke), and Marcus Derrickson (Georgetown) all went to Paul VI, and Harris-Smith will look to be the next guard from that high school to have sustained success at the next level.


Which freshman will have the biggest impact in the Big Ten?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Mackenzie Mgbako (Connor)
    (7 votes)
  • 23%
    DeShawn Harris-Smith (Justin)
    (5 votes)
  • 42%
    Someone else
    (9 votes)
21 votes total Vote Now