In high school or college, did you ever walk into the wrong classroom after class had already begun, so everyone turned around and stared at you until you left? That’s kind of how it feels writing about college basketball on the eve of Ohio State football returning.
Nevertheless, we press on.
This week, we’re wrapping up our four-week series looking at every class in the Big Ten and picking one player, freshman through senior, that we think will have the greatest impact. We’ve covered the first three classes, and now we’re onto the seniors.
Last week, Connor and Justin each picked a junior. Connor went with Maryland’s Julian Reese, while Justin went with Iowa’s Payton Sandfort. Connor got 50% of the vote, while Justin and the “other” option each picked up 25%.
After 115 weeks:
(There have been four ties)
And that brings us to this week, where we’re discussing the old heads of the Big Ten. Which senior players do each of our basketball writers will be the biggest difference-maker?
Today’s Question: Which Big Ten senior will have the biggest impact this season?
Connor: Zach Edey
This feels like the cheap, easy answer... because it is. Zach Edey is the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and National Player of the Year. We all watched the conception of his villain origin story in March when Purdue was upset by Fairleigh Dickinson in the NCAA Tournament, becoming just the second 1-seed to ever lose in the first round. However, their loss currently stands as the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history, because the Boilermakers had Edey — the National POY — on the roster. When Virginia lost to UMBC back in 2018, the Cavaliers did not have a player of Edey’s caliber.
Edey went through the NBA Draft process, but I had a feeling we’d be seeing Edey back in West Lafayette the minute the clock ran out in that 63-58 loss to FDU. Now that he’s back, he’ll be the favorite to repeat as both Big Ten Player of the Year and National Player of the Year. The 7-foot-4, 300-pound Canadian averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game last season while shooting 61% from the field and an impressive 73.4% from the free throw line (impressive for a big man, at least).
The Boilermakers return almost all of their roster from last season’s team that won the Big Ten outright, beat Ohio State three times, won the Big Ten Tournament, and earned a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament. There’s no reason to believe that Edey will take a step back from his NPOY-level production. A worst-case scenario for Purdue could be that Edey doesn’t get better at all, which still means they have the best player in the country. More likely, however, is the chance that he continues to improve his touch and range around the basket.
It’s no secret that Edey’s entire skillset revolves around his ability to score below the basket, and everyone else’s inability to stop him. If Edey can expand his range a bit — maybe that five-foot hook shot becomes an eight-foot hook shot — it’ll make him that much harder to guard.
Purdue will be the heavy favorite to win the Big Ten and one of the favorites to win the national championship, and it’s almost solely because of Edey. I expect him to repeat as the Big Ten POY.
Justin: Jamison Battle
For this group, this is a pretty easy one for me. Jamison Battle is the obvious answer here. If he comes to Columbus as the player he was two years ago for Minnesota, then I think he can truly be the difference between this Ohio State team being good and great.
The Buckeyes floor is high to me, with Bruce Thornton returning to run the point, the freshman class coming in, Zed Key and Felix Okpara holding down the center position, and the depth of talent on the team.
If Battle can come in and average 15 a game at the three or four, most likely the four,
Battle spent his first two seasons at George Washington, where he excelled on the offensive end and transferred to Minnesota. At Minnesota, he quickly turned into their top player and a top player in the conference at times. Battle is an elite shooter that will space the floor.
Battle averages 14.4 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game for his career. He took a slight step back last season, averaging just 12.4 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game. However, in his junior season, he averaged 17.5 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game, both are career highs.
Another great thing that Battle brings is durability. He dealt with some minor injuries last season, but he has played in 103 games in four seasons and has started in 101 of them. He missed some time in his sophomore season, but that is really it.
Also, he averages 35 minutes played per game for his career. So, he is almost always available, and when he is, he plays most of the game. He can get the hot hand, and when he does, you can let him go because he doesn’t need a break.
Battle is an experienced, three-level scorer who can play multiple positions and space the floor for the Buckeyes. He is the key to their success this season.
Which Big Ten senior will have the biggest impact this season?
This poll is closed
Zach Edey (Connor)
Jamison Battle (Justin)