Year in and year out, the Big Ten is always one of the most stacked basketball conferences. Tom Izzo has been a force with Michigan State for as long as I can remember, and programs like Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin and Maryland are also routinely good and have had their fair share of deep tournament runs. Sprinkle in a couple good years out of Ohio State and Indiana in the past decade or so and you’ve got yourself some fantastic competition.
The Big Ten will feature some of the nation’s best talent on the hardwood, and it also has some elite talent coming in from high school.
Here are some freshmen I am looking forward to watching this season in the Big Ten. And just to educate you all a bit more on the other Big Ten teams, I am not including any of the freshmen on Michigan.
Illinois freshman Kofi Cockburn, C
I had to start this list off with the most hilarious name in the Big Ten, and arguably in the entire country.
But on a real note, this guy is going to be really, really good for Illinois. Listed at 7-foot and 290 pounds, the freshman out of Virginia will be an instant impact player for the Fighting Illini. He was ranked No. 46 overall and the No. 12 center in the 2019 class, per 247Sports’ composite, and had other offers from schools like Syracuse, Tennessee, UCLA and others.
According to Illinois’ website, Cockburn averaged 14.8 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game in high school. Averaging a double-double in high school as a big, overpowering guy isn’t uncommon, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can sustain that in college. He will immediately be tested on Nov. 10 against Arizona.
Check out some highlights here.
Michigan will face Cockburn and Illinois twice this season — Dec. 11 in Champaign and Jan. 25 in Ann Arbor.
Indiana freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis, C
Another freshman big man, Jackson-Davis will be another impact guy in the league.
Listed at 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds, he was the No. 3 player in the state of Indiana and No. 30 overall in his class. A borderline five-star talent, Jackson-Davis has already impressed by showing off his skills at the Hoosier Hysteria dunk contest just a few weeks ago.
@IndianaMBB Trayce Jackson-Davis goes between the legs and slams it home during the Hoosier Hysteria dunk contest! pic.twitter.com/poZg22eFgm— Indiana On BTN (@IndianaOnBTN) October 5, 2019
Michigan plays Indiana Feb. 16 in Ann Arbor.
Ohio State freshman D.J. Carton, G
Michigan basketball recruiting followers may remember Carton’s name quite well, and it’s because John Beilein was pursuing the 6-foot-2, 190-pound guard out of Iowa very hard. At the end of the day, Carton decided against Michigan and opted for the dark side.
Carton will probably be another instant impact player in the Big Ten. The OSU 247Sports site projects him to play 20 minutes per game while slowly taking over the starting role. Part of that is due to a minor ankle sprain he suffered in a scrimmage against Louisville, so expect to see him eased into the lineup while dealing with that.
I’m telling you right now — you would have LOVED this kid in Ann Arbor. But now that he’s in Columbus, you will soon despise him. Just check out these highlights and you will soon know why I say that.
The Wolverines face Carton and OSU on Feb. 4 in Ann Arbor and March 1 in Columbus.
Michigan State freshman Rocket Watts, G
We began with the GOAT freshman name, so let’s end with another good one.
Watts is from Detroit and was long considering both the Spartans and Wolverines. He was the highest ranked player in MSU’s 2019 class, No. 39 overall.
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, Watts will likely have a decent role in MSU’s lineup with Joshua Langford out until at least January. He may not crack the initial starting lineup, but you’d imagine he would get pretty good playing time at the very least.
The kid can pass, shoot and dunk. He could be a monster for MSU in the future. See for yourself right here.
The Wolverines take on the Spartans twice this season — Jan. 5 in East Lansing and Feb. 8 in Ann Arbor.