Big Ten’s top 25 players for 2019-20: 1-5

I was curious how our list stacked up to some others, so I pulled up 3 Man Weave’s (great podcast, smart guys) list of the top 100 players nationally and pulled out the Big Ten guys.

Here’s their order: Winston (1), Cowan (18), Stevens (22), Wesson (23), Simpson (25), Tillman (30), Teske (34), Jalen Smith (35), Ayo Dosunmu (42), Nojel Eastern (46), Joshua Langford (51) ,Trent Frazier (61), Trevion Williams (89), D’Mitrik Trice (94),

Thought that was an interesting counterpoint. Speaks to the gap between 1 and everyone else, and also how condensed that 2-8 range is.


I know Cowan was picked apart significantly in the last post, but man I have a hard time taking him over Simpson. I realize his limits are less defined and he gets the ball in the basket more effectively (even if his three-point shooting was down, due to his volume and rep he’ll always garner more respect from the defense, and he got to the line well (and makes them)), and I also acknowledge my obvious bias, but I’d take X at the point over him any day of the week.

I realize the list is a balance of established production vs. future potential, but I almost have an easier time making a case for Ayo, based on potential, than Cowan - who I see “is who he is” as much as X is, and is just worse.

I will grant - due to his shooting, I think X is probably “harder to build around” than Cowan is, but I’m not sure Cowan is a guy you’d really want off-ball anyway (though he’d succeed at that better than X would).

I get Stevens being where he is given what he’s done, but I think if I were picking a team to start this year, I’d go with Ayo or Jalen Smith over him as well - they seem like guys with star potential, Stevens just screams “ok player grinding out massive stats for a bad team” with me.

Case for Cowan: Higher offensive ceiling, team should be better, still a good defender, 3-point shooting should regress upward

Case for Simpson: Better year last year, better defender, great passer

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Stevens is one of the hardest guys to rank IMO. I don’t really like anything about his game, but he kind of has to be in the top 5 just because of production.

Ayo is a fascinating one. I’ll release the pod I did with Brendan to talk about the list soon, but one of the things I said was that if you had to bet on one player other than Winston being POTY, it is probably Ayo.

Overall, this was a difficult year to do the list. In hindsight, I’m sure there will be several misses for us. I believe this is our eighth season working together on it and after Cassius, I think there are legitimate arguments to move guys around from two through seven. I’ve enjoyed reading all of the comments here. Good stuff.


Yeah, I think we probably agree, large scale in how we see these guys. I certainly don’t fault you guys for putting StePHens where he is, I just don’t particularly like him, and would likely grab 6-8 players off this list before I took him (Cash, X, Cowan, Dosunmu, Smith, Tillman, Wieskamp for sure.

Acknowledging that your lists balances established production and future potential, I think the big “riser” guys in terms of potential are Dosunmu, Smith and even a guy like Trevion Williams could bust into the top 10 here in my view. On the topic of potential, I also privately think that by year’s end we’re putting Aaron Wheeler on a top-25 list.

Love Aaron Wheeler!

Brendan and I broke down the list on the pod. Brendan is also not a Cowan fan, some of you will be happy to find out.

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Yeah, I have no connection to the school, but for whatever reason, Purdue has been my 2nd favorite college hoops team since the E’Twaun/JJ days (and I really like Painter as a coach and as an interview) - so I have some bias maybe. But I am really bullish on them for next year, and even though losing Edwards/Cline is going be challenging just in terms of making up shot volume (they figured that out last year though), Williams/Wheeler/Eastern/Haarms is a pretty damn good starting point.

OK, your pod just ping’d on my phone - I’ll listen to that before I argue more!

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I get why Stevens is ranked high (he’s basically a lock to be voted 1st team all B1G), I just don’t like him at all and would not want him on my team. His stats are so empty. Sub 50% TS%. Gross. But I know you just acknowledged that and I know you do not enjoy players of his ilk, and I have to agree.

I’ll ask this then Dylan, if you were building the best starting 5 you could from B1G players, who would it be?


The challenge with a player like Stevens is, should we penalize him because he plays for a below average coach and less talent than other top players? Would love to see him on a really good team, but that’s not going to happen, clearly. I think his production overall warrants a spot in the top five.

Yeah, that’s fair. The question kind of is whether you think he can be good player on a good team. I’m not sure about that.

I’m interested in hearing Dylan’s thoughts on that too! Though my fear is it’ll be 2-3 Michigan State players, given that Winston slots in as your point and it’s hard to see X and Cowan as effective off-ball guards on offense. They might make up for some of Cassius’s defensive limitations on the other end, though.

That’s a good question. I would go with Winston and Dosunmu in the backcourt. I would take Tillman as my center and I want Wieskamp on the floor for spacing and shooting.

I’m not sure on the final spot and that probably depends how you want to play. You could make a case for Lamar Stevens, Jalen Smith, Aaron Henry or Isaiah Livers in that final spot I think.

I would be intrigued to see Stevens in that situation, I suspect his efficiency would skyrocket.

That comes down to how I would want to set up a team than the five best obviously.


On that team (and I agree with you, that may well be the 4 I’d choose if I’m building a team), then the fifth would almost have to be either Smith or Livers–somebody who could naturally play the 4 alongside an undersized 5, while providing a real spacing element to the offense. Stevens and Henry, though both very good players, don’t fit as well into that team IMO.

Definitely have spent too much time thinking about this. Agree with you on Winston and Wieskamp. I also thought about the two-big look with Jalen Smith and Tillman given the lack of top-flight talent on the wing.

The other scenario I considered was having X on ball and Winston off ball. Though if you’re looking to maximize Cassius (no justification needed there), Ayo probably fits that two-guard role best.

Livers is a nice fit on that roster for sure. Why are you including Jalen Smith as a better floor spacer than Lamar Stevens though?

Both shot under 30% last year but Stevens probably would take significantly better shots in that team set up. I don’t really trust Smith’s shooting any more than Stevens.

Simpson vs. Cowan over the last 2 seasons. 4 Matchups.

Cowan: 20-50, 40%, 3pt 12-31, 38.7%, 15.25 pts/game, 4.5 Reb/Gm, 2.25 Ass./Gm, 4 TO/Gm. .5625 Ass/TO ratio. 0-4 W-L.

Simpson 16-32, 50%, 3pt 3-8, 37.5%, 9.75 pts/game, 3.25 Reb/Gm, 6.0 Ass./Gm, 1.25 TO/Gm, 4.8 Ass./TO ratio 4-0 W-L.

So you can see the strenghts and weaknesses. Cowan scores more points, Simpson dominates Ass/TO and W-L.

Now head to head isn’t everything, but here it really tells the story. Simpson to me is the far superior player.

Also, this year, Michigan in my opinion will be the far superior team.

It really comes down to what Dylan discussed yesterday, that last year Cowan was abysmal from 3 against good teams, when the year prior he did the opposite. Most likely his 3pt% against top teams will revert closer to his career numbers. In 2018 Cowan really kind of dominated his matchup against Zavier (20.5 PPG, 6 APG, 67% TS%), last year Zavier got the better. Basically a reverse Winston.

But you also can’t really use H2H matchups when doing rankings like this unless its a tiebreaker scenario.