Continuing upon the breakout candidates for each power six conference, I will be continuing with the Big Ten. The Big Ten is a league that was projected to send ten teams to the NCAA Tournament a season ago. While there are still questions about how many Championship contending teams there are, the Big Ten is once again slated to have a big season. Looking at that, here are my breakout candidates for the Big Ten.
Rocket Watts – Michigan State
When examining breakout candidates in the Big Ten, there is one person that should be on every list and that is Rocket Watts. Watts struggled at times for the Spartans but got better throughout the season, as he averaged 10.2 points per game in conference play. Watts was inefficient at shooting threes, only averaging 28.1% from three-point range. He’ll look to improve upon that while he also will look to step in as the team’s lead-guard for this upcoming season. I’m not sure he’s a First-Team All-Big Ten level player quite yet but he is maybe the best player on what should be another good Michigan State team.
Race Thompson – Indiana
Indiana struggled at times last season but at the end of the day, they were in a position to make the NCAA Tournament. While they will undoubtedly be in a spot to do the same this year, a breakout year from Race Thompson could be what the team needs. Thompson didn’t impress from a statistical perspective, as he only averaged 3.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. That being said, he became the go-to third big down the stretch and helped make a difference for Indiana. While the Hoosiers return both Joey Brunk and Trayce Jackson-Davis who started for Indiana, look for Thompson to see a minutes increase. In an ideal role, Thompson won’t be going out and scoring 15 points per game, because he’s not that type of player. What you can expect him to bring is the frontcourt physicality, defense, and rebounding that can help Indiana win games.
Aaron Wiggins – Maryland
Maryland is going to be going through a major rebuild this season, meaning that some players will be forced to step up offensively. The player a majority of people are taking to do that is Aaron Wiggins. Wiggins is a small-ball four man that can shoot it at a high-level, albeit he only shot 31.7% last season. While it will be hard for him to shoot a similar percentage to when he shot over 40% as a freshman, look for that number to be closer to 35-38 percent. In addition to that, Wiggins will look to be more aggressive at attacking the basket, as he will almost certainly be the number one option. Maryland will not be anything close to how good they were a season ago but still with a breakout year from Wiggins, expect Maryland to be in contention for an NCAA Tournament spot.
Boo Buie – Northwestern
Northwestern had only a few bright spots this past season but one of them had to be the play of freshman guard Boo Buie. Buie was inconsistent throughout the season but he had big performances when he was on, including a 26-point performance against Cassius Winston and Michigan State. While Buie wasn’t necessarily the most efficient player, he showed that he’s a really good shot creator. Look for Northwestern to hand him the keys full-time at the point guard spot and if he can bring it on every night, he’ll be one of the best guards in the Big Ten.
Seth Lundy – Penn State
Penn State had its most successful season in the Pat Chambers era and a big reason for that success was Lamar Stevens, who was excellent playing as a combo forward for the Nittany Lions. While Penn State won’t be able to replicate that completely, look for Seth Lundy to make a major impact in his place. While Lundy isn’t the playmaker that Stevens is, he should fill in as a small-ball four that can step out and shoot, while Lundy is capable of scoring inside. Look for him to play a major role in helping the Nittany Lions contend for what should have been a second straight NCAA Tournament.