The 2019-2020 college basketball season may have abruptly ended prior to March Madness, but it’s not too early to take a look at next season – we will be looking at a few of the top players in college basketball entering next season. Today, we’re checking out the top three returning forwards and centers in the Big 10. Incoming freshman recruits were not included in these rankings – these only cover players who have already played a collegiate season (or at least, most of one season).
#3. Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana
Jackson-Davis may have soared under the radar on a mediocre Indiana team next year, but even if he can’t single-handedly lift the Hoosiers back to glory, the rising sophomore forward looks ready for big things next season. Jackson-Davis’s stats were relatively modest in his freshman campaign – 13.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game – but he shot 57% from the field and put up some massive games in high-profile contests. After putting up solid numbers in a breezy start to Indiana’s non-conference slate, Jackson-Davis raised some eyebrows with a 15 point, 8 rebound performance against #17 Florida State. 25 points and 15 rebounds in an overtime victory over Nebraska, a double-double against #21 Iowa, and a 27-point, 16-rebound effort at Minnesota highlighted a few of his top performances in conference play. The Big 10 was one of the most wide-open conferences, so the Hoosiers have a chance to shoot back up into the mix for the top seeds, and expect Jackson-Davis to be leading the charge.
#2. Trevion Williams, Purdue
After averaging 5.2 points per game in his freshman year, Williams upped his numbers to 11.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per contest. A 52% shooter, Williams has a clear weakness at the free throw line, but his game off the charity stripe has been on an upwards trajectory since he arrived at Purdue, and I feel like he’s ready to explode in his junior year. He showed hints at such an explosion in Big 10 play this past season, recording double-doubles in games against #13 Penn State, at Wisconsin, and versus Michigan. His true monster performance came in a brutal double-overtime loss at Michigan, where, in front of a hostile crowd in Ann Arbor, Williams posted 36 points and a whopping 20 rebounds. He’s showcased high ceiling and potential to this point, and that looks like it’s getting ready to come together, which is great news for the Purdue Boilermakers.
#1. Luka Garza, Iowa
No chance it was going to be anyone else. This is, of course, assuming Garza comes back to the Hawkeyes for another season, which it seems likely he will do. He is currently not projected as a selection in most mock drafts, but the Iowa star was an absolute beast this past year, one of the consensus top-2 players in the country. Averaging a touch under 24 points and 10 rebounds per game, Garza scored 20+ points in his final sixteen contests of the year. Picking out his top games is to pick diamonds from piles of jewels. He put up 44 points on Michigan when they were ranked #4, 38 points against Indiana, and 34 points and 12 rebounds against a ranked Penn State squad. No contest here, Garza is the best returning player in the country, and clearly in the Big 10.