Connor Cagley, Big Sports Radio Basketball Writer
September 22, 2022
Let's take a look at the Top 5 Centers in the B1G. For this discussion, we're not going to slide a freshman into the Top 5 because there is no statistical evidence that I can use as a base to predict their performance. I also have specific articles rating the B1G freshmen as well (see bottom of the article for links).
Prior to this upcoming year, Coleman Hawkins would have been listed as a power forward. Due to Kofi Cockburn’s departure, Hawkins will be getting the majority of his minutes this year at center. He’s going to be at a size disadvantage in terms of weight in most games, but he will likely make up for it with quickness and extremely long wingspan.
The key for Hawkins will be playing smart and in control. He will do Illinois no favors by getting into foul trouble. Offensively, he will provide Illinois with a player that can play out on the perimeter, thus allowing them to go to a true five on that end of the court.
He only shot 29% from the three last season, but the expectation is that should improve. He also has a huge opportunity in transition. Most centers won’t be able to put the same type of pressure on him all the way out to the three point line and they certainly won’t have the ability to run the court at his pace and level of endurance.
Coming off of a season where he averaged 11.9 points per game and 7.8 rebounds on 62.4% shooting from the field, Cliff Omoruyi arguably has as much NBA potential as anybody in the conference. He’s a true rim-running 5 man, who finishes well above the rim and has the potential to be an elite shot blocker. Last season he was able to show he was comfortable from the mid-range with Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. both out at Rutgers. Omoruyi will be the top dog for the Scarlet Knights moving forward.
If Omoruyi takes the next step in his evolution, they will likely outperform expectations. The only question mark around Omoruyi’s game revolves around his overall awareness on the court since he hadn’t played much basketball prior to his arrival in the U.S. at the age of 14. Improvement in this area would help maximize his performance at all levels of the game.
Last year, this 7’4” Canadian averaged 14.4 points a game on just 19 minutes of play. While that’s impressive, he had the luxury of having Traveon Williams coming in when he needed rest. This season, he’ll have much more of the offensive burden placed on him as there is no one of William’s or Jaden Ivey’s caliber to run the offense through. Edey will need to come into this season in better shape since Purdue will be relying on him for 25-30 minutes of play.
He will need to play smart with his fouls as this year’s Boilermakers will not be able to survive long if he gets into foul trouble. While most big men of his size are able to get played off the floor at the NBA level due to their ability to defend in space, Edey can accomplish this even at the college level. Purdue should be able to put a solid defensive team around him.
Trayce Jackson-Davis has very similar numbers to Dickinson, averaging 18.3 points per game and 8.3 bounds on almost 59% shooting from the field. These are slightly lower than his numbers from the prior season, but came at a higher efficiency. This resulted in more team success and Indiana was able to sneak into the NCAA tournament through a play-in game.
While expectations are much higher this season, a lot will depend on how Indiana plays with Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson in the post. If Jackson-Davis can extend the range on his jumper, he could arguably be placed as #1 on this ranking, and it could also go a long way toward raising his stock with the NBA. That said, to this point in his college career, it’s held him back.
Coming off a season in which Hunter Dickinson averaged 18.6 points and 8.6 rebounds a game on 53.6% shooting, he will be asked to improve his output per game. Last year, Michigan’s regular season was quite disappointing compared to their pre-season expectations, but they were still able to make their annual appearance in the sweet 16.
Dickinson is a player that’s very good in a lot of areas and doesn’t have any true weaknesses. He can score with both hands around the rim, is solid from midrange and even added a three point jumper last season. But, what really separates him from the rest of the pack is that he’s not a ball stopper. When he feels defenders overplaying him, he quickly diagnoses the defense and finds the open man.
Defensively, he isn’t the quickest defender in space, but due to his high basketball IQ he doesn’t often get pulled out on switches. His rim protection is stout as well, as he averages 1.5 blocks per game.