The Big Ten has history (both recent and long term). Over the last five years, the Big Ten has sent four teams to the Final Four, tying the Big East for the most teams playing on the final weekend. It’s also one of only two conferences (Big East) to advance five different programs to the Final Four this decade. The Big Ten has accumulated a record 40 Final Four appearances, tying the ACC for the national lead. They were second in conference RPI and had the second most teams in the tourney field last season. On top of all that, the league once again led the nation in attendance for the 33rd consecutive year. So with all this strong tradition, what’s with the lack of representation this draft?
The answer lies in the 2010 draft where five Big Ten players are projected to be taken, including Ohio State’s Evan Turner being a top ten prospect. That number could grow if players like Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas (the conference player of the year) or Durrell Summers, or perhaps Turner’s teammate William Buford decides to leave school early. It was simply a sophomore dominated conference last winter.
The one guy from the main Midwestern conference who will hear his name called on draft night is B.J. Mullens. And he’s making a mistake. The highly-touted Ohio State freshman seven-footer declared for the NBA Draft after one year in Columbus in which he didn’t even hold the starting job (though he was named the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year.) While he has the athleticism and potential to be a quality big man at the next level, he is nowhere near ready to contribute anytime soon and should get used to sitting on the bench even more often than he did this past season.
His skill set is still very raw and he would have been better served returning to the Buckeyes to further develop his game, become more physical, and learn how to dominate a game in the paint. A solid sophomore campaign likely would have secured his status as a sure-fire lottery pick in 2010. Instead, Mullens is projected to be drafted in the mid teens/early twenties later this month. When asked about who his game can be compared to Mullens said: “I don’t care myself to one certain person, I can pinpoint certain moves that I do. There are moves that Kevin Garnett does that I like a lot, moves that Dirk Nowitzki does that I like a lot, so I try to work on those moves and try to get them down a lot.”
This draft, the conference’s theme song could be U2’s “One.” I don’t agree with Mullens’ decision, and I think these lyrics from that ballad apply to his mistake. “Well it’s too late. Tonight to drag the past out into the light…One love. One blood. One life. You got to do what you should.”