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June 21, 2012

Big Ten lags in producing NBA draft picks

The Big Ten has been an easy target lately. Whether it's the conference's bowl record, differing opinions on a college football playoff or recent scandals at Ohio State and Penn State, the picking's been easy (most of it fair) for fans and media even though the Big Ten is one of the most stable and profitable conferences in the country.

CBSSports.com's Matt Norlander discovered yet another scab to pick at. During his exhaustive research of the NBA Draft since 2002, Norlander discovered that among BCS conferences the Big Ten has produced the least NBA draft picks over the last decade. And it's not even close.

According to Norlander's research, the Big Ten has produced 34 draft picks since 2002, less than half of the ACC which leads all BCS conferences with 70 draft picks followed by the Pac-12 (63), Big East (63), SEC (53) and the Big 12 (50).

Those are astonishing numbers considering that during that time the Big Ten has had seven Final Four teams, equal to the ACC and Big 12 and one less than the Big East. Credit the Big Ten coaches for getting more out of less.

I delved even further into the distant relationship between the Big Ten and the NBA Draft since 2002. Following is a breakdown of how many draftees came from each school, excluding Nebraska. One of the teams at the top may surprise you.

T-1. Illinois (7 draft picks since 2002)
2002 - Frank Williams, Robert Archibald
2003 - Brian Cook
2005 - Deron Williams, Luther Head
2006 - Dee Brown and James Augustine

Best pick: Deron Williams - Are there any doubts that Milwaukee and Atlanta are still kicking themselves for selecting Andrew Bogut and Marvin Williams ahead of Williams and Chris Paul, two of the top point guards in a point-guard driven league? Williams is on his way to establishing himself as the best NBA player to ever come from the Illini program. He's averaged 17.7 points and 9.2 assists during his seven-year career, earning three consecutive All-Star appearances. The free-agent-to-be will be one of the most sought-after commodities of the offseason.
Biggest bust: Frank Williams - The mercurial point guard started making progress with the Knicks in his second season after being drafted 25th overall but was sent to the end of the bench once New York traded for Stephon Marbury. He received a second chance when the home state Chicago Bulls traded for him, but he showed up to Chicago out of shape and hasn't played in the league since.
Summary: We know the drill. Lon Kruger and Bill Self brought the talent, and Bruce Weber took them to the program's greatest heights (national runner-up finish in 2005) but couldn't reload until it was too late. The good news? Self - and Lou Henson's 1980s success - show that Illinois has the potential to continually develop NBA draft picks thanks to the state's deep talent pool.
Possible 2012 pick: Meyers Leonard
Possible 2013 pick: Brandon Paul

T-1. Ohio State (7)
2002 - Ken Johnson
2007 - Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook
2008 - Kosta Koufos
2009 - Byron Mullens
2011 - Evan Turner

Best pick: Mike Conley -Oden's sidekick in high school and college, Conley has branched out on his own in the NBA and has developed into a solid point guard. Conley has helped lead the young Memphis Grizzlies to back-to-back playoff appearances, averaging 11.9 points, 5.4 assists and 1.5 steals during his five-year NBA career. Who knew Oden's little teammate would possibly have a longer and more lucrative career (Conley has already made $22 million and will make about $33.5 million over the next four years)?
Biggest bust: Greg Oden - Oden may not become as infamous as Sam Bowie (whom Portland selected No. 2 in 1984 ahead of Michael Jordan) but Portland fans will forever rue the day that Trailblazers management again took a talented big man over an elite scorer. Four years after going No. 1 overall, Oden has played in just 82 games - the length of one normal NBA season - because of recurring knee injuries and will sit out next season to recover. The No.2 overall pick that year, Kevin Durant, has won three straight NBA scoring titles and led the Thunder to the NBA Finals this season.
Possible 2012 picks: Jared Sullinger and William Buford
Possible 2013 picks: DeShaun Thomas
Summary: Thad Matta has turned a football school into an NBA factory. Jared Sullinger likely will become the fourth Buckeyes post player in six years to be selected in the first round. Matta has had great success (two Final Fours, three Big Ten Tournament titles and shares of five Big Ten titles) in recruiting top talent and surrounding them with productive four-year players like Buford, Jon Diebler, David Lighty and Aaron Craft.

3. Michigan State (5)
2002 - Marcus Taylor
2006 - Maurice Ager, Shannon Brown and Paul Davis
2009 - Goran Suton

Best pick: Shannon Brown - The Proviso East product and 25th pick of the 2006 NBA Draft developed slowly but became a key reserve for the Lakers during their 2010 NBA Championship run before signing with the Phoenix Suns last year. Last year, his scoring average topped double digits (11.0) for the first time during his six-year career.
Biggest bust: Maurice Ager - Adam Morrison's foil in the classic 2005 Maui Invitational, Ager was selected 28th in the 2006 NBA Draft but never latched on in stints with the Mavericks, Nets or Timberwolves. He's played 82 games over four seasons in the NBA and didn't play a game in the league last year.
Summary: Tom Izzo certainly hasn't had Matta-caliber talent, but many would assume he would have sent more players to the NBA since 2002 considering Izzo led the Spartans to three Final Fours during that time. That's further testament to the greatness of Izzo, who has had success with tough-minded, driven college players like Green, Kalin Lucas and Drew Neitzel surrounded by imposing bigs. The talent level is rising with recent recruits like Branden Dawson and Gary Harris.
Possible 2012 picks: Draymond Green

4. Indiana (4)
2002 - Jared Jeffries
2005 - Bracey Wright
2008 - Eric Gordon and DJ White

Best pick: Eric Gordon - Illinois fans wouldn't hate the decommitter so much if he weren't so talented. After one productive but interesting year in Bloomington, Gordon left for the NBA and immediately became one of the most talented shooting guards in the league. Through his first four seasons - he only played nine games last year, his first as a New Orleans Hornet, due to injury - Gordon has averaged 18.3 points per game and shot 37 percent from three.
Biggest bust: Jared Jeffries - D.J. White hasn't been overly productive, but he's improved and could have a long career as a big body near the end of the bench if he stays healthy. Expectations are higher for a lottery pick, and while Jeffries, the No. 11 pick in 2002, has survived in the league for 10 years (and started 335 games) he's never averaged more than seven points per game.
Possible 2013 picks: Cody Zeller, Christian Watford
Summary: Hoosiers littered NBA rosters through most of the '70s, '80s and '90s but the pipeline sputtered before Bobby Knight was finally ousted in Bloomington. Kelvin Sampson brought plenty of talent in the short term but plenty of long-term problems. After four years, Tom Crean has finally cleaned up Sampson's mess and has started to re-stock IU with prospects with NBA possibilities, including Zeller who most project as a top-five pick next year.

T-5. Purdue (3)
2007 - Carl Landry
2011 - JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore

Best pick: Carl Landry - The first pick of the second round in 2007, Landry has been a solid contributor with the Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings and now the New Orleans Hornets. He's averaged 12.1 points and 5.1 rebounds over five seasons.
Biggest bust: N/A - Too early to call on Moore or Johnson. As rookie teammates on the Boston Celtics, Johnson played in 36 games and Moore played in 38 games.
Possible 2012 pick: Robbie Hummel
Summary: Fun fact. Did you know Purdue is one of three Big Ten programs to have two No. 1 draft picks? Joe Barry Carroll (1980) and Glen "Big Dog" Robinson (1994) are the Boilermakers duo, while Michigan (Cazzie Russell in 1966 and Chris Webber in 1993) and Indiana (Walt Bellamy in 1961 and Kent Benson in 1977) also produced top picks. Purdue remains a solid program under Painter but has struggled to steal top talents away from Indiana, Michigan State and Ohio State.

T-5. Wisconsin (3)
2004 - Devin Harris
2007 - Alando Tucker
2011 - Jon Leuer

Possible 2012 pick: Jordan Taylor
Best pick: Devin Harris - Known more for the point guards he's been traded for (Jason Kidd and Deron Williams), Harris has been a solid contributor throughout his eight-year career - when healthy. He's averaged 16.7 points and 6.4 assists during his career but the still-skinny point guard has missed significant time almost every year of his career.
Biggest bust: Alando Tucker - The Lockport native and 29th overall pick in the 2007 draft tore up the NBA Developmental League but never found a place in the league, playing just 51 games over three seasons with the Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves. He is now playing in one of the most competitive European leagues in Spain.
Summary: Bo Ryan will never be confused for John Calipari. The Wisconsin coach won't get many top recruits to fall in love with his slow-it-down-and-grind-it-out style rarely seen in the NBA, but he finds players that buy into his philosophy which has worked wonders in the Big Ten.

T-7. Michigan (2)
2004 - Bernard Robinson
2012 - Darius Morris

Possible 2013 picks: Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Summary: The program that produced 11 first-rounders from 1988 to 1998 sure took a hit with that NCAA scandal, but John Beilein has gradually turned the program into a Big Ten contender again and is starting to attract blue-chip basketball talent to Ann Arbor once again.

T-7. Minnesota (2)
2003 - Rick Rickert
2004 - Kris Humphries

Possible 2013 picks: Trevor Mbakwe
Summary: Remember how good Rick Rickert was? Well, going to the NBA after his sophomore season didn't go so well. He wasn't selected until the 55th pick of the 2003 draft, got punched by Kevin Garnett during a pick-up game and never played a game in the NBA. Comparatively, Kris Humphries was married to a magazine model (that's as good of a job description as any, right?) for a few weeks and is about to cash in during free agency. Somehow one of those can probably all be used as a metaphor for Minnesota hoops.

9. Iowa (1)
2007 - Adam Haluska

Summary: Pierre Pierce should've been on the list but legal troubles ended his college career and NBA dreams. He played well in the NBADL and has played in Europe the past few years.

T-11. Northwestern (0)

Last player drafted: Evan Eschmeyer, 1999
Summary: Well, the Wildcats have never made the NCAA Tournament. What did you expect?
Possible 2013 picks: Drew Crawford

T-11. Penn State (0)

Last player drafted: Calvin Booth, 1999
Summary: I just can't say anything about Penn State right now that I may regret later. But I'll leave you with this: Calvin Booth made $38.9 million during his NBA career.

Jeremy Werner is the co-host and Illinois reporter for the "Tay and J Show," which airs weekdays 3-6 p.m. on 93.5, 95.3 ConnectFM in Champaign-Urbana and streams online at www.myconnectfm.com. You can contact him at jeremy@myconnectfm.com or follow him on Twitter @WernerConnectFM

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