Top 10 Big Ten conference basketball prospects for the 2012 NBA Draft

Big Ten basketball is at an all-time high. All you have to do to see this is look at the Big Ten's two consecutive Big Ten-ACC Challenge victories, the conference's first two ever in twelve tries. It's no surprise that with better teams, the players within the conference have also been better. The Big Ten has started to produce more NBA players in recent years, and here is a countdown of the top 10 Big Ten prospects for the 2012 draft.

1. William Buford, Ohio State - Buford is a very athletic shooting guard with a smooth jumper and excellent length. He can hit shots from anywhere on the court, and should finally get his chance to be scoring option #1 for Ohio State this season. The scariest thing is that he appears to be just tapping his full potential. Buford projects to be a mid-1st round pick in next year's draft.

2. Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin - A Cousy Award Finalist his junior year, Taylor is a likely preseason First Team All-American pick and is the unquestioned leader of the Badgers for the upcoming season. Taylor is a tremendous college point guard, as he combines great decision-making, a complete scoring arsenal, and brute strength to make it a nightmare for the opponents to play against him. The Minnesota native averaged 18 points per game his junior year in Madison and led the nation with a 3.83 assist-to-turnover ratio. Taylor projects to be picked at some point in next year's draft and could develop into a good NBA guard when all is said and done.

3. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State - Sullinger is a strong, undersized big man who excels at hauling in rebounds and playing great positional defense. Although his offensive game is not fully developed, he has made strides and has a ton of room to improve. He looks to be a solid contributor at the next level, and many scouts project him to be a first round selection if he leaves Columbus after next year.

4. Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota - Mbakwe is an absolute beast in the paint and on the glass. The Minnesota senior averaged 14 points per game last year, many of them coming from hustle plays, offensive rebounds, and tip-ins. His high energy play will make him a great value pick for an NBA team, as they will know exactly what they are getting by drafting him.

5. Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan - After an impressive freshman year as a Wolverine, Hardaway Jr. will look to show scouts this season that his first-year campaign wasn't just a flash in a pan. With good size and athleticism that translates to the NBA, Hardaway Jr. is a more than capable scorer. He is best at getting to the rack, especially on the fast break, but can also knock down open shots with ease. Some scouts compare him to a raw, young Dwyane Wade(notes), and he could be drafted high next year if he chooses to leave for the NBA.

6. Draymond Green, Michigan State - Ever since his freshman season, Draymond Green has been the leader of the Spartans. With his heart, hustle, and ball-handling skills, Green should get a long, hard look from NBA teams. At 6'6", he is an undersized post player, but "The Dancing Bear" makes up for it with his strength, athleticism, and good positional sense. His versatility allows him to knock down the open shot and even bring the ball down court on occasion.

7. Ralph Sampson III, Minnesota - Measuring in at 6'11", Sampson is a mammoth center. He is a force to be reckoned around the bucket, as he could make a living blocking and altering shots in the paint. He has been something of an enigma, though, as he shows flashes of talent and obviously has the size to play in the NBA, yet he doesn't always dominate games like you'd think he should. His offensive game is still developing, but he already has a nice set of post moves and a decent mid-range jumper.

8. Delvon Roe, Michigan State - Roe has been hampered by injuries throughout his time in East Lansing, but when healthy, Roe has been nearly impossible to stop. His effort and heart have never been in question during his unfortunate stretch of injuries, and he is a high character guy, not unlike teammate Draymond Green. Roe is often assigned to defend the opponent's best scorer, which is a testament to Roe's athleticism as well as Tom Izzo's faith in him.

9. Robbie Hummel, Purdue - Hummel was arguably the best of Purdue's "Big 3" before first tearing his ACL a couple years ago. Now that JaJuan Johnson(notes) and E'Twaun Moore(notes) are both Celtics, Purdue fans will be hoping that Hummel can return to the player he was before his two ACL tears. If he can, NBA teams will surely be lining up to draft him, as he combines a dead-eye shooting touch with all the intangibles needed to win. The only thing is, that is a pretty big "if."

10. Rodney Williams, Minnesota - Williams is a freakish athlete who is known to make highlight reel plays on a routine basis. He displays a knack for getting to the rim and finishing in an emphatic fashion. Often compared to NBA players like DeMar DeRozan(notes), Williams has a developing offensive skill set and a polished defensive game. Although he is still working on his shot, he has very good form, meaning it should only be a matter of time and practice before his shot becomes a consistent threat.

Sources:

http://www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/osu-m-baskbl-mtt.html

http://www.gophersports.com/SportSelect.dbml?DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=8400&SPID=3302&SPSID=38664

http://www.msuspartans.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/msu-m-baskbl-mtt.html

http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/hardawayjr_tim00.html

http://www.uwbadgers.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/taylor_jordan00.html

http://www.purduesports.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/hummel_robbie00.html

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Updated Wednesday, Jul 20, 2011