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Big Ten preview: Players to watch

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Melo Trimble

Tony Paul of The Detroit News identifies five players to watch in the Big Ten this season.

Denzel Valentine, G, Michigan State

Another typical Tom Izzo player -- a star who has stayed for his fourth and senior year. Valentine is out a couple more weeks after having his knee scoped following a practice injury, but the Spartans' schedule is soft to start, so he shouldn't be missed much. He's second in the Big Ten in scoring (18.5) and already has two triple-doubles to his credit, evoking comparisons to Draymond Green and Magic Johnson.

Duncan Robinson, G, Michigan

He's not the star player for the Wolverines, but he's one of the most important, given his ability to knock down one 3-pointer after another. The transfer from Division III Williams, who is a redshirt sophomore, hit more than 60 percent of his threes during the non-conference season, taking over some games. He has good size (6-8) and an impressive reach, and his passing will help the Wolverines, as well.

A.J. Hammons, C, Purdue

At 7-0, the senior is one of Purdue's twin towers, joining sophomore Isaac Haas, who is 7-2. Combined, they're averaging more than 25 points per game. Hammons, whose 61.6-percent field-goal percentage is fourth in the league, does more than just score, though. He's huge on defense, where he's led the Big Ten in blocked shots each of his three seasons at Purdue. He averages 8.2 rebounds.

Robert Carter, F, Maryland

The transfer from Georgia Tech sat out last season due to NCAA regulations. Now he's playing out his redshirt junior season. He's a huge force in the paint, a big plus when it comes to the physical Big Ten, as he's averaging more than a block a game to go with his 6.5 rebounds. Carter also is averaging 12.5 points, second on the team to Melo Trimble, who's averaging 15. Five Terrapins average in double figures.

Yogi Ferrell, G, Indiana

He decided to skip the NBA, telling reporters in April, "I want to leave a legacy." It remains to be seen if Indiana has that kind of team, but with Ferrell back as the leader, anything's possible. Ferrell, who led IU to the Sweet 16 as a freshman, leads the Hoosiers in scoring at 16.1, just ahead of James Blakmon Jr., and the point guard is averaging 5.9 assists, good for fourth in the Big Ten.