It is Big Ten week here at On3, and we keep the content rolling with the 2023-24 basketball season previews. Over 1,800 players entered the men’s college basketball transfer portal this off-season. The Big Ten had 12 of their 14 teams bring in players from the portal. Michigan and Purdue are the only two teams who did not.
Penn State led the way with eight players out of the transfer portal. Nebraska brought in five, and Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota each brought in three players. There are a lot of variables that take place when transitioning schools, systems, and leagues. But, many times, a transfer is brought in for a specific need, and everyone is on the same page when the commitment is made.
Here, I take a look at the transfers in the Big Ten Conference this season. This list is not of the best player or the highest upside player; it is based on the potential impact of the player. A big factor I looked at is how big of an impact the player will have on his program’s season. Could the player be an x-factor in a program finishing in the bottom third or top third? Will this player playing up to expectations make the difference in a program finishing with a winning record? A player’s impact on the league, on their team, their talent, and more were taken into account.
Let’s take a look at the ten impact freshmen in the Big Ten for the upcoming season.
1. So C Kel’el Ware (Indiana)
2022-23 Stats: 35 games, 15.8 minutes, 6.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1,3 blocks, 45.7% FG
The Buzz: When it comes to talent and upside, few in the Big Ten have what Kel’el Ware has. And that upside is what Indiana head coach Mike Woodson is going to try and tap into. At his best, Ware is a high-level rim protector who can provide vertical spacing around the basket and has some touch with the possibility to extend to the three-point line. The thing with Ware, the motor. Can he rev that engine and keep it running for 40 minutes? That, along with guard depth, could be the x-factor in Indiana’s season.
2. Sr PG Ace Baldwin (Penn State)
2022-23 Stats: 30 games, 34.9 minutes, 12.7 points, 5.8 assists, 2.2 steals, 34.2% 3P
The Buzz: Ace Baldwin came with new Head Coach Mike Rhoades from VCU, where Baldwin earned A10 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors last season. He is the tone-setter of the toughness that Rhoades brings with him. Rhoades is going to have to set that tone early. This team has an entirely new roster with an entirely new staff. Most have Penn State predicted to finish at the bottom part of the league. If they are going to surprise people, quite frankly, any success they have is going to start with Baldwin.
3. GR F Olivier Nkamhoua (Michigan)
2022-23 Stats: 36 games, 25.3 minutes, 10.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 51.3% FG
The Buzz: Olivier Nkamhoua was the prized pick-up of Michigan’s off-season. The forward really took off during the NCAA Tournament when he exploded for 27 points in a second-round win over Duke. However, he followed that performance with a six-point output in the Sweet Sixteen loss to Florida Atlantic. Nkamhoua clearly has talent; the thing with him is bringing consistency on both ends. His defense had him on and off the bench at Tennessee. He should have a little more freedom this season on a team that will need someone to step into a featured role. Michigan has a lot of questions heading into the season; they need Nkamhoua to be an answer.
4. GR G Ryan Langborg (Northwestern)
2022-23 Stats: 32 games, 31.3 minutes, 12.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 33.2% 3P
The Buzz: Last season, Chris Collins led Northwestern to its first 20-win season since 2016. Ryan Langborg’s 12.7 points were second on a Princeton team that made a run to the Sweet Sixteen after winning the Ivy League. Boo Buie, a second-team All-Big Ten performer, lost his running mate, Chase Audige, to eligibility. The hope is for Langborg to slide into those minutes and keep it moving. Langborg is a career 36.3 percent three-point shooter on 7.6 attempts per game. He can handle, shoot, and pass and is not afraid of the moment. Northwestern came in second place in the Big Ten last season, and they returned four of their top five-minute earners.
5. GR F Jamison Battle (Ohio State)
From: George Washington, Minnesota
2022-23 Stats: 27 games, 35.6 minutes, 12.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.2 made 3s
The Buzz: Jamison Battle has scored 1.479 points and knocked down 257 threes throughout his college career. Not only does Ohio State need scoring – they lose their leading scorer in Brice Sensabaugh – but they need leadership. Battle has also started 101 games in his four seasons. He checks a lot of boxes of need for a Buckeye team looking to come back from their first losing season since 2003-04. This Ohio State team has talent, and they have expectations. Can Battle be the connecting piece that helps the Buckeyes get back on track?
6. GR PG Noah Fernandes (Rutgers)
2022-23 Stats: 11 games, 29.5 minutes, 13,4 points, 4.1 assists, 1,3 steals, 45.2% 3P
The Buzz: Rutgers was able to bring back big man Cliff Omoruyi, but they lost 88 starts from their three backcourt positions. Enter Noah Fernandes, a fifth-year senior from UMass. Fernandes has played 73 college games with averages of 10.1 points and 3.8 assists. He brings speed to the lineup and should pair nicely beside returning guard Derek Simpson, a sophomore who got six starts last season. Can Fernandes stay healthy? He played in 11 games last season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.
7. Jr SF Brice Williams (Nebraska)
2022-23 Stats: 36 games, 27.1 minutes, 13.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 39.7% 3P
The Buzz: Fred Hoiberg was one of the pioneers of recruiting the transfer portal during his time at Iowa State. This year’s Nebraska team looks to be built in a similar manner, as upwards of four starters could be out of the portal. The one who could be the biggest factor is Brice Williams, who was the MVP of the CBI Championship last season. Williams is a strong 6-foot-7 wing who knows how to score. In fact, he simply knows how to play. He is comfortable in a lot of different roles, able to act as a secondary handler, a primary scorer, or slide down and take some minutes at the four. There is quiet confidence coming out of Lincoln about this roster.
8. GR SF Marcus Domask (Illinois)
From: Southern Illinois
2022-23 Stats: 33 games, 35.4 minutes, 16.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 34.8% 3P
The Buzz: Illinois desperately needed to add shooting to this roster. Marcus Domask has scored 1,615 points while knocking down 165 threes in his career at Southern Illinois. He was a former Missouri-Valley Conference Rookie of the Year and last year earned first-team All-MVC honors. Domask is said to be in great shape, and he should slot in well beside the hype-athletic, slashing Terrane Shannon. Also, Domask’s feel and his processing could play a role with this team. They are going to need a point guard to step up, and until that happens, it could be a PG by-committee situation. Domask finished in the top ten in assists in the Missouri Valley each of the last two seasons, dishing out a combined 245 assists.
9. GR C Ben Krikke (Iowa)
2022-23 Stats: 32 games, 35.7 minutes, 19.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 55.2% FG
The Buzz: Iowa lost each of its top two scorers off last season’s team, including first-round draft pick Kris Murray. This is the second year, and the second Murray, Iowa has lost to the first-round after leading the Hawkeyes in scoring. Iowa has won at least 19 games in each of the past five seasons. This team has some pieces but not a lot of proven depth. Ben Krikke is the grad transfer they brought in out of the transfer portal. His 19.4 points per game led the Missouri Valley Conference and led him to first-team all-league honors. He has scored 1,596 career points and is a career 54.1 percent shooter from the field. While no one player will be able to replicate what either Murray brother has done over the past two seasons, Iowa needs Krikke to be part of the committee that gets them in the ballpark.
10. Jr PF Rienk Mast (Nebraksa)
2022-23 Stats: 29 games, 28.8 minutes, 13.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 51.8% FG
The Buzz: Fred Hoiberg’s systems have seemed to run best when he has five guys on the floor who can process and shoot. Rienk Mast is a 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward from the Netherlands. He earned first-team All-Missouri Valley last season after finishing the season with nine double-doubles. He also finished 16 games with three or more assists. Mast has knocked down 84 career threes at an almost 33 percent clip. He plays efficiently and effectively. Another reason there is some quiet optimism brewing in the Nebraska offices.
Other Transfers to Watch
PG Elijah Hawkins (Minnesota), SF AJ Storr (Wisconsin), Jarron Coleman (Nebraska), Rayquawndis Mitchell (Penn State), D’Marco Dunn (Penn State), Mike Mitchell (Minnesota)