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The TDG Big Ten Basketball Preview

Bigten_mediumI have intentionally held off with a Big Ten basketball preview, waiting until we could see a few games and get a feeling for how teams are adjusting to the key gains and losses from a year ago.  Gopher Nation has plenty to look forward to this season.  As we all know everything is returning with some key additions added.  An NCAA tournament bid and likely a win or two is expected.  But what about the road before the NCAA Tournament.  The long and difficult Big Ten season comes first and this team has a chance to really be a factor in the B10 title race.  Let's take a brief look at each team in my expected order of finish.

1 - Purdue (NCAA) - Were it not for Purdue having injury issues a year ago they could very likely be defending a Big Ten title this year.  Robbie Hummel was last year's preseason B10 POY and he should not be fully healthy to lead the rest of a very talented roster.  The bulk of the talent lies in the junior class for the Boilermakers and this team is athletic and deep.  Injuries and other uncontrollables aside, what may be the difference between a Big Ten title and a top 2 finish could come down to coaching.  Matt Painter is an excellent coach but who knows if he'll be capable of steering his team accurately to win a Big Ten regular season title.  Guys like Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan, Bruce Weber and Tubby Smith have the resume of winning multiple titles.  I think after this year Matt Painter adds a Big Ten regular season title to his resume.

Likely Starting lineup
PG - E'Twaun Moore
SG - Chris Kramer
SF - Keaton Grant
PF - Robbie Hummel
C -  JJ Dawson

2 - Michigan State (NCAA) - I know that Michigan State is the consensus title team and for very good reason.  Tom Izzo is a great coach, his team is coming off a national runner-up season and he returns the vast majority of his roster.  But my gut tells me they have a great season but one that ends the regular season looking up one spot in the B10 standings.  It is really hard not to like Michigan State.  They too are deep, very athletic, play great defense and as I mentioned they are very well coached.  But I think the one key loss will be the loss that makes the difference.  Goran Suton meant a lot to the Spartans a year ago and while this team still has very talented players like Kalin Lucas, Chris Allen and Durrell Summers (with guys like Raymar Morgan and Delvin Roe off the bench); Suton will be missed.  Freshman Garrick Sherman may be very good but he's not the same thing.  From year to year team's take on different personalities and even the loss of just one player can change the dynamic of a team.  Michigan State will be great, they'll be extremely dangerous in the NCAA Tournament but I think they fall a game or two short of Purdue this year.

Likely Starting lineup
PG - Kalin Lucas
G - Chris Allen
G - Durrel Summers
PF - Draymond Green
C - Garrick Sherman

3 - Ohio State (NCAA) - In this early season the Buckeyes have looked fairly strong.  And leading their early season charge is the outstanding play of Evan Turner, who looks like the early favorite for Big Ten POY (very early, I know).  Turner has notched a double-double in all four games averaging 21.7 ppg and 14.7 rpg.  OSU has a lot of very nice pieces outside of Turner, which isn't surprising considering the recent string of very highly ranked recruiting classes in the Thad Matta era.  OSU has some offensive weapons but they are lacking in a couple key areas.  First of all they are not an overly deep team. Jon Diebler is a lights out shooter and Turner might be the best player in the conference but they can only carry them so far.  Matta has been going with an eight man rotation so far this year with heavy minutes for the starting five.  Secondly this team is not overly strong in the paint.  Their perimeter is as good as anybody's in the conference but Kyle Madsen and Dallas Lauderdale will not strike fear into the hearts of the conference's coaches.

Likely Starting lineup
PG - William Buford
SG - Jon Diebler
SF - Evan Turner
PF - David Lighty
C - Kyle Madsen

Mn_basketball_medium   4 - Minnesota (NCAA) - There was a time when my maroon goggles would have had me rank the Gophers one spot higher.  The potential (probable?) losses of Royce White and Trevor Mbakwe greatly lessened my optimism.  But then the impressive play of Rodney Williams to start the year has me thinking big things again, just not as grand as before.  As we all know the Gophers are deep and defend very well.  I think the improvement of the sophomores and the athleticism that Williams brings to the table makes this team dangerous.  Over the course of a long season I don't think we have what it takes to finish in the top 2 but this team is good enough to beat anybody on their schedule.

Likely Starting lineup
PG - Al Nolen
SG - Lawrence Westbrook
SF - Rodney Williams
PF - Damian Johnson
C - Ralph Sampson III

5 - Illinois (NCAA) - this might be the team I know the least about but I do know enough to know that this team is well balanced and has the roster make-up that is well suited for Bruce Weber.  Demitri McCarney, Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale are known quantities around the Big Ten.  These guys averaged a combined 33 points, 14.7 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game last year.  They compliment each other well and this year they add a couple dynamic freshmen to the backcourt in DJ Richardson and Brandon Paul.  In the early goings these kids have 11.3 and 16.7 respectively, although they have yet to play any team of substance.  Overall this will be a very good team that will only get better as the season goes along.

Likely Starting lineup
G - Brandon Paul
G - DJ Richardson
G - Demitri McCamey
PF - Mike Davis
C - Mike Tisdale

6 - Michigan (NCAA) - Manny Harris is such a great player who can win a game on his own and probably has the best pro potential in the conference.  A lot of people would put the Wolverines as high as third on their prediction list based mostly on the talent of Harris and DeShawn Sims.  But I'm not 100% sold on the rest of the team.  John Beilein is a great coach and in year three he should really have his guys and his system working well.  But once again I'm not sold on the rest of the roster and in this year's Big Ten a guy like Manny Harris will win you a few but on the nights when teams slow him down Michigan will be rather vulnerable.  Decent depth, great scoring and not great interior size.  A sixth place finish may seem very low but the difference between the 4th through 7th place teams could really only be a couple games.

Likely Starting lineup
PG - Darius Morris
G - Manny Harris
G - Laval Lucas-Perry
F - Zack Novak
F - DeShawn Sims

7 - Wisconsin (NCAA) - Rule #1 in Big Ten basketball, never underestimate Bo Ryan and the Badgers.  This isn't a great Badger team but there is some talent here with Trevon Hughes, Jason Bohannon and even Jon Leuer is having a pretty good season thus far.  It may be easy for Gopher fans to overlook Wisconsin since we did sweep them last year (that was fun to write), but this team is capable of not only beating the Gophers but finishing at least a few spots higher than this.  Maybe this is wishful thinking or maybe I'm not sold that the talent is there, not even for Bo Ryan.

Likely Starting lineup
PG - Trevon Hughes
SG - Jason Bohannon
SF - Tim Jarmusz
PF - Jon Leuer
C - Keaton Nankivil

8 - Penn State (NIT) - The Talor Battle show will be a lot of fun to watch in Happy Valley.  Penn State is perfectly demonstrates why I wanted to wait a couple weeks before I started my B10 preview.  I once would have put PSU a spot or two higher, but after losses to UNC-Wilmington, Tulane and a 2-pnt win over Davidson (Steph Curry is no longer there folks) I am thinking that 7th might be too high.  This team will go as far as Taylor Battle will lead them but the development of freshman Tim Frazier at PG and how well their interior rebounds is what could be the difference between another NIT run and the NCAA Tournament.  Their Big Dance resume is already in bad shape, they'll will have to finish a lot higher in the conference standings to avoid the NIT again.

Likely Starting lineup
PG - Tim Frazier
SG - Talor Battle
SF - David Jackson
PF - Jeff Brooks
C - Andrew Jones

9 - Indiana (NIT) - Great recruiting class and I am a huge Tom Crean fan, but this year will be tough for a young Hoosier squad to make much noise in the Big Ten.  The conference is the deepest and most talented that it has been in a very long time.  Other years a hot, young team like Indiana could make a run into the top 5, but not this year.  This will be the sheik team next year and this year you'll likely seen them stun a few top 4 teams along the way.  But learning to play at the Big Ten level is not an easy adjustment no matter how talented you are.  I wouldn't be completely shocked to see them finish higher, but not likely this year.

Likely Starting lineup
PG - Verdell Jones III
G - Jeremiah Rivers
G - Maurice Creek
PF - Tom Pritchard
C - Christian Watford

10 - Northwestern - This may have been the year for the Wildcats to make the tournament, but the loss of Kevin Coble effectively ended that dream.  This is a surprisingly talented NU roster and with the way they defend and execute their precision offense they should never be taken lightly.  But with Coble out for the season they'll rely on Michael Thompson and John Shurna.  There are a couple intriguing freshmen to go along with Thompson and Shurna

Likely Starting lineup
PG - Michael Thompson
SG - Jeremy Nash
SF - Drew Crawford
PF - John Shurna
C - Luka Mirkovic

11 - Iowa - The outlook for the Hawkeye season is so bleak that they cannot help but surpass expectations this year.  Scoring has been the problem this year for Iowa.  There will be games when they are hot from behind the arc and maybe they'll get a few conference wins.  But for the most part you can expect a lot of losses for Iowa (that too was fun to type).

Likely Starting lineup
PG - Cully Payne
SG - Anthony Tucker
SF - Matt Gatens
PF - Jarryd Cole
C - Brennan Cougill

I know that people hate preseason polls and predictions but at the conference level this is a lot of fun.  Everyone has much hope and optimism for the season, except Iowa fans.  There are eight teams capable of making a run to the NCAA Tournament (although Penn State is already on life support).  The Big Ten should be a blast to watch this year. 

Since I'm taking a wild stab at the standings here is my best guess at some post season individual awards.

All Big Ten First Team

PG - Kalin Lucas
SG - Manny Harris
SF - Evan Turner
PF - Robbie Hummel
F - DeShawn Sims

All Big Ten Second Team

G - Taylor Battle
G - Demetri McCamey
F - Jon Diebler
F - Damian johnson
C - JJ Dawson

Big Ten All Freshman Team

G - Brandon Paul - Ill
G - D.J. Richardson - Ill
F - Rodney Williams - Minn
F - Christian Watford - Ind
F - Garrick Sherman - MSU