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TDG Previews the Big Ten

Btc-stacked_mediumI feel like I start every hoops post with "Man do I love college basketball". But I won't, even though I really love college basketball. And I really love watching Big Ten basketball. Now that the non-conference portion of the schedule is finished I think we can take a good look around the Big Ten and get a pretty good idea of how the conference may (or may not) shake out.

Please remember that that is one man's opinion and in no a slight on your favorite team. I watch a lot of basketball but I am not intimately familiar with every team in the Big Ten. So with that said take this with a grain of salt and use it as a conversation starter, not as the Bible on Big Ten basketball.

Osu_medium #1 -Ohio State (13-0)

PG - William Buford
G - Jon Diebler
F - David Lighty
F - Jared Sullinger
F/C- Dallas Lauderdale

Big Wins - #10 Florida
Bad Losses
- none
Big Ten Teams they play only once - Michigan State(H), Northwestern(A)

Outlook - The Buckeyes look like the team to beat at this point. It seems like every year OSU has a force to be reckoned with, this year it is freshman Jared Sullinger who might be the Big Ten's player of the year at this point. But we all know a good college basketball team is a mix of talent and experience. To go with super-frosh-Sullinger the Buckeye's also bring some talent and experience to compliment him in Jon Diebler, David Lighty, William Buford and Dallas Lauderdale. Then off the bench are a couple more very talented freshmen in PG-Aaron Croft and F-Desuan Thomas. This 2010-11 team is more balanced than last year's team and slightly deeper. As the #2 team in the country they are clearly very good, HOWEVER I do not think they are good enough to walk through the Big Ten, they'll win the regular season title but it won't be easy.

Prediction - 14-4

Msu_medium #2 - Michigan State (8-4)

PG - Kalin Lucas
G - Keith Appling
F - Durrell Summers
F - Draymond Green
F/C- Garrick Sherman

Big Wins - #11 Washington
Bad Losses
- none
Big Ten Teams they play only once - Ohio State(A), Indiana(H)

Outlook - After Robbie Hummel went down with another ACL injury the thought was that the conference was Michigan State's to lose. That may still end up being the case but so far the Spartans have been unable to notch that big win to show the rest of us that they are the team to beat in the Big Ten. MSU has played a very challenging schedule but have still ended up losing to the likes of Duke, Syracuse and UConn. The hope for MSU is that the challenging schedule will pay off come Big Ten time and that may very well be true. Tom Izzo is the best coach in the conference and he has another very talented and experienced team. You have a former Big Ten POY, one of the best big men in the league and on top of that you have guys like Delvin Roe and Korrie Lucious coming off the bench. Ultimately though, the Spartans just execute so well and are made for Big Ten play (and tournament play for that matter). Losing their one game against Ohio State will relegate the Spartans to a second place finish, though they'll get a trophy for it.

Prediction - 14-4

Pur_medium #3 - Purdue (11-1)

PG - Lewis Jackson
G - E'Twaun Moore
F - Kelsey Barlow
F - D.J. Byrd
C- J.J. Johnson

Big Wins - none
Bad Losses
- Richmond
Big Ten Teams they play only once - Michigan(A), Northwestern(H)

Outlook -They lost their best player before the season even started but this team is full to talent and is very good even without Robbie Hummel. What will keep Purdue in the top three this year is their defense. Fifth nationally in points allowed per possession, 11th in defensive eFG% and 14th in forcing turnovers. Maybe I'm overvaluing defense by ranking them third but Matt Painter's teams play great defense and that goes a long way towards wins in the Big Ten. On top of having a good defensive team they also have guys like Moore and Johnson who both are averaging right around 20 points per game. Their inside-out combo is arguably the best in the Big Ten. What will keep them out of the top 2 and could force them lower? Lack of depth and a very tough schedule. Right now they are essentially relying on a seven man rotation. And they were not done any favors by missing Michigan and Northwestern on the schedule.

Prediction - 13-5

Minn_medium #4 - Minnesota (11-1)

PG - Al Nolen
G - Blake Hoffarber
F - Rodney Williams
F - Trevor Mbakwe
C- Ralph Sampson III

Big Wins - North Carolina, West Virginia
Bad Losses
- Virginia
Big Ten Teams they play only once - Illinois(H), Wisconsin(A)

Outlook - The Gophers have had a successful non-conference season and many think this could be the year they actually challenge for a Big Ten title. But there are some alarming trends that make me nervous about the upcoming Big Ten schedule. This team ranks last in the Big Ten in points allowed and free throw %. And they rank 10th in 3-pnt FG% defense and turnover margin. If you want to dig into Pomeroy stats we rank 8th in B10 in Def eFG% and 9th in points allowed per possession. Hopefully Al Nolen's return will change that significantly and he will remain healthy for the next 20 games. The addition of Trevor Mbakwe make's this team very different from a year ago and it will be fun to watch him against Big Ten competition. The schedule makers were kind to the Gophers as they avoid Illinois and Wisconsin for a second time on their schedule. But they have to take care of business against a good chunk of the conference (NU, Ind, PSU, Mich, Iowa for example). Long ago I predicted a 12-6 Big Ten record and I'll stick with that.

Prediction - 12-6

Wis_medium #5 - Wisconsin (10-2)

PG - Jordan Taylor
G - Josh Gasser
F - Mike Bruesewitz
F- Jon Leuer
C- Keaton Nankivil

Big Wins - none
Bad Losses
- none
Big Ten Teams they play only once - Minnesota(H), Iowa(A)

Outlook - I hate putting the Badgers this low. The #1 rule is never, ever underestimate Bo Ryan, especially when he has some talented kids on his roster. I did this a year ago and they finished 4th, and I'm going to do it again. Most of you know that the Badgers are led by a couple of Minnesota kids who were not offered by Dan Monson and who Tubby either didn't try or couldn't pursued to change their commitment to Minnesota when he first took over the Gopher program. Jon Leuer is an early candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year averaging 19.4 ppg and 7.3 rpg. Second on the team in scoring is Jordan Taylor with 15.4 points and 4.8 assists per game. And don't forget about Mike Bruesewitz, another Minnesotan, who is getting 23 minutes per game and is seeing his role really expand as a sophomore. This team, as usual, is very efficient with their scoring averaging 1.165 point per possession which is good enough for 11th in the country. And they also do not turn the ball over while rebounding the ball very well. Hard to imagine this team finishing this low in the conference but they have also been racking up these numbers while facing just the 115th toughest schedule. I mean no disrespect to the Badgers as I actually respect their hoops program quite a bit but this is my story and I'm sticking to it.

Prediction - 11-7

Ill_medium #6 - Illinois (10-3)

PG - Demitri McCamey
G - D.J. Richardson
F - Bill Cole
F - Mike Davis
F/C- Mike Tisdale

Big Wins - #24 Gonzaga, North Carolina
Bad Losses
- Illinois-Chicago
Big Ten Teams they play only once - Minnesota(A), Michigan(H)

Outlook -A typical Bruce Weber team has very strong guard play and this Illini team is no exception. Demetri McCamey is the one to really watch out for on this team but you can't ignore Richardson or Brandon Paul or Jereme Richmond either as any of them are capable of carrying the load offensively. Then to go with that group of talented perimeter players you have an experienced corp of frontcourt players. Surprisingly though even with the 6-9 Davis and 7-1 Tisdale and 6-9 Cole, this team is last in the Big Ten in rebounding margin. Even in their two biggest wins they were outrebounded by Gonzaga and North Carolina but managed to win by hitting 52% and 67% from behind the arc. In their two losses they had the same amount of rebounds as Texas and were outrebounded by UIC, but poor shooting from behind the arc led to their demise. This team is very talented and on any night can score enough points to beat anybody. But when it comes to league play I expect they will struggle a few too many times and finish 10-6, losing to the Gophers.

Prediction - 10-6

Nu_medium #7 - Northwestern (9-1)

PG - Michael Thompson
G - JerShon Cobb
F - Drew Crawford
F - John Shurna
C - Luka Mirkovic

Big Wins - none
Bad Losses
- St. Johns
Big Ten Teams they play only once - Purdue(A), Ohio State(H)

Outlook - I might be overrating NU here. The team that has never made the NCAA Tournament was getting a fair amount of ink heading into the season wondering if this will be their year. In the humble opinion of this expert blogger, it will not be their year. Statistically this team is not playing very good defense or rebounding very well(last in FG% defense, 218th nationally in Def eFG% and 288th nationally in defensive reb%). And most of those numbers are against weaker teams, NU has played six of their nine games against teams with an RPI of 150 or greater (for reference Minnesota has played just 2 RPI +150 teams). But they are sporting a pretty 10-1 record being carried by the Big Ten's leading scorer, John Shurna. He is averaging 24.4 ppg with only one game under 20 points this year. Shurna is hitting about 62% of his threes, he absolutely has to be stopped if you want to beat NU. Michael Thompson is no slouch either complimenting Shurna with 15.7 ppg and 4.9 assists per game. Then Drew Crawford is the third man to be scoring 15 or more points per game. That trio is dangerous. BUT the Wildcats are relying on a thin, seven man rotation (basically six guys in their loss to St. Johns). The Big Ten season may be rough on the Wildcats. Their Princeton offense and 1-3-1 zone will catch a few teams off guard and the schedule is VERY kind to them but 8 wins is their max.

Prediction - 8-10

Ind_medium #8 - Indiana (9-5)

PG - Jordan Hulls
G - Maurice Creek
G - Jeremiah Rivers
F - Christian Watford
F - Derek Elston

Big Wins - none
Bad Losses
- none
Big Ten Teams they play only once - Michigan State(A), Penn State(H)

Outlook - This sophomore laden team has some scoring punch. Christian Watford is top ten in the conference in scoring and Verdell Jones III is averaging over 13 coming off the bench. As a Gopher fan this team scares me a bit as one that will take us down if we aren't prepared and focused. Remember they only had four wins last season and one of them was over Minnesota. This team shoots the ball well (8th nationally in eFG%), rebounds well, has been efficient in their scoring and it playing solid defense. What is killing the Hoosiers so far is turnovers. Their positive numbers are a bit inflated because they have played the softest schedule in the Big Ten so far (RPI Strength of Schedule is ranked 311). I do not expect they'll have as much success in the Big Ten and their turnover issue may get worse.

Prediction - 6-12

Mich_medium #9 - Michigan (10-2)

PG - Tim Hardaway Jr
G - Darius Morris
F - Zach Novak
F - Jordan Morgan
F - Evan Smotrycz

Big Wins - none
Bad Losses
Big Ten Teams they play only once - Illinois(A), Purdue(H)

Outlook -If there is a team on this list that will make my predictions look really bad it might be Michigan. This a young team that very well could surprise (and by surprise I mean finish with 7 or 8 wins instead of 4). Three freshmen starting and Darius Morris (sophomore) is averaging 10 more points per game than he was a year ago. Things are looking up for this team, but in a year when the Big Ten is very experienced and talented at the top they may have to take their lumps this year. I originally planned Penn State ahead of Michigan but the schedule gods indicate to me that Michigan will have two extra "more winable" games on their schedule than PSU will. Missing Illinois and Purdue should allow the Wolverines to finish ahead of Talor Battle and the Nittany Lions.

Prediction - 5-13

Psu_logo_medium #10 - Penn State (8-4)

PG - Tim Frazier
G - Talor Battle
F - Jeff Brooks
F - David Jackson
F/C- Andrew Jones

Big Wins - none
Bad Losses
- Maine
Big Ten Teams they play only once - Indiana(A), Iowa(H)

Outlook -My favorite player in the Big Ten is easily Talor Battle, it is really too bad the he doesn't have more talent around him. Jeff Brooks is doing his best to help him out but it isn't enough and Penn State will be toiling at the bottom of the league again this year. The schedule doesn't help them at all either getting Iowa and Indiana only once each, those are winable games for the Nittany Lions. This team can beat anyone on a given night and help prove the theory that the Big Ten is rather deep. My predicted 10th place team has one of the five best players in the league on their team. Obviously their win over Indiana to start the conference season 1-0 gives them a nice start but I'm sticking with my 10th place finish prediction.

Prediction - 4-14

Hawkeye_medium #11 - Iowa (7-5)

PG - Bryce Cartwright
G - Matt Gatens
G - Eric May
F - Melsahn Basabe
F - Jarryd Cole

Big Wins - none
Bad Losses
- South Dakota State, Long Beach State, Wake Forest
Big Ten Teams they play only once - Penn State(A), Wisconsin(H)

Outlook - This is going to be a long year for new coach Fran McCaffery. He may very well have them playing much better by the end of the year but he should win coach of the year if he manages to finish higher than 10th. They do seem to be getting better even in their first 12 games. Starting the year losing to South Dakota State and Long Beach State just eight days later did not bode well for the Hawkeyes. But after starting 2-3, they have been 5-2 losing by 3 to Wake Forest and by 3 to Iowa State. This team has several young guys contributing a lot of minutes but they are also anchored by JR-Matt Gattens and SR-Jarryd Cole who lead the team in scoring and rebounding respectively. Eric May saw about 31 minutes as a freshman last year and JR-Bryce Cartwright are both averaging double figures this year. They rebound well and are starting to play some pretty good defense. I'm certain that my 2-win prediction is too low but I wasn't sure where to take away a win to give to the Hawkeyes.

Prediction - 2-16

#12 - Nebraska - Iowa can't wait for the Huskers to join so they aren't the worst program in the conference. :)

Her is my arbitrary guess at All-Big Ten.

1st Team All-Big Ten
G E'Twaun Moore Pur
G Jared Sullinger OSU
F Jon Leuer Wis
F Trevor Mbakwe Minn
C JJ Johnson Pur

2nd Team All-Big Ten
G Demetri McCamey Ill
G Talor Battle PSU
F Durrell Summers MSU
F Draymond Green MSU
C John Shurna NU

Freshman All-Big Ten
G Tim Hardaway Jr Mich
G Aaron Craft OSU
F Jared Sullinger OSU
F Jordan Morgan Mich
F Zack McCabe Iowa