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Previewing Big Ten Basketball for 2011-12...You Can't Look Ahead Too Early

Ohio State has their sights set on winning a national title, Wisconsin is trying to make a run to the Final Four and Purdue is making a run at nevermind, Purdue was VCU'd. But for the rest of us it is time to start looking head to next year.

I do remember a couple years ago blogging about how good the Big Ten was going to be over the next couple seasons (2009-2011). There were several sophomores dominating the All-Big Ten teams, they were all very good yet not quite good enough to leave early. Well those guys are all seniors now and will be departing the league. I think this offseason is going to mark a turnover in the Big Ten's landscape of power teams. And even more likely I think the conference will take a step back in terms of overall strength.

Over the past three years Purdue, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State have dominated the conference. This is largely due to the talent on their roster that stuck around for four years and their programs racked up a lot of wins. As you can see below over the past four seasons those four schools have easily racked up the most wins in the conference.

2007-2011 Win Totals (4 yrs)
Tot Wins Avg Wins
Ohio State
109 27.3
Purdue 107 26.8
Michigan State 105 26.3
94 25.0
Illinois 81 20.3
Minnesota 80 20.0
Penn State 72 18.0
Michigan 67 16.8
Northwestern 65 16.3
Indiana 53 13.3
Iowa 49 12.3

What is interesting is that you can follow that list from top to bottom and quickly name off the seniors on each of the teams all the way down to Penn State.

Well, all of that is changing. That is a lot of talent and a lot of scoring that is leaving the top half of the conference. Next year very well may see a significant power shift in the Big Ten. I took a look at % of minutes lost, % of points lost and % of rebounds lost for every team in the B10 (including Nebraska). First the numbers, then the analysis.

Players Lost % Minutes Lost % Points Lost % Rebounds Lost
Ohio State 5* 57.7 59.1 58.2
Purdue 2 34.4 53.3 37.8
Wisconsin 6 46.0 48.9 44.7
Michigan 0 -- -- --
Illinois 4 56.2 59.0 56.0
Penn State 5 66.5 77.3 66.0
Michigan State 4** 42.3 48.8 22.3
Northwestern 4 26.0 26.1 15.7
Minnesota 3*** 27.3 29.5 15.1
Iowa 2 12.6 11.9 18.0
Indiana 1 11.1 5.5 9.2
Nebraska 3 24.1 24.0 19.3

* I assume that Jared Sullinger will be leaving for the NBA
** numbers include Korie Lucious 18 games worth of stats
*** numbers include Devoe Joseph's 8 games worth of stats

My 2-bit analysis below the jump...

Teams Losing the Most

-- though some are bringing in an awful lot of talented newcomers.

  • Penn State is easily replacing the most points and rebounds. Talor Battle is just the third player in NCAA history to record 2,000 points, 600 rebounds and 500 assists. Battle is also PSU's all-time leading scorer. Losing just him would be bad enough but they are also losing four other seniors. Good luck replacing all that. Four incoming players who are not all that highly ranked will try. SF - Ross Travis from Chaska headlines the class along with two 6-11 centers, Pat Ackerman and Peter Alexis. Sitting here in late March, next year doesn't look so strong for the Nittany Lions.
  • Purdue only loses E'Twaun Moore and JJ Johnson who accounted for a third of minutes played but over 50% of points scored. The award for production lost per player easily goes to the Boilermakers. PF-Jacob Lawson is the best incoming recruit along with PF-Donnie Hale. They'll hang their hat on some solid returners in Lewis Jackson, Ryne Smith, Kelsey Barlow, D.J. Byrd and the return of Hummell. Matt Painter will have this team playing well but another 25 win season or top 3 finish seems highly unlikely.
  • Illinois loses their #7all-time leading scorer in Demitri McCame who is only the second player in Big Ten history to record 1,600 points and 700 assists. He, along with four other Illini seniors will be leaving a void of 60% of the team's scoring and 55% of the team's rebounding. Fortunately Illinois has some really good underclassmen, D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul and Jereme Richmond, to go along with a top 15 recruiting class which includes four, 4-star kids from Chicago. Mychael Henry, Mike Shaw, Tracy Adams and Nnanna Egwu should infuse Illinois with some talent to maintain competitiveness in the Big Ten.
  • Ohio State loses a lot of guys and some significant contributors. Ohio State loses a few valuable seniors and a top 5 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Tough to replace the production of Diebler and Sullinger, maybe even tougher to replace the leadership and toughness of David Lighty and Dallas Lauderdale. A to 5 recruiting class always helps but youthful talent is not always a supplement for experience. They'll be interesting as always. C-Amir Williams, PG-Shannon Scott, SF-Sam Thompson and SF-LaQuinton Ross are all top 75 overall players.
  • Wisconsin losing six guys is a bit misleading considering three of them combined to average about 8 minutes per game. But the loss of Leuer, Nankivil and Jarmusz account for nearly half of the team's scoring. I would think there is a slim chance that Jordan Taylor could leave early which would create some major voids for the Badgers but that doesn't seem likely. A four-man recruiting class led by a couple frontcourt players. PF-Jarrod Uthoff and C-Frank Kaminsky are the most likely to get playing time but true freshmen aren't usually huge contributors under Bo Ryan. Look for Mike Bruesewitz and Jared Berggren to pick up the slack inside.
  • Michigan State also loses nearly 50% of their total points for the year. Fortunately for them they return Draymond Green. Losing Kalin Lucas will be huge, Keith Appling is probably expected to start next year at point but Kalin was a big leader on that team and really made that engine run, his loss is hard to gauge with numbers. Durrell Summers is no slouch either, replacing 1,300 point scorers is never easy. Branden Dawson will headline a top 20 recruiting class for Tim Izzo. The 5-star forward is arguably the highest rated newcomer to the Big Ten next year. He'll come in along with a couple shooting guards in Dwaun Anderson and Brandan Kearney. Tom Izzo will have a new-look team but they'll still be good.

Teams Returning the Most

-- this doesn't always mean that's a good thing.

  • Michigan doesn't lose anybody so they are the clear winners heading into next fall. They may not be the conference favorites but they'll certainly be considered a top 3 or 4 team. A few other schools don't lose much as well but they also have a lot of teams to leapfrog in the standings. Michigan though finished the year tied for 4th in conference and they return their entire roster. They also add a couple perimeter players that are decently ranked. Carlton Brundidge is a 4-star shooting guard (like they need more shooters) and Trey Burke is a top 150 point guard. This is a team on the rise, unless something shocking happens like Tim Hardaway Jr leaving early or something foolish like that.
  • Indiana has had a few nice recruiting classes that will be coming of age next year. If Tom Crean gets his team playing better (and they stay healthy) they could very well be an NCAA Tournament team next year. Jeremia Rivers is the only kid leaving and he'll take his 3.8 points per game with him, that can be replaced. Returning 94.5% of your scoring is always a good thing. Oh, and they add a 5-star PF in Cody Zeller who should be battling with MSU's Brendan Dawson for B10 freshman of the year. Going from 11th to top three will be very difficult but this team will not be a pushover next year.
  • Iowa returns a lot but that may not be a huge advantage. They basically lose Jarryd Cole and return 88.1% of their scoring but outside of Melsahn Besabe there isn't much to get excited about, though Matt Gatens may disagree with me. This team should be better but who knows by how much. Two newcomers will be wearing Hawkeye uniforms next year. Josh Oglesby is a shooter who Minnesota wanted as a Hoffarber replacement and PF-Aaron White are both 3-star prospects and the first recruits for Fran McCaffery.

Somewhere in the Middle

-- you lose a little and you keep a little

  • Minnesota obviously loses 29.5% of our scoring but we also played half of the season without two of the three guys departing. The Gophers should be interesting and so much of their 2011-12 success will depend on newcomers to the backcourt. We actually return more rebounding (84.9%) than anybody but Michigan (100%) and Indiana (91.8%), but we led the league in rebounding so one should expect that to continue. Losing Blake Hoffarber will be difficult, this team had only one shooter on the team and he is leaving. Coming in are three scoring guards in Tennessee's Mr. Basketball Andre Hollins, (soon to be Minnesota's Mr. Basketball) Joe Coleman and JUCO transfer Julian Welch. If Tubby Smith allows these guys to play and if they can mesh with the more experienced frontcourt this team could surprise. Otherwise they'll end up a middle of the road bubble team.
  • Northwestern returns their best player in John Shurna but loses their scoring point, Michael Thompson. Three low ranked players will be coming in and plugged into the NU system but I wouldn't count on too many of them contributing. If Northwestern wants to finally make the NCAA Tournament it will have to come from a team that will chose to play defense this year and improvements from John Shurna, Luka Mirkovic, Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb. There is some talent here but as I pointed out if they don't get better defensively they'll be an NIT team again.
  • Nebraska. Well before I wrote this I wasn't able to name one guy on Nebraska's roster (seriously not 1). Turns out they are losing their leading scorer and then like their 7th or 8th man. Overall they return over 75% of their scoring and minutes. Losing your best player is always tough and how they integrate into the league will be interesting just from a style of play standpoint. They are bringing in a trio of three-star level kids. My gut tells me they finish in the bottom quarter of teams but let the learning curve of Husker basketball begin.

This is a completely arbitrary guess at next year's final standings. Instead of ranking 1-12 I should put them in groupings. Really the top 5 teams should all be considered contenders. 6-8 are possible NCAA Tournament teams. Northwestern is an NIT team and the rest is...well...the rest.

  1. Illinois - still a few very good guards returning, Bruce Weber's system is guard friendly
  2. Ohio State - top 5 recruiting class to go with Buford
  3. Michigan - they return everyone and are executing their system well
  4. Michigan State - Tom Izzo won't have two down years in a row, great recruiting class
  5. Wisconsin - Jon Leuer is hard to replace but I should never put a Bo Ryan team outside of the top 4
  6. Minnesota - frontcourt is as good as anybody in the B10, backcourt should be able to score this year
  7. Indiana - This might be too low. Zeller + returning roster should be pretty good.
  8. Purdue - they'll play defense but SO hard to replace Moore and Johnson without stepping back a bit.
  9. Northwestern - play some defense and they'll be higher, I don't know if they can.
  10. Iowa - Year 2 of Fran McCaffery should be better, but how much better?
  11. Penn State - They lose a LOT and don't seem to have anything special coming in.
  12. Nebraska - welcome to the Big Ten Husker fans. This is as much ignorance as anything else but 7-9 in the Big 12 then losing your best player isn't encouraging.

The truth is that next year's race is wide open. If Andre Hollins turns out to be better than advertised even Minnesota could push for the top spot. Indiana could start clicking and beat anybody. Nobody is a clear-cut favorite and on paper (before this season is even over) none of them look like a #1 seed in next year's tourney.