Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2008-2009 College Basketball Conference Preview: Big Ten

Predicted Order of Finish

1. Michigan St.
Michigan St. loses it's top player in Drew Neitzel, but it returns 6 of its top 7 scorers. Raymar Morgan, Chris Allen, Durrell Summers, Kalin Lucas, Travis Walton, Goran Suton, and Marquise Gray are all back. The Spartans are very experienced and deep. They're balanced all over, with bigs down low and some promising guards who have a year under their belts. This will be the best MSU team in the past few seasons and with the Big Ten as wide open as it's ever been, look for MSU to run the table.

2. Purdue
Purdue was an inexperienced team last year and showed some amazing flashes at time, they were close to making the Sweet 16 in the tourney. Robbie Hummel returns and is one of the top players in the conference. Add in E'Twaun Moore, Ja'Juan Johnson, Chris Kramer, Keaton Grant, and you got the makeup of a team that can be a legit threat to make a deep run in March. Purdue should compete with MSU and Wisconsin for Big Ten supremacy.

3. Wisconsin
The Badgers aren't flashy or anything like that, but they get you results. They're old-fashioned with their stellar defense and slow tempo offensively, but they execute so well. Wisconsin loses some key players but return some as well. Marcus Landry returns at forward and should be one of their go-to players, Trevon Hughes is a solid SG, Joe Krabbenhoft is back, and so is Jason Bohannon. Reserve center Greg Stiemsma will have big shoes to fill for Brian Butch, but he is very capable of doing so. Look for the Badgers to be another threat come March.

4. Ohio St.
OSU should be a little improved from last season, but pretty much the same old team. They have holes to fill at PG and PF. David Lighty is back at guard and can step up and lead this team. Center recruit BJ Mullins should be one of the top freshman big men in the country. Thad Matta should have this team ready and competitive with the top teams of the Big Ten.

5. Minnesota
The Gophers are only going to get better with Tubby Smith at helm. The Gophers lose its top three scorers but still return some good talent. Lawrence Westbrook is a capable guard. Ralph Sampson III should step in right away and be an immediate impact, I think he'll help out quite a bit. Look for the Gophers to be a bubble NCAA Tournament team.

6. Illinois
This should be another rebuilding year for the Illini, with stellar classes coming in for 2009 and 2010, Bruce Weber will use this season as a learning curve, to improve and gain experience as this team looks to the future for one more season. Look for Alex Legion to be the top player for Illinois.

7. Michigan
Michigan returns 3 starters. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims are both fine players who will lead this Wolverine team. They don't have any depth, but look for John Beilein to have this team competing.

8. Penn St.
Penn St. looked like a promising team last season, but it's two stars had their seasons cut short with injuries. Jamalle Cornley is one of those stars returning and should help an up-start Nittany Lions program compete for an NIT berth.

9. Iowa
The Hawkeyes return most of its nucleus and add a very good recruiting class, but they're still the same old struggling squad.

10. Northwestern
The Wildcats have better depth and more quality big men than in the past and some promising newcomers, but don't expect this year to be the year Northwestern moves up in the Big Ten standings.

11. Indiana
New head coach Tom Crean has a long road ahead of him. He has the toughest job of any team in the country right now. This program has gone through a lot of changes in the past year, but Crean is capable of turning it around. The Hoosiers return only two players from last years squad, Brett Finkelmeier and Kyle Taber, none of whom averaged over 2 ppg. IU has a decent recruiting class who desperately need to step up in their first year. This will be a long year for IU faithful.

Player of the Year: Raymar Morgan, F- Michigan St.

Freshman of the Year: B.J. Mullens, C- Ohio St.

Coach of the Year: Tubby Smith- Minnesota

Three Big Games:
North Carolina at Michigan St.- Dec. 3, Purdue at Wisconsin- Jan. 27, Purdue at Michigan St.- March 8.