NCAA BK

Big Ten preview: Power conference

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Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for FOXSports.com. Check out his Yardbarker blog. MORE>>
 
   
 

Robbie Hummel may be down, but the Big Ten is not.

Michigan State, Ohio State and Illinois are all legitimate Top 20 teams, and Purdue, which lost Hummel to another torn ACL in the preseason, still has two of the top 50 players in the country with guard E’Twaun Moore and big man JaJuan Johnson back.

Then, you’ve still got Tubby Smith’s Minnesota team and Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin Badgers — two proven coaches who should somehow figure into the Big Ten race.

This is still arguably the top league in America.

BIG TEN PRESEASON PREDICTIONS

1. Michigan State: The Spartans were the walking wounded over the summer, and as long as everyone gets and stays healthy, Tom Izzo should be able to contend for another Final Four berth.

2. Ohio State: The Buckeyes have veterans David Lighty, Jon Diebler and William Buford back. Thad Matta lost Evan Turner, but he gained one of the best freshmen in Jared Sullinger.

3. Illinois: Bruce Weber has plenty of talent, experience and balance. The key, however, is leadership.

4. Minnesota: Smith has plenty of bigs, a talented wing in Rodney Williams and a quality backcourt with Devoe Joseph, Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen.

5. Purdue: The loss of Hummel is a devastating blow, but the Boilermakers still have two of the nation’s best in Johnson and Moore.

6. Wisconsin: Never count out Ryan. Never. Jon Leuer is one of the nation’s most underrated big men, and Jordan Taylor should emerge this season as one of the league’s best guards.

7. Northwestern: Kevin Coble quit the team, but the Wildcats still have enough talent to go to the Big Dance with guys like John Shurna and Drew Crawford.

8. Indiana: The Hoosiers should be improved, but by how much is the question. I’m not sure they can crack the top six or even seven in the league — even with a healthy Maurice Creek.

9. Michigan: It’s tough to ever count John Beilein out, but this year’s team is so young, it’s difficult to imagine the Wolverines making any sort of postseason.

10. Penn State: Talor Battle is one of the most underrated guys in the country, but he doesn’t have enough help. The Nittany Lions will finish somewhere in the bottom third of the league.

11. Iowa: Fran McCaffery has a lot of work to do to get the Hawkeyes back to respectability.

PACK YOUR DANCING SHOES

Michigan State

Ohio State

BEAT THE EXPERT

Check out FOXSports.com college basketball writer Reid Forgrave's bracket and see how yours stacks up.

Illinois

Minnesota

Purdue

Wisconsin

ALL-LEAGUE ACCOLADES

Preseason Player of the Year: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

Preseason Rookie of the Year: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

Preseason All-League First Team

F – Durrell Summers, Sr., Michigan State
F – JaJuan Johnson, Sr., Purdue
C – Jared Sullinger, Fr., Ohio State
G – William Buford, Jr., Ohio State
G –Kalin Lucas, Sr., Michigan State

Top Backcourt: Michigan State

Top Frontcourt: Ohio State

Coach on the Hot Seat: Ed DeChellis, Penn State

Most Underrated: Talor Battle, Penn State

You Don’t Know Him … Yet: Jereme Richmond, Illinois

THREE CAN’T-MISS FROSH

1. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: He’s a beast down low and could wind up being a First-Team All-American nationally at the end of the day.

2. Jereme Richmond, Illinois: Mr. Versatility. He plays with a ton of passion, can guard multiple positions and will take some of the pressure off Demetri McCamey.

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3. Adreian Payne, Michigan State: Payne’s extremely talented for a 6-foot-10 kid, but he’s still got a ways to go. He could be the X-factor for the Spartans.

TOP FIVE STORYLINES

1. Life without Hummel: Purdue went to the Sweet 16 without their do-it-all forward last March, but the Boilermakers also lost veterans Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant. Moore and Johnson are both capable of dominating games, but Matt Painter needs some help — and I’m not sure they have enough.

2. Buckeye Frosh: While all of the attention is around Ohio State freshman big man Sullinger, the key for Matta just may be another frosh in point guard Aaron Craft. Ohio State has all the pieces: a scorer in Buford, a glue guy in Lighty, a shooter in Diebler and a dominant big man with Sullinger. Craft can fill the final piece: a tough floor general.

3. Spartan Health: Izzo is back after flirting with the Cleveland Cavs, and now his team appears to be ready. If Michigan State is going to make a run at another Final Four, they need to get everyone on the same page and healthy. Just about everyone was injured at some point in the offseason.

4. Northwestern History: Will the Wildcats be better without Coble? That’s the word. He wasn’t exactly a team guy, and Bill Carmody has enough talent to get the program its first NCAA tournament berth.

5. Leading in Champaign: Weber has guards with McCamey, D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul. He has bigs with Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale and freshman Meyers Leonard. He’s added a versatile star in Richmond. But the major question with the Illini is who steps forward to become a leader? It didn’t happen last season, and they went to the NIT.

Tagged: Northwestern, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan State, Penn State, Purdue, John Shurna, William Buford, David Lighty, Kevin Coble, Demetri McCamey, Jon Diebler, Jon Leuer, Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, Talor Battle, Jereme Richmond, Jared Sullinger, Al Nolen

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