College Basketball Preseason: Complete 2012-13 Big Ten Men's Basketball Preview
The Big Ten will once again be a top conference in college basketball, and the race for the conference championship will be very competitive.
Indiana is the overall favorite—as it is also widely-regarded as the best team in all of college basketball this season—but Michigan and Ohio State are not far behind.
And of course, Michigan State and Wisconsin will always give a good fight for the title.
Here is a 2012-13 season preview for the Big Ten, with team-by-team breakdowns, preseason all-conference awards, and predictions for how the final standings will shape up.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Lost: Meyers Leonard, Sam Maniscalco, Jean Selus
Gains: Sam McLaurin, Mike LaTulip
After a number of disappointing seasons, Illinois finally let go of Bruce Weber. In his place, the Illini hired John Groce, who recently turned Ohio into a mid-major power.
Groce's mission has been classified as rebuilding, but Weber already left him the pieces to have a successful first season at Illinois.
The Fighting Illini return three of their top four scorers: Brandon Paul (14.7 ppg), D.J. Richardson (11.6 ppg) and Joseph Bertrand (6.5 ppg). The losses of center Meyers Leonard and point guard Sam Maniscalco will hurt, but they are replaceable.
Sam McLaurin, a graduate student who transferred from Coastal Carolina and is eligible immediately, will help replace some of Leonard's front court production. McLaurin averaged 10 points and 7.5 rebounds last year with the Chanticleers.
He will get help from senior Tyler Griffey, who averaged 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds in only 16.5 minutes last year.
Paul, Richardson and Bertrand will likely start in the back court with sophomore Tracy Abrams coming off the bench. Paul has the potential to be first team All-Big Ten, and Abrams will play a key role in replacing Maniscalco's production.
Lost: Verdell Jones III, Tom Pritchard, Kory Barnett, Daniel Moore, Matt Roth
Gains: Yogi Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Ron Patterson, Peter Jurkin
Indiana is widely considered the No. 1 team in the nation for the 2012-13 season, and everyone has them among their top three.
The Hoosiers, who advanced to the Sweet 16 last season, return their top five leading scorers.
Maurice Creek, who was once a top 100 recruit before multiple injuries set him back, will once again be with the team. Creek averaged 16.4 points and 3.8 rebounds as a freshman, but those numbers were cut to 8.3 and 2.4 during his sophomore season.
Cody Zeller, who made the Big Ten's second team as a freshman last year, is a frontrunner for National Player of the Year this year. Zeller averaged 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds and led the Big Ten in field goal percentage at 62.3 percent last season.
In CBSsports.com's "Critical Coaches" series this offseason, Zeller was voted the most coveted player for the 2012-13 season by 35 percent of the polled coaches.
Christian Watford, who hit this famous shot against Kentucky last season, and Jordan Hulls are a deadly pair of shooters that can balance Zeller's inside game with their perimeter jump shooting.
Lastly, the Hoosiers are bringing in Yogi Ferrell, a top-of-the-line recruit who could become the starting point guard. Ferrell was a McDonald's All-American and ranked No. 24 in the Class of 2012 on ESPN.
Lost: Matt Gatens, Bryce Cartwright, Andrew Brommer, Devon Archie, Branden Stubbs
Gains: Anthony Clemmons, Mike Gesell, Pat Ingram, Adam Woodbury, Kyle Meyer
After a rough first season with Iowa, Fran McCaffery's Hawkeyes finished No. 7 in the Big Ten last year, advanced to the second round of the NIT and finished with a record above .500.
The Hawkeyes now have the chance to improve on last season, as they return all but two key players: point guard Bryce Cartwright and shooting guard Matt Gatens.
In the backcourt, they return Josh Oglesby, Eric May and point-forward Roy Devyn Marble. Marble is the most intriguing of the three. At 6'6", he averaged 11.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He also made 22 of 56 three-point attempts.
Due to his size, he is not a traditional point guard, so the Hawkeyes will probably have to rely on either Oglesby or May to share the load as distributor.
Iowa returns a strong pair of forwards in Aaron White and Melsahn Basabe.
White broke onto the scene immediately as a freshman last year, posting 19 points and 10 rebounds in his college debut. He went on to average 11.1 points and 5.7 rebounds.
Basabe, a junior, was also great as a rookie with 11 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, but last year those numbers dipped to 8.2 points and 4.8 boards. The Hawkeyes need him to produce like he did as a freshman.
Heading Iowa's very solid recruiting class are top 100 recruits Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury. Gesell, a point guard, posted 25.2 points and 8.2 assists during his junior year of high school, and Woodbury, a 7'1" center, averaged 17 points and 11.6 rebounds last year.
Lost: Zack Novak, Evan Smotrycz, Stu Douglass, Carlton Brundidge, Colton Christian
Gains: Glenn Robinson III, Spike Albrecht, Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, Max Bielfeldt
Michigan was hit hard with the departures of three players at the conclusion of last season. Zack Novak, Evan Smotrycz and Stu Douglass, who all played big roles on last year's tournament team, are gone, leaving a hole in the Wolverines' roster.
However, the Wolverines do return their top two scorers, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., as well as forward Jordan Morgan.
Burke and Hardaway Jr. make up arguably the best backcourt in the Big Ten. As a freshman, Burke averaged 14.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists. He initially put his name into the 2012 NBA Draft but ultimately withdrew, choosing to return for his sophomore season.
Hardaway Jr. averaged 14.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Although his scoring average increased from his freshman year by close to a point, his shooting percentages dropped. His field-goal percentage fell from 42 percent to 41.8 percent, and his three-point shooting plummeted from 36.7 percent to 28.3 percent.
Morgan, who was great as a freshman, was a little more mediocre last season. He averaged only 7.3 points and 5.6 rebounds, but he converted close to 62 percent of his field goals.
Lastly, the Wolverines have three top 100 recruits as part of their five-man recruiting class. Glenn Robinson, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas all have the potential to contribute immediately alongside Morgan in the front court.
Michigan State Spartans
Lost: Draymond Green, Brandon Wood, Austin Thornton, Joe Sweeny, Anthony Ianni, Dan Chapman
Gains: Gary Harris, Matt Costello, Kenny Kaminski, Denzel Valentine
Michigan State lost a lot from last season, but you can always expect Tom Izzo to keep his team in the mix for a Big Ten title.
The Spartans' three starters from last year's Sweet 16 team: Keith Appling, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne.
Appling is expected to have a huge year for Michigan State. The junior averaged 11.4 points and 3.9 assists last year, and this season he will become even more of a contributor with the graduation of Draymond Green and his 3.8 assists per game.
Dawson, who missed the end of last season with a leg injury, will be back and ready to reclaim his starting role. He averaged 8.4 points and 4.5 rebounds last season while shooting nearly 58 percent from the field. At 6'6", he is a strong rebounder who also has great speed.
Payne did not do much his freshman season, but last year he showed his potential with seven points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. He will be joined in the front court by Derrick Nix, who had a breakout junior season, averaging 8.1 points and 3.8 rebounds a game.
To help replace the losses of Green, Brandon Wood and Austin Thornton, Coach Izzo brought in four top 100 recruits, including Gary Harris, the No. 2 shooting guard in the ESPN Top 100. Harris averaged 25.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and four steals at Hamilton Southeastern High School last year.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Lost: Ralph Sampson III, Chlip Armelin
Gains: Maurice Walker, Wally Ellenson, Charles Buggs
Minnesota received good news in the offseason when Trevor Mbakwe was granted a sixth season after missing all but seven of last season's games with an injury. Mbakwe averaged a double-double in the 2010-11 season, and last year he was averaging 14 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks before going down at the Old Spice Classic.
If Mbakwe remains his old self despite the injury, he could be a Big Ten first team selection when the end of the season comes around.
The Golden Gophers also return athletic forward Rodney Williams. Once Mbakwe was out for the season, Williams led the team in scoring with 12.2 points per game and in rebounding with 5.6 boards per game.
Although Minnesota's 2011-12 campaign was ultimately a disappointment, the Golden Gophers did advance all the way to the NIT championship game, and they return most of the main pieces.
With a solid trio of guards in Julian Welch, Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins, Minnesota is headed for a finish in the top half of the Big Ten.
Lost: Bo Spencer, Toney McCray, Jorge Brian Diaz, Josiah Moore, Brandon Richardson, Caleb Walker
Gains: Shavon Shields, Benny Parker, Deverell Biggs, Sergej Vucetic
Nebraska is easily the worst team in the Big Ten this year.
The Cornhuskers, who tied with Penn State for last place in the conference last season, return only one starter: Brandon Ubel, who averaged 6.7 points and 5.3 rebounds.
The only other key player returning is Dylan Talley, who averaged 8.9 points and 3.3 rebounds.
Aside from those two, no other player who played more than 10 minutes per game is returning.
The one bright spot for Cornhusker fans is Tim Miles, the new head coach. Miles has built up two programs recently.
First, he transformed North Dakota State into a Division I program and took it to a 20-win season as an independent. One year later, the Bison went to the NCAA tournament.
Then Miles took Colorado State from seven wins in his first season to a 20-win season last year, which included an NCAA tournament appearance.
But even Miles will have trouble doing much with this squad. Anything better than last place this year can be considered a miracle.
Lost: John Shurna, Luka Mirkovic, Nick Fruendt, Davide Curletti
Gains: Jared Swopshire, Chier Ajou, Kale Abrahamson, Alex Olah, Sanjay Lumpkin
Northwestern once again fell short of the NCAA tournament last year and wound up in the NIT. The Wildcats still have a very talented player in senior Drew Crawford, but they will likely once again be disappointed come Selection Sunday.
The Wildcats also return Dave Sobolewski and Reggie Hearn, who both played key parts last season. Both are solid three-point shooters at 35.7 percent and 37.1 percent, respectively.
Also among the Wildcats' group of three-point shooters is senior Alex Marcotullio, who averaged 5.2 points and 41.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Among their newcomers are the seven-foot Alex Olah and the 7'2" Chier Ajou, along with small forward Kale Abrahamson. All three of these freshman could play significant roles this season.
Jared Swopshire, a Louisville transfer who is fresh off a trip to the Final Four, will play a significant role. He averaged 3.3 points and 2.8 rebounds for the Cardinals last year, and his experience will be very valuable to the Wildcats.
Northwestern took a big hit with the season-long suspension of JerShon Cobb back in September. Cobb averaged 7.1 points and 1.4 steals last year, and he was expected to start in 2012-13.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Lost: Jared Sullinger, William Buford, Jordan Siebert, J.D. Weatherspoon
Gains: Amedeo Della Valle
Although Ohio State lost its leader in Jared Sullinger and another starter in William Buford, the Buckeyes are still the second best team in the Big Ten and possibly a Top 10 team nationally.
Returning are Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr., as well as reserves Evan Ravenel and Sam Thompson.
Thomas is widely regarded as one of the top players in Division I. He averaged 15.9 points and 5.4 rebounds last year, and those numbers are expected to rise now that he is the Buckeyes' top dog in the front court. In five NCAA tournament games, he averaged 19.2 points and 7.6 rebounds.
Craft is arguably the best point guard in the nation. His numbers are not off the charts, although they do look good across the board. He averaged 8.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.5 steals last year, but anyone who has seen him play can see that he impacts a game to a great extent, especially with his hard-nosed defense.
Smith Jr. flew under the radar with all the other great Buckeyes taking the spotlight, but he still had a strong sophomore season with 6.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and two assists per game. He could be ready to take on the role that Buford left behind.
Even with this core trio, the Buckeyes will need other players to step up, especially in the front court. That is where Ravenel and Thompson come in.
Both have solid size, but they only played a hair over 10 minutes per game last season. They will get more playing time this year, and they will have to produce.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Lost: Matt Glover, Trey Lewis, Peter Alexis, Cammeron Woodyard, Billy Oliver
Gains: D.J. Newbill, Donovan Jack, Brandon Taylor, Akosa Maduegbunam
When looking at just the backcourt, Penn State looks like an NCAA tournament team.
The Nittany Lions return their top two scorers, 6'4" Jermaine Marshall and 6'1" Tim Frazier.
Marshall scored 10.8 points per game last season in addition to 4.1 rebounds. With another year of experience under his belt, he could become a deadly scorer.
Meanwhile, Frazier will compete for Big Ten Player of the Year. He averaged 18.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.4 steals last year for Penn State. He has the potential to put up a triple-double this season.
The Nittany Lions also have Southern Miss transfer D.J. Newbill eligible for the upcoming season. Newbill, as a freshman for the Golden Eagles, averaged 9.2 points and 6.2 rebounds.
The trouble for them lies in the front court.
They will likely start some combination of Ross Travis, Sasa Borovnjak and Jonathan Graham, none of whom were too great last year. Travis was the best of the three with 4.4 points and 4.2 rebounds.
Lost: Robbie Hummel, Lewis Jackson, Kelsey Barlow, John Hart, Ryne Smith
Gains: Donnie Hale, A.J. Hammons, Rapheal Davis, Ronnie Johnson, Jay Simpson, Stephen Toyra
Purdue has gone to the NCAA tournament every year since 2007, but this year the Boilermakers will fall short.
The Boilermakers lost four key players at the conclusion of last season, most notably Robbie Hummel and Lewis Jackson. Hummel averaged 16.4 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting 38.3 percent from three-point range, and Jackson scored 10.4 points per game and led Purdue with 4.2 assists per game and 1.2 steals per game.
Purdue also lost Ryne Smith, who averaged 9.1 points and shot 43.2 percent on three-pointers, and Kelsey Barlow, who scored 8.3 points per game.
And to replace all that production?
There's not a whole lot.
The main returning players are Terone Johnson and D.J. Byrd, who averaged 9.2 points and 8.9 points, respectively. Byrd made three-pointers at a 43 percent clip last season.
Matt Painter is bringing in a strong recruiting class with three top 100 recruits, but the freshmen will have to have extraordinary seasons to get Purdue back to the Big Dance.
Lost: Jordan Taylor, Rob Wilson, Jared Uthoff
Gains: George Marshall, Zach Bohannon, Sam Dekker, Zak Showalter
Wisconsin lost its star, Jordan Taylor, but the rest of the Badgers core is back for what could become a third consecutive Sweet 16 season.
Ryan Evans, who has evolved into a very good all-around player, averaged 11 points and 6.8 rebounds last year. He will have to step up and take on a bigger leadership role for the Badgers this year.
Also back are sharpshooters Jared Berggren, Josh Gasser and Ben Brust, who shot 37.2 percent, 45.2 percent and 38.9 percent on three-pointers, respectively.
The challenge for Wisconsin will be replacing Taylor at the point guard position.
Gasser leads returning players with 1.9 assists per game, so he would be a logical choice for replacement. However, he is used to being an off-ball guard.
Preseason All-Big Ten Awards
All-Conference First Team
Tim Frazier, Penn State
Trey Burke, Michigan
Drew Crawford, Northwestern
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
Cody Zeller, Indiana
Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year—Cody Zeller, Indiana
Defensive Player of the Year—Aaron Craft, Ohio State
Newcomer of the Year—Gary Harris, Michigan State
2. Ohio State
4. Michigan State
11. Penn State