Big Ten Basketball Preseason Power Rankings

Aaron Siegal-EismanFeatured ColumnistNovember 8, 2012

Big Ten Basketball Preseason Power Rankings

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    The Big Ten Conference is the deepest conference in America with five teams making the Top 25 and three teams earning top-five spots in both the AP and USA Today Polls.

    Don't get me wrong, the Big East Conference is a close second with teams like No. 2 ranked Louisville and No. 9 ranked Syracuse holding their own in the Top 10.

    ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi put out his recent preseason Bracketology and has the Big Ten and Big East each having seven teams make the tournament.

    I could even see Iowa or Northwestern being the eighth team from the conference to make the tournament.

    This could be the year where you see three Big Ten teams make it to the Elite Eight, which hasn't happened since 2005.

    Every week from now until the end of the season I will be writing the Big Ten Power Rankings.

12. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    2011-2012 Season Record: 12-18 (4-14 in Big Ten Play)

    The Cornhuskers are going to have another rough year in the Big Ten, just like last year.

    They lost nine ten of their last 10 (Big Ten) games, and double-digit average scorer Bo Spencer graduated. 

    Also, Head Coach Doc Sadler was fired (now Director of Basketball Operations at Kansas) and was replaced with Tim Miles from Colorado State, who by the way stole the show at Big Ten media day.

    The last two seasons of Miles' career at Colorado State ended in postseason play in the NIT and then the NCAA tournament.

    The last time the Cornhuskers made the NCAA tournament was in 1998, but Miles hopes to get them back there.

    Don't expect much from Nebraska this year, as they will need time to rebuild and change lots of things to fit Miles' system.  

11. Penn State Nittany Lions

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    2011-2012 Season Record: 12-20 (4-14)

    If Penn State didn't have guard Tim Frazier who ranks No. 54 on CBS Sports' Top 100 players, then they would compete with the Cornhuskers for last on my power rankings. 

    But Frazier is on the team and is expected to have a better year than last season, when he averaged 18.8 points, 6.2 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game.

    Penn State's other starting guard Jermaine Marshall should help Frazier with PSU's backcourt.

    Second-year head coach Patrick Chambers will get more wins than last year, but not many more in my opinion.

    The Nittany Lions' supporting cast will need to have more of an impact if this team is going to win more than four Big Ten games this year.   

10. Illinois Fighting Illini

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    2011-2012 Season Record: 17-15 (6-12)

    After nine years, Head Coach Bruce Weber was fired (now the Kansas State Head Coach) and John Groce from Ohio University took over the program.

    The Fighting Illini's leading scorer guard Brandon Paul returns after averaging 14.7 points-per-game last year. 

    The other starting guard, D.J. Richardson, brings back an average of 11.6 points-per-game to the table. 

    The loss of big man Meyers Leonard to the NBA (11th overall pick to the Portland Trail Blazers) really hurts Illinois in the paint.   

    You can already see the Fighting Illini's struggles, as they only defeated Division II West Chester (Pa.) by nine points in their exhibition game on Sunday.

    We will see the struggles continue with a very difficult nonconference schedule that includes the EA Sports Maui Invitational in November and games against Gonzaga and Missouri in December. 

9. Northwestern Wildcats

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    2011-2012 Season Record: 19-14 (8-10) — Lost in the Second Round of the NIT to Washington

    I'm sure almost anyone who had to defend Jon Shurna last year in the Big Ten is glad that he graduated. 

    The Wildcats lose his 20 points-per-game and will need someone to make up for those lost points.

    The guy that needs to step up is guard/forward Drew Crawford, who averaged 16.1 points-per-game and 4.7 rebounds-per-game last year.

    I feel bad because the Wildcats deserved to make the NCAA tournament last year, but I believe the loss of Shurna will hurt the team this year.

    I do feel that they could get up to at least No. 7 sometime in these power rankings, but how they play this first month will show whether or not this team is legitimate.   

8. Iowa Hawkeyes

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    2011-2012 Season Record: 18-17 (8-10) — Lost in the Second Round of the NIT to Oregon. 

    The Hawkeyes are my sleeper Big Ten team this year because of their depth and ability to play well at home against good Big Ten opponents. 

    The loss of leading scorer Matt Gatens means junior guard/forward Roy Devyn Marble and sophomore forward Aaron White need to pick up the scoring slack. 

    Junior forward Melsahn Basabe needs to become productive again in terms of points and rebounds, just like he was during his freshman year when he was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team.

    Iowa brings in five quality freshmen (two 4-star recruits and three 3-star recruits) that could all help out immediately.

    Expect to see lots of playing time given to seven-foot center Adam Woodbury, who was the No. 11 ranked center in the Class of 2012 according to Rivals.com.

    The only way the Hawkeyes will get to 20 or more wins this year is if they play better on defense. Last year, they allowed a Big Ten-worst 72.5 points per game.

7. Purdue Boilermakers

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    2011-2012 Season Record: 22-13 (10-8) — Lost in the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament to Kansas

    Head Coach Matt Painter is probably not happy losing Robbie Hummel, Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith, who combined for half of the team's scoring last year.

    Guard Terone Johnson will need to step up and be that leader for the team, after averaging 9.2 points-per-game last year. 

    Six of the 14 players listed on the Boilermakers roster are freshmen, which makes Purdue a very young team in the Big Ten.

    These freshmen were all highly recruited out of high school, which helped give Purdue the No. 20 ranked class, according to Scout.com

    Freshman center A.J. Hammons will earn immediate playing time because the Boilermakers need a reliable defender in the paint.

    Time will tell if losing Hummel, Jackson and Smith really hurts this team's chances of making the NCAA Tournament or if the freshmen can step up big for this squad.  

6. Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    2011-2012 Season Record: 23-15 (6-12) — Lost in NIT Championship Game to Stanford

    The main reason Minnesota is receiving top-25 votes in both polls is because it returns forwards Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams.

    Both are ranked in the CBS Sports' Top 100 players (Mbakwe at No. 15 and Williams at No. 93).

    Mbakwe was averaging 14.0 points and 9.1 rebounds per game last year before ending his season with a major knee injury. 

    Williams was the only other Golden Gopher who averaged double digits last year (12.2 points-per-game).

    The supporting cast of Julian Welch (9.5 points-per-game), Austin Hollins (9.2 points-per-game) and Andre Hollins (8.7 points-per-game) need to help Mbakwe and Williams out when they have bad games.

    If Mbakwe is back to where he was before the major injury, then the Golden Gophers could make a major impact in the deep Big Ten Conference this year.

     


     

5. (AP No. 23/ USA Today No. 21) Wisconsin Badgers

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    2011-2012 Season Record: 26-10 (12-6) - Lost in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament to Syracuse

    Head Coach Bo Ryan made the Badgers tough to beat last year because of their defense, which led the nation by allowing only 53.2 points-per-game.

    Wisconsin needs to play better on offense, after averaging only 64 points-per-game last year, and losing guard Jordan Taylor won't help.

    Seniors Ryan Evans (11.0 points-per-game) and Jared Berggren (10.5 points-per-game) need to be this team's top offensive players this year.

    Freshman forward Sam Dekker is ranked the No. 17 best player in the country by ESPN.com

    Coach Ryan is not known for recruiting and receiving commitments from top-high school talent, but he got himself a great shooter who could win Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

    If the Badgers are as good or better of a defensive team than last year, then they could make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. 

    Update: Junior Josh Gasser was lost for the season after tearing his ACL in late October. That's a big loss, as Gasser was expected to start at point guard and shot 45.2 percent from three-point range last year, but Wisconsin still looks strong this season overall.



4. (No. 14) Michigan State Spartans

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    2011-2012 Season Record: 29-8 (13-5) — Lost in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament to Louisville

    Head Coach Tom Izzo and the Spartans are always a tough team to defeat, especially when they play at home. 

    Expect to see upsets because of the home-court advantage they receive at the Breslin Center.  

    Guards Branden Dawson (No. 41) and Keith Appling (No. 89) are both ranked in CBS Sports' Top 100 players. 

    It's hard to see if the Spartans will have as good of a year as last year, after losing Draymond Green to the NBA (selected No. 35 by the Golden State Warriors).

    Another freshman to watch out for is McDonald's All-American Gary Harris, who is ranked No. 11 in the 2012 class by ESPN.com.

    Harris received offers from No. 1 Indiana, No. 2 Louisville and No. 3 Kentucky before committing to the Spartans. He also is ranked No. 74 on CBS Sports' Top 100 players list. 

    Izzo loves scheduling tough November nonconference teams to see where his team is at. 

    The Spartans start out their season with UConn at Ramstein Air Base in Germany and then play No. 7 ranked Kansas four days later in Atlanta, Ga. 

    Green is tough to replace, but Harris will pick up some of those points lost and help fellow guards Dawson and Appling this year.  

3. (No. 4) Ohio State Buckeyes

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    2011-2012 Season Record: 31-8 (13-5) — Lost in the Final 4 of the NCAA Tournament to Kansas

    The main reason why Ohio State is at No. 3 and not No. 2 on the power rankings is because it is not as deep compared to the top two teams in the rankings.

    One thing that OSU has that the top two teams in the rankings don't have is postseason experience past the Sweet 16 from last year. 

    The Buckeyes do return to the court with quality talent in point guard Aaron Craft (8.8 points-per-game, 4.6 assists-per-game and 2.5 steals-per-game) and forward Deshaun Thomas (15.9 points-per-game and 5.4 rebounds-per-game). 

    Both earned All-Big Ten honors last year, and both Thomas (No. 10) and Craft (No. 12) were ranked in CBS Sports' Top 100 players.

    But the losses of Jared Sullinger to the NBA (21st pick overall to the Boston Celtics) and graduating William Buford could really hurt this team.

    Guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr. and forward Evan Ravenel need to make contributions because of those two losses. 

    Freshmen Amedeo Della Valle could become the "Italian John Diebler" because of his three-point shooting ability. 

    We will see where these Buckeyes are at after they face Marquette in the season opener and No. 8 ranked Duke on the road in the ACC-Big Ten challenge.  

     



     

2. (No. 5) Michigan Wolverines

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    2011-2012 Season Record: 24-10 (13-5) — Lost in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament to Ohio (new Illinois Coach John Groce's old team)

    Michigan is ranked higher than the Buckeyes in the power rankings because of its depth and talent.

    Last year, Burke was named the Freshman of the Year by the media, after averaging 14.8 points and 4.6 assists per game.

    While other standout guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. added 14.6 points-per-game.

    Burke (No. 9) and Hardaway Jr. (No. 35) are both ranked in CBS Sports' Top 100 players.  

    Burke is a better scoring point guard than OSU's Craft, but Craft is more of a true point guard. 

    Head Coach John Beilein brought in a top-10 recruiting class according to Scout.com that features No. 18 ranked Glenn Robinson and No. 27 ranked Mitch McGary according to ESPN.com.

    These two freshmen should help the Wolverines right away.

    Michigan will need all the help it can get when it faces No. 6 NC State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on November 27.

    One question about Michigan is whether its youth will help or hurt it down the road in the NCAA tournament.  

     

     

1. (No. 1) Indiana Hoosiers

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    2011-2012 Season Record: 27-9 (11-7) - Lost in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament to Kentucky, which ended up winning the national title.  

    Kentucky earned its revenge after losing to the Hoosiers in December by defeating them on their second chance in the Sweet 16 and eventually winning the national title three games later.

    IU returns all of its starters from last year, except for guard Verdell Jones III, who graduated.   

    The return of almost everyone from a year ago and the addition of highly-recruited freshmen helped the Hoosiers earn the No. 1 spot.  

    Zeller would have been a lottery pick in last year's NBA draft, but he returned and is now the USA Today Preseason Player of the Year. 

    Zeller has the supporting cast around him with an excellent shooting forward in Christian Watford and athletic guard Victor Oladipo.

    No. 19 ranked Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell can be the starting point guard right away for the Hoosiers because he is an excellent ball-handler, has great vision and can shoot well from mid-range.       

    The main cause for concern is not having two of their freshmen, forward Hanner Perea and center Peter Jurkin, because of a recent nine-game suspension, and forward Derek Elston suffered an injury that will sideline him for nonconference play. 

    It seems that the Hoosiers will have to deal with these misfortunes and play with a smaller lineup in the first two months, but that shouldn't affect their chances of cutting down the nets in April.