Big Ten Basketball: Predicting Starting Lineups and Rotations

Ryan Curi@rcuri1Featured ColumnistNovember 7, 2013

Big Ten Basketball: Predicting Starting Lineups and Rotations

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Last season, the Big Ten was the nation's best conference. Sure, no member of the league has won a National Championship since Michigan State defeated Florida in the 2000 title, though Michigan did give Louisville all it could take in the 2013 finals. 

    Once again, at least half the league's members should make the NCAA tournament, though in my estimation I figure seven or eight of the 12 squads will participate in the 2014 version of March Madness. There are no gimme games, and the league is deeper than ever.

    A year from now, our focus may be turned to the league's two new members, Maryland and Rutgers. For the time being though, let's turn out attention to Top 10 teams like Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan. Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota all participated in last year's NCAA tournament and would love to go back again this March.

    This is Iowa's season to get back to the field of 68 and even make some noise once they get there. Purdue and Penn State each look to build on down years, while Northwestern and Nebraska are the only BCS conference teams to have never won NCAA tournament games. Here is a look at each team's starting lineup, eight-man rotation and a quick synopsis.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    C - Walter Pitchford, SO

    PF - David Rivers, JR

    SF - Shavon Shields, SO

    SG - Ray Gallegos, SR

    PG - Tai Webster, FR

    6 - Terran Petteway, SO

    7 - Benny Parker, SO

    8 - Nick Fuller, FR

    Tim Miles welcomes stud freshman Webster, who hails from New Zealand. Webster will make an immediate impact and could even be the team's top player in 2013-14. Gallegos is a pure scorer, while Rivers has put on muscle in the offseason to become more accustomed to physical Big Ten play.

    Transfers Pitchford and Petteway will also play from day one. Pitchford comes from Florida and can stretch the floor as a shooting big man. Petteway is already a team captain, coming to Lincoln from Texas Tech. Shields came along during Big Ten play as a freshman and is poised for a huge sophomore season.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    C - Elliott Eliason, JR

    PF - Oto Osenieks, JR

    SF - Austin Hollins, SR

    SG - DeAndre Mathieu, JR

    PG - Andre Hollins, JR

    6 - Joey King, SO

    7 - Maurice Walker, JR

    8 - Malik Smith, SR

    Richard Pitino welcomes back backcourt members Andre and Austin Hollins, who both are from Tennessee, though not related. He also adds guard Mathieu, from the junior college ranks, and Smith, whom he coached at Florida International.

    In the frontcourt, Eliason will be called to take on a bigger role without Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams Jr. on campus. Osenieks and Walker have played spot minutes early in their careers, while King is a transfer from Drake who could compete for the starting power forward position.

Penn State Nittany Lions

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    C -  Donovon Jack, SO

    PF - Brandon Taylor, SO

    SF - Ross Travis, SR

    SG - D.J. Newbill, JR

    PG - Tim Frazier, SR

    6 - Allen Roberts, SR

    7 - Graham Woodward, FR

    8 - Payton Banks, FR

    The loss of Jermaine Marshall, who transferred to Arizona State, hurt what could have been a top backcourt. They Nittany Lions will gladly take back Frazier, who missed the 2012-13 season with an Achilles injury. There, he'll be joined by fellow all-around stud Newbill.

    Travis can play any frontcourt position as one of the league's top rebounders, though he has the handles to bring the ball up and attack the basket himself. Taylor provided promising moments off Pat Chambers' bench a year ago, while Jack's potential remains untapped. 

Northwestern Wildcats

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    C - Alex Olah, SO

    PF - Sanjay Lumpkin, FR

    SF - Drew Crawford, SR

    SG - JerShon Cobb, JR

    PG - Dave Sobolewski, JR

    6 - Tre Demps, SO

    7 - Kale Abrahamson, SO

    8 - Nate Taphorn, FR

    First-year head coach Chris Collins welcomes fifth-year senior Crawford back to Evanston after missing last season due to shoulder surgery. Cobb also returns to the court after missing last season. Lumpkin and Abrahamson should split time at power forward, each helping in different aspects of the game.

    Olah, a true 7-footer, had a big summer for the Romanian national team. He could very well be the best true center in Evanston since Evan Eschmeyer. Sobolewski is a steady hand at point guard, while Demps is never shy to shoot the rock and will be called upon to score when in the game.

Purdue Boilermakers

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    C - A.J. Hammons, SO

    PF - Jay Simpson, FR

    SF - Rapheal Davis, SO

    SG - Terone Johnson, SR

    PG - Ronnie Johnson, SO

    6 - Kendall Stephens, FR

    7 - Errick Peck, SR

    8 - Bryson Scott, FR

    Hammons has NBA talent but will need to work on character issues that will keep him from playing in the Boilermakers' first three games this season. Simpson, an asthmatic, is in the best shape of his life and can play either frontcourt position. Expect Cornell transfer Peck to play plenty in the stretch 4 spot.

    The Johnson brothers are back as Matt Painter's starting backcourt in what should be their final season playing together. Both are capable of getting to the basket and finishing, though they need to improve on their outside and free-throw shooting. Davis is a solid player who is flying under the radar.

Indiana Hoosiers

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    C - Noah Vonleh, FR

    PF - Jeremy Hollowell, SO

    SF - Will Sheehey, SR

    SG - Troy Williams, FR

    PG - Yogi Ferrell, SO

    6 - Evan Gordon, SR

    7 - Hanner Mosquera-Perea, SO

    8 - Stanford Robinson, FR

    Fellow freshmen Luke Fischer and Devin Davis could also enter into Tom Crean's inexperienced rotation. Vonleh, a future NBA player, will have lofty expectations associated with him after two seasons of Cody Zeller playing the center spot. Perea appears to have the physical tools to play in the middle as well.

    Hollowell prefers to play on the perimeter, while Sheehey can slash but isn't an efficient free-throw shooter. Ferrell needs to improve upon decision-making, while Gordon's experience should provide a lift off the bench. He's no Eric Gordon, though he is his younger brother.

Illinois Fighting Illini

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    C - Nnanna Egwu, JR

    PF - Jon Ekey, SR

    SF - Joseph Bertrand, SR

    SG - Rayvonte Rice, JR

    PG - Tracy Abrams, JR

    6 - Malcolm Hill, FR

    7 - Kendrick Nunn, FR

    8 - Jaylon Tate, FR

    As opposed as John Groce was to playing small lineups a year ago, he may have no choice this season. The only scholarship players not listed in the Illini's rotation are freshmen Austin Colbert and Maverick Morgan, bigs who have struggled in the team's exhibition games and look raw.

    Bertrand, a redshirt senior, has upped his role to starter, while fellow redshirt senior transfer Ekey will be a welcome addition from the stretch 4 slot. Juniors Egwu and Abrams will build upon solid sophomore campaigns, while Drake-transfer Rice should be the team's best all-around player.

Michigan Wolverines

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    C - Jordan Morgan, SR

    PF - Mitch McGary, SO

    SF - Glenn Robinson III, SO

    SG - Nik Stauskas, SO

    PG - Derrick Walton Jr., FR

    6 - Zak Irvin, FR

    7 - Caris LeVert, SO

    8 - Jon Horford, JR

    Unlike previous Michigan teams under John Beilein, the Wolverines will play big this season. Sophomores McGary, Robinson and Stauskas will all slot down a position, respectively. McGary and Robinson have received plenty of preseason accolades, in what could be their last season in Ann Arbor.

    Morgan is a defensive stopper, being backed up by Horford, brother of NBA star Al Horford. Irvin, last year's Mr. Basketball in the state of Indiana, will be a de facto starter for Michigan, while fellow freshman Walton is expected to fill Trey Burke's void, while still having to beat out Spike Albrecht as starter.

Wisconsin Badgers

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    C - Frank Kaminsky, JR

    PF - Sam Dekker, SO

    SF - Josh Gasser, JR 

    SG - Ben Brust, SR

    PG - Traevon Jackson, JR

    6 - Nigel Hayes, FR

    7 - George Marshall, SO

    8 - Bronson Koenig, FR

    Another prototypical Bo Ryan Badger squad, you can't help but pick UW to finish in the Big Ten's top four again, despite the league's depth. While losing senior bigs Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz, Kaminsky can fill the center role while the versatile Dekker will be the team's go-to-guy.

    Ryan should go small, playing a trio of guards in Gasser, Brust and Jackson together to start the game. When Jackson is pulled, Gasser will do the ball-handling. Freshmen Hayes and Koenig should be immediate contributors, despite Ryan's hesitancy to play youngsters.

Iowa Hawkeyes

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    C - Adam Woodbury, SO

    PF - Melsahn Basabe, SR

    SF - Aaron White, JR 

    SG - Roy Devyn Marble, SR

    PG - Mike Gesell, SO

    6 - Jarrod Uthoff, SO

    7 - Zach McCabe, SR

    8 - Josh Oglesby, JR

    The Hawkeyes will go 11 players deep this season in hopes of getting back to the NCAA tournament. Junior Gabe Olaseni, sophomore Anthony Clemmons and freshman Peter Jok will round out the team's rotation, which is particularly deep in the frontcourt.

    Marble and White will continue to be the team's best two players. Basabe, though enigmatic, will be a spark. Gesell and Clemmons will take care of the ball-handling, while Woodbury and Olaseni will be defensive forces in the middle. Uthoff, a Wisconsin transfer, will be a welcome addition as well.

Ohio State Buckeyes

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    C - Amir Williams, JR

    PF - LaQuinton Ross, JR

    SF - Sam Thompson, JR

    SG - Lenzelle Smith Jr., SR

    PG - Aaron Craft, SR

    6 - Shannon Scott, JR

    7 - Marc Loving, FR

    8 - Kameron Williams, FR

    Sophomore Amedeo Della Valle and junior big man Trey McDonald could see minutes should the Buckeyes need a sharpshooter or inside presence, respectively. Williams was disappointing as a sophomore, leading Thad Matta to use an incredibly small lineup with Deshaun Thomas at the No. 5 spot.

    When Loving enters the game, he could very well play center despite being undersized for that position in the Big Ten. Scott and Craft together could be a deadly defensive combo, while Thompson is one of the league's best athletes. Ross should fill the void left by Thomas, while Smith Jr. will be solid as always.

Michigan State Spartans

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    C - Matt Costello, SO

    PF - Adreian Payne, SR

    SF - Branden Dawson, JR

    SG - Gary Harris, SO

    PG - Keith Appling, SR

    6 - Denzel Valentine, SO

    7 - Travis Trice, JR

    8 - Alex Gauna, JR

    Veteran Russell Byrd and freshman Gavin Schilling could break into the rotation depending on team needs. Costello appears to be the odd man out in the starting lineup, so expect to see Izzo go with a small ball lineup pushing Payne and Dawson into frontcourt positions, with either Valentine or Trice filling in.

    The Spartans are the clear-cut favorite to win the Big Ten and bound to make a Final Four, as Izzo has never gone four straight seasons without making the Final Four. Seniors Payne and Appling have yet to get there, so expect big things from the All-American Payne and up-and-down Appling.