Three-Headed Monster: An Early Look at the Big 10 Conference

Kevin BergerCorrespondent IMay 3, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - JANUARY 12:  Robbie Hummel #4 of the Purdue Boilermakers looks on during the Big Ten game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Mackey Arena on January 12, 2010 in West Lafayette, Indiana. Ohio State won 70-66.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

I fully expect the Big 10 conference to be much stronger this season, especially if Kalin Lucas and Robbie Hummel come back at 100 percent.

With Michigan State and Purdue at full strength, and Ohio State adding frosh phenom Jared Sullinger to the most experienced backcourt in America, this league rates to be one of the top two or three conferences in America and certainly one of the strongest if you’re talking about the top part of the standings.

The battles between the respective backcourts should be epic as always.

Lucas/Lucious vs. Lighty/Buford vs. Moore/Byrd are evenly matched tilts of athleticism and skill.

I love Ohio State’s backcourt experience and ability to defend the perimeter, Michigan State has the most dynamic and creative backcourt in conference, while the shooting/scoring duo the Boilermakers will deploy in their backcourt is second to none.

But the skirmishes that will take place between the frontcourts of this talented Big 10 troika are even more intriguing. Ohio State will deploy perhaps the most talented post in America with the aforementioned Jared Sullinger . He can hurt teams inside and out with a deadly combination of power and skill.

One possession he’ll drop step and dunk on you. The next, he may face up your five, power dribble by, and hit a feathery mid-range shot. He’s 260 pounds of basketball skill!

Flanking Sullinger in the front court is a pair of role players du jour. Jon Diebler is one of the deadliest snipers in America from the small forward spot while Dallas Lauderdale has the opportunity to excel in the role of garbage man with so much defensive attention directed at Sullinger.

In the Spartan frontcourt, talented wing Delvyn Roe should be healthy and ready to round back into his freshman form. He gives the Spartans terrific length and athleticism on the baseline.

Do-everything forward Draymond Green returns to East Lansing after carrying the Spartans to a Final Four. The talented junior’s dynamic floor game had some pundits uttering comparisons to Magic at the sight of the wide body going from banger to facilitator from possession to another.

The Boilermakers welcome back everybody’s all-American Robbie Hummel after he suffered a Kenyon Martin-esque injury just prior to last season’s NCAA tournament, effectively dashing Purdue’s chances at making a legitimate championship run.

Joining Hummel is the slightly built, yet talented jumping-jack JaJaun Johnson who should benefit from Hummel’s inside/outside scoring presence. The key for the Boilers will be finding some frontcourt muscle to protect Hummel and Johnson on the glass.

Can 6′10″, 265-pound sophomore Sandi Marcius be the enforcer the Boilermakers need, or will they have to make-do rebounding and defending as a team to make up for a lack of size as they did last season?

These three Big 10 powerhouses will make the conference much stronger than last season, especially when you consider each program should be anchored in the top five or 10 for most of the 2010-11 campaign.

Each program has a legitimate shot at staking claim to a coveted one-seed, with the two-team round-robin going a long way towards determining conference supremacy and national seeding.

From where we sit, the race for conference championship honors is too close to call. But even a hoops novice can see these three squads are among the nation’s best.


Kevin Berger writes the leading college hoops blog March To March

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