Looking back to last season, the conference had its share of ups and downs. But at this moment, it is really tough to think of any of the ups. But the downs are pretty obvious. The Indiana and Calvin Sampson divorce, the downward spiral of Illinois, the fact that no Big Ten team advanced past the third round of the NCAA Tournament, and did I mention Indiana.
The rich get richer and the poor get richer. Everyone should like the sound of that. The Big Ten rebounds from a below average season with four teams in the CBS Sportline's Preseason Top 25 Poll and potentially more - I think six - having a chance to play in Detroit this April.
1. Michigan State *No. 9 on CBS Sportline
2. Purdue *No. 6
3. Ohio State *No. 19
4. Wisconsin *No. 22
7. Penn State
Player of the Year: Robbie Hummel, Purdue
Freshmen of the Year: B.J. Mullens, Ohio State
All-Big Ten First Team
G Manny Harris, Michigan
G Kalin Lucas, Michigan State
G E’Twaun Moore, Purdue
F Robbie Hummel, Purdue
F Raymar Morgan, Michigan State
All-Big Ten Second Team
G Trevon Hughes, Wisconsin
G Keaton Grant, Purdue
F Kevin Coble, Northwestern
F Marcus Laundry, Wisconsin
C B.J. Mullens, Ohio State
F Joe Krabbenhoft, Wisconsin, F Evan Turnerand and G David Lighty, Ohio State, F Goran Suton, Michigan State, G Brian Westbrook, Minnesota, F Jamelle Cornley, Penn State, F DeShawn Sim, Michigan, G Alex Legion, Illinois.
Conference Rank: 1
Michigan State Spartans
Head Coach: Tom Izzo
2007-08 Record: 27-9 (12-6 Big Ten)
Key Losses: G 6’0” Drew Neitzel, C 6’10” Drew Naymick
Key Additions:F 6’8” Delvon Roe, F 6‘7” Draymond Green, G 5’11” Korie Lucious
G Kalin Lucas So. 6’0” 10.3 ppg, 1.6 apg
G Chris Allen So. 6’3” 6.3 ppg, 1.2 rpg
G Durrell Summers So. 6’4” 4.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg
F Raymar Morgan Jr. 6’7” 14 ppg, 6.1 rpg
F Goran Suton Sr. 6’10” 9.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg
Raymar Morgan will be in the mix for the Big-Ten Player of the Year and his team will need him to assume the leadership role that Drew Neitzel had taken the past couple seasons. Neitzel will be missed more for his clutch performances than his 14 points per game.
The offense will be run by Kalin Lucas who is crazy quick the ball in his hands. There is not much he cannot do offensively, but could improve is three point shooting. He shot only 36 percent last season.
The rest of the starting back court will be filled with Chris Allen and Durrell Summers. Both are athletic and excellent from distance. Add them with Lucas and you have the most talented and best three point shooting backcourt in the Big Ten.
Goran Suton is one of two seniors who played meaningful minutes. Suton is on the verge of averaging a double-double this season.
The Spartans have depth in both the backcourt and frontcourt. Travis Walton and Korie Lucious well make decent replacements in the backcourt.
And in the frontcourt, freshmen sensation Delvin Roe will come off the bench. I would expect Tom Izzo not to rush him into too much playing time, at least not right away.
Redshirt freshmen Tom Herzog and senior Marquise Gray will get plenty of playing time adding muscle in the post.
It is very hard to find a weakness in this team. The only question is who will step up in crunch time. The likely choices are Morgan and Lucas, both are All-Big Ten candidates.
Other than Morgan, and maybe Roe, the frontcourt is good just not great offensively. Their focus will be the rebounding and hustle that have become staples of Michigan State.
If they are able to stay healthy, there is no reason MSU should not play at least one home game in the Final Four.
Conference Rank: 2
Head Coach: Matt Paniter
2007-08 Record: 25-9 (15-3 Big Ten)
Key Losses: F 6’8” Scott Martin, G 6’1” Tarrnace Crump
Key Additions: G 6’3” Ryne Smith, G 5‘9” Lewis Jackson, G 6’2” Jon Hart
G E’Twaun Moore So. 6’3” 12.9 ppg, 3.9 apg
G Chris Kramer So. 6’3” 6.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg
G Keaton Grant Jr. 6’4” 11.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg
F Robbie Hummel So. 6’8” 11.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg
F Nemanja Calasan Sr. 6’9” 6.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg
Averaging 11.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game does not seem like numbers of a Player of the Year candidate. But Robbie Hummel is one of those players. He averaged nearly 45 percent from behind the arc and showed that he has ice water in his veins, stepping up in clutch situations when needed.
The Big-Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Chris Kramer, is not the first, second, or even third option on offense, but he does not need to be. He is more than willing to find his open teammates.
Keaton Grant is the heart of the team, so much so they voted him team MVP. Grant played through many injuries and shot 44 percent from behind the arc.
Rounding out the backcourt is E’Twaun Moore. Moore's offense game is explosive and is nearly without weakness. There is not a spot on the floor where he can’t make a shot.
The major inside presence will be Nemanja Calasan. While he likes to play outside, he has shown he is not afraid to play physical.
Incoming freshmen Ryne Smith and Lewis Jackson will provide a spark and solid minutes as back-ups.
6’10” sophomore JaJuan Johnson is the X-factor. He is Purdue’s only true shot blocking threat. He has the potential to be good. How good? No one is sure yet.
Returning all five starters is not something that happens to often. Returning this much talent, is even more uncommon.
One year after only winning nine games, the Boilermakers won 22 games and made the NCAA Tournament.
Matt Painter has this team heading in the right direction and it could be better. He has three players that will be All-Big Ten and two who will compete for Player of the Year.
Like Michigan State, Purdue is an excellent three point shooting team, but neither will have to rely on it and both will go deep into March.
Conference Rank: 3
Ohio State Buckeyes
Head Coach: Thad Matta
2007-08 Record: 24-13 (10-8 Big Ten)
Key Losses: G 6’1” Jamar Butler, F 6’8” Othello Hunter, C 7’0” Kosta Koufoa
Key Additions: C 7’0” B.J. Mullens, G 6‘1” Noopy Carter, G 6’5” William Buford
G Anthony Carter Fr. 6’1” 16 ppg, 8 apg *High School Stats
G Jon Diebler So. 6’6” 5.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg
G Evan Turner So. 6’7” 8.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg
F David Lighty Jr. 6’5” 9.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg
C B.J. Mullens Fr. 7’0” 27 ppg, 15 rpg *High School Stats
Say hello and good bye to another seven foot center who will be drafted in the first round, his name is B.J. Mullens. Mullens comes to campus with more hype the Kosta Koufoa and more complete interior game. While he can step out to fifteen feet and consistently hit a jumper, the Buckeyes will keep Mullens in the post as the last line of defense.
Anthony “Noopy” Carter is the possible solution for the biggest question for Ohio State, which is point guard play. Carter will step into fill the role last played by Jamar Butler. Carter’s is more like Mike Conley, Jr. than Butlers. Carter will be asked to distribute the play and play tough defense.
David Lighty will be asked to do many things this year; be the team’s top defender, increase scoring and sometimes play the four spot. Lighty is athletic and the most experienced player on the roster.
After a freshmen season that had it share of highlights, Evan Turner is another athletic wing who is comfortable with the ball in his hands.
Another question mark for Ohio State is Jon Diebler. Deibler played 21 minutes a game last season and only shot 30 percent from the field and 29 percent from three. If he wants more minutes his shooting percentages will have to go up.
William Buford won the Ohio “Mr. Basketball” award over Mullens and is just as talented. He will provide quality back-up for Lighty and Turner.
If the Buckeyes want to go big, look for Dallas Lauderdale and Kyle Madsen to step in.
After playing in the championship game two years, the Buckeyes could have folded when their name was not called on selection Sunday. But they didn’t. They pulled together and won the NIT. This year they won’t have to worry about winning the NIT.
The team’s success will depend on how dependable the point guard play will be. But there is depth on the bench and many players could fill in and handle the ball when needed.
Ohio State will need to find their go-to player, much like Michigan State. And they will be in the tournament, just like Michigan State.
Conference Rank: 4
Head Coach: Bo Ryan
2007-08 Record: 31-5 (16-2 Big Ten)
Key Losses: C 6’11” Brian Butch, G 6’2” Michael Flowers, C 6’11” Greg Stiemsma
Key Additions: G 6’1” Jordan Taylor, G 6‘4” Robert Wilson, F/C 6’10” Jared Berggren,
C 7’1” Markolf
G Trevon Hughes Jr. 6’0” 11.2 ppg, 2.5 apg
G Jason Bohannon Jr. 6’62” 8.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg
F Joe Krabbenhoft Sr. 6’7” 7.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg
F Marcus Landry Sr. 6’7” 10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg
F Jon Leur So. 6’10” 2.9ppg, 2.9 rpg
When you outplay Michael Beasley in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, you are going to be expected to play that way more often. Trevon Hughes does everything well on offense and defense. The Badgers will need him to expand his game if they are to play further into March than they did last season.
Sharp shooter Jason Bohannon was the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year a year ago. He will not eligible for the award again this year. Bohannon will find plenty of shots as opposing teams double team the post.
Rebounding, rebounding, and rebounding. This is Joe Krabbenhoft mantra. Krabbenhoft is the epitome of Wisconsin basketball; hard-nosed hustle. He will assume leadership for this team.
The other senior starter is Marcus Landry, he is consistent in the post and his rebound average will increase.
The obvious weakness is the center position. Jon Leur will have to prove that he can play in the post and not just around the perimeter.
Jordan Taylor comes in with minutes waiting for him backing up Hughes and Robert Wilson will get minutes because he can play tough defense.
I will be the first to admit, I never give Bo Ryan enough credit. All he does is win games and dominate the Big Ten. The past five seasons, the Badgers have averaged 26 wins and have won two conference titles and five tournament berths.
Expect nothing different from other teams coached by Bo Ryan. They will not score much, but they will not need to.
Hughes will be the focus of the offense, driving to the lane and kicking to Bohannon, and running pick and rolls with Landry and Krabbenhoft.
This team has won is the past and this season is will be no different, except they won’t win the Big Ten. But I have been wrong about Ryan before.