TBrown's 3rd Annual Conference Predictions
First off I just want to start by saying what a year it was for the Big Ten, heading into the National Tournament the conference as a a whole was ranked dead last out of the Big 6 Conferences. We didn't let that stop us though as Tanzetti made a miracle run to the National Title before being knocked off by Maryland, the same team that knocked my illini out in the Final Four. Penn State was able to reach the Elite Eight, and Michigan won the PIT. Cyric led his Badgers to the Sweet Sixteen and the Spartans made it to the 2nd round. Overall it was an awesome finish for the Big Ten and really helped bolster our funds for recruiting. I was personally expecting to see a lot more battles with all the open scholarships and money on the table, but I think I was the only one to battle for guys in conference. Anyways enough small talk lets get to the predictions.
1. Michigan State- The Spartans will be led by their upperclassman, having 5 seniors will help them pave their way to the Conference Crown. Netgym will rely on his top two guards in Lang and Schiable for scoring along with Krause and Vosburgh. The Spartans will be a very balanced team and have scoring options everywhere and depth to make a nice run in the National Tournament. The last few seasons I have doubted the lack of rebounding for the Spartans and that continues not to be an issue for them so I am definitely buying into them this season as the team to beat in the East.
2. Wisconsin- Cyric and his Badgers will have a new look this year without his top two players from a year ago in Paul Quillen and Dikembe Azure. I still predict the Badgers to finish second thanks to Mr. Matthew Lacefield. The senior Small Forward can really play and averaged 15 points a year ago, I expect him to carry this team along with his Big Men in Felix, Irving, Wysong and his new buck Mr. Ziems. The foreigner can really play but has a serious case of asthma and can only go for spurts at a time but will be a force in the future if his stamina can improve.
3. Michigan- The last two years I predicted the Wolverines to reach the Big Dance and both years they have come up just short. So again I am saying they reach the National Tourny. Goofy has an inside and outside punch with Perryman and Hunter down low and Fuller and Campbell filling it up from deep. The Wolverines have a very solid starting five and have some depth this season, with five seniors it will be interesting how the upperclassman mesh with the young guns goofy has. I think they will be a bubble team but this will be the year they return to glory.
4. Iowa- The Hawkeyes appear to have their best team in several years, I still feel however the bottom three teams are a tossup and could go in any order. However, the Hawkeyes have a playmaker in Senior Point Guard Donald Mueller, he will have to be the leader on this team and carry them at times. They are a balanced team with Ginther at the Shooting Guard and several serviceable Big's. It should be an interesting year but I still think they are a few years away from reaching post season play.
5. Minnesota- The Gophers will be looking for double digit wins this season and with mbalding as their coach I think they can do it. It's been 5 years since they have hit at least 10 wins, so the Gophers will be motivated to accomplish this hurdle. The Gophers are a young team but really made a splash in recruiting when they landed Davidson who looks to be a beast. He quickly steps in as their best player and go to guy. If the young Gophers can play together and find a way to win some close games it could be a nice year for mbalding.
6. Notre Dame- The Irish are actually rated higher than Iowa and Minnesota but were only able to squeak out 3 wins last year. Gordon has to get his guys playing better and make a serious run or his time as the Irish head coach may be slipping. He's very excited about his recruiting class so hopefully they can gel right away and make some noise. I placed them last but am actually rooting for them to do well because I would like to see Gordon stay around.
1. Illinois- With back to back Final Four appearances the illini are preseason ranked second. I personally think that is a little generous, my team is very young with only one senior who we added in recruiting to allow for carryover money. Stanley Crawford is the highest rated player in the country and will most likely play the point this year and be the heart and soul of the team. If he takes good shots and doesn't force the issue the illini could make another run, my top 5 players are as good as anyones in the conference but the depth may be an issue because they will all be underclassman off the bench. If I can find the right lineup and keep the ball in my playmakers hands we should be all right. We start the season off with a very difficult non-conference schedule that should help us later in the year. The illini could very easily be a top team or the young team could fold under pressure and have me searching for answers to reach the tourny, it should be an interesting year.
2. Indiana- A year after a miracle run and the loss of their two best players will be a blow to the Hoosiers but not too big of one, with Mooring a star studded Sophomore and Thompson at the point the Hoosiers will be strong again. Tanzetti brought in a very nice recruiting class and I loved the Randel signing he's got a chance to be a stud in the future and was a player that I really liked. The Hoosiers will once again make the National Tourny and have a definite shot at taking the conference crown. Hoosier fans should be excited what Tanzetti is doing in Bloomington and that success should continue this year as well.
3. Penn State- The Nittany Lions will once again be led by Gorrell and Gaines the two superstar guards will have to carry the backcourt until the highly talented Reginald Ballard is ready to take over the reigns next year. Flood down low is a beast who is a real matchup nightmare. The Lions have talent and could be a team to watch, I'm not sure they have the firepower to make it back to the Elite Eight but should have no issues reaching the Big Dance.
4. Purdue- The Boilermakers have an interesting squad, their overall ranking is a little misleading with the core of this team being very solid. Matthew Smith is a very talented point guard who can carry this team on their back. Swan will most likely start at the SF position and is a very talented Sophomore who should continue to improve and be a great asset this year and in the future. Evans rounds out the backcourt and is another very good player who can score it from deep. Munsen, Peterson and Penrose will likely hold down the frontcourt and help the Boilers make a postseason appearance. I think they are a Bubble team for the National Tourny but only time will tell.
5. Ohio State- CP brought in three really nice pieces to this recruiting class in Beecher, Ulrich, and Hamilton. Those three with Big Willie Haupt and Hinton should have a nice starting five. The only issue with the Buckeyes will be lack of depth and experience. The Buckeyes have a foundation to build on I'm just not sure that they have enough firepower for this year with all the young guys. If CP can take this team to the postseason it should be considered a success, I see them as a PIT bubble type team, where coaching should get them in there.
6. Northwestern- Finally, a coach takes over the reigns at Northwestern. It's just a shame they are so bad this year for steeple, he was able to bring in a few projects that should pan out for him in the future. There is nowhere to go but up for the Wildcats and I'm glad steeple was up for the challenge. It will take him a few years to build them up but I think he is the right man for the job. Good luck in Wildcat country and look forward to a lot of recruiting money in the future.