Even though we are in the heat of July, it is never too early to look ahead to the upcoming NCAAB season. The Big Ten, as always, houses several teams that will be poised to make a run during the month of March.
Let’s rank the teams in order of projected Big Ten finish. The listed NCAA Basketball odds to win the 2012
National Championship are courtesy of the of 5Dimes.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Chalk can be boring, but
there are reasons that that Ohio State Buckeyes are one of the top futures
options to cut down the nets. The return of Jared Sullinger automatically gives
the Buckeyes the best player on the court in almost all of their games. Guard
William Buford gives Ohio State a nice option for backcourt scoring and perimeter
The Sullinger-Buford combination, returning players such as Deshaun
Thomas and Aaron Craft, and a top recruiting class make the Buckeyes the pick
to win the Big Ten, and this writer’s preseason National Championship
Thad Matta’s squad will
be the top pick to win the Big Ten in 2011-2012 when those odds are released.
Which other teams could make some noise?
The Badgers lose Mr.
Everything Jon Leuer to graduation, but does anyone really believe that Bo
Ryan’s program will take a significant step back? Second-leading scorer Jordan
Taylor will assume a leadership role, and Ryan has the pieces and parts to run
his offense and defense. The next Leuer could be on the court in 2011 in the
form of true freshman Jarrod Uthoff, an ESPN 100 power forward.
The Badgers will be
deadly at home, run a methodical offense, and play stifling defense. This is a
team built for the regular season, and Wisconsin could give Ohio State a run
for its money.
The Wolverines took a
step forward in 2010-2011 under John Beilein, and the improvement looks to
continue next season. Leading scorer Darius Morris is on his way to the NBA,
but the rest of the team remains intact. Tim Hardaway, Jr. could have a breakout
year offensively, and Michigan will play tough defense and rebound the ball
Hardaway and other
Wolverines will make up for the loss of Morris on offense. I do, however, have
concerns about the point guard position for Michigan. Morris averaged 6.7
assists per game, and no other Wolverine was higher than 1.7.
Michigan State Spartans
The Michigan State Spartans have a lot
of soul-searching to do after last season’s disaster. I do believe that Izzo
will turn his program around, and they’ll be dangerous by March. Draymond Green
will need to become a leader, and the play of Valpo transfer Brandon Wood will
be critical. If a few players improve their games and recruits play well early,
this could be a team to watch.
I think the Spartans will be built more for
tournament play than the regular season. We have seen Izzo work his magic in
the past. As it stands, I see the Spartans as the fourth-best team in the Big
Ten. Don’t be surprised, however, if they jump Michigan before the end of the
Leading scores and
rebounders JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore are gone, but Robbie Hummel returns
for his senior season after an ACL tear. Matt Painter is a great young coach,
and he’ll get the most out of his squad and make the the Big Dance. The
Boilermakers won’t, however, challenge for a Big Ten title.
The Wildcats return most
major contributors, such as John Shurna, Drew Crawford, and Luka Mirkovic. A
spot in the NCAA Tournament is not out of the question.
Indiana Hoosiers (+3300)
This will be the year
that Tom Crean begins to turn things around with the help of his top recruit,
Cody Zeller. Look for the Hoosiers to return to the postseason, just not in the
Big Dance. Even with these odds, the Hoosiers are overrated at this point.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Bruce Weber lost a lot
of his major contributors. To his credit, he will coach the team to the NCAA
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph
Sampson, III, are nice big men, but where is the guard play? Tubby Smith is a
solid coach, and may squeak a NIT bid out of this team, but I don’t see it.
Iowa Hawkeyes (+13500)
There just isn’t a lot
of talent here. The Hawkeyes miss the postseason.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Patrick Chambers has a
major rebuilding effort on his hands.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (No
The Nebraska football season should
be fun, but don't expect from the Cornhuskers basketball team.