2007-2008 Big Ten Conference Preview
The Big Ten has shown to be a consistent contender every year and sends plenty of teams to the Big Dance. The Big Ten is getting little respect with just two teams in many preseason polls and will look to prove the experts wrong. Now we will break it down team by team with expectations on the upcoming season.
Indiana basketball is alive and well in Bloomington. The Hoosier managed to recruit a home grown talent that has enormous potential and could single-handedly bring this program back to the top of the college basketball world. If you have not heard of Eric Gordon you will by season’s end. If there is a weakness to this team it will be the fact that they will have two starters that have yet to play a game and lack game time experience. The depth and coaching should help overcome this and Indiana will be in the top 25 all year long.
Michigan St. will be ready to take a run at the Hoosier for the top spot in the Big Ten and they will be loaded when the season starts. The Spartans are one of only two teams in the Big Ten that can brag that they have all five starters that are returning from last years team. Drew Neitzel will score at will and with the best depth in the conference look for Tom Izzo to have his team making a run for the Big Ten title and a high seed in the NCAA tournament.
Illinois returns three starters and six lettermen going into the new campaign. Bruce Weber has the ability to win and in fact Illinois has been the winningest team in the nation over the last four years. If Illinois can avoid injuries that plagued this team last year they will make a run with a solid recruitment class and only losing two starters. Illinois may have some depth issues and should take a back seat to the top tier teams in the conference, but overall a good season is on the horizon.
Ohio St. is off an amazing year and they praised Coach Thad Matta for his work by giving him a raise and some extra time on his contract. Ohio St will have plenty of pressure to match the 18-0 record from last year and 15-1 in league play. They also get a tough out of conference schedule to include a game with North Carolina early in the season. Among the top five in home court winning streaks the sky is the limit for the Buckeye’s if they meld the newer players and fend off the up and coming tough teams in the Big ten this year. The problem is the loss of great talent and the lack of depth will have them dropping in the standings.
This team is very difficult to figure out in the early going. They are devoid of a superstar but in the past that has worked perfectly with the scheme that they employ at Wisconsin. With few returning starters the Badgers will look to have the entire team chip in and do their part on any given night and have the team concept in full effect. They will look to the frontcourt tandem of Brian Butch and Marcus Landry and if they play well the Badgers go to the big dance, but if they have suffer injuries as the case last year the inexperience could have them in trouble.
Northwestern comes into the season with three returning starters and will look to improve off last year’s dismal season. It should not be so difficult since they managed to just go 2-14 in conference last year. They may surprise some folks but except the growing pains to keep this team back from being a real threat and the biggest fight will be staying out of the basement in the Big Ten.
Michigan is back but they always find a way of playing well during the season and falling short. Look for the same thing to happen this year as they lost some serious frontcourt with three seniors leaving the court. They do return some quality folks both in the backcourt and the front court but the real question will be if the newcomers can provide the depth they need. If the do the wolverines will squeak into the NCAA tournament.
Iowa comes into this year off a 17-14 record from last year and looking to improve. They will have to do it with three starters returning from last year’s club. Todd Lickliter comes in from Butler and brings a new staff with him to coach the Hawkeyes. This transition will take some time and he will need to get his recruits into the program before they make a difference. The Hawkeyes will have to settle for an N.I.T berth this year.
If Purdue was a professional team they would say that they are in a rebuilding mode, the problem is they are not. They lost Teague and Landry in the off season but they counter with four freshman they can make an immediate impact. The combination of the youngsters with the experience they have left behind will make them contenders in the Big Ten and a bubble team for the big dance near the end of the year.
Penn St will be a surprising team to watch this year as they return four starters from last years team to include the three leaders in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage from last year. The three point shooting of Danny Morrissey will keep this team in games and make it exciting for the fans to watch. All America candidate Geary Claxton will lead this team to some upsets early as they surprise opponents in early season tournaments. Penn St will be the dark horse darling of the Big Ten this year.
Minnesota joins the Spartans as the only other team in the Big Ten to return all five starters from a year ago. This should help them in a very deep and talented conference. They will upset a few teams at home, but the problem is simple with the amount of talent and great coaches the Big ten has the Golden Gophers will be left on the outside looking in when it comes to tournament time.
2007 Basketball Tips:
The Big Ten is much deeper than people think and they will represent well in the top 25 as well as the NCAA tournament.
Big Ten Champ: Michigan St. (Closely followed by Indiana)
Dark Horse: Penn St.
Cellar Dweller: Northwestern