BIG TEN PRE-SEASON RANKINGS
- INDIANA– Tom Crean has Indiana in the national championship hunt; quicker than many imagined. The Hoosiers return four starters from the Big Ten’s most prolific offense, including National Player of the Year candidate, Cody Zeller, and brought-in a top 10 recruiting class, featuring guard Yogi Ferrell.
- OHIO STATE– The Buckeyes will miss Jared Sullinger and William Buford from last year’s Final Four team, but look for juniors Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas to assume more leadership and scoring load. The perimeter defense should be outstanding, but will need points and rebounding from an inexperienced frontcourt.
- MICHIGAN– Potentially, the conference’s most exciting team, featuring guard tandem Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., and likely contributions from a stellar freshman class. As defending Big Ten tri-champs, the Wolverines will look to make more of a run in the NCAA Tournament, but must defend the interior and find the right rotation of players.
- MICHIGAN STATE– Tom Izzo always has the Spartans in contention, focusing on physical defense and rebounding. Keith Appling and Branden Dawson will have to score more consistently, and Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne will need to be a presence inside, but this team always finds a way to win.
- WISCONSIN– The Badgers always make the game a grind and should repeat as the conference’s top scoring defense. Without Jordan Taylor, Bo Ryan will have to rely on a balanced scoring attack and find a general on offense. The frontcourt, the most experienced and versatile in the conference, will get a boost from freshman Sam Dekker.
- MINNESOTA– The return of Trevor Mbakwe (ACL) will add immediate firepower to a team that finished ’12 as the NIT runner-up. Rodney Williams and Andre Hollins led the late-season charge and the roster returns plenty of depth. The Gophers will need to play better on the road, but look to be a solid tournament team.
- IOWA– Fran McCaffery coached Iowa to its first winning record in five years and has sites on the NCAA tournament. Forwards Aaron White and Roy Devyn Marble will shoulder the scoring burden and freshmen Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury could emerge as starters. The Hawkeyes will have to improve on the conference’s most porous defense.
- NORTHWESTERN– The Wildcats missed an opportunity to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time, succumbing to injury and inconsistency. Transfers Jared Swopshire (Louisville) and Nikola Cerina (TCU) in-concert with a returning backcourt should balance the offensive attack, but rebounding and defense continues to be a real issue.
- ILLINOIS– First-year coach John Groce has to adjust team attitude, and his up-tempo offensive-style should help. Dynamic guard duo, Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson could post huge numbers, but overall, the team needs to improve its 3FG% and find consistent frontcourt play.
- PURDUE– Losing their top scorer, playmaker, and over 50% of their total offense, makes the season a one of transition for Purdue. Size at the frontcourt should provide defense and rebounding, but the Boilermakers will have to be even more efficient on offense and find points from unexpected places.
- PENN STATE– The Nittany Lions aren’t quite ready to contend in the post-season, but should improve last season’s record. Defense remains a team-strength and they feature one of the more dynamic and versatile backcourts with scoring point guard Tim Frazier, transfer D.J. Newbill (Southern Mississippi), and slasher Jermaine Marshall.
- NEBRASKA– First-year coach Tim Miles has the arduous task of staying out of the Big 10 cellar. The sting of the conference’s poorest offense is compounded by the loss of five of the top six scorers. The Cornhuskers will have to sort-through an incoming freshman class and overall inexperience as they await transfer help next season.
PRE-SEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAMS
Cody Zeller (C-Indiana)
Trevor Mbakwe (F-Minnesota)
Deshaun Thomas (F-Ohio St.)
Trey Burke (G-Michigan)
Tim Frazier (G-Penn St.)
Christian Watford (F-Indiana)
Aaron White (F-Iowa)
Drew Crawford (F/G-Northwestern)
Aaron Craft (G- Ohio St.)
Brandon Paul (G- Illinois)
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Sam Dekker (F-Wisconsin)
TOP 5 RECRUITS
Yogi Ferrell (G-Indiana)
Gary Harris (G-Michigan St.)
Glenn Robinson III (F-Michigan)
Sam Dekker (F-Wisconsin)
Mitch McGary (C-Michigan)
Deric McKamey is a Correspondent and Scout for NetScouts Basketball.