Friday, August 15, 2008
It's that time of year, when ESPN rolls out their ShootArounds, half-assed mini-previews in the dog days of Summer to whet your appetite for the basketball season, and they hit the Big Ten earlier this week.
For full preview, see here, but here's a kind of recap of what they said about each team, along with my spin on it a bit. They don't say much here, so I guess I'll have to. And I'm more interesting. And smarter.
Also I'm drinking.
1. Purdue: The Baby Boilers have matured into full-blown stars....
Let's not get crazy quite yet with the "star" label, but E'Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummell are well are their way after just one season. Fourth leading scorer and third leading rebounder Scott Martin has transferred out to Notre Dame, but plenty of fire power remains for the Boilers, with all five starters back and a nice recruiting class, highlighted by point guard Lewis Jackson, joining in. The Boilers are currently touring Australia, where they are 2-2 against Australian Pro Teams (no word on if they've faced Dusty or Rickert) and have already seen a 35 point outburst by E'Twaun.
Still, the Boilers have a weakness in the height and rebounding department, and they didn't address it in recruiting with all three incoming freshmen guards. Losing the 6-8 Martin isn't going to help, but if JaJuan Johnson can take a big step forward, they'll be just fine. Hell, they'll be fine anyway in this crapass crapfest of a conference.
2. Michigan State: Drew Neitzel's leadership will be missed, but the Spartans return loads of talent and will push Purdue for the league title.
That they do my friends, that they do. Kalin Lucas can step right in for Neitzel and I don't think they'll miss a beat. Raymar Morgan with another year under his belt, along with sophomores Chris Allen and Durrell Summers and yet another sick recruiting class for Izzo mean the Spartans are fully loaded for a run at the Big Ten Title. Again. It's predictable. The only surprising thing about that whole thing was there was no slobbering all over Izzo, pretty much an ESPN trademark at this point.
3. Wisconsin: The personnel rarely matters for Bo Ryan, who always finds a way to win...
I'd love to argue with this since I hate these queers, but it's pretty much a yearly tradition at this point. Although of all years lately, this is a year where they look pretty good, losing only Brian Butch of consequence from last year's team. Trevon Hughes is a dick, but he's back to destroy the Gophers once again, and Marcus Landry is going to torture Gopher fans again for his seventh senior year (Wade Lookingbill syndrome). A good recruiting class highlighted by Minnesota boys Jordan Taylor and Jared Berggren mean the Badgers will be in the mix, and boring, yet again.
4. Ohio State: Another year, another star freshman center.
Well this is pretty much a shot in the dark, but with so much uncertainty in the Crap Ten who knows? The loss of Kosta Koufos, Jamar Butler, and Othello Hunter mean the Suckeyes will be without their top three scorers from last season, but probably have enough to challenge for the top spot. Returnee David Lighty is sick good, but hasn't gotten an opportunity to show it - that should change this season. Evan Turner and Jon Diebler, assuming he relearns how to shoot, make up a solid wing attack. Add to that the best recruiting class in the conference, including yet another blue chip seven footer in BJ Mullens, and whoopity doo da, the cheaters from Columbus will be back in the dance to flame out once again. They'll likely be starting a freshman at the point, hopefully Anthony Crater isn't the next Mike Conley.
5. Minnesota: The Golden Gophers could be the chic pick to be the league's surprise team in Tubby Smith's second season....and Minnesota is a year a way from dancing.
Some very good praise for Minnesota, rightly so focusing on the excellent class Tubby brought in. Obviously it's always dangerous to rate a team highly based on unproven talent, but even so the Gophers should be light years ahead of the bottom six this coming season. I'll get into some deeper thoughts on the Gophers' future once we get a bit closer to the season, but this is pretty much where I would project them, with more upside than downside from here.
6. Illinois: There's hope for a struggling offense with the arrival of Kentucky transfer Alex Legion.....the Illini's backcourt should be strong....Questions abound up front
Remember last year, when I picked the Illini to finish third in the Big Ten, citing their "balance." Well, they were balanced alright, but balance with a pot full of craptacularless, and there's really no reason that should change, seeing as they lost both Brian Randle and Shaun Pruitt, they have NOTHING up front. At all. Like, Spencer Tollackson would be their best front court player by far. Unless freshman Stan Simpson is all-world Michael Beasley style, they Illini have zero chance. The aforementioned Legion could be good, and sophomore and worst name ever guy Demetri McCamey is capable, but this team is a joke. Dead last in a real conference.
7. Michigan: The Wolverines have a budding star in Manny Harris, the Big Ten's leading returning scorer (16.1 ppg). But besides Harris, who will step up?
I actually think DeShawn Sims is the guy who is most ready to take that next step, but who the hell knows? He plays for Michigan, so despite having a ton of talent he's likely a slacker whiner drug addled drunk who spends more time smoking the ganja and chasing tail than working on his jumpshot.
Other than Sims (and Harris of course) there are some talented guards here, but Michigan is just a mess. All the time. Even though Beilein finally got his nancy seven foot three point shooter in Ben Cronin (at least I think this is the guy who is Pittsnoggle Jr. I don't remember 100%, but I know Beilein was going after a slow, unathletic, seven foot whitey who could shoot the three ball. (note: this is Bogart's favorite kind of player. He LOVED Rickert.)
8. Northwestern: Northwestern has high hopes after landing the best recruiting class in program history.
Well that's just sad, considering the Wildcats' class is ranked just 8th in the Big Ten, but hey, like Bob Wiley said, "Baby Steppin'" I do think they could be a bit pesky this year. I was really impressed by Michael Thompson last season, and I think he has a shot to be a real difference maker at the point for them, and having the overrated Kevin Coble for a full season will help. The queerbait Craig Moore is back again to be annoying and chuck threes like that guy at the Y, and the aforementioned recruiting class gives them some size, and if these guys can play, the Wildcats will be less Mild and more Mediocre. Mediocrecats. I don't know. Shutup.
9. Iowa: Talent-wise there is no logical reason Iowa should be ninth and not 10th.....Somehow, Iowa will be respectable.
ESPN and I clearly have different definitions of respectable. I mean, I guess with their glacial pace and focus on defense they won't get blown out by 20 all that often, but it's not like they're going to win much. They won only 13 games last year, and Tony Freeman transferred to So Ill, and Justin Johnson graduated along with Seth Gorney and Kurt Looby. And Jerryd Cole had ACL surgery. The decent recruiting class - including Minnesota boys Anthony Tucker and Andrew Brommer - better be ready to play immediately, or you're looking at a team that the Hoosiers would have a chance to sweep.
Of course, I predict a Gopher loss at Iowa City.
10. Penn State: Jamelle Cornley is undersized, and Penn State is undermanned.
Well there you go, sums it up pretty well. Seriously, why even let Penn State in the Big Ten? I mean, I get it. It was for football. Fine. But what a joke of a team. And I'm aware that the Crispin Glover brothers were able to propel them to an NCAA tournament, possibly two, and that's more than Northwestern has ever had, but at least NW has been in the conference since the beginning or so. Penn State is worthless. Last year's Gopher squad beat them in their own place, that should pretty much tell you all you need to know.
And guess where their 2008 recruiting class ranks? 11th. In the conference. Shouldn't they fall into someone ass backwards at some point? The Gophers lucked into Vincent Grier. Baylor got Aaron "Not Jay" Bruce. Oregon State got Corey "Sweet Money" Benjamin. When the best player in your history is Geary Claxton you should probably just disband. Or go D-2. Ok, D-3.
11. Indiana: Kelvin Sampson's scorched earth will take a year to clear out and make Indiana respectable. It'll take two years to make the Hoosiers competitive.
Two years? Yikes, it'll take longer than that. Tom Crean must enjoy punishment even more than Maggie Gyllenhall in Secretary to take this job. He managed to snag a few decent late recruits after everyone else bolted, and between Verdell Jones and Nick Williams they'll have a halfway decent freshman backcourt, but I'd be shocked if they managed to win even four Big Ten games this year, and it's a down year.
In closing, I'd just like to say that although Vodka & Cranberry may sound and look like a girly drink, when mixed properly it packs quite a kick, and the Cranberry and Vodka flavors compliment each other nicely without being too sweet.