Monday, March 14, 2011

Big Ten (12): A Quick Look Ahead to Next Year

In lieu of a week in review and before I turn my attention to the NCAA Tournament and breaking that down, which I most certainly will, let's take one last look at the Big Ten but from a slightly different perspective - what's ahead?  Assuming Jared Sullinger is the only underclassman to declare - and he should be - this is what each team will be bringing to the table for next season.  Naturally things can change - other players can enter the draft (Darius Morris, Will Buford, Trevor Mbakwe), players can transfer for whatever reason, and there could be some late movement and/or signings on the recruiting trail, particularly jucos, but here's what I see.

Also I just watched the NIT selection special and the Gophers couldn't even crack that field.  Is there any doubt this is the worst season in the history of gopher basketball?  I mean this is way, way worse than even Monson's last season.  I hate my stupid life.

Illinois Fighting Illini:
Deletes:  PF Mike Davis, SF Bill Cole, PG Demetri McCamey, C Mike Tisdale
Adds:  PG Tracy Abrams (#12 PG, #50 overall), C Nnanna Egwu (#13 C, #93 overall), SF Mycheal Henry (#10 SF, #36 overall), PF Mike Shaw (#9 PF, #58 overall), SF Devin Langford (3 stars)

That is an awful lot of talent to lose, but I feel safe saying the Illini will still end up one of the better teams in the conference next year.  That incoming class is ranked #11 in the country by ESPN, and they still have guys with a ton of talent returning in Brandon Paul, DJ Richardson, and Jereme Richmond.  In fact, they could potentially end up a new version of what Ohio State has been doing with the athletic wings who can do a little bit of anything, assuming Paul can acclimate himself to being the primary ballhandler, that is.  If he can't and Abrams isn't ready right away things could be a bit rocky - although ditching McCamey is already addition by subtraction.

Indiana Hoosiers:
Deletes:  G Jeremiah Rivers
Adds:  PF Cody Zeller (#4 PF, #20 overall), SF Austin Etherington (3 stars)

They're bringing in more talent than they're losing and that's always a good thing, but I don't know if adding Zeller is enough to suddenly make them relevant.  Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls are nice players to built around, and Verdell Jones has shown he's a quality player, but with Maurice Creek suffering another injury and looking like he may never be the same player Zeller is going to have to be a bit of a savior if they're going to compete next year. 

Iowa Hawkeyes:
Deletes:  PF Jarryd Cole
Adds:  SG Josh Oglesby (#36 SG, #118 overall), SF Aaron White (3 stars)

They're not losing anybody irreplaceable, but that's in part because they don't really have anybody irreplaceable on that roster period.  Bryce Cartwright has proven to be a good Big Ten point guard (but he's a senior next year) and Melsahn Basabe has a ton of potential, but everybody else on this roster is either meh or worse.  The newcomers are pretty underwhelming and all, so expect another rough year in Iowa City.

Michigan Wolverines:
Deletes:  None
Adds:  SG Carlton Brundidge (#27 SG, #104 overall), PG Trey Burke (3 stars)

A nice little end of the season run to get into the NCAA Tournament brings hope that this group is coming together, and they'll have to do because barring a poor decision by Darius Morris it will be the same team next year as this year.  A few months ago you would have said that was a bad thing, but it's suddenly looking like this might be a sleeper team to compete for a Big Ten title next year.

Michigan State Spartans:
Deletes:  PG Kalin Lucas, SG Durrell Summers, SG Mike Kebler
Adds:  SG Dwaun Anderson (#23 SG, #89 overall), SF Branden Dawson (#4 SF, #13 overall), SG Brandan Kearney (3 stars), PG Travis Trice (3 stars)

It's never easy to replace your starting backcourt, and even tougher when 2 other guards have transferred in the last two years.  There is a ton of talent in the frontcourt, but Keith Appling and the three freshman are all they have as far as guards.  I'd bet we'll see a fair amount of Draymond Green playing point forward next year.  Branden Dawson is supposed to be out of this world good.

Minnesota Gophers:
Deletes:  SG Blake Hoffarber, PG Al Nolen
Adds:  SG Joe Coleman (#34 SG, #116 overall), SG Andre Hollins (#40 SG, #126 overall), PG Julian Welch (juco)

Is newly inked Julian Welch the absolute key to the season because he's the only one on the team capable of being a starting point guard on this entire roster?  Yes.  Yes he is.  I know Hollins is supposedly a combo guard but in truth he sounds more like a shooting guard with good enough handle to run point if need be.  Don't get me wrong, I'm actually super super excited to watch him next year because he sounds more and more like he might be a bit underrated, but he's not a point guard.  Of course, if he follows Tubby to NC State then this is all pretty irrelevant anyway.

Nebraska Cornhuskers:
Deletes:  SG Bo Spencer, SG Drake Beranek, PG Lance Jeter
Adds:  PG Corey Hilliard (3 stars), SF Josiah Moore (3 stars), SF David Rivers (3 stars), C Zach Sterup (unrated)

The biggest unknown, simply because who has every watched a Nebraska basketball game?  I know that they return in some serious size in Jorge Brian Diaz, a 6-11, 245 lb. sophomore (will be a junior) who is talented but who didn't really develop from last year to this year.  I also know they're losing do everything point guard Lance Jeter, Derek's brother, and how can you replace those kind of intangibles? 

Northwestern Wildcats:
Deletes:  PG Michael Thompson, F Mike Capocci
Adds:  SG Tre Demps (3 stars), PG David Sobolweski (unrated), PF Mike Turner (unrated)

They lose only one major contributor, but he's maybe the most valuable player on the team.  With John Shurna, Drew Crawford, Luka Mirkovich, and JerShon Cobb all back you'd think this team would be in ok shape, but then again, we thought they'd be better this past year than they were as well with that same main core.  Look at this year's team, subtract their point guard, and add no major talents (although Demps sounds like he could end up being pretty good down the line) and I don't think next year is the year for that elusive first NCAA bid.

Ohio State Buckeyes:
Deletes:  SF David Lighty, SG Jon Diebler, C Dallas Lauderdale, PF Jared Sullinger (presumably)
Adds:  PF Trey McDonald (3 stars), SF LaQuinton Ross (#16 SF, #53 overall), PG Shannon Scott (#17 PG, #65 overall), SF Sam Thompson (#14 SF, #46 overall), C Amir Williams (#7 C, #73 overall), PF Evan Ravenel (transfer from BC)

Once again the Buckeyes simply re-load, bringing in what ESPN calls the #4 class in the nation.  Assuming Will Buford is back, and he certainly should be, adding this group to him, Aaron Craft, and scoring me Deshaun Thomas is a recipe for another top of the conference team.  One caveat:  things could get ugly, chemistry-wise, if Thomas can't learn to play a less alpha role.  He shoots nearly every time he touches the ball, and although that's been fine in an instant offense off the bench role, it won't suit him trying to replace David Lighty.  Probably will end up not being an issue, but you never know.  One can hope.

Penn State Nittany Lions:
Deletes:  SG Talor Battle, SF David Jackson, PF Andrew Jones, PF Jeff Brooks
Adds:  C Pat Ackerman (3 stars), C Peter Alexis (unrated), PG Trey Lewis (2 stars), SF Ross Travis (3 stars)

This is going to be ugly.  They lose 80% of their scoring and 66% of their rebound.  Or, to put it another way, they're losing their top four scorers and top four rebounders.  It's going to be rough, either way, especially with an underwhelming group coming in next season.  I like Tim Frazier a lot, but he's not exactly the kind of player you can build around.  Problem is they don't have anybody who fits that description.

Purdue Boilermakers:
Deletes:  C JaJuan Johnson, SG E'Twaun Moore
Adds:  PF Donnie Hale (#25 PF, #144 overall), PF Jacob Lawson (3 stars)

I have no idea what this team will look like without Johnson and Moore.  Hummel will be back and presumably healthy so that will help, but otherwise it's a bunch of unknowns.  Who steps up out of all the other guys?  Kelsey Barlow?  Can Lewis Jackson turn into a more dominating score type point guard?  Who knows, but no matter what happens they're certain to take a step backward.

Wisconsin Badgers:
Deletes:  PF Jon Leuer, SG Tim Jarmusz, PF Keaton Nankivil,
Adds:  SG Traevon Jackson (3 stars), C Frank Kaminsky (3 stars), PG George Marshall (3 stars), PF Jarrod Uthoff (#29 PF, #150 overall)

Looking at their roster changes for next year on paper you'd think there's no way Wisconsin can contend, but we've been watching Bo Ryan for years and know by now it doesn't matter what it looks like on paper.  Not to mention Jordan Taylor will be back for yet another year, and this time he'll be asked to carry even more of the offense.  I'm actually looking forward to seeing just how good he can be, knowing full well that it's going to depress me.

So here is your very, very early prediction for next year's Big Ten standings:

1.  Ohio State
2.  Illinois
3.  Michigan State
4.  Michigan
5.  Wisconsin
6.  Minnesota
7.  Purdue
8.  Northwestern
9. Indiana
10.  Nebraska
11.  Iowa
12.  Penn State

Now let's close the books on this Gopher season and just enjoy some March basketball.

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