|Big fan of this behavior|
1. MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS. It's almost unfair. The Spartans return Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Denzel Valentine, Branden Dawson, and Adreian Payne this year. That's at least three NBA players. For me, Michigan State is the top team in the Big Ten by a pretty wide margin, and I think they're the second best team in the entire country (behind Louisville).
If you check out kenpom.com, you'll see the Spartans finished as the ninth best team last year according to his metrics. Every team in front of them is experiencing some pretty major roster turnover from last season (with the exception of Louisville), while Sparty loses only Derrick Nix and conveniently still have Payne to just stick right in there. Plus what was Nix's main contributions? Rebounding on both ends of the floor and making high percentage shots. Well Michigan State as a team is great at rebounding and makes a high percentage of their shots, so it's not like they're losing somebody who single-handedly changed their team like DeShaun Thomas. Plus with Izzo as their coach you know they'll just get better as the year goes on. It's just not fair. Of course, Keith Appling is the kind of player who can burn down a season pretty much by himself so I guess we have that going for us. Which is nice.
2. OHIO STATE BUCKEYES. Even though the Buckeyes only lose one player from last season (unless you count Evan Ravenel as a person, which I don't) but at the same time you could argue that they lost more than any other team in the conference because DeShaun Thomas. Not only did he take a ton of his team's shots (30th most of any player in D-1 by percentage) but he was very efficient as well, leading the team in offensive rating by a pretty good amount. Now he's gone, possibly in the NBA but I couldn't be bothered to look it up, but in any case he gone.
So now Ohio State is made up of a ton of formerly highly rated recruits who have been deferring to Thomas, two new freshman (both top 65 recruits by ESPN of course, this is Ohio State after all not some shit box program), and the Wes Ellsbury Eckstein Welker Punto of college basketball Aaron Craft. Seriously, who is going to lead the team in scoring this year? Any of Craft, Lenzelle Smith, Sam Thompson, LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott, Amir Williams, or Kameron Williams could end up leading the team and it wouldn't be a surprise. Actually, watch Kameron Williams because he's basically the new DeShaun Thomas but shorter and skinnier. He's definitely never seen a shot he didn't like. Plus look at this guy, tell me he doesn't look like a chucker:
Doesn't he kind of look like Pauly D.? Come on, you know you see it. And Pauly D. would definitely be a chucker if he was a basketball player. I'm also going to assume J-Woww is still hot even though I haven't watched that show in like 3 years.
I can't wait to watch this guy. I love chuckers when they aren't on my team.
|That's a beer bong coming in from the right side there.|
Yes, there are a million questions about the front court, but if Bo Ryan is good at anything, besides being boring and looking ugly and acting like a baby, it's getting seldom used, little regarded big white guys to suddenly be productive and efficient when needed. Plus Nigel Hayes may be in position to contribute as a freshman, and he led the team in rebounding in their exhibition against UW-Platteville. Yes, I hated writing every word of this.
|This seems like a lot of teeth.|
I know there's some good talent back but is this really a top 10 team? Nik Stauskas is just a shooter (a very good one) and Mitch McGary is a rebounder/dunker guy (a very good one). Where's the playmaker who makes this an elite team gonna come from? If Glenn Robinson makes that leap or freshman SF Zak Irvin is a game changer right away (and the PG situation works out) they could certainly end up meeting these preseason expectations, but that's too many unknown variables for me to be really confident in Michigan this year. So yeah. I'm also guessing that off all this predictions this is the one that's going to make me look really stupid at the end of the year. Possibly Penn State too. You'll see why.
|I still hate Iowa, but this is a good argument it it's favor|
One major problem from last year, and the reason they didn't make the NCAA tournament most likely, is their non-conference schedule was shit. It left their RPI somewhere in the 70s and it's awfully damn hard to get an at-large bid with an RPI up there (and a SoS somewhere in the mid-100s). Well, they went ahead and made the exact same screw-up. They have their typical game against Iowa State, play Notre Dame in the B10/ACC Challenge, and they play in the Battle 4 Atlantis where they could pick up some good games, so none of that sounds too bad. Their mistake lies in scheduling way too many schools that could be in the 300s for RPI and zero other teams that have even an outside shot to crack the top 100. And yes, if this sounds familiar it should because the Gophers did the same damn exact thing and I don't want to talk about it.
One semi-helpful thing with looking at the Hawkeyes is they've already played six exhibition games this season thanks to their August trip to Europe (they went 5-1 with a loss to the great Hyeres-Toulon Basket team. I found box scores for five of the games, and they shot 32% for the trip from three, which is a slight uptick from last year but at the same time they were playing exhibition games against Europeans who were probably plucked from the local YMCA if they have those in Europe. Also this Peter Jok guy? The one newcomer this year for Iowa? Holy cow what a gunner. He took 31 threes in the five games to lead the team, and was either hot (4-8 and 4-7) or really not (1-4, 1-5, 1-7). Pretty ballsy for a freshman, but he and Josh Oglesby might be the keys for Iowa as the guys most likely to provide the outside shooting they need. Either way one thing is for certain: Iowa smells like shit.
|Indiana was surprisingly lacking in pictures.|
Obviously Tom Crean's hair is recruiting it's ass off so it's probably stupid to dismiss this team with that many ESPN Top 100 guys still hanging around. Along with those new 4 and Ferrell there are two others from last year, so yeah this team is talented I guess. The good news though is they seem to be losing out on recruits all of a sudden. Top 100 guy James Blackmon Jr. had committed but backed out, and they've lost out at the last minute on Top 100s Theo Pinson, Goodluck Okonoboh, and Devin Robinson. Hopefully this means that recruits are figuring out what a huge piece of crap Tom Crean is. Because it's true. [After I wrote this part Blackmon re-committed to Indiana. I stand by my theory that Tom Crean sucks as a human.]
|I like her she seems smart.|
It would have helped if that jerk Jermaine Marshall wouldn't have transferred and deserted Frazier, but with him (Frazier) out all of last season with that knee injury at least that meant everybody else who is back got to gain some valuable experience scoring the ball, mostly D.J. Newbill, but overall there just isn't enough here outside of Frazier to really have faith in this team. Ross Travis is a heck of a rebounder and the Gophers could definitely use him, but hopefully they'll end up with a different Travis instead (Reid Travis announces Nov 8 with a final three of Duke, Stanford, and Minnesota - have faith).
8. MINNESOTA GOPHERS. I'm honestly a little concerned I have them too high - yes, too high - but what can I say optimism is flowing through my veins right now (and it's a really weird feeling, like that one time I woke up not hungover). But of course that optimism is tinged by reality and pessimism that I cannot escape, and I just don't think there's enough in the front court here to really be even a middle-tier Big Ten team this year.
You've got three guys who are more perimeter guys, a high jumper who is probably way too small to pull it off, and a guy who yes, lost a bunch of weight, but has dealt with knee issues so who knows what you're going to get? Eliason is the only known commodity, and I think he's just fine as a Big Ten center, but if he's in foul trouble who knows what you're going to get? Not to mention you still need to find a starting 4 man out of this group of unknowns, and I don't have a particularly good feeling about any of them. The guard play should be top notch and that alone will keep them in a lot of games, and you just know there's a night here where all the 3-pointers are dropping and they shoot like 14-24 and knock off one of the top teams, but that's not going to be reliable enough to count on night after night. I hope I'm wrong, but I see the upside here as a bubble team. Here's hoping they make it.
|The pillow says Illinois. Nice microwave.|
This was going to be a rough year in Illinois either way, but losing out on Ahmad Starks (transfer from Oregon State, going for the ole "closer to home" waiver - denied) is going to hurt since he averaged 10 pts per game last season. It's always tough to figure out how a team will shake out with so many newcomers (I count 2 transfers (+Starks) and five freshmen) but I'm pretty sure most of these guys suck. Could they make some noise later in the season after they've had time to play together for a while? No.
|The website said these were Northwestern girls. Good enough for me.|
But I don't want to talk about that even though it's kind of interesting that we should see Northwestern playing in a whole new way. I'm more interested in wondering how good their back court might be if Crawford is fully healed and all good again and stuff. The one good thing about his injury last year was it allowed Reggie Hearn to step forward and thrive, and he actually put up nearly identical numbers to what Crawford did before he got hurt. Should be a pretty dynamic back court, plus they have that little lesbian still running around running point.
11. PURDUE BOILERMAKERS. Well, Purdue has A.J. Hammons, a guy named Basil Smotherman, and a guy (Travis Carroll) whose nickname is "Tacos" because of an auto-correct mistake on a scoreboard. That's pretty much all the positives. Maybe this freshman Kendall Stephens could end up being pretty good. And I suppose they do have two guys with the last name Johnson which means they could nickname themselves Johnson & Johnson, which is catchy. Not Tacos catchy, but still catchy.
I'm not really sure what's going on here with Purdue lately. If this season goes the way I'm expecting that'll make a second straight sub-par season and a second straight year missing the NCAA Tournament after making it six straight years (2 Sweet Sixteens). Looking at this year's freshman class and who is on the hook for 2014 there isn't really much of an impact here. In fact, Painter hasn't brought in anything resembling an impact class since that crazy Moore/Johnson/Hummel/Martin quartet, and that was back in 2007. Does this mean we're witnessing the slow death of Purdue basketball? Yes.
After finishing 5-13 last season they return just two starters and I wouldn't exactly say the "Nebraska recruiting hot bed thing" hasn't started yet so ouch. Top returner is mad bomber Ray Gallegos (no relation to Mike Gallego) who led the Big Ten with 271 three-point attempts, but made just 30.6% of them. Remember how Gallegos went 6-9 from three against the Gophers at the Barn? Yeah, that didn't happen all that often. This Shavon Shields guy might be ok and they have a bunch of transfers coming in, most notably Terran Petteway from Texas Tech (that's the opposite of exciting), Florida transfer Walter Pitchford (whose name reminds me of Kevin Pickford who was that cool guy who was gonna throw the party in Dazed and Confused so I already like him) and guard Tai Webster out of New Zealand. According to some Webster would have been a top 50 type recruit if he came up through the AAU system and is an absolute steal for Miles. So maybe Nebraska will provide some excitement this year. Beyond just when we kicked their football asses!!!! SKI U MAH!!!!!