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Team-By-Team Big 10 Preview

The Big Ten is a conference that prides itself on rebounding and hard nosed play and with the amount of parity that looks to be on its way, the teams who execute the best in those two aspects of the game could very well be crowned the champions of this conference.

So here it is, a team-by-team preview of the roughest of all conferences, The Big 10.

(In Alphabetical Order)

- Illinois -
Incoming Players:
- PG Demetri McCamey (4 Star Recruit, #68 in Rivals150 2007)
- SG Quinton Watkins (4 Star Recruit, #90 in Rivals150)
- PG Jeffrey Jordan (3 Star Recruit)
- SF Rodney Alexander (3 Star Recruit)
- PF Bill Cole (3 Star Recruit)
- C Mike Tisdale (3 Star Recruit)

This team is a huge wild card in the upcoming Big 10 season. They have a Preseason First Team All Big 10 Center in Shawn Pruitt (11.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and another very good Senior Forward in Brian Randle (7.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg). Coach Bruce Weber is going to have to rely heavily on these two to make good decisions with the ball and most importantly score, a lot. Junior Guard Chester Fraizer (7.2 ppg, 4.5 apg) is the heart of this team, and he will also have to control the tempo of the game if the Illini want to have any chance at another run to the NCAA tournament. Weber did a great job recruiting yet again, landing two very promising guards in Demetri McCamey and Quinton Watkins, who will be counted on to make an immediate impact on the offensive end. A Bruce Weber coached team is always tough at home so they pose a very real threat to conference favorites Michigan State and Indiana. Their first test comes on December 8th when #12 Arizona comes calling; if they can prove that they can beat the upper echelon teams, this could be a Top 25 year for the Illini.

- Indiana -
Incoming Players:
- SG Eric Gordon (5 Star Recruit, #2 in Rivals150)
- C Eli Holman (4 Star Recruit, #80 in Rivals150)
- SG Jordan Crawford (3 Star Recruit)
- SG Jamarcus Ellis (3 Star Recruit)
- PF Brandon McGee (3 Star Recruit)
- PF DeAndre Thomas (3 Star Recruit)

Bloomington is abuzz with the prospects for this upcoming season. The Hoosiers look to be a very strong contender for the Big 10 title behind the play of First Team All Big 10 Forward DJ White (13.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and star Freshman Eric Gordon (29.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.3 apg)*.  The Hoosiers are not a two man team however, their real strength could be their bench. With newcomers Jordan Crawford, JaMarcus Ellis and Brandon McGee adding to the firepower of guards Armon Bassett (9.5 ppg) and AJ Ratliff (9.3 ppg), it seems as though the sky is the limit. The only drawback may be the amount of newcomers who are being relied upon for immediate duty. If there is too long of a learning curve picking up Kelvin Sampson?s complicated system, the Hoosiers could be in danger in late November when they have back-to-back games against Georgia Tech and at Southern Illinois. However, this team has the talent to make a deep run in March.

- Iowa -
Incoming Players:
- PF Jarryd Cole (3 Star Recruit)
- SG Jake Kelly (3 Star Recruit)
- PG Jeff Peterson (3 Star Recruit)

New Head Coach Steve Lickliter has a big challenge ahead of him as he takes over a Big 10 program that hasn?t been to the Sweet 16 since 1999, only a year after taking little known Butler all the way to #5 seed and a Sweet 16 berth in last year?s tournament. He may find it a little more difficult this year with the loss of the team?s two best players in Adam Haluska, the team's leading scorer last year with 20.5 ppg, and the departure of Sophmore Tyler Smith who averaged 14.9 ppg and 4.9 rpg. However, Lickliter still has a very large frontcourt, with the 7-foot Senior Seth Gorney (5.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and 6-10 Senior Kurt Looby (3.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg) patrolling the boards. They will have to pick it up this year to counteract the losses of the two aforementioned players. The backcourt is solid, if unspectacular, with Guard Tony Freeman (7.5 ppg) as their best perimeter threat. Lickliter will have his hands full this winter, but he is a great fit for a rebuilding Hawkeye program.

- Michigan -
Incoming Players:
- SG Copperyale Harris (4 Star Recruit, #34 in Rival 150)
- PG Kelvin Grady (3 Star Recruit)
- SF Martell Webb (2 Star Recruit)

Another Big 10 program with a new coach is Michigan with ex-West Virginia skipper Jon Beilien. Beilein and the Wolverines lost their top 5 leading scorers due to graduation from a near tournament team last year, and this year definitely looks to be one of transition. Despite that fact, this team does have talent in the frontcourt starting with the 6-10 Epke Udoh (5.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and 6-8 DeShawn Sims (3.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg). These two sophomores will be seeing major minutes right off the bat, but they won?t be the only young players who will be. Guard Copperyale ?Manny? Harris was Mr. Basketball in the state of Michigan his senior year and shows some serious promise at the Point Guard position. The loss of stud prospect Alex Legion to Kentucky is sure to sting, but if Beilien can use the city of Ann Arbor to his benefit, some very good prospects should be on their way. But in the immediate future, the prospects are not too great. The out of conference schedule looks daunting to say the least, the Wolverines go to both Georgetown and Duke, while also inviting Butler and UCLA to Chrisler Arena. This year Ann Arbor will once again be one of the doormats of the Big 10 conference, but if this program stays Beilein?s proven course then the dark days in Ann Arbor could be ending soon.

- Michigan State -
Incoming Players:
- SG Chris Allen (4 Star Recruit, #33 in Rivals 150)
- PG Kalin Lucas (4 Star Recruit, #38 in Rivals 150)
- SF Durrell Summers (4 Star Recruit, #56 in Rivals 150)
- SF Austin Thornton (3 Star Recruit)

The odds on favorite to win this conference, Michigan State boasts a top 15 incoming recruiting class and the Preseason Player of the Year in Drew Neitzel (18.1 ppg, 4.3 apg). With the addition of guards Chris Allen and Kalin Lucas along with small forward Durrell Summers, this team will be deep enough to get back to the high-paced offense that won them a National Championship in 1999. Their depth is superb, with 6 viable starters in the frontcourt and 6 viable starters in the backcourt. This depth should allow for Neitzel to get some rest that he couldn?t afford to have last year. Raymar Morgan (11.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg) is a year older and a year tougher and should be a very solid second scoring option behind Neitzel. If State can get consistent play from players like PF Marquise Gray (6.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and PF Goran Suton (9.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg) in the frontcourt, it is going to be very tough to beat this team especially at the Breslin Center. They hit the ground running this year, opening with the CBE classic, in which their possible opponents include Maryland, Missouri and UCLA. Follow that up with a visit from NC State, and State has a chance to really prove themselves early on. Tom Izzo has done a great job of assembling a team that fits his style of play, and they look poised to make a run deep into March.

Minnesota -
Incoming Players:
- SG Blake Hoffarber (3 Star Recruit)
- Al Nolen Jr. (3 Star Recruit)

Yet another team in the Big 10 with a new coach, Minnesota may have gotten the best of the bunch. Tubby Smith has one of the most stellar coaching pedigrees in College Basketball, having made it to 2 National Championship games in 1997 and 1998, plus winning it in 98, while at Kentucky. He also has coached numerous future NBA players such as Derek Anderson, Chuck Hayes and Rajon Rondo, just to name a few. Don?t expect this to be lost on NBA hopefuls Jamal Abu-Shalama, Lawrence Mackenzie, and Dan Coleman, the team's 3 leading returning scorers.  They also are returning Spencer Tollackson, a great low-post threat.  They could start hot early, however, with a relatively weak schedule until they visit UNLV and Michigan State in late December/early January. Tubby Smith?s team looks headed for the NIT this year, but the future looks bright in the Twin Cities.

- Northwestern -
Incoming Players:
- SG Mike Capocci (3 Star Recruit)
- PG Michael Thompson (3 Star Recruit)

It has been a very long time since Northwestern has played a significant role in the Big 10, and it looks as though that drought will continue this year. The Wildcats are coming off a season in which they finished 2-14 in conference play and 13-18 overall, and it's not getting any easier. The Cats start the season off with a bang, with the Stanford Cardinal coming to town followed by a trip to DePaul. Add in another game at the Cavaliers of Virginia and you have all the makings of what looks to be a rough start to the season. On the bright side, their leading scorer, forward Kevin Coble (13.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg) is only going into his sophomore year, and they have added two solid recruits in sg's Mike Capocci and PG Michael Thompson. This team also suffers from a lack of height, as Coble is their tallest player at 6-8. The Wildcats could be in for another season of being the doormat in the Big 10, but if Coble?s development continues then they could be in contention for the tournament in the near future.

- Ohio State -
Incoming Players:
- C Kosta Koufos (5 Star Recruit, #16 in Rivals150)
- SG Jon Diebler  (4 Star Recruit, #58 in Rivals150)
- SF Evan Turner (4 Star Recruit, #48 in Rivals150)
- C Dallas Lauderdale (3 Star Recruit)
- SF Eric Wallace (3 Star Recruit)
- PG P.J. Hill (Junior College Transfer)

Coming off a year in which they made it all the way to the National Title game, the Buckeyes are a team with a very new look. Gone are Top 5 NBA picks Greg Oden and Mike Conley while in came 5 Star C Kosta Koufos and 4 Star SG Jon Diebler. While this group of freshman may be very talented, they are not the Thad 5 of a year ago. Oden and Conley were two of the most NBA ready players to enter College Basketball in the last 20 years; this is a stark difference from this year?s class. The 2007 class will prove to be great, but it will take a few years. This team will have to be held together by its returning players like seniors Jamar Butler (8.6 ppg) and Othello Hunter (6.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg), and former Thad 5?er Guard David Lighty (3.6 ppg) while the freshman become game-ready. The season starts off with the NIT pre-season tournament, in which the Bucks could play the likes of Syracuse, Washington and Texas A&M. The major test for OSU will come November 28th when Columbus welcomes championship favorite North Carolina. If the Bucks can upset what should be the #1 team in the country, it would let everyone know that this program is not a flash in the pan, but that Thad Matta is one of the premier coaches and recruiters in the country. The Buckeyes should float around the lower part of the top 25 for most of the year and will most likely grab a decent seed in the big dance.

- Penn State -
Incoming Players:
- PG Talor Battle (3 Star Recruit)
- SF Jeff Brooks (3 Star Recruit)
- SF Schyler King (2 Star Recruit)
- PG Stanley Pringle (2 Star Recruit)

Geary Claxton. Get to know the name. Coming off a season in which he scored 16.3 ppg and had 8.0 rpg, this senior combo guard starts this season as a First Team All-Big 10 and has intentions of pulling a once proud Penn State program up off the ground and back to respectability. With the help of junior guard Danny Morrissey (9.6 ppg), Penn State will be looking to capitalize on what looks to be a wide-open race for 3rd Place in the Big 10. The out of conference schedule is what will really make or break this team. They have a 4 game stretch against Virginia Tech, at Saint Joseph?s, against Seton Hall, and finishing at home against Princeton and their trademark offense. If the Nittany Lions can get some contributions early from the likes of freshman SF Jeff Brooks and PG Talor Battle, they could very well win all of these games and be on their way to an NIT bid, although it's easier said than done.

- Purdue -
Incoming Players:
- SG E?Twuan Moore (4 Star Recruit, #35 in Rivals150)
- PF JaJuan Johnson (4 Star Recruit, #41 in Rivals150)
- SF Robbie Hummel (4 Star Recruit, #71 in Rivals150)
- SF Scott Martin (4 Star Recruit, #72 in Rivals150)
- PF Nemanja Calasan (3 Star Recruit, Junior College Transfer)
- PF Chris Reid (Junior College Transfer)

Talk about a stud recruiting class, the folks in West Lafayette landed 4 4-Star Recruits this offesason, a haul that should off set the loss of Do-It-All Forward Carl Landry. Team Captain guard Chris Kramer (7.9 ppg, 2.5 apg) will have to elevate his scoring output if this team wants to fulfill its enormous potential. Look for 6-10 freshman forward JaJuan Johnson to get major minutes in the middle, seeing as he is the tallest player in the Boilermakers' frontcourt. Coach Matt Painter retains his starting backcourt from a year ago and has added the #35 player in the country in guard E?Twuan Moore to that arsenal. The schedule is very manageable until December 15th when Rick Pitino?s Louisville Cardinals come to town. Louisville is starting this season in the Top 10 in every poll, and they provide a chance for Purdue to get the national recognition they have been seeking for so long. If this team can get some decent play from their frontcourt, look for them to make the big dance with a seed somewhere between a 8 to 10.

- Wisconsin -
Incoming Players:
- PF Jon Leuer (4 Star Recruit, #77 in Rivals150)
- PF Keaton Nankivil (4 Star Recruit, #86 in Rivals150)
- SG Tim Jarmusz (3 Star Recruit)
- SG Phillip Perry (3 Star Recruit)

Outside of Ohio State, Wisconsin is definitely the program most affected by overall team losses. Team MVP from a year ago, Alando Tucker, is gone along with the teams? second leading scorer Kamron Taylor. This mass exodus means that this team needs one thing to remain competitive: scorers. And the best shot at finding that on this roster is in the frontcourt. Former 5-Star recruit Brian Butch (8.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg) really picked up his play last year for the Badgers, but he needs to make another significant leap and become this team's heart and soul this year. He is talented enough to be a 16 ppg, 8 rpg player, and on this team he will have to be that. Power forward Marcus Landry (5.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg) and center Greg Stiemsma (2.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg) will also have to play solid on the glass to maintain a frontcourt presence. In the backcourt, shooting guard Michael Flowers (7.2 ppg, 2.9 apg) and point guard Trevon Hughes (1.4 ppg, 1.0 rpg) will have to overcome their relative inexperience and be facilitators to the big bodies down low if this team is to succeed. The coaching staff didn?t pave an easy out of conference road, either. The Badgers have to play the likes of Georgia and Marquette at home and travel to Duke and Texas. If Bo Ryan?s team can grow up in the backcourt and win 3 of those 4 games, they should be in for a solid season in the middle of the Big 10.

 

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