Since 2009, we all saw this coming. Back then Big Ten basketball was dominated by a large group of sophomores that would only raise the conference profile higher to it’s peak in 2011. And we knew that once that group was gone (Kalin Lucas, Talor Battle, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Durrell Summers, Demetri McCamey etc.) the next year would see the conference take a small step backward.
Taking a look at the list of players who appeared at this year’s conference media day only verifies that fact. Preseason player of the year, and 2012 NBA Draft lottery pick Jared Sullinger was slated to appear, but did not come to Chicago due to a midterm, according to one Ohio State SID official. (So I guess those of you who believe in the sanctity of academics over athletics won this round?)
To me that was the scoop/story of the day right there, even though it was an afterthought exchange mentioned in passing. When the conference POY is supposed to be here, but isn’t, kind of overshadows the rest of the day’s events, eh?
The only member of that touted sophomore class who remains today (and only because of his ACL injuries) is Purdue’s Robbie Hummel, who joins Sullinger on the Preseason All-Big Ten team, along with Michigan State’s Draymond Green, Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor.
The #3 Buckeyes were labeled the conference favorite, and they return two starters from that team that went 34-3 and claimed the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles last year. The Buckeyes earned their 13th outright conference crown, marking the most of any Big Ten team, en route to the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, they failed to advance past the sweet sixteen, just like the previous year, when they were a #2 seed.
After earning All-America status, Big Ten and national Freshman of the Year accolades, Sullinger adds Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year to his list of honors. The Buckeye forward averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in his first season in Columbus. Along with earning Blue Ribbon Yearbook Preseason All-America honors, Sullinger is one of nine Big Ten players on the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list.
Wisconsin (picked second by the media) welcomes back two starters to its lineup after earning its 13th consecutive NCAA Tournament berth last season. The Badgers advanced to the Sweet 16, finishing the season with a 25-9 overall record. Taylor, a Blue Ribbon Yearbook Preseason All-American and Preseason Wooden Award candidate, returns to lead Wisconsin after posting 18.1 points, 4.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game a season ago.
Michigan State returns two starters from a team that made the NCAA Tournament for the 14th straight season last year. A Preseason Wooden Award candidate, Green leads the Spartans into the 2011-12 campaign after posting 12.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game last season en route to All-Big Ten honors. This is no doubt a “rebuilding year” in East Lansing, as they lost quite a bit from the team that was tabbed #2 in last year’s preseason, but massively failed to meet expectations. They may end up the same, or better than where they ended up last season.
All in all, the conference has only three teams nationally ranked this season, just one in the top 15. Michigan State is #16 and Wisconsin #19 in the Fox Sports poll. I guess this would explain why so many media members were huddled around Conference Commissioner Jim Delaney today. Literally his table had about 30 media members the whole time as he was drilled with questions about conference realignment and expansion. As I expected, he revealed nothing, and said very little of high interest.
The complete 2011 Preseason All-Big Ten Team and preseason poll can be found below.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio shows all across the world. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.