By: David Kay
The excitement is quickly building for the up-coming college hoops season. This week most teams will finally strap up the kicks against real competition as exhibition play tips-off. That is right, we are only about a week away from actual, meaningful games being played. I’m more excited than Brett Favre after throwing his fourth touchdown at Lambeau Field this past Sunday.
While we are on the doorstep of the 2009-2010 season, we at The Sports Bank have been in college basketball mode for the past five weeks, giving you in-depth team previews and predictions from five major conferences. Now it is time for the sixth and final preview, the “hometown conference” of TSB.net, the Big Ten.
It’s back baby. After a couple years of being considered an inferior conference to others around the nation, the Big Ten is shaping up to be the most competitive it has been in years. Despite being “down” last year, seven teams ended up dancing and it’s very possible that will be the case again this year, only with more competition at the top, rather than among the middle teams. Unfortunately for the following four teams of Part 1 of our Big Ten preview, their future does not include the Field of 65. (It should also be noted that my one year grace period of hating Tom Crean for bolting Marquette for Indiana is officially over.)
8. Northwestern (9th in B10, 8-10 in B10, 17-14 overall, NIT)
For a program that has never made the NCAA Tournament, they are getting close. Really close. Close enough that Michigan State’s Tom Izzo said at Big Ten Media Day that he thinks this is the year the misery comes to an end and the Wildcats make the Big Dance. Only one player is gone from last year’s team that qualified for the NIT. Kevin Coble has developed into one of the best scorers in the Big Ten and this once young is starting to mature into a solid Big Ten team.
Projected Depth Chart
C: Kyle Rowley (So)/Luka Mirkovic (So)
F: Kevin Coble (Sr)/Ivan Peljusic (Jr)/Davide Curletti (So)
F: John Shurna (So)/Mike Capocci (Jr)/Drew Crawford (Fr)
SG: Jeremy Nash (Sr)/Jeff Ryan (Sr)/Reggie Hearn (Fr)
PG: Juice Thompson (Jr)/Alex Marcotullio (Fr)
Gone: SG-Craig Moore, G/F-Sterling Williams
Player to Watch: Coble- Let me just say this, if Coble played at Duke everyone in the nation would be aware of his abilities. But because he plays at Northwestern, he has continually flown under the radar on the national scene. He is a versatile forward who can score in a variety of ways and continues to develop his all-around game. Coble will be the driving force behind whatever success the Wildcats may encounter this season.
9. Penn State (T-4th, 10-8, 27-11, NIT)
The Nittany Lions are coming off a championship season!!! Okay, it was only the NIT title, but that is quite the accomplishment from a team that has traditionally been the door mat of the Big Ten. Penn State fell on the wrong side of the bubble on Selection Sunday and were the rare exception of a major conference team finishing with a winning record in conference play and not making the tourney. All-Big Ten first team player Talor Battle returns to lead the team, but PSU will have to replace the loss of three valuable seniors. I am not expecting a repeat performance of last year’s successful season.
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Andruw Jones III (Jr)/Andrew Ott (Jr)
PF: Jeff Brooks (Jr)/Sasha Boronjvak (Fr)
F: David Jackson (So)/ Bill Edwards (Fr)
SG: Chris Babb (So)/Cammeron Woodyard (So)/Jermaine Marshall (Fr)
PG: Talor Battle (Jr)/Tim Frazier (Fr)
Gone: G-Stanley Pringle, F-Jamelle Cornley, SG-Danny Morrissey
Player to Watch: Battle- The conference’s leading scorer from a year ago, Battle did a little bit of everything for the Nittany Lions last season. He played 37-plus minutes a night averaging 16.7 points, 5.3 boards, and 5.0 assists per game. Battle also led the U.S. team in scoring at the World University Games.
10. Indiana (11th, 1-17, 6-25)
It cannot get much worse for the Hoosiers who had the worst season in the school’s history last season. In his second season, Tom Crean continues to try and right the wrongs Kalvin Sampson did to the program. Landing a crop of talented freshman was a step in the right direction to gaining back some respect for IU. Georgetown transfer Jeremiah Rivers is eligible this season and should provide Indiana with some stability and much needed leadership.
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Tom Pritchard (So)/Tijan Jobe (Sr)/Bawa Muniru (Fr)
F: Derek Elston (Fr)/Bobby Capobianco (Fr)
G: Devan Dumes (Sr)/ Maurice Creek (Fr)/Christian Watford (Fr)
G: Jeremiah Rivers (Jr)/ Matt Roth (So)
PG: Verdell Jones III (So)/Jordan Hulls (Fr)/Daniel Moore (So)
Gone: G/F-Nick Williams (transfer-Mississippi), G/F-Malik Story (transfer-Nevada), F-Kyle Taber
Player to Watch: Rivers- The Hoosiers are very young and despite sitting out last year, Rivers’ addition on the floor should be a major plus for Crean due to his basketball lineage (his father is Celtics’ head coach Doc Rivers.) Last we saw him at G-Town, he was not an intimidating offensive talent, but really got after it on D’. For a Tom Crean-coached team, that aggressive work ethic will be welcomed. If he has become a more dangerous scorer, all the better.
11. Iowa (10th, 5-13, 15-17)
The Hawkeyes are going to be the Hoosiers of last year; only they might not be lucky enough to win a game. Seriously, that bad. Three expected starters chose to transfer which makes me wonder what is going on with this program. There will be some serious growing pains this season and Todd Lickliter needs to turn things around soon or he could be on the hot seat.
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Andrew Brommer (So)/Brennan Cougill (Fr)
F: Jarryd Cole (Jr)/Aaron Fuller (So)/Devon Archie (Jr)
G: Matt Gatens (So)/Eric May (Fr)
G: Anthony Tucker (So)/ Devan Bawinkel (Sr)
PG: Cully Payne (Fr)/John Lickliter (Fr)
Gone: SG-Jeff Peterson (transfer-Arkansas), SG-Jake Kelly (transfer-Indiana State), C-David Palmer (transfer-Northern Kentucky), F/C-Cyrus Tate, G-Jermain Davis (transfer-Minnesota State-Mankato)
Player to Watch: Payne- The only other point guard on Iowa’s roster is Lickliter’s son, John, meaning Payne will likely shoulder the ball-handling responsibility. Having Tucker and Gatens alongside Payne in the backcourt should help ease the transition, but it is still a lot to ask a true freshman.
The Sports Bank Big 10 Preview Continues:
Wednesday: Teams 4-7
Thursday: Teams 1-3
Friday: Big Ten Award Predictions
The Sports Bank Big 12 Previews/Power Rankings:
Teams 10-12 (Colorado, Texas Tech, Nebraska)
Teams 7-9 (Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State)
Teams 4-6 (Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M)
Teams 1-3 (Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma)
The Sports Bank ACC Previews/Power Rankings:
Teams 10-12 (Virginia Tech, Virginia, N.C. State)
Teams 7-9 (Wake Forest, Miami FL, Boston College)
Teams 4-6 (Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech)
Teams 1-3 (UNC, Duke, Maryland)
The Sports Bank SEC Previews/Power Rankings:
SEC East Teams 4-6 (Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Georgia)
SEC East Teams 1-3 (Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida)
SEC West Teams 4-6 (Arkansas, Auburn, LSU)
SEC West Teams 1-3 (Mississippi State, Mississippi, Alabama)
The Sports Bank Pac-10 Preview/Power Rankings:
Teams 8-10 (Washingon State, Arizona State, Stanford)
Teams 5-7 (Arizona, USC, Oregon)
Teams 1-4 (Oregon State, UCLA, Washington, Cal)
The Sports Bank Big East Previews/Power Rankings
Teams 13-16 (Rutgers, South Florida, Providence, DePaul)
Teams 9-12 (Notre Dame, Pitt, Marquette, St. John’s)
Teams 5-8 (Syracuse, Louisville, Cincinnati, Seton Hall)
Teams 1-4 (Villanova, West Virginia, UConn, Georgetown)
Post-Season Award Predictions
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