By: David Kay
It gets real next week. Most teams in the country are beating up on smaller division schools this week in exhibition games (unless you’re Syracuse and being upset by some Division II school called Le Moyne.) The countdown to the opening tip of the season continues with Part 3 of The Sports Bank’s week long Big Ten preview, breaking down the top teams in the conference.
Michigan State saved face for the Big Ten last season with their run to the NCAA Championship game. Only the Spartans and Purdue made it into the Sweet 16 and both teams will not only be the teams to beat in the Big Ten this season, but if they can stay healthy, figure to be Final Four contenders. Ohio State has the most talented player in the conference in Evan Turner and should be a Top 20 caliber team throughout the season.
1. Purdue (T-2nd B10, 11-7 in B10, 27-10 overall, NCAA Sweet 16)
The Boilermakers underachieved during conference play last season, mainly because of nagging injuries to Robbie Hummel and Chris Kramer. Assuming Hummel and Kramer can remain healthy, their top six players return including JaJuan Johnson who drastically improved in his sophomore season. A lack of experience off the bench will be a concern for Matt Painter’s team, but their top six is talented enough to lead Purdue to the Big Ten title.
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: JaJuan Johnson (Jr)/Sandi Marcius (Fr)
F: Robbie Hummel (Jr)/Patrick Bade (Fr)
G: Chris Kramer (Sr)/D.J. Byrd (Fr)/Kelsey Barlow (Fr)
G: E’Twuan Moore (Jr)/Ryne Smith (So)
PG: Lewis Jackson (So)/Keaton Grant (Sr)
Gone: C-Nemenja Calasan, F-Marcus Green
Player to Watch: Johnson- In a drunken conversation, a friend of mine made the mistake of declaring that Johnson would one day be one of the top ten big men in the NBA. He has received endless criticism for that statement as my friends and I now compare Johnson to the likes of Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. In all seriousness, Johnson came out of nowhere to be an effective big man for the Boilermakers. If that growth continues, Purdue could be a Final Four contender.
2. Michigan State (1st, 15-3, 31-7, National Runner-up)
Sparty really hit their stride during their run to the national title game. Yet a few question marks surround the team heading into this season, most noticeably down low. Freshmen Derrick Nix and Garrick Sherman will have to provide some muscle inside for MSU. Raymar Morgan should be more of a factor this season seeing as he was slowed by health issues last season. Kalin Lucas is one of the top floor leaders in the country and Delvon Roe should only get better in his second season.
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Delvon Roe (So)/Tom Herzog (Jr)/Garrick Sherman (Fr)
PF: Draymond Green (So)/Derrick Nix (Fr)
SF: Raymar Morgan (Sr)/Austin Thornton (So)
SG: Durrell Summers (Jr)/Chris Allen (So)
PG: Kalin Lucas (Jr)/Korie Lucious (So)
Gone: C-Goran Suton, G-Travis Walton, F/C-Marquise Gray, C-Idong Ibok
Player to Watch: Morgan- The 2008-2009 season was a rough one for Morgan. He was bothered by an illness in the middle of the year then broke his nose in the Sweet 16, never finding his groove. Still, Morgan fought through that adversity and was able to contribute to the Spartans’ success. If Morgan can build off an impressive sophomore season that saw him become an intriguing NBA prospect, he could be the boost State needs to hang another Big Ten banner.
3. Ohio State (T-4th, 10-8, 22-11, NCAA First Round)
Had B.J. Mullens made the smart decision and returned to the Buckeyes for his sophomore season, I would strongly consider picking OSU to win the conference. Mullens was an idiot and decided to turn pro, but everybody else is back including Mr. Do-It-All, Evan Turner. David Lighty also returns from a broken bone in his foot that forced him to sit out all of last season. Dallas Lauderdale provides toughness inside and Jon Diebler can light it up from deep.
Projected Depth Chart
C: Dallas Lauderdale (Jr)/Kyle Madsen (Sr)/Zisis Sarakopoulus (So)
G/F: David Lighty (Sr)/Nikola Kecman (So)
G/F: Evan Turner (Jr)/Walter Offutt (So)
SG: Willian Buford (So)/Jeremie Simmons (Sr)
G: Jon Diebler (Jr)/P.J. Hill (Sr)
Gone: C-B.J. Mullens
Player to Watch: Buford- In his freshman year, Buford had a quiet, but successful season for the Buckeyes. He was highly-recruited coming out of high school and should only get better, providing Turner with a valuable second option on the perimeter. Buford could potentially bolt Columbus after this season for the NBA, but will need to better establish himself as the scorer that many think he is capable of becoming. If he makes that stride, OSU could surprise and capture the conference crown.
The Sports Bank Big 10 Preview Continues:
Tuesday: Teams 8-11 (Northwestern, Penn State, Indiana, Iowa)
Wednesday: Teams 4-7 (Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin)
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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