Jim Jackson’s Fearless Big Ten Forecast

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For Part one click here

By Paul M. Banks

At Big Ten Media Day, Ohio State alum Jim Jackson was just like the rest of us journalists, he participated in the college hoops version of speed dating that is Media Day, as he went from table to table interviewing players and coaches. At the same time, the season NBA veteran and current Big Ten Network analyst was utterly NOT like the rest of us journalists, as reporters and bloggers gathered around Jackson to ask him his thoughts on the 2009-10 season, a year in which most national pundits deem the big ten to be the strongest or second strongest in the country. I was one of those writers, and this is what JJ, the only player ever to win the conference player of the year award twice, told me during our exclusive chat.

I first asked him about the stigma attached to the league; people around the country have negative notions about the Big Ten, deeming it a slow tempo, low-scoring league. Wisconsin, and their winning consistently with this Ambien-in-basketball-form type of play is mostly to blame for this.

“The stigma is that it’s a slow, plodding kind of league at that you hold opponents to 60 points, you only score 65. And I think if you look at the way Michigan plays, the way Ohio State plays, Minnesota gets out and runs. Purdue gets up and down the court, Michigan State, I think you have a well balanced combination of teams that can guard you, play great half-court defense, offense but also get out and run. So, it’s a stigma that you have, but the way recruiting is going, you’re going to see a lot more up and down.

Of course, just because the scores are low doesn’t always mean the basketball is awful, people do guard and guard well in this league. So I asked him what basketball fans, but not true basketball savants need to know about what they’re watching, and why that product is possibly better than the perception.jimjackson

“You got to look at the scope of the game, take a team like Wisconsin, they may not get the same talent that a Michigan State may get, so their style of play has to be different in order for them to win games. Northwestern not having the physical players or all around talent, they play a different style of game with their offense. So you gotta look at each team individually and look at what their strengths and weaknesses are, and you get a better perception of why they play the way they do,” JJ articulated.

The Big Ten’s perception would get an even bigger boost if there had been more NBA lottery picks coming out of the conference in recent years. Evan Turner from Ohio State should go this year and help change that perception, but…”it hurts from that perspective because if you look at the Pac 10, the SEC, especially the ACC you have your top tier guys that you can point to and say these are All-Americans, sure-fire draft picks but what’s going to be important this year is how we compete in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Last year we got close to winning that first time, and this year I think it will be a better test. I think that will be a tell tale sign for this league,” Jackson said.

So what does his crystal ball say about the upcoming season?

“I’ve got Michigan State at the top of the pecking order with Purdue right behind, Ohio State, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois is in there, Wisconsin, then Penn State in my top 8. It’s going to be tough for Indiana just because they’ve got a lot of young guys, Iowa they lose a lot. Northwestern is still going to be there, but I don’t think they’ll have the consistent bench play.”

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