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.”

Big Ten Power Rankings 11-20

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By Paul M. Banks

For this week I’m including the insights of a very special guest for my Power Rankings. I recently had an exclusive with Ohio State legend Jim Jackson, the only man every to win the Big Ten Player of the Year Award twice, and current Big Ten Network analyst. I’ll be using some of the best information nuggets he gave when rating the conference

1. Michigan State (2-0)
Milwaukee Bucks guard Charlie Bell on his National Championship Spartans team compares to this year’s model, who are getting first place votes in both polls. “I think the guys got a taste this past season, being runner-up. I think that’s just going to make them more hungry, and that’s how we were the first time we made it to the Final Four and we lost to Duke. We kind of came out in awe in the 1st half, of playing against the almighty Duke, and in the second half, we were like hey, we can play with these guys. And that made us hungry in the summer time and made us want to come back and win it all, and we did. And I think that’s the mindset the current Spartans need to have.”

2. Purdue (1-0)
Purdue is known for their exceptional junior class. Jim Jackson “As talented as those guys are, I don’t think any of them were ready to take the next step which is a good thing for the University, because now you have a core group of guys coming into their junior year that are very experienced in playing together. It’s a catch-22 when you look at it that way. The talent is there, but maybe not at that level.”

3. Ohio State (2-1)
Loss to UNC hurts, but they’ll quickly recover. Jim Jackson describing the star player at his alma mater: Evan has his first year of being the go-to-guy, now that he has that under his belt, he’ll be more comfortable in that role.

4. Michigan
We didn’t learn much about this team from their victory over Northern Michigan, and playing Houston Baptist will teach us even less.

5. Illinois (2-0)

FreshmanBrandon Paul has been the man so far, getting 20+ points in both games. They’re also playing at a much faster tempo than a typical Bruce Weber team. They’ve been winning with offense instead of d.

6. Minnesota (2-0)
Beat a couple scrub teams so far. JJ had this to say about Tubby Time. “Tubby is a kind of coach that is going to go get the players he wants, recruit the players that are smart, and get up and down the court, understand the game, shoot the ball and play aggressive defense. And it’s great for Minnesota, because that arena is already tough to play in. Now you put a product on the floor that makes it an even tougher place to play again.”

7. Wisconsin(2-0)
Jackson on why Wisconsin plays such an unpopular, but ultimately winning style of ball. “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.

8. Northwestern(1-1)
I would feel fine ranking them lower, now that their leading scorer from the past three seasons, Kevin Coble is out for the season. However, who beneath them actually looks better? They did look bad in losing to Butler, but the Bulldogs are the #11 team in the nation.
9. Penn State (2-1)
Talor Battle went off for 29 points in the team’s extremely ugly loss to UNC-Wilmington. JJ on Battle’s abilities: “His quickness separates him because he can get from point A. to point B. at the drop of a dime, but he can shoot the basketball, stick that open jump shot. And still finish at the rim, it’s a tough assignment for any point guard to have.”
10. Indiana (2-1)
Barely escaped against a mid-major and got beaten badly by Ole Miss. Yeah, it’s going to be a rough one in ’09-‘10.

11. Iowa (0-2)
The Hawkeyes couldn’t handle the basketball juggernauts that are Duquesne and UT-San Antonio. Can you say 22+ losses this year?

Jim Jackson on the Big Ten’s Strengths & Weaknesses

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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 NBA veteran of 14 seasons, 1992 #4 overall draft pick 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 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 Big 10 conference player of the year award twice, told me during our exclusive chat.

Obviously, Jackson had a lot to say about the Big Ten’s junior class, finding some natural comparisons between this class and the state of the league at the beginning of the last decade.jim_jackson

“I take a look back at the early 90s, at some of the classes that came to Indiana, even our class at Ohio State, Michigan State had a great class at the time. I think it kind of recycles a little bit, you go through those periods where it’s a down a little bit then it builds back up. And it’s a reflection of the coaches in this league, the resumes and pedigrees they have. Now the talent is going to catch back up with the coaches.

You got Manny, Talor, Evan, Kalin, guys that I think are going to take it up another level this year. Evan had his first year of being the go-to-guy. Now that he has that under his belt, he’ll be more comfortable in that role. So how much better will he be? Kalin didn’t have the expectation of being Big Ten player of the year but he got it, so now he has that confidence.”

Jackson continued: “I love Talor’s game. His quickness separates him because he can get from point A. to point B. at the drop of a dime, but he can shoot the basketball- stick that open jump shot. And still finish at the rim, it’s a combination that’s a tough assignment for any point guard to have. Talor may not be the most vocal leader, but this year he’ll be more vocal, and also more of a lead-by- example guy with his play.”

And then there’s Purdue’s famed junior class. These days so many players leave early for the NBA draft, so it’s exceedingly difficult for one highly heralded class to stay together for multiple years, but Purdue is one place where they’ve been able to retain their nucleus.

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“In Purdue’s instance, as talented as those guys are, I don’t think any of them were ready to take the next step which is a good thing for the University. Because now you have a core group of guys coming into their junior year that are very experienced in playing together. It’s a catch-22 when you look at it that way. The talent is there, but maybe not at that level. JaJuan (Johnson) established himself last year, as a go-to player. He really worked on his inside game, his post moves. You look at what Robbie (Hummel) brings to the table, a little bit of everything; rebounds, shoots, he’s a leader. Coming off the injury, he had a great summer with the USA team. He’s probably their best all around player,” said Jackson, co-holder of the NBA record for most teams played for (12).

The 2009-10 Big Ten will of course be known for it’s junior class. However, year-in, year-out, the conversation starts and ends with the collective group of league coaches.

“Name a bad coach in this league. You can’t do it. Carmody is great at what he does offensively. Ed DeChellis may not have the name recognition, but he can do it. Crean has recognition. Thad Matta has established himself. Beilien got it done at West Virginia. Of course, Izzo, Bo Ryan and now Matt Painter is establishing himself. jimjackson

Tubby is a kind of coach that is going to go get the players he wants, recruit the players that are smart, and get up and down the court, understand the game, shoot the ball and play aggressive defense. And it’s great for Minnesota, because that arena is already tough to play in. Now you put a product on the floor that makes it an even tougher place to play again,” he said.

So where does the Big Ten Network analyst put the conference nationally? (Not that he’s biased or anything, of course not, no bias from this BTN analyst here)

“Top to bottom, it’s got to be one or two, this league could go nine teams deep, and that’s good and bad for the NCAAs. They’re going to beat up on each other. But at the same time they’ll get quality wins. And look at the Big East last year, you had 16 teams, and they took eight to the tournament, four in the Sweet 16, two in the Final Four, and it could be very similar here in the Big Ten, because you have quality teams and depth,” Jackson said.

I concur 100%. Visit this site tomorrow for part two of this interview, and to see JJ’s picks for this season.