With basketball season rapidly approaching and a lot of information to digest from around the conference, I thought it was high time we hear from bloggers representing them. We finish off the series in roundtables with our last seven today! We hope you enjoy the feature and give us plenty of feedback, and be sure to check out Part One.
Introducing our comrades from around the B1G we start off with Rick Reese of the Iowa Blog Black Heart Gold Pants; Brian Rosenthal, Lincoln Journal Star writer and Husker Extra writer; Penn State writer for StateCollege.com Ben Jones; Philip Rossman-Reich writer for Lake the Posts ; Jonathan Foster, writer for From the Barn, one of my favorite B1G blogs.
I honestly had issues trying to round up bloggers for TTUN and for the Fighting Illini, and have the only Michigan fan I like helping out in Giuliano, (So Fla Wolverine to his twitter mates). tBBC main man for basketball Eric will do us the honor of covering the Illini.
Rick Reese. Black Heart Gold Pants. Iowa Roy Devyn Marble, Aaron White and Zach McCabe are Iowa’s returning starters. There’s also Gabe Olaseni and Melsahn Basabe coming off the bench. Marble holds a slight edge over Aaron White as the teams top returning scorer. Marble averaged 11.5 points per game last season while White averaged 11.1. White was a do-it-all freshman that as freshmen do, only got better as the season carried on. McCabe and Basabe averaged 7.8 and 8.2 rebounds per game. Basabe suffered the dreaded sophomore slump but will hopefully benefit this season with the return of a true center in Iowa’s lineup.
Brian Rosenthal. Husker Extra. Nebraska. Brandon Ubel, a senior forward, is the only returning starter, and Nebraska’s leading returning rebounder (5.3 per game). Dylan Talley, a senior guard, is the leading returning scorer (8.9) per game.
Ben Jones. StateCollege.Com. Penn State. The biggest name Penn State returns this year is guard Tim Frazier. It’s his senior year and what ought to be his best. 18 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 6.2 apg makes him one of the conferences most dynamic players. Much like Talor Battle before him, Penn State will likely go as he does. A summer at LeBron’s Camp and plenty of other invitations means he’ll have a few more tricks up his sleeve.
Guard DJ Newbill is returning in a roster sense, but this is his first year eligible after transfer from Southern Miss. He will likely be a name most Big Ten fans know by the end of the year.
Philip Rossman-Reich. Lake the Posts. Northwestern. Drew Crawford is the big returning player. He was second on the team in scoring last year and might be Northwestern’s best offensive creator (at least for himself). Crawford could be the kind of player you turn to when the shot clock is winding down and create a shot for himself. That happens often in NU’s offense. Dave Sobolewski started at point guard for the majority of last season and is a solid player. He does not make a lot of mistakes and can hit shots when left open.
Jonathan Foster. From the Barn. Minnesota. The Tubby Smith era has been marked by unexpected departures. You may remember the suspensions of Al Nolen, Royce White, Trevor Mbakwe, and Devoe Joseph, or the season ending injuries of Al Nolen and Trevor Mbakwe, or maybe the transfers of Royce White, Devoe Joseph, Paul Carter, Colton Iverson, Devoe Joseph, and Chip Armelin.
Oddly enough, this season, nearly everyone of consequence is back, including the reappearance of Trevor Mbakwe in his six season of eligibility. Mbakwe was something of a double-double machine before he tore up his knee last season, and even if he is 90% of the player he was before, he will be one of the better big men in the conference. Mbakwe’s absence led to the emergence of Rodney Williams as a legitimate scoring threat, which in turn spread the floor to give Andre Hollins room to operate. The big three of Wlliams, Mbakwe, and Hollins give the Gophers a very good base to work from. However, the difference between sneaking into the NCAA tournament and making a real run towards a Big Ten title, besides of course avoiding injuries and suspensions, is Julian Welch and Austin Hollins. Both players are solid but streaky on the offensive end. If defenses adjust to shut down the big three, Hollins and Welch should have a lot open outside shots. If they can consistently make open three-pointers, look out.
Giuliano. So Fla Wolverine. Die Hard Michigan Fan. Tim Hardaway JR and Trey Burke
Eric. tBBC. Covering Illinois. Hold on, let me put on my Orange and Blue glasses here. *dons glasses* That’s better…though I suddenly have this deep distaste for Ron Zook…
Wait, these are my Florida glasses! *exchanges glasses* Ok, I lied, I absolutely detest Ron Zook. I also get irrationally angry at the thought of Eddie George. These must be the right ones.
The best returning player, assuming he can stay healthy this year, has to be DJ Richardson (6-3, 195, SR). Richardson was the best three-point shooting threat for the Illini last year, even despite hurting his shooting wrist, hitting 34.8% of his looks. He’s a dynamic scorer and will be looking to make a statement for the NBA this year.
The other key returner in the backcourt will be Brandon Paul (6-4, 200, SR). Brandon Paul was equally proficient beyond the arc last year, but was generally a more productive player in his minutes than Richardson was. That goes for all stat-lines making Paul a much more valuable and efficient player on the court.
Rick Reese. Black Heart Gold Pants. Iowa. Iowa loses Matt Gatens, last season’s leading scorer and team leader. Gatens played close to 35 minutes a game last year and averaged 15.2 points per game. He was also the team’s best three point shooter, second in steals and third in assists. His production, but more importantly his leadership, will surely be missed.
Brian Rosenthal. Husker Extra. Nebraska. Nebraska lost five of its top six scorers from last year’s team, including point guard Bo Spencer, who averaged 15.4 points a game, the only player who averaged in double figures. Four of those five players were seniors, and the other, center Jorge Brian Diaz, left the program.
Ben Jones. StateCollege.Com. Penn State. Penn State had a handful of bench transfers this off season but Cam Woodyard graduating is probably the biggest loss for the team. 8 points a game and streaky shooting was his calling card last year. It isn’t a devastating blow, but he was one of the better shooters from outside. Billy Oliver ended his career early having to deal with concussion symptoms that extended through two seasons. He was good for about 7 points a game but made his mark going 7-11 from three against Purdue.
Philip Rossman-Reich. Lake the Posts. Northwestern. The loss of John Shurna is going to be hard to calculate. Everyone is expecting Crawford to slide into Shurna’s scoring role. The thing is Shurna was just a pure scorer and he could score in bunches, oftentimes without you noticing. He could create for himself and score within the Princeton Offense. He was also a great leader and you could just see his enthusiasm emanate out to the rest of the team. Those intangibles will have to be replaced as much as his scoring ability.
Jonathan Foster. From the Barn. Minnesota. The Gophers lose Ralph Sampson III to graduation and Chip Armelin due to transfer, though referring to them as losses really oversimplifies things. I am something of a Ralph Sampson apologist and thought he got a bad rap because he never lived up to the expectations attached to his name. And sure, he looked a bit like a slightly less elderly, less emotional Greg Oden, but he finished his career with over 1000 points, 500 rebounds, and 200 blocks. Despite impressive statistics, even an apologist has to recognize that the energy level sagged when he was on the floor, and he often failed to make plays that he should have been able to make.
Chip Armelin, for reasons I’ve have failed to grasp, has a small army of apologists who tout him as “exciting!!!” and “a game-changer”. What this too often meant was terrible decisions, lots of contested three-pointers, few assists, and even less defense. He would occasionally have a good game, but the several bad games after that often did more harm than good.
Giuliano. So Fla Wolverine. Die Hard Michigan Fan. We lost our 2 senior backbones, Novak and Stu Douglass. We lose a lot of leadership with them.
Eric. tBBC. Covering Illinois. Well, other than losing Bruce Weber last season, of course. The biggest loss may have been Meyers Leonard to the NBA. He was only a sophomore, but was averaging 13.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as a big guy controlling the paint – that’s 20.7% of the scoring, and 25.1% of the rebounds. His 7-1 frame will be missed the most if only for his shot-changing stature, but the scoring will be tough to replace on the inside.
Rick Reese. Black Heart Gold Pants. Iowa Fran McCaffery added five recruits for the 2011-12 season. Point guard Mike Gesell and center Adam Woodbury are projected to start from day one. (Sophomore Gabe Olaseni still may have something to say about the starting center position.) Still, Woodbury will rotate and play at least 20 mins per game. Anthony Clemmons flashed some ability in Iowa’s Summer League (PTL) and should provide some minutes when Gesell needs a breather. There’s also Patrick Ingram and Kyle Meyer. McCaffery plans to red shirt one player and Meyer appears to be that guy, for now. Iowa also added Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff this summer but NCAA rules require him to sit for this season.
Brian Rosenthal. Husker Extra. Nebraska. Freshman Shavon Shields, a 6-6 forward, is son of former Nebraska All-American football guard Will Shields, who played 14 seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs. Junior college transfer Deverell Biggs could start at guard, but has an expressed a desire to redshirt. No decision has been made. Other newcomers are freshman Benny Parker (point guard) and Sergej Vucetic (center). Transfers Walter Pitchford (Florida) and Terran Petteway (Texas Tech) aren’t eligible to play this season.
Ben Jones. StateCollege.Com. Penn State. Besides DJ Newbill, Freshman forward Brandon Taylor, guard Akosa Maduegbunam, and forward Donovan Jack are all new faces this year. I expect to see Taylor to play the most out the the three but Maduegbunam has the chance to become the Nittany Lions’ outside shooter. Coach Pat Chambers says the 6-3, 200 pound Maduegbunam can jump higher and run faster than Tim Fraizer, which if you’ve seen Frazier play in person, is saying something.
Philip Rossman-Reich. Lake the Posts. Northwestern. There are a lot of newcomers to this roster. Jared Swopshire is a graduate student with an extra year of eligibility and he will likely start and be relied upon early on. Alex Olah is a freshman center that the coaches are very high on. And Nikola Cerina is a transfer from TCU who is eligible after sitting out last year. Bill Carmody said Cerina was the most athletic player on the team. The one constant through all three of those players is that they can all play in the post. That is something the Wildcats have greatly lacked since . . . maybe Evan Eschmeyer in 2000. I might be reaching there, but Northwestern has struggled with rebounds and establishing any kind of post game. The hope is that one or two of these three players can come in and contribute immediately and give Northwestern more offensive options and a more solid presence in the paint defensively.
Jonathan Foster. From the Barn. Minnesota. With only two moderately significant departures, there were only two scholarships available. Both Wally Ellenson and Charles Buggs don’t seem likely to have an immediate impact, and one or both may redshirt. Ellenson has an unreal vertical leap, with a lifetime best high-jump of 7’1”. He’ll need to work on his outside shot and ball handling, but you can’t teach athleticism.
Charles Buggs is a lanky combo-forward out of Texas who is something of a mystery, playing in prep school on a roster stocked with top flight talent. He has great length, a good outside shot, and needs to eat about 10 cheeseburgers per day before he is Big Ten ready.
Giuliano. So Fla Wolverine. Die Hard Michigan Fan. My favorite newcomer is Mitch McGary. Should bring some much needed size to the paint.
Eric. tBBC. Covering Illinois. Well, the biggest newcomer to the team is incoming head coach John Groce. Yes, that name should be familiar to you Buckeye fans – he was only one of the first assistants Thad Matta brought in with him in 2004. He later went on to lead the Ohio Bobcats for four seasons, including a spectacular Sweet 16 run last season. It may take some time to get things moving right at Illinois, but you can bet there are big things in store. He’s also the one who will likely make an immediate impact. Unfortunately, I think this answer is cheating.
The newcomers to the team are guard Mike LaTulip (6-0, 165) and guard-forward Devin Langford (6-7, 200). Considering size and position, Devin Langford is the most likely to make a splash for the Illini. While he’s young, and there are plenty of forwards, only sophomore Myke Henry (6-6, 230) seems like a natural three like Langford. With his lighter weight and ever-so-slight height advantage, he should see playing time, especially when the Illini want to push the basketball.
Rick Reese. Black Heart Gold Pants. Iowa All Big Ten games are obviously important. For Iowa to have a serious chance at the NCAA tournament they need to beat the quality teams on their non-con schedule. Iowa State will be an important game because the Cyclones are good enough to return to the tourney (even without Royce White). Iowa’s non-con schedule is full of cupcakes so they must win those (see Campbell 2011) and defeat Iowa State, perhaps the highest rated opponent outside of the Big Ten.
Brian Rosenthal. Husker Extra. Nebraska. Any home conference game that Nebraska feels it has a shot of winning, which won’t be many. Perhaps Penn State or Northwestern.
Ben Jones. StateCollege.Com. Penn State. Penn State’s goals are a little different than most of the Big Ten, but I think the second game in Puerto Rico against NC State will offer up a good measuring stick going forward. The last non conference game against Duquesne will be a big one as well.
Philip Rossman-Reich. Lake the Posts. Northwestern. The Wildcats know to make the Tournament that they have to finish .500 in the Big Ten and win a game or two in the Big Ten Tournament. That is the task every year. The margin for error changes only depending on their non-conference performance. The December 4 trip to Baylor stands to be a big test for the Wildcats and a must-win to build the Tournament resume. Northwestern does not have a marquee non-conference schedule, so there are not many chances to score impressive wins. The Wildcats have shown that a decent record is not enough.
Jonathan Foster. From the Barn. Minnesota. The Gophers play Michigan State on New Year’s Eve in The Barn in what could be one of those program changing, attention getting wins. The Gophers have a tough non-conference season, playing in the Battle for Atlantis against Duke and at Florida State. If they play well during the non-conference season, a win over a traditional conference power like Michigan State will clearly demonstrate that those other wins were not a fluke. If they drop a few non-conference games, the Michigan State game is the perfect opportunity to gain momentum early in the Big Ten season.
Giuliano. So Fla Wolverine. Die Hard Michigan Fan. As always, OSU and Mich St will be our most important games. Must establish B1G wins.
Eric. tBBC. Covering Illinois. In the preseason, the Illini play a pair of road games at Gonzaga and at Missouri essentially book-ending the month of December. Both of those games should act as good measuring sticks for this team heading into conference play.
But it’s the start of the conference slate that may be the most important. Illinois opens with what may be one of the toughest four game stretches in the Big Ten: at Purdue, Ohio State, Minnesota, and at Wisconsin. If Illinois survives that run at least 2-2, it could really set the tone for an excellent season ahead.
Rick Reese. Black Heart Gold Pants. Iowa I predict 21 wins with Iowa’s schedule. Eleven of those wins come in Iowa’s non-con schedule and I have them entering Big Ten play at 11-2. The opening three games in Big Ten play is brutal as Iowa hosts Indiana, goes to Michigan and hosts Michigan State.I think Iowa can get to 10-8 in conference play and finish in the upper half of the division.
Brian Rosenthal. Husker Extra. Nebraska. Nebraska’s too inexperienced and lacks depth to be very competitive in the Big Ten this season. The Huskers may win a couple of home games, but won’t steal any on the road. A last-place finish is inevitable.
Ben Jones. StateCollege.Com. Penn State. Penn State has a chance to be a good team this year, but playing in the Big Ten means every win is going to be tough to get. They could finish in the middle of the pack if they play well, but they need to fill a few roles before I commit to that. As a whole the Big Ten is going to be one of the best, if not the best, conference in the nation. I think we’ll see dogfights almost every game and another year of 7-9 bids to the dance.
Philip Rossman-Reich. Lake the Posts. Northwestern. It is hard to tell if Northwestern has improved from last year. They certainly are going to be at about the same level. They should compete for an NCAA Tournament bid and it will come down to winning games. Sounds simple? I feel like the Wildcats will finish about .500 in another difficult Big Ten. The Big Ten, to me, is still the best conference in basketball top to bottom. They may not have the best teams in the nation, but this conference is always full of veterans that just know how to play good team basketball. Losing players like Shurna and Draymond Green will hurt, but there are always more great players to boost the conference up. It should perform as it has for many of the last few years.
Jonathan Foster. From the Barn. Minnesota. My minimal goals for this season, and they are very much in reach, are for the Gophers to win 10 games in Big Ten play and make the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament. It would be the first NCAA tournament win, that counted at least, since the first Bush administration, and the first winning Big Ten season of the Tubby Smith Era.
In conference play, Indiana would have to be considered the favorite, but all of the top teams in the conference have big questions to answer. Can the Hoosiers care enough about defense to win consistently on the road? Can Michigan find ways to win while looking so bad in the process? Does Wisconsin have anyone to play point guard? Who replaces Draymond Green for Michigan State? Will Trevor Mbakwe be fully recovered for the Gophers? Then you throw in new coaches at Illinois and Nebraska, Purdue rebuilding, Iowa’s possible sleeper season, Northwestern’s eternal quest to make the NCAA tournament, and Tim Frazier’s attempt to be the best player ever on the worst team ever, and it will be an exciting season.
Giuliano. So Fla Wolverine. Die Hard Michigan Fan. My prediction is making it to the B1G champ game. we have a high powered team with more talent than ive ever seen at Michigan since the 90′s. I expect the B1G to be one of, if not the best conference in college hoops.
Eric. tBBC. Covering Illinois. The conference as a whole is going to be tough yet again. Michigan State, Indiana, and Ohio State are probably tops, closely followed by Michigan, Wisconsin, and Purdue (in no particular order). Breaking into that group of 6 would be a nice start to the Groce campaign.
I think it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the Illini to expect a winning record in conference this year. Perhaps 10-8 or 11-7 overall, depending if they can steal one at home against a good team. That may be good enough to break them into a top six spot in the conference for the season. The most likely team to get bumped out of the six I mentioned above would be Purdue, who is extremely young this year.
Rick Reese. Black Heart Gold Pants. Iowa. Final Four? Heh. We still think a NCAA Tournament team talk is crazy. I think Iowa gets to the tournament this year as a bubble team. They may need a solid run in the Big Ten Tournament to get off the bubble. They could end up an 8-10 seed and win a tough first round game. They’d then have to face a one, two, or three seed and that would more than likely end the run.
Brian Rosenthal. Husker Extra. Nebraska. Considering Nebraska has never won an NCAA Tournament game, and hasn’t been to the tournament since 1998, I think it’s safe to say there won’t be a Final Four appearance any time soon. I don’t see any postseason this season, period, as Nebraska goes through a rebuilding phase with first-year coach Tim Miles.
Ben Jones. StateCollege.Com. Penn State. haha, well, I don’t think the Final Four is in the picture, but an NIT bid is probably the goal this year if not better. If Pat Chambers can have the program take steps forward each year, I think you could see Penn State become a much better program than we’ve seen in the past. While the tradition is different, Penn State reminds me of Indiana a few years ago. Talented, but always losing. It was only a matter of time before it turned around under Crean. Is Penn State going to be a Top 10 team in 4 years? No. But they might make a living in the middle of the conference.
Philip Rossman-Reich. Lake the Posts. Northwestern. Final Four… um no. Final four into the Tournament? Perhaps. I think the Wildcats will have a very similar season to the one the have had the last few years. They will be a very difficult team to beat with one of the more talented and deep teams Bill Carmody has ever had, and of course his exotic offensive and defensive schemes. Do they have enough to get over the top? I am not sure. Drew Crawford has been inconsistent throughout his career. At times he will be devastatingly efficient on offense, other times he disappears into the offense. The players around him are solid, but I have not seen enough of them to know exactly what they will bring. That first NCAA Tournament bid is certainly possible. But I see a first four out, rather than a last four in season for NU again. Who would have thought the NIT would be such a disappointment?
Jonathan Foster. From the Barn. Minnesota. Of course not! This is a team from Minnesota. We have a good quality of life, and pay for it with bad teams. I do think the Gophers will be stress free on selection Sunday, and win their first game in the NCAA tournament, knocking off a 10 or 11 seed or so.
Giuliano. So Fla Wolverine. Die Hard Michigan Fan. I dont know about final 4…but i think elite 8 isnt out of the question. I love our mix of returning players and talented newcomers. GO BLUE!
Eric. tBBC. Covering Illinois. It’s a bit early to be talking Final Fours for the Illini. There’s a good chance they’ll make it under Groce sometime in the next few years, but there aren’t enough pieces on this team to get that far this season. They will, however, make the NCAA tournament if they can get a winning record in conference. I see them being a 6-8 seed in the tournament and probably exiting in the first weekend. A trip to the Sweet 16 is possible, but highly unlikely. If that happens, Groce should be hailed as a king on the basketball court.
Again, a huge thank you to all of the participants and great job on your teams! The season is almost here and I look forward to continued discussions about the B1G.