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Let’s take a look at the Big 10 Conference that sent 7 teams to the NCAA tournament last season, which has the only first team All-American in Jared Sullinger (Ohio State) back in their conference and the only second team All-American Jordan Taylor (Wisconsin) back for another season.

The Big Ten has added Nebraska into the mix this season to push this conference to a total of 12 teams now, with 6 of those teams being nationally ranked in the top 40 for this season. This conference will be very interesting to follow this season with all of the talent that they will be putting on the floor.

Ohio State Buckeyes:

Head Coach Thad Matta is in his 8th season at Ohio State and this could very easily be the most talented group of kids he has seen come through those doors to his program. Ohio State enters this season being ranked 2nd in the Polls even though they lost 3 senior starters from last year’s 34 win team and #1 ranked  NCAA Tournament seed.

Returning to this Buckeyes lineup this season will be first team All-American sophomore Jared Sullinger (17.2 PPG, 10.2 RPG) and senior William Buford (14.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG).  Sophomore guard Aaron Craft (6.8 PPG, 4.8 APG) should be inserted into the starting lineup considering he is the reigning Big 10 sixth man of the year. Sophomore Deshaun Thomas (7.5 PPG, 3.5 PPG) Ohio States seventh man last season should see his role increase this season due to the senior departures considering that he can score from anywhere on the floor. Freshman Amir Williams and freshman Trey McDonald a pair of top 50 recruits should serve as centers and allow Sullinger to move back to his natural position of power forward.

Coach Thad Matta is not known for going more than 7 deep on his team which is going to be extremely hard for him not to go more since he will have reserves in Freshman LaQuinton Ross, freshman Sam Thompson and freshman Shannon Scott who were all top 50 recruits.

Expectations will be extremely high coming out of Columbus this season and there is no reason why this Buckeyes squad is not able to meet them. When you have a returning All-American in Sellinger on your squad and you surround him with the talent that the Buckeyes have this could be a very dangerous team and they should be finishing up their season in New Orleans this year with a shot at a National Title.

Michigan Wolverines:

Head coach John Beilein spent the offseason trying to figure who is going to replace Darrius Morris at the point position this season since he left to take his game to the NBA. Coach Beilein has 3 options to fill the point position, whomever it is going to be is going to have their hands full to fill the shoes of Morris and his 15 PPG average.

Michigan returns 4 starters to this lineup that finished with 21 wins last season and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Back in the lineup for the Wolverines will be senior Zach Novak (8.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG), sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr. (13.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG), sophomore Evan Smotrycz (9.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG) and sophomore Jordan Morgan (9.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG). Freshman Trey Burke and Carlton Brundidge along with senior Stu Douglas (7.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG) will be battling for the point position. Michigan will also see Jordan Dumars son of former NBA great Joe Dumars put plenty of time out on the floor this season since he sat out all of last season.

Michigan enters this season ranked 18th in both polls and could easily move up or down by the end of the season depending how they perform in a very tough Big 10 Conference this season.  This Michigan squad is not very young; they have the experience and should be able to compete in this Big 10 Conference. Beating their arch rival Ohio State for the top spot might be far-fetched but they should be able to get back to the big dance once again this season.

Michigan State Spartans:

Michigan State and head coach Tom Izzo may have had  down year last season going just 9-9 in conference play but his expectations will be high again for a team that needs to fill the role of a floor general since seasoned vet Kalin Lucas and his 17 PPG is now gone from East Lansing.

Michigan State returns 3 starters from last season’s team. Returning to the starting lineup will be senior forward Draymond Green (12.6 PPG, 8.6 RPG who will now be asked to take the leadership role, sophomore guard Keith Appiling (6.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG) and junior forward Delvon Roe (6.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG). Joining this starting group we could see the talented Valpo transfer Brandon Wood who averaged 16.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG with Valpo last season, junior center Derrick Nix (2.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG), freshman forward Branden Dawson and freshman guard Travis Trice will all have the opportunity to fill into this lineup.

Coach Tom Izzo is a mastermind when it comes to coaching. He has taken teams that we just average during the regular season and made them into winners and put together winning streaks during the NCAA Tournament. No matter whom Michigan State puts out on the floor Izzo always seems to find a way for those players to buy into his schemes and makes them successful. Michigan State may not win the Big 10 this season but this team is always dangerous when it comes tournament time.

Illinois Fighting Illini:

Illinois heads into this season with a lot of question marks for Bruce Weber’s squad this season. Weber is going to have to find a way to replace 4 starters from last season’s squad. Weber is going to have to remake this team with the slew of incoming freshman that he has which include 4 of them that were ranked in the top 100 nationally.

The lone returning starter to this Illini team this season will be junior guard D.J. Richardson (8.4 PPG, 1.9 APG).  Joining Richardson in the starting lineup we should see junior guard Brandon Paul (9.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG) if he can bring all of his talent to the floor night in and night out.  Sophomore center Meyers Leonard (2.1 PPG, 1.2 RPG) should be inserted into the lineup considering he was the 29th ranked recruit when he came out of high school.  Senior guard Sam Maniscalco a transfer from Bradley who was a second team All-American last season in the Missouri Valley should end up being the point on this squad.  We should see one of the top recruits that Weber brought in to take a role in this starting lineup which would be Tracy Abrams, Mike Shaw, Myke Henry or Nnanna Egwu.

Bruce Weber has some talent on this team. If Weber can get the most out of Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson and the big man Meyers Leonard this team can end up being very dangerous this season. Until we see this young talented group perform at a high level the expectations for this team are just average but that can change once the season gets going.

Wisconsin Badgers:

Expectations coming out of Madison this season for Bo Ryan and his Wisconsin Badgers should remain extremely high even though they graduated half of the scoring on this team.  Wisconsin has made 13 straight NCAA Tournament appearances with expectations for a 14th should be met this season.

Wisconsin returns just two starters back from their 25 win team and sweet 16 appearance last season.  Wisconsin should have one of the best backcourts in the Big 10 this season considering senior guard Jordan Taylor (18.1 PPG, 4.7 APG) a preseason All-American and sophomore guard Josh Gasser (5.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG) will be the only two starters back for this squad. The frontcourt does have some question marks for this Badgers squad this season.  Junior Mike Bruesewitz (4.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG) who buried some big shots down the stretch last season for the Badgers, redshirt junior Jared Berggren (2.4 PPG, 1.1 RPG) who has a solid post game with a solid touch from the 3 point arc and redshirt junior Ryan Evans (2.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG) who has shown much scoring improvement during spring drills should be manning the frontcourt for this Badgers tea this season. Adding depth to this Badgers squad will be freshman Jarrod Uthoff, freshman Jordan Smith and freshman Frank Kaminsky.

Wisconsin does have some talent on this team this season. The stretch of 13 straight NCAA Tournament appearances should continue considering this team is one of the best defensive teams in the Nation allowing just 58.6 points per game last season. This Badgers team will ride the back of Jordan Taylor as they make that push to get back to the Sweet 16 this season if not farther.

Purdue Boilermakers:

Head Coach Matt Painter is entering his 7th season at Purdue this year with two big questions marks.  First: How will coach Painter replace the Boilermakers top two scores from last season in JaJuan Johnson (20.5 PPG) and E’Twuan Moore (18.0 PPG)? Second: Will Robbie Hummel be able to return to be one of the most complete players in the nation after his ACL tear?

Purdue returns 3 starters back to the lineup with Hummel being a 4th.  Returning to the lineup for the Boilermakers will be Robbie Hummel (15.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG 2009-2010), Lewis Jackson (8.0 PPG, 4.0 APG), Ryne Smith (6.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG) and D.J. Byrd (5.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG). Getting first crack to move into the starting lineup will be sophomore forward Travis Carroll (1.3 PPG, 1.9 RPG). Coach Painter does have some depth on this team to help out. Sophomore guard Terone Johnson (4.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG) is very similar to E’Twaun Moore and could see plenty of time on the court if he performs like Moore did. Junior guard Kelsey Barlow (5.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG) could also take over a starting position at the 2 or 3. Freshman Anthony Johnson, Donnie Hale and Jacob Lawson are going to be asked to contribute immediately for this squad.

Purdue has more than enough options from point guard to power forward to compete with the other teams in this conference and earn it sixth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. If Robbie Hummel is 100% and the rest of the guys on this team play at the expected level out of Coach Painter they could very easily be right up there with Ohio State battling for the conference championship.

Northwestern Wildcats:

Head Coach Billy Carmody would want nothing more than to be the first head coach in Northwestern history to lead a Wildcat squad to an NCAA Tournament berth. Well Coach Carmody might not have to look far considering his Wildcat squad returns 4 starters to this team that includes potential All-American in John Shurna.

Returning to this Wildcats squad this season looking for that first NCAA tournament berth is senior forward John Shurna (16.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG), junior forward/guard Drew Crawford (12.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG), senior center Luka Mirkovic (7.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG) and sophomore guard JerShon Cobb (7.4 PPG, 3.0 RPG). Northwestern returns a few veterans (Davide Curletti, Nick Fruendt) and a few new comers in (Dave Sobolewski, Alex Marcotullio and Tre Demps) to provide depth to this squad.

John Shurna was projected by many to be a second round pick in the NBA draft and if he meets those expectations this season we should see Northwestern get that first tournament appearance, as long as the guards limit their turnovers and find a way to shoot the 3 pointer much better.

Minnesota Golden Gophers:

Coach Tubby Smith has been coaching for 20 years and last season was the first that he encountered a season like last year.

Minnesota started the season 16-4 looking like it was easily on pace for another NCAA Tournament berth and then the injury bug hit them which caused the Golden Gophers to lose 10 of their last 11 games.

Minnesota this season looks to rebound from that horrible finish with returning 3 starters from last season’s team with some much needed depth coming off the bench and a freshman class that does have an upside to them.

Back in the starting lineup for the Golden Gophers will be senior forward Trevor Mbakwe (13.9 PPG, 10.5 RPG), junior forward Rodney Williams (6.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG) and senior center Ralph Sampson III (10.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG).  Minnesota is going to have to develop their back court to be a contender in this league. The backcourt will consist of freshman guard Andre Hollins, sophomore guard Austin Hollins (4.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG), junior college transfer Julian Welch and freshman guard Joe Coleman.

Minnesota is going to rely heavily in their upperclassmen frontcourt to push this program back to the NCAA Tournament.  Coach Smith is going to need his underclassmen to mature quickly and develop into consistence players if they plan on competing with the top notch programs in this Big 10 conference. If the backcourt is able to produce in a hurry for Coach Smith this team has potential to move up a few spots in the Big 10 this season.

Iowa Hawkeyes:

Coach Fran McCaffery has much higher expectations from his squad this season since 87% of their productivity is back which include 3 starters from last season team that gained valuable experience last season. McCaffery does understand though that his team needs to learn to win on the road, where they only had two true road wins all of last season and they need to find a way to pull out close games since they lost 8 games last season by 6 or less points.

Returning back to this Hawkeyes lineup this season senior guard Matt Gatens (12.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG), sophomore forward Melshan Basabe (11.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG) and senior guard Bryce Cartwright (10.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG and 5.9 APG). Senior forward Devon Archie (1.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG), junior guard Eric May (7.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG), senior Andrew Brommer (3.1 PPG, 2.4RPG) and sophomore guard Roy Devyn Marble (5.7PPG, 2.4 RPG) will all see valuable time on the floor this season. Freshman Aaron White and Gabe Olaseni have the potential be a presence in the post, but both need to bulk up a bit before gaining valuable playing time.

Iowa does have plenty of experience on this team and we should see them move up the Big 10 ladder and not finish 10th like last season. If they figure out how to pull a few wins out on the road and find ways to win those close games this could be a team that finishes higher than expected.

Indiana Hoosiers:

Head Coach Tom Crean is entering his fourth season at Indiana; even though it has been a rough 3 years for him he does see the light at the end of the tunnel to turn this program around and it starts with this seasons Indiana squad that returns all 5 starters that now have plenty of experience under their belts.

Returning to the Hoosiers this season will be junior forward Christian Watford (16.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG), junior guard Maurice Creek (8.3 PPG, 2.4 RPG), junior guard Jordan Hulls (11.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG), and senior guard Verdell Jones lll (12.5 PG, 3.3 RPG) and senior forward Tom Pritchard (2.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG).  Adding depth coming off the bench for this Indiana team will be freshman forward Cody Zeller, junior forward Derek Elston (4.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG, sophomore Victor Oladipo (7.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG) and sophomore forward Will Sheehey (4.8 PPG, 2.1 RPG).

Indiana does have plenty of experience on this team to play competitive basketball in the Big 10. The issues that Indiana needs to resolve will be picking up a few wins on the road (0-11 last season), the Hoosiers need to get tougher mentally and physically. If Coach Crean can get his players to take care of some of these issues they could be moving up the ladder in the Big 10 instead of finishing dead last like last season. Until we see the mental and psychical toughness coming out of Indiana we have to think they will be sitting close to the bottom of the Big 10 this season again.

Nebraska Cornhuskers:

Nebraska’s entry into this Big 10 has brought plenty of excitement for the football program while it should do the same for this basketball program.

Head Coach Doc Sadler has to be excited to be joining a conference in this Big 10 that has produced many successful seasons as a conference. Sadler does understand that there is going to be growing pains moving to a new conference while he has made it clear he is up for the challenge with this group that returns four starters back from last season’s squad.

Returning starters back to Nebraska for the inaugural Big 10 season will be senior guard/forward Toney McCray (8.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG), senior guard Brandon Richardson (6.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG), senior guard Caleb Walker (6.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG) a former JC All-American and junior center Jorge Brian-Diaz (10.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG).  Nebraska adds a few freshmen this season that have the opportunity to contribute along with a few key players coming off the bench for them. Freshman guard/forward David Rivers, guard Josiah Moore and guard Cory Hilliard Jr. all have the potential to contribute for this team.  Junior forward Brandon Ubel (6.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG) brings a nice outside touch off the bench to go along with senior guard Bo Spencer an LSU transfer that averaged 14.5 points per game in 2009-10.

Nebraska fits into the Big 10 very easily with the strong defense that they play (60.5 PPG Allowed last season) along with the other teams in this league that play outstanding defense.  The scoring for the Cornhuskers will have to improve though if they plan on competing with the likes of Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Illinois. If the Cornhuskers are able to make a smooth transition and are able to keep up the strong defense and improve the offense a bit it might not be as bad as most expectations on Nebraska this season.

Penn State Nittany Lions:

All the talk around Penn State has been about the legal problems going on with the football program and former coaches and the firing of long time football head Coach Joe Paterno. Nobody seems to be talking about the basketball program; which could be a good thing considering that this Penn State team returns just one starter from last season’s team  that made the Big 10 conference championship game.

Penn State brings in new head coach Patrick Chambers to try and make this very young program a winner that has just one senior on it and six freshmen coming in to the program.
Penn State’s only returning starter is junior guard Tim Frazier (6.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG and 5.1 APG).  The frontcourt for the Nittany Lions will consist of six newcomers with four of them freshmen.  Redshirt Freshman Jonathan Graham, redshirt sophomore Sasa Bouronjak, redshirt sophomore Billy Oliver (2.3 PPG, 1.4 RPG) and freshman Ross Travis will be asked to provide a consistent play for this team in the frontcourt. Joining Frazier in the backcourt for this team will be senior guard Cammeron Woodyard (1.8 PPG, 1.4 RPG), sophomore guard Jermaine Marshall (2.5 PPG, 0.6 RPG), and sophomore JC transfer Matt Glover and freshman Trey Lewis.

Penn State and new head coach Patrick Chambers are going to be in for some growing pains this season with just one returning starter and a young group of newcomers. Expectations are not very high for this squad this season but future expectations may just increase with all of this young talent in Happy Valley.

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