2008 Big-Ten Conference Preview

Sat, 11/10/2007 - 6:30am

By Kevin Duffy

[img_assist|nid=3625|title=Eric Gordon - Credit: AJ Mast/Icon SMI|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=370]The Big Ten peaked last year, as the conference routinely had two teams, Ohio State and Wisconsin, ranked in the Top 5, with the Buckeyes reaching the title game. This season will be a different story. Indiana and Michigan State start the year as Top 10 teams and have the ability to remain there. Ohio State should be tough once again, but after that, it’s hard to make a case for any other team to be placed in the Top 40. In all likelihood, the Big 10 will send no more than 5 teams to the NCAA Tournament, and that could be pushing it.

Team By Team Analysis and Projected Order of Finish.

1. Indiana Hoosiers
Last Season: 21-11 (10-6) Lost in Second Round of NCAA Tournament
Key Losses: Roderick Wilmot (12.6 pgg), Earl Calloway (9.6 ppg)
Key Returnees: DJ White (13.8 ppg), Armon Bassett (9.5 ppg), AJ Ratliff (9.3 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Eric Gordon, JaMarcus Ellis, DeAndre Thomas
Key Non-Conference Games: vs. UNC-Wilmington (11/20), vs. Georgia Tech (11/27), vs. Kentucky (12/8), vs. Connecticut (1/26)

Season Preview: The Hoosiers have perhaps the best inside-outside scoring combination in the country. McDonald’s All-American Gordon figures to star right away, and White will command double teams that will free up Gordon and Indiana’s other shooters. Ellis and Thomas, both transfers from Chipola (FL) JC, will play big roles immediately. This is the best Hoosier team we’ve seen in a long time.

NBA Prospects:
1. Eric Gordon is a likely one and done prospect. He is one of the most dynamic scorers to enter the college game and is projected as a lottery pick for 2008.

2. DJ White has a huge frame and good skills, but he’s not the best athlete out there. Because of that, White could fall into the early second round next year, but he still will hear his name called at some
point on draft day.

2. Michigan State Spartans
Last Season: 23-12 (8-8) Lost in Second Round of NCAA Tournament
Key Losses: None
Key Returnees: Drew Neitzel (18.1 ppg), Raymar Morgan (11.7 ppg), Goran Sutton (9.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg) Marquise Gray (6.8 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Tom Herzog, Durrell Summers, Chris Allen, Kalin Lucas
Key Non-Conference Games: vs. NC State (11/28), at Bradley (12/4), vs. Texas (12/22)

Season Preview: Michigan State’s high expectations had to have been somewhat lowered after an exhibition loss to Grand Valley State, the reigning Division II national champions. Even so, the Spartans return All-Conference point guard Neitzel and have surrounded him with athletic wings in Summers and Morgan and relatively talented big men in Sutton, Herzog, and Gray. This team will contend for a spot in the Sweet 16 and possibly advance even further.

NBA Prospects:
1. Raymar Morgan has terrific size and athleticism (6-foot-7 225 lbs) for a small forward, and because he is only a sophomore, his chances of being a first round pick somewhere down the line are fairly high.

2. Incoming freshman Durrell Summers is a world-class athlete with a reliable perimeter shot and the ability to finish on the break. He needs to add weight to his frame and become a more polished offensive player, but the potential to be a high draft pick is certainly there.

3. Drew Neitzel is a much better college player than NBA prospect but his ability to lea this team deep into postseason should get him some looks. He may ultimately be too small and unathletic to make it, but should find a spot in Europe if nothing else.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Season: 35-4 (15-1) Lost in National Championship Game
Key Losses: Greg Oden (15.7 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.3 bpg), Mike Conley Jr. (11.3 ppg, 6.1 apg, 2.2 spg), Ron Lewis (12.7 ppg), Daequan Cook (9.8 ppg).
Key Returnees: Jamar Butler (8.5 ppg), Othello Hunter (5.7 ppg), David Lighty (3.7 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Kosta Koufos, Kyle Madsen, Evan Turner, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale
Key Non-Conference Games: vs. North Carolina (11/28), at Butler
(12/1), vs. Florida (12/22)

Season Preview: The exhibition loss to Division II Findlay is a little discouraging, but if any team is capable of revamping after losing two of the top four picks in the NBA Draft, it’s this one. Thad Motta
re-loaded with another dynamite recruiting class, headlined by Koufos and sharpshooter Diebler, the all-time leading scorer in Ohio prep history.

Butler has the experience, talent, and leadership skills to excel at point guard and Lighty is a tremendous all-around player and lockdown defender who will see a role increase due to the departure of Lewis and Cook. This Buckeyes will be tough to take down in March yet again.

NBA Prospects:
1. Kosta Koufos can score in the post and has range that extends all the way out to the three point line. It’s unlikely he will stay past his sophomore year, but if he does, he will be joined in the frontcourt by
mega-recruit BJ Mullens.

2. David Lighty flew under the radar last season, but he is a complete basketball player and an absolute physical specimen on the wing. He may have a chance to get drafted in a few years.

3. Jon Diebler led the entire nation in scoring as a senior at Upper Sandusky HS in Ohio. If he can put the ball in the net at a similar rate in college, he will draw interest from NBA scouts in the coming years.

4. Illinois Fighting Illini
Last Season: 23-12 (9-7) Lost in First Round of NCAA Tournament
Key Losses: Warren Carter (13.7 ppg), Rich McBride (9.6 ppg)
Key Returnees: Shaun Pruitt (11.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg), Brian Randle (7.4 ppg), Jamar Smith (8.1 ppg), Chester Frazier (7.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.5 apg)
Key Newcomers: Demetri McCamey, Mike Tisdale, Steve Holdren, Jeffrey Jordan
Key Non-Conference Games: vs. Arizona State (11/19), vs.Duke/Princeton (11/20), at Maryland (11/28), vs. Arizona (12/8), vs. Missouri (12/22)

Season Preview: The Illini will have to endure a brutal early season schedule, but if they can win a few of those games, it will go a long way towards earning an NCAA seed higher than the disappointing 12 seed it earned last year. Bruce Weber’s squad is not flushed with NBA talent, but it is very deep and has a lot of lunch pail players who will scrap for wins. Pruitt leads the way on the inside and a deep recruiting class headlined by speedy point guard McCamey should help.

NBA Prospects:
1. Shaun Pruitt entered his name last year but pulled out after realizing he had little chance of being drafted. Pruitt has a huge frame (6-foot-10 245 lbs), good post skills, and arrived to practice in the best shape of his life. Depending on his production this season, the senior could hear his name called in next years draft.

5. Wisconsin Badgers
Last season: 30-6 (13-3) Lost in Second Round of NCAA Tournament
Key Losses: Alando Tucker (19.9 ppg), Kammron Taylor (13.3 ppg)
Key Returnees: Brian Butch (8.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Michael Flowers (7.2 ppg), Marcus Landry (5.9 ppg), Joe Krabbenhoft (4.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
Key Newcomers: JP Gavinski, Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil
Key Non-Conference Games:

Season Preview: The Badgers, who at one time last season were ranked No. 1 in the country, will have trouble replacing All-Big 10 performers Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor. Brian Butch, a former McDonald’s All-American, is now a senior and will be counted on to carry Wisconsin to the tournament. Butch is primed for a breakout season, and because of the Badger’s penchant for playing hard-nosed defense, this team probably will sneak into the field of 65.

NBA Prospects: None

6. Michigan Wolverines
Last Season: 22-13 (8-8) Lost in Second Round of NIT
Key Losses: Dion Harris (13.4 ppg), Courtney Sims (11.5 ppg), Lester Abram (9.1 ppg), Brent Petway (6.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.5 bpg)
Key Returnees: Ron Coleman (5.7 ppg), Jerret Smith (5.7 ppg, 3.4 apg), Ekpe Udoh (5 ppg, 4 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Manny Harris, C.J. Lee (transfer from Manhattan), Kelvin Grady
Key Non-Conference Games: at Georgetown (11/15), Great Alaskan Shootout (11/21-11/24), vs. Boston College (11/28), at Duke (12/8), vs. UCLA (12/22)

Season Preview: Tommy Amaker is out and John Beilein is in. Beilein will need a few years to recruit the shooters that made his system so effective in West Virginia, but this team has some young talent that he can certainly work with. An NCAA birth is unlikely, but if the Wolverines can oust one of their several highly ranked non-conference opponents, their RPI will benefit greatly.

NBA Prospects:
1. Manny Harris, whose real first name is Corperryale, is a dynamic scorer from the wing position and one of the best recruits Michigan has signed in over a decade. At 6-foot-5 170 lbs, there is room to add some muscle, but Harris’ athleticism and talent makes him capable of leading the Wolverines in scoring as a freshman and an intriguing prospect for the NBA Draft as early as 2009.

7. Purdue Boilermakers
Last Season: 22-12 (9-7) Lost in Second Round of NCAA Tournament Key Losses: Carl Landry (18.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg), David Teague (14.3 ppg, 5 rpg)
Key Returnees: Chris Kramer (7.2 ppg), Gordan Watt (7.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg), Tarrance Crump (5.6 ppg)
Key Newcomers: E’Twuan Moore, JaJuan Johnson, Robbie Hummel, Scott Martin
Key Non-Conference Games:

Season Preview: The Boilermakers lost their top two players in Landry and Teague, but re-loaded with a more than adequate recruiting class. Purdue will have to rely on several freshman, including Hummel, Moore, and Martin to play major- and possibly starting- roles. This team probably is a year or two off from reaching the NCAA tournament, but it could come up with some surprising wins in the Big 10.

NBA Prospects: None.

8. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Last Season: 9-22 (3-13)
Key Losses: None
Key Returnees: Lawrence McKenzie (14.9 ppg), Dan Coleman (14.2 ppg, 6 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Blake Hoffarber, Al Nolen
Key Non-Conference Games:

Season Preview: The good news for Tubby Smith is that his Golden Gophers return nearly every player, including leading scorers McKenzie and Coleman.The bad news is that the Gophers are not very good. McKenzie, Coleman, and Spencer Tollakson head a senior-laden squad that hasn’t produced much thus far, but if Smith gets the most out of them, this team could surprise in a Big 10 conference that will likely have a serious down year.

NBA Prospects: None.

9. Penn State Nittany Lions
Last Season: 11-19 (2-14)
Key Losses: David Jackson (6.6 ppg), Milos Bogetic (4.1 ppg)
Key Returnees: Geary Claxton (16.3 ppg, 8 rpg), Jamelle Cornley (13.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Andrew Jones III, DJ Jackson, Jeff Brooks, Talor Battle
Key Non-Conference Games:

Season Preview: Penn State has been a perennial basement dweller in the Big Ten, but this year they have the chance to at least be respectable. The Nittany Lions return one of the conference’s best all-around players in Claxton and an undersized, but productive post player in Cornley (6-foot-5 240 lbs). The backcourt, which has been weak in past years, will rely on freshman point guard Battle to steer the ship. Jones and Jackson both red shirted last season and will provide depth to the guard/forward positions.

NBA Prospects:
1. If Geary Claxton was two inches taller, he’d be a first-round pick. But because he stands 6-foot-5 and isn’t a lights-out shooters, NBA teams will question him. Even so, Claxton’s incredible production and
athleticism merits a second round pick.

10. Iowa Hawkeyes
Last Season: 17-14 (9-7)
Key Losses: Adam Haluska (20.5 ppg), Tyler Smith (14.9 ppg)
Key Returnees: Tony Freeman (7.5 ppg, 3.7 apg), Seth Gorney (5.5 ppg), Justin Johnson (5.4 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Jake Kelly, Jarryd Cole, David Palmer, Jeff Peterson
Key Non-Conference Games: vs. Bradley (11/23), vs. Wake Forest (11/26), at Northern Iowa (12/5)

Season Preview: The Hawkeyes will have their work cut out for them as they try to cope with the loss of coach Steve Alford, NBA draftee Adam Haluska, and do-it-all swingman Tyler Smith. The Big Ten isn’t an overly strong conference, but Iowa will rely on inexperienced players and upperclassmen who are not overly talented. It could be a long year for rookie head coach Todd Lickliter.

NBA Prospects: None.

11. Northwestern Wildcats
Last Season: 13-18 (2-14)
Key Losses: Tim Doyle (11.5 ppg), Vince Scott (6.7 ppg)
Key Returnees: Kevin Coble (13.4 ppg), Craig Moore (8.1 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Michael Thompson, Mike Capocci
Key Non-Conference Games:

Season Preview: The Wildcats operate a Princeton-style offense, but haven’t had much success in doing so. This is a program that has been a fixture at the bottom of the Big 10 standings ever since the days of Evan Eschmeyer. Coble is just a sophomore and will be the key to the season for Northwestern. He scored around the basket last season but will need to add weight to his flimsy 6-foot-8 190 lb frame if he wants to help take Northwestern to the next level. It should be another year of basement dwelling for the Wildcats.

NBA Prospects: None.

All Big Ten First Team
Drew Neitzel, PG, Michigan State
DJ White, F/C, Indiana
Geary Claxton, SF, Penn State
Shaun Pruitt, F/C, Illinois
Eric Gordon, SG, Indiana

All Big Ten Second Team
Jamar Butler, PG, Ohio State
David Lighty, SG, Ohio State
Brian Butch, C, Wisconsin
Lawrence McKenzie, PG, Minnesota
Raymar Morgan, SF, Michigan State

Player of the Year - Drew Neitzel, Michigan State
Newcomer of the Year - Eric Gordon, Indiana
Defensive Player of the Year - David Lighty, Ohio State
Coach of the Year - Tom Izzo, Michigan State

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