Big Ten Basketball has already started in earnest yesterday, with Michigan defeating an over matched Husky team from Michigan Tech. Since I will not start paying heavy attention until MSU's season premiere against Idaho on Sunday, I figured I would start my preview now. Here are the dregs of the Big Ten, for which making the College Basketball Invitational at the end of the season (finally, an answer to the question: which Division 1 team is 98th best?) would be an accomplishment.
One more note - If you want thought-out, statistical analysis of College Basketball, I cannot recommend Spartans Weblog highly enough. That said, he was not going to do an in-depth Big Ten preview, so hopefully I can fill that void with a little bit of thoughtful analysis and a lot of guessing. Without further ado:
I toyed with putting Indiana with this spot, but then Northwestern lost their first exhibition game to Robert Morris, an NAIA school, and that was the last brick that sealed Willie Wildcat in his tomb, crying for his cask of Amontillado.
Player to know: Kevin Coble - Probably most well known for taking part of last season off to take care of his mother stricken with cancer, the 6-8 forward would have most likely been All Big-Ten Preseason if he had played in more games last season. That said, if Northwestern has any chance this season, he'll have to average 30 ppg, 15 rebounds per game, and make the special 10 point basket from Rock 'n Jock 20 feet above the hardwood.
This season will be a success if...They have a winning record this season.
This season will be a failure if... It's Northwestern. How much worse could it get.
Iowa, Iowa, Iowa. Two years ago you were upset by a 14 seed in the NCAAs, and in the past year, they turned the ball over every one in four times they had possession (thanks College Basketball Prospectus!). They'd have hope if their two top scorers didn't leave this past season (Justin Johnson to graduation, Tony Freeman to transfer), and the young Hawkeyes look to spend another year in the dregs. They shouldn't be down long though, not with Todd Lickliter (the previous mastermind at Butler) as their head coach.
Player to know: Jake Kelly - He's an anomaly in the shell of a 6-6 wing, as in his three-point FG percentage (43.5%) last year was better than his overall FG percentage (40.8%). If Iowa has any shot at a competitive season, he'll have to maintain his clip from beyond 20 feet, nine inches, and improve his shot within the perimeter.
This season will be a success if... The Hawkeyes get a few upsets in Carver Arena (not like the 42-36 abomination MSU suffered. Watch that game, and you can literally see the rims replaced by peach baskets.), and set themselves in position to win a first-round Big Ten tournament game.
This season will be a failure if... Iowa doesn't progress, and the lengthened three-pointer affects shooting more than thought. If that occurs, look for fans to pine for the days of Steve Alford.
Indiana's postseason could be defined in two words: scorched earth. Goodbye Kelvin Sampson, goodbye everyone who played meaningful minutes. Senior wing Kyle Taber was the sole survivor, and now under Tom Crean, the Hoosiers hope to reach to the stars and grab ten wins by the tail. The new talent isn't anything to write home about; none of Tom Crean's seven recruits for this year were ranked over three stars by Rivals. Still, I'm intrigued. Crean's a good coach, and with no expectations, this team might pull a couple surprises. Then again, it might duke it out with Northwestern for 10th place like two hobos fighting over a bindle.
Player to know: Kyle Taber - As in if you're an Indiana fan, he'll be the only player you know from last year (and no, I didn't forget about Brett Finkelmeier or Jeremiah Rivers. If they're playing serious minutes though, look for the fans at Assembly Hall to pull a Knight and throw their seats onto the court). The forward won't have to be the second coming of D.J. White, but he will have to, at the very least, be a steady source of rebounds.
This season will be a success if... The Hoosiers pull off four to six wins in conference, and get the ball rolling for next year.
This season will be a failure if... Indiana wins two games or less in conference, and the grumbles start about seven more years on Crean's contract.
Parts two and three to come this weekend.