Here are my preseason Big 10 power rankings for the 2011-12-college basketball season.
# 1. Ohio State
Coach: Thad Matta (Seven seasons at Ohio State 190-57). Overall 292-88, 11years
2010-11: Record: 34-3overall, 16-2 in Big Ten (1st)
Starters Returning (2) Jared Sullinger, William Buford
The Buckeyes were probably a top 15 team, but when Jarred Sullinger decided to come back to school they vaulted near the top. Sullinger (17.2 ppg) would have been a top 5 pick in the draft; he is a beast down low, and unstoppable once he gets the ball in the post with his strength. Joining Sullinger upfront will be DeShaun Thomas (7.5 ppg): despite not getting a lot of playing time last year he produced, and he will have a breakout season. The Buckeyes once again brought in a top recruiting class. From that recruiting class Amir Williams and Trey McDonald will help out up front as well as returning players Evan Ravenel and J.D. Weatherspoon (1.8 ppg). In the backcourt Aaron Craft (6.9 ppg) returns at the point; he didn’t start last year, but he got plenty of playing time, he’s one of those pesky point guards you want on your team. William Buford (14.4 ppg) is Craft’s running mate in the backcourt; he’s a deadly shooter with a mid range game. Jordan Sibert (2.1 ppg) and Lenzelle Smith Jr. (1.2 ppg) will help out in the backcourt; they can do more in an expanding role. Freshman Shannon Scott will have no trouble being the backup point guard. Freshman Sam Thompson will help out at small forward. The Buckeyes took a hit when LaQuinton Ross was ruled ineligible for this season
# 2. Wisconsin
Coach: Bo Ryan (Ten seasons at Wisconsin 242-91), overall 625-194, 27 years
2010-11: Record: 25-9 overall, 13-5 in Big 10 (3rd)
Starters Returning (2) Taylor, Gasser
No matter who goes and leaves Bo Ryan will always have his Wisconsin team at the top of the Big Ten. They lose their top 2 big guys, but they will always find guys to fit their system. The Badgers return one of the best point guards in the Nation in Jordan Taylor (18.1 ppg). As a point guard Taylor has a ridiculous assist to turnover ratio; he can also shoot. Josh Gasser (5.9 ppg) also returns at shooting guard; look for him to be better as a sophomore. Look for Rob Wilson (1.6) and two freshmen George Marshall and Traevon Jackson to help out in the backcourt; Marshall is the best of the bunch. Ryan Evans (2.8 ppg) has the talent at the small forward position, but he needs to put it all together. The best returning player in the frontcourt is Mike Bruesewitz (4.6 ppg) so look for him to do more in an expanding role. Jared Berggren (2.4 ppg) will likely get the nod at center. Redshirt freshman Evan Anderson will be in the mix also. Also in the mix in the frontcourt are two typical Wisconsin big guys freshman Jarrod Urthoff and Frank Kaminsky.
# 3. Michigan
Coach: John Beilein (4 seasons at Michigan 67-30), overall 618-385, 33 years
2010-11: Record: 21-14 overall, 9-9 in Big Ten (Tie/4th)
Starters Returning (4) Hardaway, Novak, Morgan, Douglass
Michigan could have been at the top of this list but when point guard Darius Morris decided to leave for the NBA that hurt, but still the Wolverines bring everyone else back. Tim Hardaway Jr. (13. 9 ppg) is their best player; he does a little bit of everything for them. Joining him in the backcourt are veterans Stu Douglass (7.1 ppg) and Zack Novak (8.9 ppg). Both can shoot it, and they just bring leadership and tough play. The wildcard in the backcourt could be freshman point guard Trey Burke. If he picks up the system he could start, because none of the above players are really point guards. Carlton Brundidge, another freshman will help out at shooting guard, as well as Matt Vogrich (3.2 ppg). Leading the way in the frontcourt is Jordan Morgan (9.2 ppg) who is a space eater down low. He needs to improve his conditioning. Evan Smotrycz (6.3 ppg) is a deadly shooter for a big guy. The depth in the frontcourt may be concerning. Players trying to provide depth will be Jon Horford (2 ppg), Blake McLimans (1.2 ppg) and freshman Max Bielfeldt.
Coach: Matt Painter (Six seasons at Purdue138-64), overall, 163-89, 7 years
2010-11: Record: 26-8 overall, 14-4 in Big Ten (2nd)
Starters Returning (3) D.J.Byrd, Lewis Jackson, Ryne Smith
The bad news for Purdue is they lose two starters who combined to score 38 points per game; the good news is they return Robbie Hummel from injury and 3 starters. Hummel (15.7 ppg 09-10), missed last season with an ACL injury. When healthy he is a top power forward in the country; he is a hard working player that can shoot. Besides Hummel they are really lacking experience in the frontcourt. Travis Carroll (1.3 ppg) will likely get the first chance at center; the depth guys here will be Sandi Marcius (1 ppg) and freshman Donnie Hale and Jacob Lawson. Purdue is solid at small forward with D.J. Byrd (5.2 ppg) and Kelsey Barlow (5.1 ppg). Point Guard Lewis Jackson (8 ppg) really came on last season, he is very quick. Joining him in the backcourt is sharp shooter Ryne Smith (6.2 ppg). Providing the depth in the backcourt is Terone Johnson (4.9 ppg), John Hart (3.8 ppg), and redshirt freshman Anthony Johnson.
# 5. Illinois
Coach: Bruce Weber (Eight seasons at Illinois 193-86), overall, 296-140, 13 years
2010-11: Record: 20-14 overall, 9-p in Big Ten (Tie/4th)
Starters Returning (1) D.J. Richardson
The Fighting Illini lose their top 3 scorers from a year ago, but there is still a lot of talent on the roster now so they just have to prove it. Illinois two best returning players are juniors Brandon Paul (9 ppg) and D.J. Richardson (8.4 ppg). Both can score more with the increased roles. Paul is the better all around player while Richardson can shoot it. Joining them in the backcourt will be Bradley transfer Sam Maniscalco, who is very good with the basketball. Crandall Head (1.3 ppg) and Joseph Bertrand (1.1 ppg ) will provide depth here. True freshman point guard Tracy Abrams ,who is very highly rated, should get lots of minutes. The question mark will be the frontcourt for Illinois. Meyers Leonard (2.1 ppg) is the best player here, his numbers will increase with more playing time. Tyler Griffey (1.6 ppg) will get a shot at power forward. If these players can’t produce there are three freshmen that might be able to in Nnanna Egwu, Mike Shaw, and Ibrahima Djimde. Shaw and Egwu are both highly rated. Look for freshman Mycheal Henry and Devin Langford to get a lot of playing time at small forward.
# 6. Michigan State
Coach: Tom Izzo (16 seasons year at MSU 102-76)
2010-11 Record: 19-15 overall, 9-9 in Big Ten (Tie/4th)
Starters Returning (2) Draymond Green, Keith Appling
Michigan State had a very disappointing year, but hey Tom Izzo always does well in the underdog role, this team does not have the talent of past Michigan State teams. Draymond Green (12.6 ppg) is the Spartans’ best player; he is a very versatile player. He can do it all; he even averaged 4 assists a game. The Spartans took a big blow when Delvon Roe decided to end his career because of injuries. Derrick Nix (2.7 ppg) and Adreian Payne (2.5 ppg) will battle for the starting center job; these two need to play to their talent level. Alex Gauna, a redshirt freshman might also get some playing time. Look for talented freshman Branden Dawson to start at small forward. Senior Austin Thornton (2 ppg) will also see time here. Leading the way in the backcourt will be the next great Spartans point guard Keith Appling (6.4 ppg). With more playing time he will put up better offensive numbers. Joining him in the backcourt will be Valparaiso transfer Brandon Wood (16.7 ppg). This transfer was huge for the Spartans because they are lacking experience here. Freshman Brandan Kearney and Travis Trice will provide depth in the backcourt. Kearney has the most talent. Redshirt freshman-shooting guard Russell Byrd will also help.
# 7. Northwestern
Coach: Bill Carmody (Eleven seasons at Northwestern 160-177), overall 252-202, 15 years
2010-11 Record: 20-14 overall, 7-11 in Big 10 (8th)
Starters Returning (4) John Shurna, Drew Crawford, Luka Mirkovic, JerShon Cobb
The Wildcats return 7 of their 8 top scorers, that is good news for a team looking to make the NCAA for the first time. The loss of four-year starting point guard Juice Thompson will really hurt. Despite being injured a lot last season forward John Shurna (16.6 ppg) still produced, I am looking forward to seeingwhat he can do when healthy. Joining Shurna inside is Luka Mirkovic (7.4 ppg). After that the Wildcats are really hurting for depth inside. Davide Curletti (4.0 ppg) has the most experience; while true freshman Mike Turner and Nikola Cerina also look to help out. Drew Crawford (12.1 ppg) gives the Wildcats a steady player at small forward. Alex Marcotullio (6.2 ppg) needs to contribute more at shooting guard. JerShon Cobb (7.4 ppg) is a versatile player that might have to play point guard, but he excels on the wing. Freshman Tre Demps is the point guard of the future; can he come right away and start?
Coach: Tubby Smith (Four Seasons at Minnesota 80-83), overall 467-198, 20 years
2010-11 Record: 17-14 overall, 6-12 in Big Ten (9th)
Starters Returning (3) Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams, Ralph Samspon III
Last season started out with a lot of promise for the Golden Gophers, but it didn’t finish well. They also have a couple players who transferred. There is no doubt the strength of this team is up front. Trevor Mbakwe (13.9 ppg) is a double double machine, and just a player every team wants in the middle of their defense. Ralph Sampson III (10.2 ppg) thought about the NBA, but decided to return which was a good decision. A healthy Mo Walker (3.7 ppg) will also help out the frontcourt. Redshirts Oto Osenieks and Elliot Eliason provide some depth. Rodney Williams (6.8 ppg) is a very athletic player on the wing. If the Minnesota backcourt comes together they could be a lot higher on this list. Guards Chip Armelin (4.4 ppg) and Austin Hollins (4.5 ppg) both showed moments last season, but they need to be more consistent. Transfer Julian Welch could also help; he is the former Big West Freshman of the Year. Freshman Andre Hollins should also play a lot for the Golden Gophers this season in the backcourt. Fellow freshman Joe Coleman will also get some minutes.
# 9. Indiana
Coach: Tom Crean (Three seasons at LBS 28-66), 218-162, 12 years
2010-11 Record: 12-20 overall, 3-15 in Big Ten (11th)
Starters Returning (4) Christian Watford, Tom Pritchard, Jordan Hulls, Verdell Jones III
The good news is the Hoosiers have everyone back, but Jeremiah Rivers, who wasn’t that good; the bad news these same players went 12-20 last year. Forward Christian Watford (16 ppg) was the Hoosiers best player last year leading them in points and rebounds. Indiana needs someone else to step up in the frontcourt. Looking to do that will be Tom Pritchard (2.5 ppg), Derek Elston (3.7 ppg), and Will Sheehey (4.8 ppg). The player that will probably start from day one is freshman Cody Zeller. He is head coach Tom Cream’s biggest recruit to date. The Hoosiers are loaded in the backcourt with Verdell Jones III (12.5 ppg) and Jordan Hulls (11 ppg). Jones can do a little bit of everything, and Hulls is a deadly shooter. Maurice Creek (8.5 ppg) will probably not play this season due to an injury; he hasn’t be able to stay healthy his whole career. Victor Oladipo (7.4 ppg) also came on last season, and he gave Indiana a huge spark with his energy. Matt Roth (3.4 ppg) is also a solid guard off the bench.
# 10. Iowa
Coach: Fran McCaffery (first season at Iowa 11-20), overall 262-197,15 years
2010-11 Record: 11-20 overall, 4-14 in Big Ten (10th)
Starters Returning (4) Melsahn Basabe, Matt Gatens, Bryce Cartwright, Roy Devyn Marble
In year two as head coach Fran McCaffery looks to improve last year’s record, and it helps that he has 6 of his top 7 scorers back. The Hawkeyes are led by their backcourt. Bryce Cartwright (10.9 ppg) was very solid at the point, he had high assists numbers, but he needs to cut down on turnovers. Matt Gatens (12.6 ppg) is Iowa’s best player, he does a little of everything for the Hawkeyes. Eric May (7.8 ppg) is a very capable shooter off the bench. Providing depth in the backcourt will be Branden Stubbs (3 ppg) and incoming freshman Josh Oglesby, who can shoot it. Leading the way up front is Melsahn Basabe (11.0 ppg); he was excellent as a freshman. Despite being undersized, Basabe is very productive mainly because of his high energy level. Iowa needs another player to step up in the frontcourt. Trying to do that will be Zach McCabe (5.8 ppg), Andrew Brommer (3.1 ppg), and Devon Archie. Freshman Aaron White might help also. Roy Devyn Marble (5.7 ppg) is very solid at small forward.
# 11. Nebraska
Coach: Doc Sadler (5 years 89-71), overall 137-89,7 years
2010-11 Record: 19-13 overall, 7-9 in Big 12 (Tie/7th)
Starters Returning (4) Jorge Brian Diaz, Brandon Richardson, Toney McCray, Caleb Walker
Remember Nebraska is now in the Big Ten, and just like Penn State they are a football school not a basketball school. Although the Huskers return 6 players who at least averaged 5 points last season, they lose their best player. Nebraska’s best returning player is center Jorge Brian Diaz (10.5 ppg). The Huskers don’t lack size with other big guys Brandon Ubel (6.1 ppg) and Andre Almeida (5.2 ppg), who are ready for battles down low. Toney McCray (8.5 ppg) leads the backcourt; he is a very good shooter. Brandon Richardson (6.4 ppg) will likely take over the point guard duties for the departed Lance Jeter. Nebraska could also get a boost from LSU transfer Bo Spencer (14 ppg with LSU), but he has to be eligible. Providing the depth at guard will be Caleb Walker (6 ppg), Eshaunte Jones (4.1 ppg) and true freshman Corey Hilliard.
# 12. Penn State
Coach: Pat Chambers (first year at Penn State)
2010-11 Record: 19-15 overall, 9-9 in Big 10 (Tie/4th),
Starters Returning: (1) Tim Frazier
The Nittany Lions lose four senior starters, including Taylor Battle who is one of if not the best player to ever play at Penn State. This is going to be a long year for first year head coach Pat Chambers, but in the long run I really like what Chambers can do with this program. The only player returning with a lot of experience is point guard Tim Frazier (6.3 ppg) . His production should increase without the talent around him. Jermaine Marshall (2.3 ppg) and Cammeron Woodyard (1.8 ppg) will help Frazier in the backcourt. For now Marshall is suspended indefinitely. Look for freshman Trey Lewis to also get a lot of playing time. In the frontcourt the Nittany Lions will be hurting. The only player with experience last year here is Billy Oliver (2.3 ppg) . It helps to get Sasa Borovnjak back from injury, and Jon Graham from a redshirt. Look for three freshmen to get a lot of playing time also; they are Patrick Ackerman, Peter Alexis, and Ross Travis.