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The Big Ten Conference was expected to be a top-heavy league last season, with several teams in the mix for at-large bids. It certainly fulfilled the first part of that prediction. Four teams finished within one game of each other at the top of the standings, with Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan State all tying at 14-4 and Wisconsin going 13-5. After that, Illinois and Minnesota finished at least .500, with no one else going better than 7-11. Illinois was relegated to the NIT, but the Big Ten received five bids to the NCAA Tournament. Purdue and Ohio State both reached the Sweet 16, while Michigan State reached the Final Four before losing. This year, the Big Ten might be the best conference in the country.
- 1. Michigan State: As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not as high on Michigan State as most people – but I still think they’re the cream of the crop in the Big Ten. Someone besides the Big Three has to be a factor, though.
- 2. Ohio State: The Buckeyes lose Player of the Year Evan Turner, but the perimeter is still loaded, led by William Buford, and frosh Jared Sullinger might be the best big man in the country. Who runs the point?
- 3. Illinois: Despite not making the NCAA Tournament last season, the Fighting Illini bring back everyone, and add a dynamite recruiting class headlined by Jereme Richmond. Leadership is a question mark, though.
- 4. Purdue: If Robbie Hummel hadn’t gotten hurt a couple of week ago, Purdue was my pick to win the national title. Without him, E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson still lead the way, but the Boilermakers aren’t the same.
- 5. Wisconsin: Year in and year out, everyone underestimates Bo Ryan and the Badgers. As long as he is there, this team is a top-25 team. Jon Leuer is one of the best big men around, and Jordan Taylor is underrated.
- 6. Northwestern: If Kevin Coble had decided to return, the Wildcats would be on their way to their first NCAA Tournament. However, without him, John Shurna, Michael Thompson and Drew Crawford need to pick up the slack.
- 7. Minnesota: The Golden Gophers reached the NCAA Tournament last season, but two of their top three scorers are gone. Blake Hoffarber can shoot, but the depth and talent level might not be there this season.
- 8. Indiana: If Maurice Creek is healthy and Guy-Marc Michel is cleared, the Hoosiers could surprise some people. Verdell Jones III and Christian Watford can score, although point guard could be a question mark.
- 9. Penn State: When Talor Battle is on your roster, you have a chance. However, the Nittany Lions don’t have much support for Battle. His half-brother, freshman Taran Buie, has a chance to be a factor immediately.
- 10. Michigan: John Beilein is a tactical whiz, but he could be on the hot seat if the Wolverines struggle. Unfortunately, there is little doubt that happens. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Evan Smotrycz are solid frosh.
- 11. Iowa: New coach Fran McCaffery is left with a team that will find it tough to compete in the Big Ten this season. Matt Gatens was injured recently, leaving Eric May and Cully Payne to pick up the pieces.
Player of the Year: E’Twaun Moore, G, Purdue
Newcomer of the Year: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State
- G- Kalin Lucas, Michigan State
- G- E’Twaun Moore, Purdue
- G/F- William Buford, Ohio State
- F/C- Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
- C- JaJuan Johnson, Purdue
- G- Talor Battle, Penn State
- G- Demetri McCamey, Illinois
- G- Durrell Summers, Michigan State
- G/F- David Lighty, Ohio State
- F- Jon Leuer, Wisconsin
- G- Michael Thompson, Northwestern
- G- Maurice Creek, Indiana
- F- John Shurna, Northwestern
- F- Draymond Green, Michigan State
- F- Mike Davis, Illinois