Written by: Marcus Fitzpatrick
I hope everyone is ready to strap in and take a ride this NCAA basketball season. Most Big Ten teams hit the hardwood on November 10th, a date I’ve had circled on my calendar since they cut down the nets last April. So lets get to it and see how this years basketball is going to play out.
1. Michigan State
Tom Izzo has got something cooking in East Lansing that’s for sure. Returning four starters and with star player Miles Bridges leading the Spartans, it’s a scary look for the rest of the Big Ten. Michigan State has the most complete line-up versus that of any other team, and along with the new addition of the McDonald’s All American Jaren Jackson it’s Michigan States conference to lose.
The biggest problem for the Boilermakers will be replacing star center Caleb Swanigan, but that doesn’t mean the 27 win season from last year still isn’t dancing in the back of the 17/18 rosters minds. The return of Vince Edwards who averaged 12.6 ppg last year should set Purdue fans minds at ease. Along with Issac Haas and Dakota Mathias I would say the Boilermakers will set the cruise control to their fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance.
Hopefully Rich Pitino has short term memory and sets aside all distractions from his fathers (Rick Pitinos) firing from Louisville this past month. Minnesota slides into this year with high hopes of building off of the success of the previous season. Reggie Lynch, Nate Mason, and Amir Coffey are the three names you should watch for in the headlines, as these Gophers are planning on making noise this year and maybe even making a run at the Big Ten Title.
Yes, you’re not hallucinating, the Wildcat’s are good and Chris Collins knows it. After making their first ever tournament appearance last season the Cats look at this season as an open door. Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey look to start their senior campaign and bring a lot more BUZZ to the campus in Evanston. With Welsh-Ryan being under construction for the course of this season the Wildcat’s will be playing home games at the All-State Arena in Rosemont.
Will Wisconsin ever have a down season? Most likely not, the Badgers look to continue their NCAA Tournament birth streak and extend the number to 22 years in a row. That’s older than me, but with Redshirt Junior Ethan Happ leading the Badgers I can’t count them out of contention. Look for Wisconsin to lose some close games but come away with unbelievable upsets because that’s just how the Badgers seem to roll.
With the loss of Melo Trimble the Terps look ahead to the future with a number of bright young stars to take his place. Sophomore Anthony Cowen will take the reigns for Maryland at the point guard position and you can’t forget about 6’7 Justin Jackson who averaged 10.5 ppg last year for the Terrapins. The Terrapins might not be the most complete team but they have the pieces to be VERY good in years to come.
Michigan is one of those teams that no matter how good or bad they are I’m never going to write them off. The Spike Albrecht magic dried up years ago but that doesn’t mean Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (tongue twister) and Moritz Wager are going to dry up, Michigan will be interesting to watch this year especially with the Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews.
Tyler Cook and Jordan Bohannon better be ready to put the ball in the basket for the Hawkeyes. Can they replace Peter Jok? Can Iowa be a contender in the Big Ten again? All questions everyone in the corn state are probably squandering over after what it seems to be a mediocre season for their team on the gridiron. The best thing that Iowans can look forward too is the younger talent that these Hawkeyes have to offer.
Two Words. Archie Miller. Long gone are the days of Tom Creans harrowing looks at his team from the sideline. Indiana’s rich basketball tradition will not be enough for the Hoosiers this season, but they look to 6’4 guard Robert Johnson to be their saving grace in those insane pinstriped warm ups. Everyone must of been praying extra hard in Bloomington when Johnson was going through the pre-draft process after last years season but it seems as if he is there to stay (for at least another year).
10. Penn State
Penn State is always going to be one of those schools that confuses the hell out of me. How is a school this prominent in football so damn bad year after year on the hardwood? But like every year THIS COULD BE THE YEAR for those nitty gritty Nittany Lions. Players like Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens could help these Lions reach their first dance since my sophomore year of high school (2011).
A down football year and what could be a down basketball year has me worried for the entire population of what may be the most boring state in America. The Skers have all their eggs in Glynn Watsons basket as he will attempt to bring some hope to the state of Nebraska this upcoming season. Tim Miles must be feeling the pressure entering his sixth season for the Huskers and only making one tournament birth coming back in the 2014 season.
Remember when Illinois was the Big Ten team of the state? Yeah me too, Northwestern has claimed that throne and looks to keep its hold for years to come. Te’Jon Lucas will have to be the main man for the Illini this year with Malcolm Hill gone. (As a huge Northwestern fan seeing the Illini at the bottom of the standings these past years has been BITTERSWEET)
13. Ohio State
Big nosed Thad Matta is gone and Chris Holtmann is left to try and piece together what seems to be a program equivalent to the Titanic. Jae’Sean Tate, C.J. Jackson, and Keita Bates-Diop (how can announcers say these names?) look to pave the way for a broken and brittled Buckeyes team this season. Patience will be key for fans, as I won’t be expecting any miracles out of Columbus this year.
Rounding out the Big Ten is the most official unofficial team, Rutgers. Honestly if you’re still a fan of the Rutgers I’m going to give you more props of still being a fan than of fans of the rest of the Big Ten teams. Good news for Scarlet Knight fans, you can only go up from here. With Steve Pikiell entering his second year for this program there is a slight shimmer of hope. Maybe Deshawn Freeman will average 15 ppg instead of just 11.1 during last years campaign.