Tuesday, November 07, 2006
As we return to the college basketball previews, it's time for the Big 12, the new home of Greg Oden (for at least a year).
Player of the Year: This list has to start with Alando Tucker from Wisconsin. The returning senior averaged nearly 20 points per game last year, and can do it all offensively. He can hit the outside shot, and at 6'6'', he can go inside and post up smaller players. He's very versatile and experienced which makes him the frontrunner for what will be a very good Wisconsin squad. Continuing with the senior theme is Adam Haluska from Iowa. One of the main holdovers from last year's tournament squad, Haluska will be a leader for the Hawkeyes with his outside shooting and toughness.
Kelvin Sampson's biggest move this offseason was to convince DJ White to stay with the Hoosiers rather than transfer to UAB. If he can stay healthy, he's a real good looking player for the Hoosiers. Then there is the Buckeyes... Greg Oden is the guy that everyone talks about, and he has a chance if he plays up to his potential after he returns from injury, but don't overlook Jamar Butler. He was the leader and PG last year, and has the talent and leadership to be the Buckeyes best player this year. But in the end, it's all about Alando Tucker... too good, and playing for the team that I think will win the Big 10.
Freshmen to Watch: There's this guy named Greg Oden that's supposed to be pretty good... #1 prospect in the country, probable #1 pick in the NBA Draft assuming he comes out after this year. So Ohio St. has that going for them, which is nice. Here's what else they have going for them- Daequan Cook and Mike Conley. Both should contribute this year, and Cook may even start. For Michigan St., wing player Raymar Morgan and Isaiah Dahlman should have a chance to contribute right away after the Spartans lost their top 3 scorers from last season.
Breakout Players: Let's start at the top with the Badgers and big man Brian Butch. He was very highly touted, and while he has played decently well in his first couple of years, he's been a mild disappointment. But he should excel this year, with all the talent around and and the experience to go along with his talent. For Indiana, Earl Calloway should be studly at PG. In the NCAA Tournament loss against Gonzaga he nearly had a triple double (13 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds). He should be a leader in the backcourt. The Illini lost their leader Dee Brown, but Brian Randle should grow and become their best player this year. The Spartans lost their top 3 scorers as mentioned, but Drew Neitzel returns and should become one of the best players in the Big 10. He's a good passer, ballhandler, and shooter, which is something he'll be called on to do more of. Lastly, the Gophers don't have a lot of hope this year, but if they're going to have success it must come from Spencer Tollackson. The big man has the ability, he just has to remain consistent.
Predicted Order of Finish
3. Ohio St.
6. Michigan St.
7. Penn St.
I should also mention that if you want and need more in-depth coverage of the Big Ten, Big Ten Wonk is a great, great site. All the Big Ten writing you'll ever need right there.