Monday, November 16, 2009

NCAA Basketball Big Ten Preview

The Big Ten has been very much maligned in recent years, as fans tend to see the slow, defensive-minded teams and think that teams from the Big Ten cannot compete with national powers. In the past, they might have been right, but things should be different this season. Michigan St. and Purdue are legitimate Final Four contenders, and they have a host of other teams that will be in the running to make the NCAA Tournament.

The Spartans made a surprising run to the Championship game last season, and return almost everyone from that team. Leading them will be PG Kalin Lucas, who is the Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year. He is a lightning quick PG that can make a lot of things happen when he pushes the ball. The key for the Spartans will be Raymar Morgan, a guy with star ability who has not played to his talent. If he does, the Spartans could get back to the title game.

Purdue will have a little something to say about the Big Ten title race, as they return almost all of their talent from a Sweet 16 team. Their leader is Robbie Hummel, who put up excellent all-around numbers despite battling injury problems. But they are a very balanced squad, with JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, and Keaton Grant all providing scoring pop. They've also got diminutive Lewis Jackson and defensive specialist Chris Kramer to provide sparks in the backcourt.

The middle of the pack is also very deep and talented, as they have at least 4 teams that should be ranked or close to it for much of the season. Michigan should be a Tourney team again in John Beilein's third year, as both Manny Harris and Deshawn Sims could be all Big Ten performers. Evan Turner is one of the most well-rounded players in America, and fills up a stat sheet better than almost everyone else in the country. He averaged 17 PPG/7 RPG/4 APG last season.

Minnesota will continue its resurgence under Tubby Smith, as they should have their most talented team under him. They don't have a lot of stars, but they are deeper than any team in the conference and can throw a lot of different looks at teams. Illinois was third in the Big Ten last season, and they bring in one of the best recruiting classes in the conference. Bruce Weber will have them back in the NCAA Tournament once again.

The Big Ten will be one of the deepest and best conferences in the country this season, something that has not been said very much recently. With two Final Four candidates and up to 9 out of 11 teams thinking they will have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament, look for the Big Ten to make some noise this season.


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