Big Ten in 2010
Well, it's been a week since MSU's outstanding season ended in Detroit. I think we can now turn and look forward to what the Big Ten might look like next season. The following are my predictions for next year based on who will be available for each team right now. You are invited to disagree and voice your opinions, but no matter what, the Big Ten looks loaded for next year.
1. MICHIGAN STATE: a sentimental, but logical choice. We lose two starters and two role players, but with the bigs we have coming in and the experience off the bench, I think we can repeat as B10 champs and make a long NCAA tournament run again.
2. PURDUE: all five starters back means a lot. They do lose four good reserves, which could affect their depth, but four good incoming freshmen should neutralize that. However, after Johnson, they do not have a lot of size which could be their biggest problem next season.
3. MINNESOTA: watch the Gophers next season. All five starters back and most of the reserves. They do lose two bench players, but like Purdue, the two incoming recruits could neutralize that fact. This team was really improving during the last season, and with Tubby Smith's coaching ability, I see them making a big jump in the standings this season.
4. MICHIGAN: I really hate to make this prediction, but the fact remains that UM is improving. Their biggest problem will be replacing three guards, Merritt, Lee and Shepard. The incoming class is so-so, but they fit the system. If the team struggles at the guard position, they could drop further down than this prediction.
5. ILLINOIS: although losing Brock and Meacham will hurt, one of the best recruiting classes in the country will help. D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul could start immediately. If this freshman class gels quickly, Illinois could jump all the way to third in the standings.
6. OHIO STATE: Coach Thad is facing the problems created by "peaks and valleys" recruiting classes. He had no seniors this last season and didn't recruit for the upcoming one. Now he loses Mullens, and must go with the same team as last year, minus his big center. The returners are good, and the 2010 class is the best in the country, so Ohio St. will have to do the best they can this year and then explode in the 2011 season.
7. PENN ST: normally a team really improves after winning the NIT because they have something to prove the following season. However, in PSU's case, the loss of Morrissey, Cornley and Pringle might just be too much to overcome. Battle is great, buy the incoming freshman class will add little. If the returning veterans can show some big improvement, this team could surprise a few people, but I doubt it.
8. WISCONSIN: the Badgers take a big hit next year losing Landry, Krabbenhoft and Gullickson off the bench. The incoming freshman class is not spectacular, so I see this as Coach Bo's poorest season while at Wisconsin. That having been said, no one get's the most from average players as Ryan does, so it is possible that this team could be better than predicted based on past season performances.
9. NORTHWESTERN: the Cats return a lot of players, but the loss of three-point shooter Moore could really hurt. Coach Carmody's offense is predicated on someone knocking down three-point shots. Now, if someone steps up from the mediocre incoming class, they could surprise a few teams like they did this past season. One guarantee here, if NW plays at Breslin this upcoming season, they will NOT win the game.
10. INDIANA: the Hoosiers have no way to go but up. With one of the best freshman classes in the country coming in, they will improve, but might still be over a year away before any significant results are seen. A lot of the IU players we saw this past season, may not get much playing time due to the quality freshmen who will replace them. This team is still a year away from making a big jump in the Big Ten.
11. IOWA: something is wrong in Iowa City! Too many players are jumping ship and not enough quality recruits are coming in. Lickliter, like Gillespie was at Kentucky, is a very good coach, but maybe not the right fit with Iowa. Another poor season will probably signal his exit, and that's too bad because he really is a fine coach. Got to blame Iowa's administration for all of this--the program used to be one of the better ones in the Big Ten for years, but now they have fallen to rock bottom.
So, there are my picks. What do you think--good or bad? If you disagree, what are your choices for next season?