2017 – 2018 BIG TEN BASKETBALL PRESEASON OUTLOOK

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The Big Ten had a ….. well…… surprising year you could say in some ways.  During the 2017 NCAA Tournament, some teams stepped up and some teams stepped out.  Chris Collins proved his coaching worth at Northwestern by leading the Wildcats to the round of 32 in their very first dance. Wisconsin lost a heartbreaker in New York to Florida and Michigan got wiped out by some Ducks. So when it comes to dancing in this years tourney, do not be surprised if you see a few teams from the Midwest doing some Texas two stepping on their way to San Antonio.  Just a word of advice.  If you were to see Northwestern dancing this year, beware Julia Louis Dreyfus still has a son playing named Charlie Hall and she still knows, “The Elaine Dance.”   That’s worth saying, “Go Wildcats!”

By the way, basketball’s road to the biggest dance-off in Texas begins in just 16 days!

 

The Big 10 Preseason Rankings

1.) Michigan State

2.) Northwestern

3.) Purdue

4.) Wisconsin

5.) Minnesota

6.) Iowa

7.) Maryland

8.) Michigan

9.) tie Penn State

9.) tie Illinois

11.) Nebraska

12.) Indiana

13.) Ohio State

14.) Rutgers


Preseason Big 10  All Freshman Team

Jaren Jackson Jr.          6’11          Forward          Michigan State

Mark Aistork                6’5            Guard               Illinois

Darryl Morsell             6’4            Guard               Maryland

Isaiah Washington     6’1            Guard               Minnesota

Jaaron Simmons         6’1            Guard               Michigan


 

Preseason Big 10 Freshman of the Year

Jaren Jackson Jr.          Michigan State


 

Preseason Big 10 All Conference Team

Moritz Wagner           6’11           Forward            Michigan

Ethan Happ                 6’10           Forward            Wisconsin

Miles Bridges              6’7             Guard/Forward    Michgian State

Bryant McIntosh        6’3             Guard                 Northwestern

Nate Mason                 6’2             Guard                 Minnesota


 

Preseason Big 10 Player of the Year

Miles Bridges            Michigan State


 

Preseason Big 10  Defensive Player of the Year

Jaren Jackson Jr.        Michigan

 

Preseason Big 10 Coach of the Year

Chris Collins               Northwestern

 

 

 

How the Pac-12’s Best Have Changed

Kyle Caron, NCAAMReview Author

The 2016-17 season saw the Pac-12 fighting for a place as the most dominant Power 5 conference behind the ACC. In a year where both the Big 12 and Big 10 seemed to under perform, the west coast teams were poised to show their dominance on a national scale and they did not disappoint. UCLA, Arizona, and Oregon all carried the conference to national relevance despite the best efforts of bottom half teams to pull them down. And with the Duck’s Final Four appearance, the first Pac team to make the Final Four in almost ten years (UCLA, 2008), the conference proved its ability to be a postseason threat for the first time in a long time. But with the loss of some of its best players to the draft, will the league be able to hold its spot in the limelight for the 2017-18 season? Let’s break down last year’s best of the Pac-12 and how they will fair this year.

Oregon

The Oregon Ducks were the best team in the Pac-12 last year. Finishing 33-6 with only two losses in conference play, the Ducks saw themselves live up to the pre-season hype and more. Dana Altman took his 2016 elite eight squad and improved upon it with a decent recruiting class, most notably Payton Pritchard who quickly overtook Dylan Ennis as the team’s starting PG, forcing Ennis back to the SG role he was known for at Villanova. However, after their Final Four run, the majority of the team’s key players opted to leave in some capacity. Dylan Ennis and Chris Boucher have graduated while Jordan Bell, Dillon Brooks, and Tyler Dorsey all chose to forego the rest of their college careers in pursuit of the NBA. This means that the Ducks will be losing four of their five starters from last season, leaving only Pritchard to carry the load of a young team for the upcoming year. This also means that almost their entire offense will be absent as the five departures happened to be the top five scorers for the team as well. The silver lining to this seemingly devastating news is that it appears the Duck’s incoming recruits will be even better than last years. Three 4 star players will fill some of the space in the team’s roster along with one of 2017’s most highly touted prospects, 5 star Troy Brown Jr., providing Pritchard with some much needed support at Small Forward. While this by no means will be a championship caliber team, the future of Oregon basketball looks bright and they should still expect to finish in the top four of the conference.

 

Arizona

When will Sean Miller finally make a Final Four? Every year Wildcat fans seem to get more and more hopeful, and this year appears to be no different. However every year skeptics also write them off as an elite eight team at best, and much like Mark Few, they won’t believe Miller is capable of bringing a team past the regional final until they see it. Regardless of his accomplishments in the postseason, it is indisputable that Sean Miller is one of the most talented coaches in the sport, and if there ever were a roster capable of reaching the promised land it is this one. While losing Lauri Markkanen to the draft was expected, the loss of Kadeem Allen to graduation and the surprising declaration for the draft by Kobi Simmons hurts as well. The damage done to the roster is nowhere near as devastating as that suffered by Oregon, but in losing Markkanen the Wildcats are also losing their highest scorer and rebounder on both ends of the floor. On the bright side, Arizona will be bringing in much more than what they’ve lost in four ESPN top 100 recruits, and one to fill each position at that. Alex Barcello, Brandon Randolph, and Ira Lee will all offer solid support coming off a deep bench, but the crowned jewel of this roster is without a doubt #2 overall, 5 star recruit DeAndre Ayton. At 7’0, 241 lb Ayton will be an absolute monster down low adding plenty to an Arizona front court that left much to be desired. Couple Ayton’s defensive presence with the scoring power behind Rawle Atkins and Allonzo Trier and it is easy to see why this Miller squad is considered a favorite in many preseason polls.

 

UCLA

Bruin fans are not shy when it comes to expressing their dissatisfaction with Steve Alford over the last couple seasons. Coming off a rather abysmal 2015-16 season by UCLA standards, many were calling for a quick exit for Alford a mere three seasons after his arrival. However last season which saw the Bruins reach the #2 ranking in the AP poll, a three seed in the NCAA tournament, and a tough loss to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen, may have cooled Alford’s hot seat at least for the time being. But how much of last season’s success could be attributed to the dynamic duo of Lonzo Ball and T.J Leaf? Probably most of it, which is why the Bruin’s head coach better hope his incoming recruiting class can carry him through another year of success or he may spend some time job searching come April. It is always dangerous when the success of a team is heavily reliant on their recruits (see UConn last year). The early departures of Leaf and Anigbogu will leave some space to fill in the front court and despite the hype surrounding incoming Freshman Jaylen Hands, filling the shoes of last year’s number two draft pick will not be an easy task. However, the other pieces of this #4 recruiting class (ESPN) will hopefully be able to give enough support to keep the Bruins in the conversation for most of the season, including 5 star SF Kris Wilkes and 4 star PF Cody Riley. And even if their performance on the court doesn’t keep them nationally relevant, the commitment of LiAngelo Ball will ensure media coverage of this team never dies. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you…

Big 10 Ready To Expand Its Presence In The NCAA Tournament This Year

Shannon Boy, NCAAMReview Author

A generation or two ago if you were to ask sports fans about which teams, athletes or coaches were their favorites in the Big 10 Conference you would be sure to hear names such as Woody Hayes, Drew Brees, Joe Paterno, Desmond Howard, Eddie George and so on.

But this is today’s Big 10 Conference and one question you may be counterasked with today is, “Football or basketball?”

Yes… the Big 10 no longer has a giant footprint on the college football world but also on the hardwood.  Today sports fans of the Big 10 can not only remember names from their favorite gridiron days but also the names from the arenas in the winter.

Steve Alford, Damon Bailey, The Fab Five, Magic Johnson, The Badgers, Bobby Knight, Mike Conley and Draymond Green just to name a few.

There is no denying what time of year it is in the Big 10 right now. On September 2, 2017, the passion that defines college football in the Big House, Beaver Stadium, Camp Randall and Ohio Stadium among others will be at a fever pitch.  Soon though (to paraphrase a quote from Game of Thrones and my personal favorite), ‘Winter Will Be Coming….. “.  So who will be the names that will be rolling off the tongues of many diehard hoop fans this season when winter does come?

Big 10 Preview:

The Contenders

2016-17 finish –  #1

Purdue Boilermakers

If it is something that the Boilermakers will not be lacking it is height. This year’s returning team is stacked with seven players over 6’4 and four of those over 6’8.  Purdue has always been known for intensity since the days of Gene Keady and now with coach Matt Painter at the helm, nothing has really changed. The Boilermakers will be sure to look to attack the rim over and over by sheer power on the interior while bringing huge basket protection with great length on the defensive end.

 

2016-17 finish – #2

Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin had 13 players on the roster last year who were not seniors and all but two of them were rookies and sophs.  So in a season that saw them lose to Florida in the Sweet 16 on a 4 second sprint up the floor on a floating 3 pointer by guard Chris Chiozza in OT, it would be a safe bet to be sure that the Badgers want nothing more than to make sure that they come into the season with a united mindset of taking care of business in regulation.  Lets also make it known that one of the mainstays for the Big 10 Conference in the NCAA Tourney the past few years has been the Badgers.  Tough, gritty and a hit you in the mouth attitude has propelled them into basketball’s elites of teams you really don’t want to play.

 

Lets take a look at a short preview of the rest of the teams in the Big 10 and use it as an appetizer for the upcoming season.  Here we go!

Big 10 Conference:

The Contenders Race

Maryland – Coach Mark Turgeon puts a team on a floor every year ready to compete.  Do not overlook the Terps in their quest to gain the top spot in the Big 10 Conference. College Park is as tough a place to play as anywhere.

Michigan State – Coach Tom Izzo.  Does anything else really need to be said? The Spartans are always a tough out in the regular season or the NCAA Tourney.  Fab Frosh Miles Bridges will need to carry a big load, but the Spartans should have enough to make the big dance.

Northwestern – Ok… this is not a typo. Northwestern is a team that does not need to be overlooked. Chris Collins is slowly building a powerhouse in the north and that was evident by the way the Wildcats showed that they belonged in the NCAA Tourney last year. Northwestern was one of, if not the, most exciting teams in the tourney last year.  I mean…they did take National Finalist Gonzaga to the wire.  The Wildcats are for real.

Michigan – Coach Beilein went from the blue and gold of West Virginia and went to the maize and blue of Michigan. What has he done?  Same as in the Mountaineer state…. win!   Michigan is a team that is waiting to break out and become a regular at the top of the Big 10 pack. Look for the Wolverines to be a factor in who wins the day in the Big 10 Conference this year after last years showing in the NCAA Tourney.

 

Works In Progress

Indiana

Coaching changes are always a tough thing no matter how credible of a coach you get. In the Hoosier state, basketball is king…. and queen……and the prince and princesses. Indiana fans are always strong supporters of their teams and diehard fans but they also long for the days when Keith Smart and Isaiah Thomas took them to the promise land.   No matter the coach, coaching transitions will be tough….but beware…. It is Assembly Hall and this isn’t just basketball…..its Indiana!

 

Ohio State

As in Bloomington, there is a coaching change and Thad Matta isn’t just your average Joe.  Thad Matta, just like Tom Crean (the dismissed coach at Indiana) is a winner.  The college coaching business is a tough business and like the music industry…it can be very fickle sometimes. Cue Chris Holtmann. The Buckeyes hired away Coach Holtmann from Butler University.  So what has Holtmann done so far?  Four days in he suspended player Derek Funderburk, but he has also aligned himself with head football coach Urban Meyer in wanting to establish a winning culture at Ohio State.  So while the Buckeyes may be going through some transition times it is clear to see that Coach Holtmann is putting together a culture at Ohio State that is one to be dealt with in the future. Just look at what he did when he stepped in at Butler. Butler hasn’t missed a beat….but they will miss Chris Holtmann.

 

Rutgers

Ok. Rutgers is definitely a work in progress. Their last NCAA Tournament appearance being in 1991, Coach Steve Pikiell took on a task that is equal to the President of the United States getting rid of our trillions of dollars of debt.  But…this is why we love college basketball.  A year before taking the Rutgers job, he took Stony Brook to the NCAA Tourney with a 28-7 record.  So why write so much about the Scarlet Knights?  Coach Pikiell just brought in a 3-star guard from the small mountain town of Gate City, Virginia.  You think Rutgers has mountains to climb?  Gate City was the only opening in the Appalachian Mountain range in the 1700’s that allowed Daniel Boone to head to Kentucky to explore the west and Cumberland Gap. If Daniel Boone doesn’t face down Indian massacres and the death of his son to keep going west who knows how soon our country would have expanded westward. But soon after, everyone else headed west and well… you know what happened next.  So maybe it’s a great omen for the Scarlet Knights to get a small town three star guard who literally flew under the radar with over 40 dunks his junior year and had an over 60 point showing in a regional state tournament game.  Pikiell has also brought in a 4 star recruit Mamadou Doucoure who locks in at a solid 6’9 220, and looks to help out the Rutgers frontcourt.  Let it be known that while they have been near the bottom, the Scarlet Knights are looking to make waves in the Big 10 Conference.

 

Big East as Tough as Ever

Colin Wrba, NCAAMReview Author

Though it is not yet the old Big East, the “new” Big East is one of the top conferences in the country and hasn’t disappointed thus far.  A conference made up of all schools where basketball is the main sport and main focus is the best part about it.

So far Villanova has been the team to beat and will be again this season.  Winning the NCAA Tournament two years ago, conference regular season champs the past four years, as well as conference tournament champs in 2015 and 2017.  It is clear that until someone can take down goliath that again Villanova is the team to beat.  The top three teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-2018 season are as follows:

Villanova– As previously said, until someone beats them how can they not be the favorites.  Nova hasn’t taken a step back since their National Title run.  Losing Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins would make people think it may be a down year for the Wildcats, but they come in with a roster that includes Junior PG Jalen Brunson, as well as red shirt freshman Omari Spellman (18th ranked recruit Class of 2016 according to ESPN).  Look for the Cats to keep trending upward and GQ Jay Wright to keep the Cats on top the Big East.

Xavier– A deep run in the NCAA tournament last season plus bringing back two important pieces Trevon Bluiett and JP Macura have the Musketeers set up for another strong season.  Not to mention they have a strong recruiting class coming in.  Look for Xavier to be the top dog to potentially take down Nova and expect another decent run come March.

Seton Hall– Always a scrappy and well taught defensive team the Pirates welcome back arguably the best center in the nation Angel Delgado (13.1 Rebounds Per Game).  Seniors Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez on top of a solid recruiting class have the Pirates set up for NCAA Tournament appearance and a chance at another Big East title.  Look for the Hall to make a little run during March.

Sleeper:

St John’s– St John’s always seems to have athletic, big, long armed, shot blocking teams.  Thus said they still have struggled over recent years.  A big bright spot is Sophomore Shamorie Ponds who set the St. John’s freshman scoring record last season.  They also have brought back sophomore Marcus Lovett who averaged 15.9 PPG.  The Johnnies do not have enough to win the Big East, but look for them to make some noise in Chris Mullins 3rd year.