Throughout the summer RTC contributors Zach Hayes and Brian Otskey will discuss the hot topics — or whatever comes to mind — around each major conference in college basketball. This week, they tackle the Big Ten. For the entire summer series focusing on each of the six power conferences, click here.
Brian: Lots of folks give the Big Ten grief every year for its slower tempo and meat grinder games. I, for one, love the Big Ten. Fundamentally sound basketball, efficient offense and hard-nosed defense has always appealed to me and all three reside in this conference pretty much every year. The Big Ten (or is it 12?) welcomes a new team this year as the Nebraska Cornhuskers joined this venerable league effective last week. Everyone knows Nebraska joined for football but this addition gives the league an even number of 12 teams and a basketball team that, while it may not do so in the short term, has the potential for some long term success. While I wouldn’t go so far to say Nebraska is the proverbial “sleeping giant,” this is a program with a pretty good coach and a new arena opening up in a couple years. The Cornhuskers have never won a game in the NCAA Tournament but they did manage to get there five times in the 1990’s. If Nebraska can establish its identity early on in its tenure with the Big Ten, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the program have some decent success down the road.
As for the coming season, Ohio State has to be the clear favorite. The Buckeyes return Jared Sullinger, who’s been working on expanding his game (a frightening proposition for opponents), along with William Buford, Aaron Craft, DeShaun Thomas and Jordan Sibert. Thad Matta welcomes yet another strong recruiting class, led by center Amir Williams, forward LaQuinton Ross and guard Shannon Scott, among others, giving the Buckeyes a strong rotation that should result in a solid top ten ranking all year long. Ohio State is in a position where they could run away with the Big Ten regular season title. I could see Michigan and maybe Wisconsin or Purdue making a run at the men from Columbus but I don’t feel there is another team in this league that can hang with Ohio State on a nightly basis.
The big fella is back for the Bucks
Despite losing Darius Morris to the NBA, I still like Michigan to finish near the top of the conference. It’s taken John Beilein some time to build a solid program in Ann Arbor but was there ever any doubt? Not in my mind. The Wolverines have made two of the past three NCAA Tournaments after going 11 years without an invite. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan bring a solid inside-outside threat to the table while the backcourt has depth with Stu Douglass, Zack Novak and Matt Vogrich, a player who should move into a larger role for this team in 2011-12. Michigan’s backcourt will be bolstered further by freshmen Trey Burke and Carlton Brundidge. The latter can be a big time scorer in Ann Arbor down the road but the biggest question for Michigan is replacing Morris at the point. Beilein has a decision between Burke or a few veterans. This choice could very well go a long way towards determining the Wolverines’ fate this season.
Do you see Ohio State running away with the Big Ten or will another team keep pace with them? I like what Michigan, Purdue and Wisconsin have on their rosters this season but I’m not seeing enough talent there to surpass the Buckeyes.
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