With the basketball season set to tip off for some Big Ten teams on November 8, the five of us at the Big Ten microsite took a poll to see how the 12 teams will finish this upcoming season. If you missed it, we have already previewed teams #12 to #9, teams #8 to #5, and broke down our second and first team preseason selections. We also highlighted some potential Sixth Man of the Year candidates and picked our Freshman of the Year. What follows are the four teams that we feel are the cream of the crop in the league this year. These are the teams that are expected to be a factor nationally, and anything less than the Top 25 and multiple NCAA Tournament wins would be viewed as a disappointment. So feel free to debate, argue and discuss how much or how little we know what we’re talking about after reading through our selections.
- What they do well: Pick out any defensive metric from last season and Wisconsin probably did it well. The Badgers finished in the top 10 nationally in overall defensive efficiency, opponent eFG%, and opponent three-point percentage.
- What they don’t do well: Ryan Evans pretty much destroyed any chance of the Badgers rating favorably at the free throw line. He led the team in attempts but shot only 42 percent. This should improve simply by subtracting him from the roster, but the team that ranked 324th in free throw percentage also struggled in getting to the line, checking in at 320th in free throw rate.
- Get to know: Nigel Hayes. Bo Ryan can’t solely count on Frank Kaminsky to replace three senior starters in the frontcourt, so he will need contributions from Hayes earlier than he might have had to on a team with more veterans returning. Look for Hayes to make an impact as a banger and athlete who does a lot of little things if he can pick up the nuances of the offensive system.
- Why they’ll finish fourth: Losing Evans, Jared Berggren, and Mike Bruesewitz will be just too much for Wisconsin to replicate defensively and on the glass. Josh Gasser won’t be the same coming back from ACL surgery, and Sam Dekker won’t make the leap from talented freshman to go-to-guy. Ben Brust goes into a shooting slump and the Badgers don’t get much outside shooting elsewhere.
- Why they’ll finish higher: Wisconsin is one of those “pencil them in” teams. Meaning there are certain teams that finish around the same spot in the standings whether they lose a bunch of players or return everybody. They are one of the most consistent programs in the country, and can easily win the Big Ten regular season if Gasser comes back unscathed from his injury. Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes step in and play better than the departed seniors, and Sam Dekker averages 18 PPG and becomes a legitimate All-America candidate.