Friday, May 24, 2024

Most players returning in conference

Alex Altman

The 2008-09 college basketball season just ended, but it’s never too early to start looking ahead to next season. With that being said, here’s an early look at how the Big Ten should stack up next season. Disagree? Send me your predictions at altmanal@msu.edu.

1) MSU: Guard Travis Walton and center Goran Suton will be sorely missed, but the Spartans have more than enough talent to compensate for their losses. Assuming they return to school, guard Kalin Lucas and forward Raymar Morgan will lead a squad that should once again lead the conference in scoring. Interior depth and the absence of a true center could affect MSU’s rebounding ability, but you know that head coach Tom Izzo will have his team prepared for the battle on the glass when the calendar hits November.

2) Purdue: Minus forward Nemanja Calasan, returning to school will be essentially the same team that this season won the Big Ten Tournament. Forward Robbie Hummel’s back will be one of the stirring issues during the preseason, but even if he’s not at full speed, forward JaJuan Johnson and guard E’Twaun Moore provide more than enough scoring. Guard Chris Kramer will be the preseason favorite to win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

3) Illinois: Much like Walton will be missed by MSU, the Illini will miss guard Chester Frazier’s leadership and defensive prowess. But Illinois returns several key players, including center Mike Tisdale and forward Mike Davis. Athletic guards Demetri McCamey and Alex Legion should take another step this offseason. Illinois always plays tenacious defense.

4) Michigan: Some might consider this a little high for the Wolverines, but I think it might even be a little too low. Guard Manny Harris and forward DeShawn Sims, two of the best players in the conference and maybe even the country last season, say they are returning to school. If they honor that promise, they will give U-M a dynamic scoring punch. However, they need to improve defensively.

5) Ohio State: The loss of center B.J. Mullens stings, but his early ascension to the NBA was expected. The Buckeyes still have a bevy of proven players returning, especially at guard, where Evan Turner and William Buford are stars. Talented guard David Lighty should also be ready to go after an injury-riddled season. Frontcourt play could be an issue, however, as Dallas Lauderdale is the only experienced returner.

6) Minnesota: The Gophers could easily be bumped up to the four spot, but I’m just not that sold on them as I am on the other teams. Guards Lawrence Westbrook and Al Nolen form a solid backcourt, power forward Ralph Sampson III is a budding star, and incoming freshman Royce White is a five-star prospect at the other forward position.

7) Wisconsin: Guard Trevon Hughes and forward Jon Leuer will give Wisconsin a formidable inside-outside punch next season. But just like last season, points will come at a premium for the Badgers. Look for guard Jordan Taylor to make huge strides his sophomore season.

8) Penn State: Guard Talor Battle is an early nominee for Big Ten Player of the Year, and should also find a spot on the Naismith watch. But the Nittany Lions will miss the leadership and inside scoring of forward Jamelle Cornley.

9) Northwestern: Underrated star forward Kevin Coble returns for his senior season, and a pretty strong supporting cast will accompany him. Guard Craig Moore’s long-distance shooting will be missed, but guard Michael Thompson was impressive down the stretch.

10) Indiana: Guard Verdell Jones III will lead a young but talented team, which will welcome seven more newcomers next season. Head coach Tom Crean’s squad isn’t ready to compete for a Big Ten title, but it will certainly win more than one game next season.

11) Iowa: It has already been a rough offseason for the Hawkeyes, who received grim news that Jake Kelly, Jeff Peterson and David Palmer will transfer. Guard Matt Gatens in the only proven returner for the Hawkeyes, who once again struggled in the recruiting department.

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