Preseason Big Ten Power Rankings
Preseason Edition Of The Big Ten Power Rankings
The Indiana Hoosiers are the team with all of the hype entering the 2012-13 college basketball season. They are ranked No. 1 in the nation and are the favorites to win the national championship, which would be the first for Hoosier Nation since 1987.
But we have to remember that the Big Ten is one of the toughest conferences in America and no team has ever won anything on paper.
So while the Hoosiers should win the Big Ten title when it’s all said and done, I won’t be surprised at all if Ohio State, Michigan State or Wisconsin wins the title.
I’ve covered college basketball for a long time and so I have a pretty good idea of how tough it is to compete for a championship. There are going to nights when a great team looks average and an average team looks like a world beater.
When it comes to deciding where to rank teams on a week-to-week basis, I’ll put a lot of emphasis on the overall performance of each team. I won’t put too much stock into strength of schedule, even against non-conference opponents, because the reality of college basketball in 2012 is that there is a lot of parity in the game.
I want to see how a team plays, especially in pressure-packed situations, and I want to see if a team’s biggest stars rise to the occasion in big moments.
I’m expecting to have to move teams around quite a bit over the course of the season, but in the end, the best teams will be where they need to be in the rankings.
So check out my preseason edition of the Big Ten rankings and don’t hesitate to let me know what you think. You can always shoot me an email at email@example.com or find me on Twitter @Blester1993. Enjoy everyone.
No. 12 - Nebraska Cornhuskers
If this was football, Nebraska would be much higher. As it is, the Cornhuskers are not going to strike fear into anyone this season with a team that features only two seniors.
Dylan Talley will have to carry a lot of the weight for Nebraska this season and significantly raise his scoring average of 8.9 points per game.
Nebraska hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1998 and it’s not going to end the drought this year. The Cornhuskers are destined to finish at or near the bottom of the conference but should at least get a little closer to the .500 mark after going 12-18 last season.
No. 11 - Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State could realistically end up much better than expected, perhaps emerging from the Big Ten with an NIT bid.
After all, the Nittany Lions do return more than 70 percent of their scoring from last season, including senior guard Tim Frazier, who averaged 18.8 points per outing and dished out 198 assists for a team that finished 12-20 overall.
If Frazier is on and he gets some help from the players around him, Penn State will pull off a surprising win or two this year and will be in a lot of other games because it has a reputation for playing hard.
No. 10 - Iowa Hawkeyes
The Hawkeyes could easily finish in the middle of the pack this season after getting to the postseason for the first time since 2006 by earning a berth to the NIT.
They went 18-17 overall and if they are going to add a few more wins to their total this year, they need to start strong.
With Roy Devyn Marble in the mix, along with two talented freshmen in Mike Gessell and Adam Woodbury, the Hawkeyes should at least have a winning season and return to the NIT. I don’t think the Hawkeyes are quite ready to take the step to the NCAA tournament yet.
No. 9 - Illinois Fighting Illini
In a dream world, the Fighting Illini would be the best team in the Big Ten. But at the moment, the Illini have a long way to go to get back to being contenders in the conference.
I do think the Illini will avoid another train wreck end to a season and be a little better than expected. I also think they will at least have a shot at going to the NIT under first-year head coach John Groce.
If players like D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul can come through with outstanding seasons, perhaps there is an outside shot of the Illini playing their way into the NCAA tournament.
No. 8 Northwestern Wildcats
Northwestern is still searching for that first ever trip to the NCAA tournament. Every year it seems like the Wildcats are finally going to do it, only to see the dream end.
The Wildcats won't be competing for a conference title this year, but I do believe they are going to finally end the NCAA drought and be one of the more competitive teams in the league.
Drew Crawford poured in 16.1 points per outing last year and if he delivers with another big season, the Wildcats should have enough depth and athleticism to punch a ticket to the Big Dance.
No. 7 Purdue Boilermakers
The Boilermakers don't have a great deal of experience, especially in the post, but the one thing you have to understand about Purdue is that you can never count it out.
Sure, winning a conference championship will be a stretch considering how top-heavy the Big Ten is this year, but the Boilermakers were 22-13 last year and played in the NCAA tourney. They won't be a pushover for anyone and they should play well enough to have a hand in who does ultimately win the conference, particularly if Terone Johnson has the breakout year he is expected to have this season.
No.6 Minnesota Golden Gophers
Off-season issues aside, the Golden Gophers are no doubt entering the season with high expectations under head coach Tubby Smith.
Minnesota went all the way to the NIT championship game last year and it appears to have enough talent to make a return to the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2011.
The key to making it happen is a healthy Treor Mbakwe and the continued rise of Andre Hollins, who shined as a freshman last season.Minnesota was 23-15 last year and I expect it to come out of the gate strong. I don't think the Golden Gophers have enough to win a conference title but they won't finish any lower than sixth in the standings.
No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers
The Wisconsin Badgers will be in the mix for the conference title. The way I see it, if the Badgers can take care of business on a home floor that is one of the toughest in the nation and find a few big wins on the road, they will be in the running for the title.
The Badgers rely heavily on playing solid defense, and anytime a team can defend and keep turnovers to a minimum, it's going to have a chance to win a lot of games.
Expect the Badgers to win a lot of games, and even if they don't win the title, they will be a contender for a deep run in the NCAA tournament in March.
No. 4 Michigan Wolverines
A lot of people are talking about the Michigan Wolverines being a contender for the national championship, and based on what they have coming back, I understand the hype.
The Wolverines tied for first in the conference last year, finishing 13-5, but fizzled out in the NCAA tourney with a loss to the Ohio Bobcats.
Motivation will be high for the Wolverines, who will be led by Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. If those two live up to expectations and Michigan can survive the early grind of its schedule, a national title could be a reality for this team instead of merely just a dream.
No. 3 Michigan State Spartans
Winning the Big Ten title is always a goal for the Michigan State Spartans and this year should be no exception.
The Spartans have one of the best coaches in the game in Tom Izzo, and so no matter how many stars Michigan State loses year to year, they always seem to be in the mix.
Adreian Payne and Keith Appling will need to have big years for the Spartans. The other key for Michigan State is to find someone to be a leader the way Draymond Green was last year.
My guess is Payne will step into that role, and if he does, look for the Spartans to be a major player in the hunt for the conference championship.
No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State has firmly established itself as a powerhouse in the Big Ten and at the national level. The Buckeyes nearly played for the national title last season after sharing the conference championship and they should be able to pick up where they left off this season.
Aaron Craft will play a crucial role in helping the Buckeyes battle for the conference crown, especially on the defensive end where he has emerged as one of the top defenders in the country.
The return of Deshaun Thomas will be huge as well for Ohio State and Thomas will likely be the scoring leader for Ohio State this year.
If the Buckeyes continue to play defense like they did a year ago when they allowed only 59.8 points per outing, they could very well be the team that dashes Indiana's hopes for a conference crown.
No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers
We have arrived at the No. 1 team in the Big Ten. The Indiana Hoosiers are the team to beat at the moment, but now we have to wait and see if all of the hype and talent translates into success in games.
Tom Crean has rebuilt this program and he appears to have the talent and the depth to make not only a Big Ten title possible, but a national championship as well.
Much of the success will hinge on how well Cody Zeller plays this year. If Zeller becomes the shining star many are expecting him to be, the Hoosiers are going to be the No. 1 team in the conference at the end of the season.
The Hoosiers have to understand, though, that every team will be gunning for them, and a slip-up or two in a big game on the road is one of the only things that could cost Indiana the Big Ten crown.