By Steve Ungrey on August 21, 2014
In the last few seasons the Big Ten has become one of the strongest basketball conferences in the country. Last year it produced two teams that went to the Elite Eight, one Final Four team and a team that won the National Invitation Tournament. What does this season look like? Here is a look at five schools to watch.
Under head coach Tom Izzo, this team has managed to reload every few years and stay relevant to the top conversations. From Mateen Cleaves in 2000 to Drew Neitzel in 2005 to last year's group, the Spartans have stayed strong. Look for them to be relevant despite the losses of Keith Appling and Adreian Payne.
The Wolverines were the victims of a heartbreaking three-pointer against Kentucky in the final seconds of last year's Elite Eight, and who knows what this team could have done if it reached the Final Four? John Beilein has made the Wolverines relevant again in the state's basketball circles following years of Michigan State domination.
The Badgers reached the Final Four a year ago with their slow-paced offense and stifling defense causing trouble for a lot of teams. With 7-foot forward Frank Kaminsky once again leading the way down low, the Badgers could be a team to watch in the 2014-15 campaign.
The Buckeyes looked like a team to watch in the NCAA tournament. They were all right, but only because Dayton snuffed out Ohio State's hopes at the end of the very first round. No one has forgotten that game in Buckeye circles, and for that reason Ohio State will be eager to prove they belong in the elite circles. Ohio State could challenge for the conference right away if the recruits can make a difference.
The reason the Golden Gophers are included here is because they won the NIT over Southern Methodist. Minnesota finished among the top squads last year at 25-13 but went 8-10 in the Big Ten. Still, second-year coach Richard Pitino has the most difficult year under his belt and can build from here.
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