Skip to content

Big Ten Preview: Wisconsin and Iowa are better than you think

Oct 24, 2012, 3:00 PM EDT

Final Four - Ohio State v Kansas Getty Images

Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

The Big Ten is absolutely loaded this year.

They have the best team in the country in Indiana who has the best player in the country in Cody Zeller. Three more top 15 teams reside in the conference, and that’s not including Wisconsin, who, as usual, is underrated heading into the season.

Even Minnesota and Iowa are good enough that they should be in contention for the NCAA tournament this season. The basketball may not be played incredibly fast, but rest assured it will be played at a very high level all season long.

Five Things to Know

1. Everyone’s back: Well, almost everyone that was allowed to be is. Jared Sullinger (correctly) left for the NBA after posting a second straight all-american season. Meyers Leonard joined him and got scooped up in the lottery. But that’s it. Only two players from the conference left for the NBA with eligibility remaining. The rest — Trey Burke, Cody Zeller, Deshaun Thomas, Trevor Mbakwe, etc. — are back for another season at the collegiate level.

2. Trevor Mbakwe’s troubles: While we’re on the topic of Mbakwe, his continued to pile up the legal issues over the summer. After being granted a sixth-year of eligibility by the NCAA, Mbakwe managed to get a DUI this summer, which violated his probation in Florida from an assault back in 2009. The story is convoluted, but the bottom-line is this: Mbawke only got probation in the case, and according to Minnesota, he won’t miss anymore time with the team.

3. Iowa’s actually good this year: The Hawkeyes are a group that you need to keep an eye on this season. They lose scorer Matt Gatens, but with a young, talented core returning — headlined by juniors Roy Devyn Marble and Melsahn Besabe and sophomore Aaron White — and a loaded freshmen class that includes top 100 recruits Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury, Fran McCaffery has a team that could legitimately make a run at the NCAA tournament.

4. The Big Ten’s slow: It’s a running joke in college hoops that Big Ten basketball games are ugly, grind-it-out slugfests that are won with elbow grease, physicality and sheer determination. Ok, that’s a bit of a stretch, but the conference really does play some plodding basketball. Only three Big Ten teams — Ohio State, Indiana and Iowa — were ranked in the top 200 in tempo last season. Four teams — Northwestern, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin (who was dead last) — were ranked below 290.

5a. JerShon Cobb won’t be playing this year: According to Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody, the issue is academics. It’s a big blow for the Wildcats, who are looking to replace John Shurna‘s scoring. Cobb was one of the guys that was going to be counted on to fill that void.

5b. But Mike Bruesewitz will: And given how nasty the gash he suffered on his leg sounds, that’s impressive.

Impact Newcomers

1. Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas, Michigan: Michigan’s three high-profile recruits are going to be the guys that are the difference-makers for the Wolverines this season. We all already know how good Trey Burke is, and Tim Hardaway Jr. should be improved as he slides over to his more natural shooting guard spot. But if John Beilein can find a way to make this talented trio fit into his offensive system, the Wolverines go from really good to elite.

2. Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury, Iowa: What Iowa has returning this season are wings, shooters and power forwards. Some of them are pretty good, too. What are they missing? A point guard and a center, and that’s precisely what Fran McCaffery landed with Gesell, the point guard, and Woodbury, the center. If these guys live up to the hype as freshmen, the Hawkeyes could be looking at a trip to the NCAA tournament.

3. Gary Harris, Michigan State: The Spartans are going to look a little bit like the Michigan State teams of old this season. They’ll be big and strong and physical, thriving on their defense and ability to hit the glass. But what those Michigan State teams of old all had was a scorer on the wing that could get a bucket if things got bogged down offensively. Harris has a chance to be that guy.

4. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin: Dekker is the kind of talent that rarely makes his way to Madison, WI. A versatile, 6-foot-7 small forward, Dekker will see major minutes as a freshman for the Badgers, something that rarely happens in Bo Ryan’s program. His size, shooting ability, all-around skill-set and ability to be a matchup nightmare will make Dekker a perfect fit for the swing offense.

5. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: I put Yogi on this list because I think that he’ll end up getting some big minutes for Indiana this season because of his ability to defend. I love Jordy Hulls, but I think I might be able to beat him off the dribble. Not so with Ferrell. Indiana’s biggest concern this season will be their ability to get stops. A back court of Ferrell and Victor Oladipo is a good place to start improving at that end.

Breakout Players

1. Terone Johnson, Jr., Purdue: Over the last eight games in 2012, Johnson averaged 15.1 points, 4.3 boards and 2.9 assists. That included a 22 point performance in a win at Michigan and 21 points, five assists and four boards in a win over St. Mary’s in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. With Robbie Hummel and Lewis Jackson gone, Purdue is going to need someone to step up.

2. Lenzelle Smith, Jr., and LaQuinton Ross, So., Ohio State: You know about Aaron Craft. You know about Deshaun Thomas. You know that the Buckeye’s post players aren’t going to be much more than tall. What Ohio State doesn’t have yet is a proven scoring threat on the wing. Smith showed flashes last season, but was very inconsistent. Ross, at one point in his early high school career, was the No. 1 recruit in the country.

3. Andre Hollins, So., Minnesota: Hollins is not a natural point guard, but he was forced into the role as a freshman last season. It took him a while to adjust to the position, but he managed to average 16.8 points and 2.8 assists in the final nine games, leading the Gophers to the NIT title game.

4. Brandon Paul, Sr., Illinois: Paul’s got plenty of talent. (Remember this?) New head coach John Groce needs someone to build an offense around. Paul needs a fresh start. Could this be a match made in heaven?

5. Aaron White, So., Iowa: It’s tough to call White a breakout candidate given the fact that Iowa’s front court will be a bit crowded next year. I don’t expect his numbers to be much improved from the 11.1 points and 5.7 boards he averaged last season. I do, however, expect that he’ll end up being a much more well-known name, especially in Big Ten college towns.

Player of the Year: Cody Zeller, So., Indiana

Zeller is going to end up being the National Preseason Player of the Year by the majority of the publications that make such declarations, including us, so it only makes sense that he’s the Big Ten’s Preseason Player of the Year. Zeller is a pleasure to watch on the offensive end of the floor. He’s got great hands, he’s got a variety of low-post moves and he’s a true back-to-the-basket player. My favorite part of his game? How hard he runs the floor in transition. He’ll get a couple of easy buckets every game simply by beating every down the court. As his defense improves, he’ll only get better.

All-Conference Team

G: Trey Burke, So., Michigan
G: Aaron Craft, Jr., Ohio State
F: Deshaun Thomas, Jr., Ohio State
F: Trevor Mbakwe, Sr., Minnesota
C: Cody Zeller, So., Indiana*

Coach under pressure: Tubby Smith, Minnesota

Smith has put together some promising rosters in his time in Minnesota, but it’s been a while since he’s had a team live up to those expectations. For example, remember 2010-2011? The Gophers jumped out to an 11-1 record and a top 15 rankings before ending with losses in 10 of their last 11 games and spending March without any postseason. He’s had players with legal issues and he’s had players transfer mid-season, which can be tolerated when the wins come. But when you’ve made two NCAA tournaments — and lost in the first round both times — it’s a different story. This month, Minnesota has had all kinds of negative publicity, from the issues involving Trevor Mbakwe to the DUI that Tubby’s son Saul, an assistant on the Minnesota staff, got. Smith has a team that can make some noise in the NCAA tournament this season. If they don’t, will those legal issues and losses have piled too high?

Predicted Finish

1. Indiana: They’re the No. 1 team in the country. Defensive issues aside, this team returns basically everyone and adds another loaded recruiting class. Easy pick.

2. Ohio State: The Buckeyes and the Wolverines are a coin-flip, but I’m taking the Buckeyes. I love Aaron Craft’s experience, I think Deshaun Thomas is ready to be a star, and this appears to be the season where Thad Matta’s obsessive stockpiling of talent pays off.

3. Michigan: I think the Wolverines have the second-most talent in the conference, but I have concerns about the roster makeup. I go in-depth about them here.

4. Wisconsin: I’m starting to think that I underrated Wisconsin when I did my top 25. The Badgers get four starters back, and a junior that’s started 66 games to replace Jordan Taylor and adds a stud in Sam Dekker.

5. Michigan State: I had Michigan State ranked 12th nationally, which should give you an idea of how strong this league is. I think their lack of offensive power will be an issue.

6. Iowa: I’m taking a risk putting Iowa this high, but, as I’ve said numerous times already, I’m riding with the Hawkeyes.

7. Minnesota: There always seems to be a Gopher in legal turmoil, but with basically everyone returning from last season and a healthy Trevor Mbakwe, the Gophers are very good. That said, I need to see proof they can handle distraction and succeed on the court.

8. Purdue: The Boilermakers will be without Robbie Hummel this season, but they’ll have a chance to be competitive if Terone Johnson and the rest of that perimeter attack can have a big year.

9. Illinois: The Illini have a lot of talent on their roster and start a bunch of upperclassmen. Will this group buy-in to what new head coach John Groce is selling? If everything comes together, this is a team that could sneak into the tournament. Who’s the point guard?

10. Northwestern: Drew Crawford is as good as anyone in the league, but losing JerShon Cobb is really going to hurt, especially if Jared Swopshire isn’t back to his old form.

11. Penn State: Tim Frazier is awesome. It’s a shame that he’ll spend his career toiling away in Happy Valley.

12. Nebraska: I love Tim Miles, but it is going to be a couple of years, at least, before he’s having fun in Lincoln.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Iowa legend, all-time leading scorer diagnosed with cancer

    Sep 2, 2014, 12:39 PM EDT

    Print

    It’s the second time this year that cancer has come too close to home for the Hawkeyes.

  2. Latest mixtape for Dennis Smith Jr. shows how talented he is (VIDEO)

    Sep 2, 2014, 10:54 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Smith is a high-flying guard in the same mold as a John Wall or Derrick Rose.

  3. Avery Harriman is featured on the Today Show (VIDEO)

    Sep 2, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 10.54.09 AM

    Avery is undergoing chemo to battle leukemia for the third time.

  4. New mixtape of 2016 guard Kwe Parker is ridiculous (VIDEO)

    Sep 1, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    Kwe Parker is one of the best dunkers in all of basketball and he shows why in this new mixtape.

  5. Report: Arizona State gives Herb Sendek a contract extension

    Sep 1, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT

    Herb Sendek AP

    Arizona State has given head coach Herb Sendek an extension.

  6. East Carolina nabs a local 2015 wing

    Sep 1, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    jeff lebo Getty Images

    East Carolina is on the board in 2015.

  7. Five-star 2015 forward cuts his list to five schools

    Sep 1, 2014, 5:28 PM EDT

    (adidas Gauntlet) (adidas Gauntlet)

    A five-star 2015 forward cut his list to five schools on Monday.

  8. Indiana freshman is currently in a walking boot

    Sep 1, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT

    Tom Crean AP

    Indiana will have to remain patient with a freshman that is currently battling an ankle injury.

  9. Assembly Hall as a groom’s cake? Why not! (PHOTO)

    Sep 1, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    @Kschack1 @Kschack1

    You need a very understanding wife to get away with this.

  10. Tennessee adds second commitment in two days with three-star guard

    Sep 1, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Murray St Morehead St Basketball

    Tennessee has one scholarship left available for 2015.

  11. Top talent in 2016 announces a top ten

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:54 PM EDT

    Nike Nike

    Find out why Saint Louis and Missouri are on the list along with the likes of Arizona, Kentucky, Duke and Kansas.

  12. Tom Izzo calls PGA Tour caddie after wife passes away

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Tom Izzo Tom Izzo

    Izzo spoke on the phone with the caddie for 15 minutes.

  13. Mixtape for top 50 center Marques Bolden (VIDEO)

    Sep 1, 2014, 11:39 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 11.38.38 AM

    Bolden is a 6-foot-9 center from Texas

  14. Ohio senior forward contributes to Senegal’s first FIBA worlds victory since 1998

    Aug 31, 2014, 11:43 PM EDT

    Maurice Ndour AP

    The second team All-MAC selection scored eight points in Senegal’s win over Puerto Rico.

  15. In-state forward becomes Kansas State’s second commitment in four days

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:25 PM EDT

    Bruce Weber AP

    Bruce Weber now has three verbal commitments in the Class of 2015.

  16. Nebraska lands commitment from four-star point guard

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:05 PM EDT

    Tim Miles AP

    5-foot-11 point guard Glynn Watson becomes Nebraska’s second 2015 commitment.

  17. Five-star 2015 small forward cuts list to six schools

    Aug 31, 2014, 8:02 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/adidas Kelly Kline/adidas

    Slender forward Brandon Ingram is one of the best perimeter prospects in the Class of 2015.

  18. Illinois native becomes Tennessee’s first 2015 commitment

    Aug 31, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpte3owi1njbhnjg0mtc2yjbkzdgzmdzhnzm2mtbjytc1 AP

    Tennessee is on the board in 2015 due to the addition of a versatile 6-foot-5 forward.

  19. North Carolina accepts their head coach’s challenge (VIDEO)

    Aug 31, 2014, 5:23 PM EDT

    Marcus Paige AP

    Roy Williams challenged his players in the Bahamas, and the accepted it on Saturday afternoon.

  20. Malik Newman to narrow list soon, won’t announce until after season

    Aug 31, 2014, 3:39 PM EDT

    Malik Newman (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Malik Newman is the No. 3 overall recruit, according to Rivals.