Skip to content

Conference Catchup: Michigan, Indiana headline a loaded Big Ten

Dec 30, 2012, 9:07 PM EDT

Cody Zeller, Trey Burke

Conference play is right around the corner, so to help you get out of that post-holiday haze, we’ll be catching you up on all the happenings in the country’s top 12 conferences. Here’s our Big Ten Conference Catchup:

Favorites: Michigan and Indiana

At this point, it’s almost impossible to delineate between the Hoosiers and the Wolverines. They are unquestionably two of the top five teams in the country — alongside Duke, Louisville and Kansas (sorry, Syracuse and Arizona) — but, for the same reason that it’s tough to pick a title favorite out of that group, it’s tough to make a choice between the Hoosiers and the Wolverines. Both teams do things well. Both teams do some things poorly. Both teams have an all-american anchoring a roster full of talented role players, but neither team has the kind of talent that sets them apart from the rest of the pack.

Gun to my head, I’m picking Michigan to win the conference. Trey Burke has been that good, they have the kind of athleticism and versatility that is perfect in John Beilein’s system, and I think Indiana’s been bolstered by a weak non-conference resume. Then again, the Hoosiers are actually defending this season and have the nation’s best low-post scorer. Bottom-line: the season finale will be played between these two teams — March 10th at Michigan — and could end up being the best game of the year.

Contenders: I have a tough time seeing anyone other than Michigan or Indiana winning the league, but that’s not because of a lack of quality teams. Ohio State and Michigan State are probably going to end up being the Big Ten’s two biggest challengers, but based on the way that Illinois and Minnesota have played this season, it is impossible to count either team out.

Biggest Surprise: Brandon Paul, Illinois

We expected that Minnesota would be competitive this season, and while I doubt that anyone actually thought they could be a top 15 team at the turn of the year, their success is much less of a surprise than that of Illinois. The Illini look like they have fully bought into what John Groce is selling. A number of their wins have been less-than-impressive, but at the end of the day, a win is a win. Paul, however, has been a revelation. After spending three years as a guy with worlds of potential that was unable to put all the pieces together, Paul is playing like an all-american. He’s become deadly in the pick-and-roll and a much more consistent shooter. The problem? He’s so important to this team than they can struggle when he’s not playing well.

Biggest Disappointment: Purdue

We knew there was going to be a gap between the tournament hopefuls and the rest of the Big Ten, but I don’t think that anyone predicted that the Boilermakers would essentially be written off as a tournament team before December came to a close. Matt Painter’s club has dealt with some injury issues this season and their back court hasn’t progressed like many had expected.

Player of the Year: Trey Burke, Michigan

I’m going with Burke in what is probably the tightest player of the year race in the country. There’s no shortage of talent in the Big Ten this season, but Burke has been the best because of his ability to score and create based on what his team needs at the time. He gets his talented teammates involved early and turns into an assassin down the stretch. His numbers — 17.8 points, 7.4 assists, 1.9 turnovers, 53.6/75.7/38.3 shooting splits — aren’t to shabby either.

Best Freshman: Nik Stauskas, Michigan

No one really talked about Stauskas coming into the season, but he’s absolutely been the best freshman in the Big Ten. The kid simply doesn’t miss when he gets his feet set (he’s shooting 39-69, or 56.5%, from three) but he’s also capable of putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim, defending and rebounding for a player his size. He’s Zak Novak, only more talented, bigger, and a much better athlete.

Three Predictions

  • The Big Ten gets eight bids to the big dance. I’m not one to bet against Wisconsin. No one should be. Iowa is a young team that is only going to get better. And given how many good teams there are in the league and how many chances both the Badgers and the Hawkeyes are going to have to notch quality (marquee?) wins, I think their resume ends up being strong enough.
  • Shannon Scott becomes Ohio State’s best playmaker by the end of the year. I love Aaron Craft as much as anyone, but Scott is more dynamic and more talented. On a team that needs offensive support for Deshaun Thomas, Scott is a valuable option.
  • Tom Izzo’s team struggles in March. Branden Dawson hasn’t made a jump this season. Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix have been inconsistent. I’m not convinced Keith Appling and Gary Harris will be able to carry this team offensively. Will Izzo’s Magic March touch wear off again this season?

Power Rankings (* = tourney team):

1. Indiana*
2. Michigan*
3. Michigan State*
4. Ohio State*
5. Minnesota*
6. Illinois*
7. Wisconsin*
8. Iowa
9. Purdue
10. Northwestern
11. Nebraska
12. Penn State

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Four-star forward becomes Nebraska’s third 2015 commitment

    Sep 22, 2014, 11:58 AM EDT

    Tim Miles AP

    The Simeon HS forward officially visited Nebraska this weekend, and both of his parents attended the school as well.

  2. Western Kentucky asks fans for input on alternate jersey design

    Sep 22, 2014, 10:26 AM EDT

    Ray Harper Ray Harper

    Fans have three different designs from which to choose, with the winning option scheduled to be revealed next Monday.

  3. 6-foot-9 power forward verbally commits to Towson

    Sep 21, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT

    UMBC v Towson Getty Images

    The Tigers, who won 25 games last season, landed their first commitment in the Class of 2015 Sunday night.

  4. Georgia-based combo guard becomes Charlotte’s first 2015 commitment

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Alan Major Alan Major

    With both Pierria Henry and Terrence Williams being seniors, Charlotte needed to add a perimeter player in 2015.

  5. Louisiana-based shooting guard verbally commits to Rhode Island

    Sep 21, 2014, 9:21 PM EDT

    Rhode Island v George Washington Getty Images

    URI head coach Dan Hurley landed his second 2015 commitment Sunday evening.

  6. Wake Forest lands four-star point guard in Class of 2015

    Sep 21, 2014, 8:25 PM EDT

    Danny Manning Danny Manning

    Danny Manning finally has his first 2015 commitment and the player’s a very important one with regard to the future of the program.

  7. In-state forward becomes Cleveland State’s first 2015 commitment

    Sep 21, 2014, 7:13 PM EDT

    Gary Waters

    The Vikings have added some depth to their front court for the 2015-16 season.

  8. Weight room providing valuable lessons for Wichita State newcomers

    Sep 21, 2014, 5:14 PM EDT

    Gregg Marshall Gregg Marshall

    The Shockers won’t lack for capable leaders this season, and their newcomers have followed the lead of those veterans in the weight room.

  9. Assigned Reading: Colorado State’s Antwan Scott overcomes obstacles

    Sep 21, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

    Grambling State Grambling State

    A good read on Colorado State’s new senior transfer, Antwan Scott, overcoming family obstacles while still succeeding on the court.

  10. Washington State lands 2015 wing

    Sep 21, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptk4nzy1otaznzgznti5nzvjyjkzndi2nzezndk3nge2 AP

    Washington State picked up a commitment from a 2015 forward on Sunday.

  11. Former UC Irvine forward could make NFL debut with Arizona Cardinals

    Sep 21, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT

    darren fells Getty Images

    A former UC Irvine forward could make his NFL debut on Sunday with the Arizona Cardinals.

  12. Wisconsin lands commitment from 2015 forward

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:43 AM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    Wisconsin picked up a 2015 commitment on Sunday morning.

  13. LSU earns local commitment from the 2017 class

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    johnnyjones AP

    LSU is on the board in the 2017 class.

  14. Mixtape of elite 2016 five-star guard Kobi Simmons

    Sep 21, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    adidas adidas

    Five-star 2016 guard Kobi Simmons is electric.

  15. Three-star 2015 forward cuts list to seven

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:29 PM EDT

    Area Codes Basketball Area Codes Basketball

    Three Mountain West programs and one Big Ten program among the schools on the Las Vegas native’s list.

  16. Western Kentucky junior guard Ayinde Sprewell’s highlight reel (VIDEO)

    Sep 20, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Ray Harper Ray Harper

    The nephew of Latrell Sprewell will play his first season at WKU.

  17. Recruiting heavyweight jumps into mix for five-star 2015 point guard

    Sep 20, 2014, 7:50 PM EDT

    ISAIAH BRISCOE,BRUNO SANSIMONI ISAIAH BRISCOE,BRUNO SANSIMONI

    The elite PG from New Jersey had his first in-person meeting with Kentucky head coach John Calipari on Thursday.

  18. In-state point guard becomes West Virginia’s second 2016 commitment

    Sep 20, 2014, 6:18 PM EDT

    Bob Huggins AP

    The South Charleston HS floor general was one of the state’s best players last season, and he could prep for a year before joining the WVU program.

  19. High-scoring guard verbally commits to Stephen F. Austin

    Sep 20, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT

    Brad Underwood Brad Underwood

    The son of a former national champion has made a name for himself by scoring 28 points per game as a junior.

  20. Mount St. Mary’s gives extension to head coach Jamion Christian

    Sep 20, 2014, 3:35 PM EDT

    jamion christian Getty Images

    Mount St. Mary’s rewarded head coach Jamion Christian with an extension.