This is a GREAT post. Thank you OP.
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So, consider this a Big Ten Primer. A lot of my impressions are from the B1G- ACC challenge, so small sample size AND watching 3 games at once caveats apply. Feel free to add/dispute/discuss below. As obvious from the rankings and hype, I wouldn’t be surprised if any combination of IU, OSU or UM are Final Four teams at the end of the year. I think everyone from Wisconsin up makes the tournament (7 teams) with Purdue and/or Northwestern having a chance to make it 8. Teams are listed in order from best to worst (in my view).
Indiana – This team is ridiculously good. Zeller is a beast inside and will be hard for anybody to handle. We’re going to need the Morgan that showed up against OSU and Sullinger to have a chance. They have no big weaknesses that I can tell, especially considering they were down 2 big men against UNC. We can definitely beat them, but it’s going to require one of our best games. Hulls is dangerous as a shooter as well as a passer. Oladipo is also dangerous as a slasher from the wing. Look for Trey to maybe take advantage of an (admittedly very good) freshman PG. I’m also not sure that they have enough perimeter defenders to stay with Hardaway, Stauskas and Burke.
Michigan – ACE has told you all about us. We have good bloodlines that are 1/15 canadian, 3/15 Hoosier and %131 Awesome.
Ohio State – If I was making a spread for an OSU-UM game it would be 0, possibly 2 or 3 pts to the home team. On defense, they have a bunch of long athletic defenders that will take chances. This will create some turnovers but also leaves them susceptible to easy shots off of off the ball cuts and screens. I am very scared of Spike trying to handle OSU’s pressure. On offense, Deshaun Thomas is Option A and has developed an outside shot I didn’t know he had. This team is dangerous because they also have players like Quintin Ross, Lenzelle Smith and Sam Thompson who are good enough to explode for a 15-20 pt game if given an opening. Aaron Craft will be good for 5-6 plays a game that will keep OSU in it or put the nail in the coffin. You will also want to punch him approximately %200 of the time. Craft can harass Burke like noone else really can, and both games against OSU will be toss-ups.
Michigan State – As always, a tough, hard nosed team, that rebounds and plays good defense. Adreian Payne spells his name just like a Spartan would, and leads the banging inside. However, the scoring will come from the Appling/Dawson/Harris backcourt. Appling is lightning quick and will give Burke problems with his speed. This could end up a PG shootout, and I’ll take our Preseason All-American in that situation. They are struggling now, but I think they get it together by the time we play them. This is not a team we will pull away from, but if UM stays tough down low and don’t let themselves get pushed around, MSU will stay at arm’s length. Not an easy game by any stretch, but should be a win at both Crisler and Breslin.
Minnesota – They might be the surprise team (at least to me) of the Big Ten. They play a reasonably up and down style. No one player really stands out. It’s a team full of people who can all move and score pretty well. I almost see them as playing similar to us this year, only not as talented. Mbakwe is relevant as a defensive presence and of taking the Robbie Hummer Senior Citizen award. They are definitely at the top of the 2nd tier of the Big Ten, and will probably pull an upset or 2 of the teams above them.
Illinois – Brandon Paul will shoot. A. Lot. Occasionally he will make a couple. Occasionally occasionally he will actually make enough of them that his coach will be happy he’s shooting that much. So far this year, the percentage looks sparkly, my prediction is that the percentage starts falling, but he keeps shooting just as much. They have that Buster Douglas puncher’s chance of upsetting anyone because of this.
Wisconsin – Your traditional Wisconsin team. They play hard nosed defense and will make you work for points. They play a Princeton type offense with a lot of cuts and ball screens, but with no Jordan Taylor like player to take over, they should be pretty harmless outside of Madison. I would expect GR3 to go off on this team since I see no one remotely capable of handling him. Dekker will be good, but he’s not a dominant player yet.
Purdue – They have 3 Johnsons to handle one ball, and I don’t think any of them do it particularly well. I think good defense can pressure this team into turnovers. They have no big time scorers (no one averages over 12). D.J. Byrd had a Stauskas like game against Clemson (21 pts, 6-11 from 3), but that will not continue. This is not a game we should lose in any circumstance.
Northwestern – Looked like a team filled with shooters, and no real big man to worry about. Another team with a Princeton like offense, but I think if UM was to play aggressively, Northwestern would turn the ball over. This is a game where McGary/Morgan may be able to break out and have big games. Also a possibility they get hot from 3 and pull off an upset.
Iowa - I did not really watch them, but they are not good. We should win by double digits.
Nebraska – They are still building something that may one day be called a basketball team. They had one player, Gallegos, who reminded me of Rip Hamilton with a lot of curls and shooting from the elbow, and making some of them. I choose to believe this was an aberration against a bad Wake Forest Team. Nebraska has no one and nothing we should at all be worried about. Should be a double digit win.
Penn Sate – Really Sucks. They were already bad with Tim Frazier, with him out for the year, there is no hope here.
[Edit: Corrected some minor spelling errors that were bothering me, "Robbie Hummer" was a mistake, but now I like it and it stays. Appreciate the feedback and added analysis from the commenters]