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Big Ten Hoops Preview

Let's forget about this football season for a minute and remember what the Big Ten is all about.

Tom Pennington

It seems like so long ago that everyone was picking Michigan State to win the national championship last March. It seems even longer when the general fan didn't know who Frank Kaminsky was, but Wisconsin is back and maybe better than Bo has ever put together in Madison. There isn't a true dominant figurehead in the conference, but that means it's up for the taking. So who wants it?

I'm going to miss Aaron Craft so much, but I also miss Jamelle Cornley. Life goes on. Five teams are representing the Big Ten in the preseason AP Top 25, led by the overwhelming favorite in Wisconsin. It's going to be a fun couple of months in preparation to Indianapolis. Let's see what everyone is bringing to the table this year.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Key Returnees: C Nnanna Egwu (6.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg), G/F Malcolm Hill (4.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg), G Kendrick Nunn (6.2 ppg, 1.7 rpg), G Rayvonte Rice (15.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Jaylon Tate (1.8 ppg, 1.9 apg)

Key Additions: F Leron Black (Fr.), G Aaron Cosby (Seton Hall transfer), G Ahmad Starks (Oregon State transfer)

Why they'll succeed: A lot of people, myself included, wanted to jump on this team as a sleeper last year. The depth has been built with the additions of Cosby and Starks to strengthen the guard position to a great extent. Both transfers averaged at least 10 points per game at their respective schools and can provide an outside shooting threat that can help take the pressure off of Rice. Just read this and you'll understand how committed the Illini big men are this year. Leron Black will be a name to know by the time conference season rolls around.

Why they'll fail: Not a lot leadership. The ACL injury to Tracy Abrams will seriously put a damper on the Illini in trying to find their way back to the NCAA tournament. Someone needs to take control of this team and distribute the wealth to the number of scoring options they have available.

Indiana Hoosiers

Key Returnees: G Yogi Ferrell (17.3 ppg, 3.9 apg), F Hanner Mosquera-Perea (2.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg), G Stanford Robinson (6.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg), F Troy Williams (7.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg)

Key Additions: C Jeremiah April (Fr.), G James Blackmon Jr. (Fr.), G Robert Johnson (Fr.), G Nick Zeisloft (Illinois State transfer)

Why they'll succeed: It's real simple: Yogi Ferrel and James Blackmon Jr. Let those guys do whatever they want with the basketball and Indiana will have a chance in a lot of games they play in.

Why they'll fail: I don't know who's available week-to-week to help those guys out. There may not a team in the country more ready for the season to start than Indiana. When the Hoosiers were as dominant as they were a couple years ago, they were a team. There is no resemblance of that 2012-13 team this year at all.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Key Returnees: G Anthony Clemmons (2.4 ppg, 1.3 rpg), G Mike Gesell (7.8 ppg, 3.9 apg), G Peter Jok (4.4 ppg, 0.9 rpg), G Josh Oglesby (6.6 ppg, 1.5 rpg), C Gabriel Olaseni (6.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg), F Jarrod Uthof (7.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg), F Aaron White (12.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg), C Adam Woodbury (5.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg)

Key Additions: G Trey Dickerson (JUCO transfer), F Dom Uhl (Fr.)

Why they'll succeed: Do you see who is back? Everyone except for Roy Devyn Marble is back with another year under Fran McCaffery's system. This team is ready to win now.

Why they'll fail: Someone has to become a valid second scoring option next to Aaron White. Adam Woodbury has to assert his dominance in the paint more. The final 10-15 games of last season better be gone from their memories or else it could be tough sledding in Iowa City.

Maryland Terrapins

Key Returnees: F JON FREAKIN' GRAHAM (1.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg), G/F Jake Layman (11.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg), F Evan Smotrycz (11.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg), G Dez Wells (14.9 ppg, 2.1 apg)

Key Additions: G Melo Trimble (Fr.), G Dion Wiley (Fr.), C Michal Cekovsky (Fr.)

Why they'll succeed: The Terps have guards that can get to the rim and a stretch man in Smotrycz with Big Ten experience and a killer jumper. If Trimble and Wiley can come into their own, this will be one of the next great backcourts in the Big Ten.

Why they'll fail: They're essentially playing a non-conference schedule all year long. It's so tough to play 18 games against teams that aren't on the schedule on a regular basis. It takes time, a lot of it, to study trends and tendencies from every conference team.

Michigan Wolverines

Key Returnees: G Spike Albrecht (3.3 ppg, 2.0 apg), G/F Zak Irvin (6.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg), G Caris LeVert (12.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg), G Derrick Walton Jr. (7.9 ppg, 2.9 apg)

Key Additions: G Kameron Chatman (Fr.), F Ricky Doyle (Fr.), F D.J. Wilson (Fr.)

Why they'll succeed: The Wolverines have one of the most complete backcourts you'll find with Walton Jr., Irvin and LeVert. Speaking of Caris, he's on the fast track of the "Burke-Stauskis-Hardaway Skills Progression Program" and will look to take the next step and be the next great Wolverine guard.

Why they'll fail: Not a lot of interior dominance on this game. Junior Max Bielfeldt is the only real low-post presence Michigan possesses this year and Jordan Morgan isn't running onto the floor anytime soon. At least, I think he finally graduated.

Michigan State Spartans

Key Returnees: F Matt Costello (4.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg), G/F Branden Dawson (11.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg), G Alvin Ellis III (1.9 ppg, 0.6 rebounds), F Gavin Schilling (1.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg), G Travis Trice (7.3 rpg, 2.3 apg), G Denzel Valentine (8.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg),

Key Additions: G Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn Jr. (Fr.), G Javon Bess (Fr.), G Eron Harris (West Virginia transfer)

Why they'll succeed: Tom Izzo is better at life than the average human being.

Why they'll fail: The worst Michigan State does is finish fifth in the Big Ten and still make a decent run in the NCAA Tournament. What do you mean they're going to "fail"?

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Key Returnees: C Elliott Eliason (5.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg), G Andre Hollins (13.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg), F Joey King (7.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg), G DeAndre Mathieu (12.0 ppg, 4.2 apg), F Maurice Walker (7.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg)

Key Additions: G Carlos Morris (Chipola College transfer), F Josh Martin (Fr.), G Nate Mason (Fr.)

Why they'll succeed: This team goes as far as Andre Hollins can carry them. It would make things a lot easier if Eliason and Walker eventually develop a scheme to be able to play with each other because those two on the floor together could be scary. Walker's publicized weight loss is still in progress and it's amazing how much he's been able to get himself into basketball shape since he got to Minnesota.

Why they'll fail: Depth at the guard position is unproven. In a perfect world, Hollins and Mathieu could play 40 minutes every night and not miss a beat, but the grind on the Big Ten schedule will call for some of the more unknown Gophers to play a more pivotal role.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Key Returnees: G Benny Parker (2.4 ppg, 1.0 rpg), G Terran Petteway (18.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg), F Walter Pitchford (9.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg), G David Rivers (5.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg), G/F Shavon Shields (12.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg), F Leslee Smith (5.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg) G Tai Webster (3.9 ppg, 2.0 apg)

Key Additions: C Moses Abraham (Georgetown transfer), G Tarin Smith (Fr.), F Jake Hammond (Fr.)

Why they'll succeed: Tim Miles is developing into a legend and the rotation is in full force for another performance in Lincoln.

Why they'll fail: All 13 counterparts in the BIg Ten know this is a team that can play to a high level. They'll get everyone's best shot. Let's see how this team does as one of the "hunted" and not one of the "hunters".

Northwestern Wildcats

Key Returnees: G Dave Sobolewski (5.0 ppg, 2.4 apg), G Tre Demps (11.0 ppg, 2.52 rpg), C Alex Olah (9.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg), G JerShon Cobb (12.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg)

Key Additions: G/F Vic Law (Fr.), G Bryant McIntosh (Fr.), F Gavin Skelley (Fr.), G Johnnie Vassar (Fr.), C Jeremiah Kreisberg (Yale transfer)

Why they'll succeed: If Chris Collins wants to be the head coach at Duke one day, then Northwestern will succeed.

Why they'll fail: This could be reminiscent of the old Ohio State teams that used to play Aaron Craft and Dallas Lauderdale off the bench and that was it. Outside of the Cobb-Demps-Law-Olah-Sobolewski starting rotation, there isn't a lot of proven depth on this team.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Key Returnees: G/F Marc Loving (4.4 ppg, 1.7 rpg), C Trey McDonald (2.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg), G Shannon Scott (7.5 ppg, 3.4 apg), G/F Sam Thompson (7.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg), C Amir Williams (7.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg)

Key Additions: G D'Angelo Russell (Fr.), G/F Jae'Sean Tate (Fr.), F David Bell (Fr.), F Anthony Lee (Temple transfer), F Keita Bates-Diop (Fr.)

Why they'll succeed: The best on the ball defender (Scott) in the country. Experience blended with talented youth and a transfer that can provide great depth at the forward spot. This Ohio State team has it all. This freshman class each provides something different from every prospect. Russell is your outside shooter the Buckeyes missed dearly last year and can get you 15-20 points on any given night. Tate is a "bad dude" meaning he's going to run you over on his way to the basket. He's another making of Kendrick Nunn, but maybe with a better initial burst off the dribble.

Oh, and Thad is there. I love everything about Thad.

Why they'll fail: If Thad can not get on Amir's private zone, they'll be alright. Sam Thompson can't be the human highlight reel anymore. He's got to evolve into a legitimate scorer to provide even more depth in the backcourt.

Purdue Boilermakers

Key Returnees: F Kendall Stephens (8.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg), F Basil Smotherman (5.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg), G Bryson Scott (6.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg), C A.J. Hammons (10.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg), G Rapheal Davis (6.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg)

Key Additions: C Isaac Haas (Fr.), F Vince Edwards (Fr.), F Jacquii Taylor (Fr.)

Why they'll succeed: It's an easy equation to figure out if Purdue finds themselves out of the bottom half of the BIg Ten. 1) A.J. Hammons realizes he can take over any college basketball game when he wants to and averages 20-23 points and 10-15 rebounds a game. 2) The outside shooting of Kendall Stephens continues from his stellar freshman season. It's going to be a treat watch this kid emerge along with Malcolm Hill (ILL), Nigel Hayes (WIS), Brandon Taylor (PSU) and VIc Law (NU) as some of the leagues best two-way players. 3) Matt Painter is on the hottest seat in the Big Ten entering this year, if Purdue is successful, then he may get his chance to continue riding the train.

Why they'll fail: That stuff about Matt Painter. Purdue hasn't lived up to expectations since they were ousted from the NCAA Tournament in the third round by VCU in 2011. It's now or never for Painter.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Key Returnees: F Junior Etou (5.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg), F Kadeem Jack (14.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg), F Malick Kone (3.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg), G Myles Mack (14.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg),

Key Additions: C Shaquille Doorson (Fr.), F/C Ibrahima Diallo (Fr.), D.J. Foreman (Fr.), G Mike Williams (Fr.), G Bishop Daniels (JUCO transfer)

Why they'll succeed: Ha! That's funny. They have a backcourt that can score in bunches and I remember last year when Nebraska was picked to finish last in the Big Ten.......I'M JUST SAYING!

Why they'll fail: See "Maryland Terrapins: Why they'll fail" above.

Wisconsin Badgers

Key Returnees: F Nigel Hayes (7.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg), G Traevon Jackson (10.7 ppg, 4.0 apg), F Duje Dukan (2.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg), F Sam Dekker (12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg), G Josh Gasser (8.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg), G Bronson Koenig (3.5 ppg, 1.2 rpg), F Frank Kaminsky (13.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg)

Key Additions: F Ethan Happ (Fr.), G T.J. Schlundt (Fr.)

Why they'll succeed: This is without a doubt one of the five best teams in the country with my favorite coach in the country running the show. They always succeed in a glorious manner.

Why they'll fail: Ebola infiltrates Madison.