2007-08 Big Ten Preview

by Chris Mackinder | November 28th, 2007

For the first time in years the Big Ten’s “best” don’t include the names Illinois, Ohio State or Wisconsin. This season is expected to belong to Indiana and Michigan State while a handful of other teams fight for the third spot.

The big change in Big Ten country this season is two added conference games. Teams will now play eight other conference opponents twice (one home, one away) and two teams once each for a total of 18 contests. That in itself will beef up the schedule strength of every team in the conference.

While the ACC/Big Ten Challenge likely will bring heat on the Big Ten for the ninth straight season (the ACC is 8-0 all-time in the challenge), the Big Ten will have its flashes of brilliance in 2007-08, especially from the conference’s top two teams.

Indiana has one of the top freshmen in the country in guard Eric Gordon. Despite knowing the duration of its time with Gordon won’t be more than this season, the Hoosiers, still stocked with last season’s talent, won’t complain about the one year rent-a-player.

The Spartans return seven of their top eight scorers from last year’s campaign and add a trio of talented freshmen. With All-American guard Drew Neitzel leading the charge and Tom Izzo directing the troops, the hopes are high in East Lansing.

And then there are the middle-of-the-road teams, which aren’t too shabby by any means.

Thad Matta’s Ohio State Buckeyes are 81-22 in his three seasons in Columbus–an average of 27 wins per season. Although Ohio State lost four starters from last year’s team, a 7-footer and a few holdovers should keep the Buckeyes in the national spotlight.

The Wisconsin Badgers, with or without high-profile talent, always seem to be a force in the Big Ten. Six years at Wisconsin has brought Bo Ryan a 142-55 record. Don’t expect 30 wins again, but don’t count Wisconsin out of any game.

For the first time in his nine seasons as a coach, Bruce Weber has serious questions about his team. In his four years at Illinois, Weber’s Fighting Illini have averaged a 28-7 record. He’s done it with current NBA players Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Luther Head and also with current players Shaun Pruitt and Brian Randle. The big question for the 2007-08 season: can Weber do it again?

Tubby Smith enters the Big 10 picture with an experienced Minnesota team. Ed DeChellis finally has a roster laden with upper-classmen at Penn State. Necomer–and former West Virginia coach–John Beilein will try to bring Michigan back to the NCAA Tournament. Purdue will see if a Top-5 recruiting class can lead to another NCAA Tournament appearance. Iowa and Northwestern will try to stay out of the Big Ten cellar.

All in all, the conference has plenty of questions, but even more talent–both with players and with coaches–and should provide plenty of entertainment throughout the 2007-2008 season.

Projected Order of Finish:

1. Michigan State

2. Indiana

3. Ohio State

4. Wisconsin

5. Illinois

6. Purdue

7. Minnesota

8. Penn State

9. Michigan

10. Northwestern

11. Iowa


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