Category: Players to Watch



The first State Farm Champions Classic has been filled with emotion and excitement. The first game ended with Coach Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils finishing off the Michigan State Spartans 74-69.  This game was significant in more ways than just one. Not only did this game start  the 3 year 4 team rotation that will be known as the State Farm Champions Classic but, it also set a new all-time record. As many of you know already Coach K has set the coaches win record surpassing Bob Knight with 903 career wins.

In my opinion Michigan State played a much better game than expected.  They really made the game exciting and Coach K’s victory that much more special.  Bob Knight and Jay Bilas were  in attendance at the game as commentators.  Coach K played his college ball under Bob Knight and coached Jay Bilas during Bilas’ college playing days.

As I sit here typing up this post the Kentucky/Kansas game is taking place and Kansas looks awful. Currently losing 48-37 with 12:55 left to go in the second half.  As I watch this game I think of what’s on the line for each team that is participating in this event.

Duke:

Duke seems to be the only team expected to give North Carolina a challenge. Well, at least everyone I’ve talked to thinks so.  Yes, North Carolina is going to be tough to beat but, so is Duke.  Duke has a lot of experience coming back and even though they lost some very very valuable and important assets from last season Duke brought in Austin Rivers, the highly talented freshman recruit and others.  It’s still very early on in the season and I expect freshman for any team to struggle a bit, which was Rivers’ case tonight against Michigan State. With Coach K in charge and the return of many talented players I look for Duke to make a Final Four appearance this season.

Michigan State:

This is undoubtedly a big ole question mark of a season for the Spartans and their loyal fans.  So far, they’re 0-2 but, they’ve played both North Carolina (Carrier Classic) and Duke.  Two extremely solid and talented teams.  Not the typical start of the season as most teams around the same caliber as Michigan State have played scrub teams.  It’s tough to say how well the Spartans will do this year but I think their fortunes will be much better than what I previously thought.  With two good showings this early in the season against top notch opponents I see this Spartan team to hit it’s stride right around Big Ten Tournament play and surprise some teams.

Kentucky: 

Kentucky is completely dominating this Jayhawks team. This team is very intense and solid. Though they started out a little sloppy and seemed to be overly selfish in the first half they’ve come out in this second half and have played exemplary team basketball. They’ve began sharing the ball and getting the KU defenders out of place and most importantly have hit their open shots that they’ve earned.  On the defensive end on the floor they’ve played outstanding team defense! If a KU ball handler gets by his defender he’s almost immediately cut off by help side D.  I think this is good news and will just keep UK fans running their mouth about how awesome UK is.  Little do they know, Calipari will have screwed them over like he did Memphis when the NCAA finds out he cheated…..again.  Overall? Should be a solid season for UK but I see Vanderbilt surprising this team and making the SEC interesting.

Kansas:

Simply looks terrible. Not the KU team fans are used to seeing in Lawrence.  If Kansas can’t find a few more options to lean on throughout the season it’ll be a long season for KU fans.  If Elijah Johnson continues to believe he needs to be the leading scorer, assist man, and the team KU could be in trouble.  Let’s hope they learn from this loss and can turn it up a ton of notches and compete in the Big XII.  If not, Baylor just may run away with it this season on the Big XII.


The frist ever game to be played on a ship will take place this Friday! The game will be on a Navy carrier on Veterans Day in support of the duties and sacrifices all service men and women give freely to this great country, America. 

The first ever Carrier classic is between, highly favored to win the National Championship, North Carolina and Michigan State.  Needless to say this should be an interesting season for the Spartans. Having lost almost all of their starters and leading scorers from a season ago should lead to a frustrating season for Spartan fans.  But, never count Tom Izzo out. He’s one of the best NCAA coaches and has potential to surprise the doubters, which includes me. 

Let’s take a look at this matchup.  The Tar Heels have a loaded team.  They literally lost just under 10 points per game from a season ago (Justin Knox and Larry Drew II who together averaged 9 ppg).  They also have an incredible freshman class coming into Chapel Hill this season.  With Barnes and Zeller teaching the young guys what it means to be a Tar heel and to lead this team NC fans will have a lot to cheer and brag about.

Now compare that to the Michigan State Spartans. The Spartans had a promising team last season and high expectations but, they didn’t perform well and lost a few games in non-conference play and were slaughtered by a Purdue Boilermaker team that was hosting the College Gameday staff.  On top of that disappointing season the Spartans also lost practically their entire team. Draymond Green returns, which should give some light and hope, to lead this dwindled down group.  The Spartans, in their entire returning class, have a lousy 38% of their scoring returning.  Compare that to the Tar Heels who have 93% of last years scoring coming back. 

With many unanswered questions on this Spartan squad this is not the way I would want to start the 2011-2012 season.  Taking on this tough and favorable North Carolina team could lead to a beat down.  I see the Tar Heels walking away with the first Carrier Classic Trophy: ( Pictured Below). 

 


In this post I’m going to give you, the reader, my picks for the SEC this season. You may be wondering, “Does this guy know the division is split?”. Yes, I do. I’m going to format who I believe will win the SEC East and the SEC West. Then, I’ll predict the SEC Championship matchup and overall champion of the SEC in 2011-2012. 

SEC West

1. Alabama Crimson Tide—> The Tide have 3 of their most dangerous players returning and are adding two ESPNU 100 recruits.  Remember, Alabama was royally  screwed last season being one of the tougher bubble teams that was excluded from the NCAA tournament. They’ll have some fire and a chip on their shoulder and will win the SEC West outright!

2. LSU Tigers—> Tigers have 4 of their top scorers returning and are adding a tough power forward (Johnny O’Bryant PF ESPNU 100).  They’re experience will help them beat most teams this year and should give Alabama good, tough competition.

3. Arkansas Razorbacks—> Razorbacks have their second leading scorer returning and are bringing in an outstanding recruiting class that includes three ESPNU top 100’s.

4. Mississipi State Bulldogs—> Once you get passed the first three teams in the SEC West the bottom three are a toss up. When I compare them with who they have returning and who they’re bringing in against Auburn and Ole Miss I see Mississip State being the front runner of the group. 

5. Ole Miss Rebels—> Losing their top two scorers/leaders should show some problems, flaws, and weaknesses in this lineup.  They’re above Auburn simply due to their superior recruiting class. 

6. Auburn Tigers—> Auburn loses their two leading scorers from a season ago. But, they could be the team that upsets and surprises a few teams around the league, however, I don’t see them having too much success this season.

SEC East

The East undoubtedly includes the toughest teams in the SEC this season.  Vandy, Kentucky, and Florida should be fun to watch this year as they battle it out.  Here’s how I believe it’ll play out.

1. Vanderbilt Commodores—> Vanderbilt is not only returning a stunning 7 top scorers but are also bringing in two ESPNU 100 recruits.  The Commodores were a team last season that had a shot to win the SEC.  Their experience and talent should be a great combination to lead them to hold the SEC East crown at the end of conference play.

2. Kentucky Wildcats—> Kentucky is losing Knight, Liggins, and Harrellson. Three main guys from last years team. But, they’re bringing in one of the nations best recruiting classes that consists of 4 ESPNU 100’s.  Terrence Jones and Lamb look to lead this squad to an extremely successful season. However, Calipari’s past shows that he’s unable to lead great teams to championships (Memphis lost the lead in 2008 National Championship).  I see him not leading this team to the SEC Championship game. 

3. Florida Gators—> Florida will be that sleeper team. Good experience coming back and some talented recruits. I don’t see them containing the necessary consistency it takes to win the SEC East this year.

4. South Carolina Gamecocks—> Returning their top scorer and bringing in two extremely talented recruits should allow them to finish in the middle of the pack in the SEC East.

5. Georgia Bulldogs—> Losing very talented and experienced players, including two leading scorers, and are only bringing in 1 extremely valuable recruit. I expect this to be a rebuilding season for the Bulldogs.

6. Tennesse Volunteers—> Losing much of their squad from last year and accomplishing to bring in promising talent will lead to an extremely frustrating year for Volunteer fans.  Rebuilding is one word to describe how this season will be for Tennesse.

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

I see this matchup coming down to Alabama and Vanderbilt.  I think Vanderbilt’s experience, talent, and desire to win to be the victor of this meeting.  Though, I wouldn’t count the Crimson Tide out. They still have that chip on their shoulder from not making the NCAA tournament last season. It’ll be a very fun and interesting game to watch nonetheless!


The ACC is set to have an epic season battle for 1st place.  Too bad this battle will only be between two teams this year, North Carolina and Duke.  Although, Virgina and Virginia Tech have chances to pull some upsets against these two teams to make things interesting.  The rest of the ACC? Honestly, it’s one huge toss up to see who will finish between 4th and 12th.  Here is how I see it playing out in the ACC.

1. North Carolina

The Tarheels are ranked  #1 in all of the preseason polls.  I hate to follow the mainstream here but it’s hard to argue that North Carolina has the best team on paper.  Some would argue for Ohio State but lets get real.  North Carolina is returning all of their top 7 scorers from a year ago. This includes both Plumlee brothers and Tyler Zeller.  They’re also bringing in 2 ESPNU 100 recruits to add support. 

                                                                                                     2. Duke Blue Devils

I see Duke being an extremely difficult team to beat this season. They’ll definitely give North Carolina a run for their money.  The only set back Duke has? Losing Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler.  However, Duke is bringing in 5 extremely high quality recruits. Did I mention those 5 recruits were high quality? Try having the pleasure of bringing in 5 ESPNU 100 recruits in a single season. Good things are bound to happen. 

 

3. Virginia Vavaliers

Virginia has a pretty solid team this season. They’ll battle every game and give Duke and the Tarheels some nail biters! Though the Cavaliers lost Mustapha Farrakhan (second leading scorer with 13.5 ppg last year) they’re bringing in two ESPNU 100 recruits.  Experience and young talent will allow them to compete in the ACC this year.

4. Virginia Tech Hokies

The loss of Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen will really hurt the Hokies this year. But, they’re bringing in 3 ESPNU 100 recruits that’ll help them suceed this year.  Due to the lack of talent and experience elsewhere in the ACC this year I put the Virginia Tech up this high.

5. Miami Hurricanes—-> The Hurricanes have solid experience coming back to lead this bunch.

6. Maryland—-> Maryland lost many keys to success from last season but they have a stud returning in Terrell Stoglin. He’ll be able to carry this team to at least a 6th place finish in the ACC this year.

7. Boston College Eagles—> Losing most of their staff from last season they’ll struggle early on.  But, I see their recruiting class catching stride late in the season and pulling the Eagles out of the depths of the ACC.

8. Wake Forest Demon Deacons—> The Deacons are losing some good talent from last year.  Luckily Travis McKie is returning and looking for a breakout season.  They should be alright but will struggle with ACC oponents this year.

9. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets—> The loss of Iman Shumpert will hurt the Yellow Jackets significantly.  They do have 1 ESPNU 100 recruits coming in but, it won’t be enough to catapult this team into the top half of the conference.

10. Florida State Seminoles—> Losing one of the most feared defensive players and rebounders in the league from a season ago, Chris Singleton, should have a huge negative impact on this Seminole team.  Antwan pace (ESPNU 100 recruit) should be able to put points on the board but his lack of defensive and overall college experience will keep him from having the same impact as Chris Singleton had.

11. North Carolina State Wolfpack—> Not much going for the Wolfpack this year.  They’ll struggle throughout the entirety of the season.

12. Clemson Tigers—> The Tigers only have one double-digit scorer per game returning from last season. They’ll struggle just like the Wolfpack this season.


I’ve been on a short hiatus.  Sometimes work and life just keep you from doing things you’d rather be doing. But, I’m back again with some more predictions.  This time I’m going to touch on the Big XII.  Later this week, hopefully later tonight or tomorrow I’ll have ACC predictions for this season. These predictions will be similar to the Big East predictions, however, I’ll have a quick explanation for my picks. 

1. Baylor Bears

I think Baylor has a really good chance at winning the Big XII this season. Yes, they’re losing a very key player in LaceDarius Dunn but, They’re bringing back some experienced talent in Perry Jones III and Quincy Acy (Who’s looked upon to fill Dunn’s absence).  Baylor is also bringing in some raw talent in their recruting class.  Quincy Miller could play a vital role for the Bears this season at the Power Forward position and give them an added lift.

2. Kansas Jayhawks

I’m well aware of the fact that Kansas is losing pretty much their entire team from last season (Morris twins, Tyrel Reed, Josh Selby, Brady Morningstar, and Mario Little).  The Jayhawks are bringing in two ESPNU 100 recruits, Ben McClemore and Naadir Tharpe.  They also have some good experienced talent coming back, just not as many players as Baylor has coming back though.  Don’t count Bill Self out either.  Since being at Kansas Self hasn’t won the Big XII only once.  He always has his team ready to perform and kansas may very well jump back on top and assume control over the Big XII. 

3. Oklahoma State Cowboys

This may seem like a surprisingly high pick for the Cowboys, and I’d have to agree. But, I like who they have coming back and they seem to bring a battle with them every game.  Look for them to win many close games and climb towards the top of the Big XII this season.

4. Missouri Tigers—> There’s been much talk about the Tigers leaving the Big XII this year. Who cares? They’r bringing back all 5 of their top 5 scores from a season ago, all of which averaged 10.0+ ppg.   Experience + Talent = promising season.

5. Texas Longhorns—> Some may want the Longhorns finishing higher, as would every fan, but I don’t see them having the success they’ve had in the recent past. They not only lost a ton of talent with all that left but they also lost a ton of experience. Yes, the Longhorns are bringing in some good talent but they’re inexperienced. I put Texas up this high only due to the lack of depth, talent, and experience in the Big XII. 

6. Kansas State Wildcats—> K State lost Jacob Pullen, arguably the best player Kansas State has seen in the past 25 years.  Curtis Kelly also left the Wildcats. Leaving them without two of their top three scorers. The Wildcats are bringing  in a big and talented class but they’ll need more than that in order to be successful in the Big XII this season.

7. Oklahoma Sooners—> The Sooners are only losing their top scorer from last season and Nick Thompson who earned solid minutes last season. Losing Cade Davis could prove to be huge but with Oklahoma relying solely on experience this coming season I think they’ll do alright.

8. Texas A&M Aggies—> The Aggies are bringing back their top two scores from last season and are bringing in an ESPNU 100 Point Guard, Jamal Branch. This combination will allow them to win some games they may have lost a few years ago.

9. Texas Tech Red Raiders—> The Red Raiders are losing 4 of their top 5 scorers from last year. This will prove to be a huge problem. They’re bringing in a good recruiting class but the lack of experience and leadership will prove to be too much to handle for Texas Tech this year in the Big XII.

10. Iowa State Cyclones—> The addition of Korie Lucious, from Michigan State, (if he’s eligible this season) won’t be enough for immediate success this year.  The Cyclones lost a bunch of talent, leadership, and experience and it will take some time to get back to where they once were, which wasn’t all that impressive to begin with.


Now, you all may be wondering why my blog is called koonskollegebball and not koonsonlywritesaboutbigtenbball.  Well to be honest I love college basketball all the same. However, like every other fan I have my loyalties to my favorite team(s) and am simply a huge fan of the Big Ten and while I’m getting back into this I’m focusing my attentions towards something I’m familiar and comfortable with.  In this post I’ll share with you my grades for each Big Ten schools’ 2011 incoming freshman (2011 Recruiting Class).  My grades are based on a 4.0 grading scale just an FYI. 

Number one overall: Ohio State Buckeyes  3.9 A

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Shannon Scott

PG

96

X

Amir Williams

C

95

X

Sam Thompson

SF

95

X

LaQuinton Ross

SF

95

X

Trey McDonald

C

91

 

Ohio State is filling a vital backup role for Aaron Craft with Shannon Scott at the point guard position.  The Buckeyes are also fulfilling awaited departures from Jared Sullinger and other front court players.  Four of their recruits are ESPNU 100 Recruits.  That’s amazing. The reason why they received an A and a 3.9 grade from me, Professor Koons. 

2. Illinois Fighting Illini  3.7 A

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Nnanna Egwu

C

94

X

Tracy Abrams

PG

92

X

Mike Shaw

PF

92

X

Mycheal Henry

SF

92

X

Devin Langford

SF

91

 

Ibrahima Djimde

C

87

 

The Illini put together an extremely solid recruiting class.  At first glance at Illinois’ roster you see many freshman and notice the loss of the Illini’s 3 top scorers from last season.  I’m not saying a solid recruiting class will have all the answers to these losses but Illini faithful should rest a little easier knowing they have some hot talent in Champaigne for a few more years……hopefully.

3. Indiana Hoosiers  3.4 A-

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Cody Zeller

PF

97

X

Austin Etherington

SF

91

 

Remy Abell

PG

87

 

IU brings in Cody Zeller, the #4 ranked Power Forward in this class.  I see Zeller being the only freshman tossed into a starting role, if not he’ll get solid playing time.  As for the other two I believe they’ll get minutes and build experience to increase their value in the years to come.  I give IU such a high grade solely on the signing of Zeller. He’s gotten a ton of hype and if he can live up to that hype in the near future this grade will have been earned and not given. 

4. Wisconsin Badgers 3.25 A-

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Jarrod Utoff

PF

92

 

Frank Kaminsky

C

92

 

George Marshall

PG

88

 

Traevan Jackson

SG

88

 

Jordan Smith

SG

77

 

The Badgers have added a dependable class this season.  They failed to sign an ESPNU 100 recruit but Bo Ryan does a really good job of not only getting good recruits that fit his system but he does and outstanding job developing his players to play in his system.  These five recruits have a lot of talent and I predict in a few years this will be the team everyone will be looking out for and talking about in the Big Ten. 

5. Michigan Wolverines 3.2 A-

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Carlton Brundidge

SG

94

X

Trey Burke

PG

93

 

Max Bielfedt

PF

87

 

The loss of Darius Morris is huge to the Wolverines who would have had one of the top returning groups in the Big Ten.  However, Michigan is bringing in Trey Burke who receieved a 93 grade from ESPN at the point guard position.  It’s always tough starting a freshman…especially at the point guard spot. But, Aaron Craft did it last season for OSU and look how successful they were! Though this recruiting class is small for the Wolverines I like what they’re bringing in and it will be very interesting to see how they do these next couple years. 

6. Michigan State Spartans 3.1 A-

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Branden Dawson

SF

96

X

Brandan Kearney

SG

91

 

Travis Trice

PG

90

 

This is a good class for the Spartans. They lost pretty much the entirety of their back court from last season. As you can see they’re bringing in three 90+ ESPN ranked guards. These three may not have huge impacts instantly but give them at least a year to grow and I see these guys possibly becoming the next Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore, and JuJuan Johnson for the Spartans. 

7. Minnesota Golden Gophers 3.0 A-/B+

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Andre Hollins  

SG

93

X

Joe Coleman

SG

92

X

Julian Welch

SG

40

 

Andre Ingram

PF

40

 

With the Gophers losing both Hoffarber and Al Nolen the two ESPNU 100 Shooting Guards are a huge addition for Minnesota.  I look to the top two Gopher recruits to have exceptional freshman seasons! With the low grades of the other two Gopher recruits Hollins and Coleman really boost the grading curve for this incoming class. 

8. Purdue Boilermakers 2.85 B+

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Jacob Lawson  

PF

91

 

Donnie Hale

PF

91

 

Purdue didn’t land many recruits whatsoever but they landed some prospects in a much needed area.  The Boilers front court is very thin and lacks talent.  If Lawson recovered well from his knee injury he suffered last season he should be a valuable asset to the Boilermakers right from the get go.  I look for Donnie Hale to get solid minutes as a freshman and by his Junior year him and Lawson will be forces to reckon with. Should be an interesting season for Boiler nation to say the least. 

9. Northwestern Wildcats 2.8 B+

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

Tre Demps  

PG

90

 

Mike Turner  

PF

88

 

David Sobolewski

PG

85

 

Northwestern brings in a small but rather talented class that’ll fit into their style of play pretty easily.  I don’t believe they’ll have a huge impact early on in their careers with the Wildcats but they should turn out to be solid players in their later years with the Wildcats.

10.  Nebraska Cornhuskers 2.75 B

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

ESPNU 100

David Rivers  

SF

90

 

Corey Hilliard

PG

88

 

Josiah Moore

SG

88

 

Dylan Talley

SG

40

 

I’m not too familiar with Nebraska just yet. I’ll have to watch some of their games when they’re on the tube and do some scouting. But, the Cornhuskers did lose most of their scoring from a year ago and have brought in some solid guards and a shooting forward to help fill the voids. We’ll see how the Cornhuskers do this season and I’ll have more expertise on them as the season goes on. 

11 and 12. Iowa and Penn State tie with a B 2.7 grade. 

Name

Position

ESPN Grade

Team 

Ross Travis

SF

89

Penn State

Pat Ackerman

C

88

Penn State

Trey Lewis

PG

88

Penn State

Peter Alexis

C

87

Penn State

Matt Glover

SG

40

Penn State

Josh Ogelsby

SG

91

Iowa

Aaron White

SF

89

Iowa

Gabe Olaseni

C

40

Iowa

There’s really not much hope for these recruits with the schools they’ve chosen to attend…immediately that is. I feel that all but two of these recruits will have a valuable impact on their respected squads in the years to come. Only time will tell though!

I can’t wait for this season to get under way!

 


As the 2011-2012 mens college basketball season is quickly approaching I’m starting to think more and more of which players I, and the rest of the world, should watch for.  So far I’ve only taken a look at the Big Ten and have come up with the top 21 players I think will have the biggest impacts for their teams.  Obviously the #1 player I believe will have the biggest impact and is the guy everyone should pay the most attention to.

Michigan Wolverines

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#1 Tim Hardaway Jr.

13.9

3.8

1.7

.420

.765

# 17 Zach Novak

*3Pt %=.385

8.9

5.8

1.6

.383

.831

Tim Hardaway Jr. I feel will have the biggest impact for his team in the Big Ten.  He’s young and committed to being a star.  I foresee his near 14 ppg last season to rise significantly as he’ll have to take on more of a scoring load for the Wolverines.  When this starts happening I see teams keying him and doing their best to take away as many scoring opportunities from him as possible forcing him to distribute the ball to his teammate Zach Novak.  As you can see Novak basically shot 39% from behind the arc for Michigan last season.  That’s one heck of an average  and if he can keep that up it’ll be a great season for the Wolverines and their fans.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#2 Jared Sullinger

17.2

10.2

1.2

.541

.784

#11 William Buford

14.4

3.9

2.9

.462

.843

Jared Sullinger was possibly the best player in the Big Ten last season. He’s unarguably the best freshman in the Big Ten. He’s back for round two with the Buckeyes and I’m interested to see how he responds to such a successful first season with the Buckeyes.  He averaged a double-double last season and I don’t see that to change much.  However, his points per game may drop a bit for I see teams working on doubling him up when he gets the ball down low.  The only thing that worries me about Sullinger is his Field Goal percentage.  For a big man he shoots just over 50%.  This is absolutely something that he needs to improve.  Ohio State also has 5th year senior William Buford returning to help lead the Buckeyes.  With the anticipation of double teams on Sullinger I see Buford’s role in scoring to go up.  Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes point guard, will have many options, as he did last season, to distribute the ball to. Having these two guys back increases your chances to succeed significantly.

Purdue Boilermakers

Boiler fans look forward to seeing this image erased from memory when Hummel takes to the court this season

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#3 Robbie Hummel

*2009-2010 stats

15.7

6.9

2.1

.456

.902

#9 Lewis Jackson

8

3.2

4

.503

.716

#15 Jacob Lawson

Incoming Freshman

Robbie Hummel is undoubtedly a huge key to success for the Boilermakers this season.  When thinking back to last season if Robbie Hummel wouldn’t have gotten hurt I think the Big Ten would have turned out quite differently and Purdue would have made the Final Four.  It will definitely be interesting to see how Robbie comes out of his second tear to his ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament).  The Boilermakers will be leaning on his leadership and abilities no doubt.  Lewis Jackson also surprised many critics last season with his terrific play. He took much better care of the ball than in past years and also became a well accepted 3rd/4th option scorer.  I only see Jackson picking up where he left off and his skills and knowledge of the game are vital for the Boilermakers to have success this upcoming season.  As for Jacob Lawson, it’s been rumored that he’ll be the starting at center for the Boilermakers.  For those unaware Lawson too is coming off a knee injury he suffered last season (high school).  Lawson was the top ranked recruit Purdue has coming in and big things are expected out of him early.

Minnesota Gophers

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#4 Trevor Mbakwe

13.9

10.5

1.3

.582

.629

#7 Ralph Sampson III

10.2

5.4

1.6

.471

.739

Minnesota may struggle this season with the loss of Hofbarber.  With this well known fact to Tubby Smith and his team they’ll need both Mbakwe and Sampson III to step up big and take not only huge leadership roles but they’ll both need to take on an extra emphasis on scoring.  These two are no doubt impact players and should be fun to watch this year.  With Minnesota’s home court advantage it should be very interesting to see how these two can control games and put up big numbers to lead their Golden Gophers to victories.

Wisconsin Badgers

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#5 Jordan Taylor

18.1

4.1

4.7

.433

.832

# 14 Mike Bruesewitz

4.6

3.1

1

.471

.759

The Wisconsin Badgers are losing some key players from last season. Mainly Jon Leuer.  Jordan Taylor posted an impressive 18 ppg last season at the point guard position.  It’s going to be very interesting to see how he responds to losing two other top 5 scores from last season’s squad.  Taylor has the ability to get through the lane and to the bucket. He also has the finishing ability to drive opposing coaches crazy.  It’s no secret that Mike Bruesewitz is going to have to step his game up to support Taylor and Bo Ryan in hopes of obtaining the Big Ten Title and a deep run into the NCAA Tournament. Bruesewitz is mostly known as a hustle player and his determination and hustle helps boost his value for the Badgers.  If he can improve his game and mix his improved skills with his hustle and determination he’ll be a much more valuable asset to Bo Ryan and his teammates.

Indiana Hoosiers

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#6 Cody Zeller

*Incoming Freshman

#8 Christian Watford

16

5.4

1.1

.422

.843

#12 Verdell Jones III

12.5

3.3

3.2

.448

.672

Cody Zeller is one of the highest, top-ranked recruits for this incoming freshman class.  His impact on the Hoosiers could play a huge factor on how well the Hoosiers do this season.  Watford averaged 16 ppg and Verdell averaged 12.5 ppg.  If Zeller is even half the player people expect him to be I look for these numbers to drop just a bit.  However, I think Watford’s rebounds per game need to improve if the Hoosiers want consistent success, especially in Big Ten play, this season.  Verdell’s shooting percentage as a guard alarms me.  His low percentage explains all too well IU’s recent lack of success.  If Zeller plays halfway up to expectations, Watford increases his boards per game, and Jones III increases his shooting percentage by taking better shots and getting to the basketball Indiana  could pull off one of the biggest turn a rounds in any program’s history.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#10 Brandon Paul

9

3.1

2.1

.399

.767

# 16 D.J. Richardson

8.4

1.8

1.9

.415

.758

The Fighting Illini lost a bunch of valuable assets from last year’s team.   Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson both have the ability to step their game up to the point where they lead Illinois to a very successful season. Both of these players being guards they’ll have to up their rebounds per game to help the weak inside game of this team.  These two players will also be forced to pick up the scoring responsibilities if they want team success this year.  One place to start, improve free throw shooting.  Shooting 75% from the charity stripe isn’t bad but both players need to step it up a few notches and take advantage of the opportunities presented to them at the free throw line.

Northwestern Wildcats

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#13 John Shurna

*3pt %= .434

16.6

4.9

2.6

.481

.707

As in the recent past Northwestern’s  success depends on the play of John Shurna.  Shurna has the ability to light up the score board from behind the arc. If he gets hot he’s almost unstoppable.  His field goal and three point percentages are both higher than 40% which is every coaches dream.  If Shurna and the Wildcats can catch a few more breaks they’ll have a chance to surprise many teams in the Big Ten this season.  Shurna, if healthy, is always a ton of fun to watch and I’ll be keeping my eyes out for him throughout the season.  Look for Shurna to turn to his shooting abilities to lead the Wildcats to some interesting upsets.

Michigan State Spartans

Name

2010-2011 stats

Points/game

Rebounds/game

Assists/game

FG %

FT %

#18 Draymond Green

17.6

8.6

4.1

.426

.683

With Michigan State losing most of its scoring from last season the Spartans are going to have to rely on Draymond Green to step up and take on the scoring load. 17.6 points per game is a lot but he, and the Spartans, are going to need more.  Michigan States Success depends on Green’s success.

Team Name Rank
Iowa Matt Gatens # 19
Nebraska Jorge Brian Diaz # 20
Penn State Tim Frazier # 21

These three teams need these players to step up and lead them on their journey this upcoming season.  In order for these teams to have any success they each need their main/star player to have strong seasons in hopes of making it into the pool for the NCAA Tournament.

For your liking to compare these players in their play last year (or otherwise specified).

Name 2010-2011 stats Points/game Rebounds/game Assists/game FG % FT %
#1 Tim Hardaway Jr.

13.9

3.8

1.7

.420

.765

#2 Jared Sullinger

17.2

10.2

1.2

.541

.784

#3 Robbie Hummel

*2009-2010 stats

15.7

6.9

2.1

.456

.902

#4 Trevor Mbakwe

13.9

10.5

1.3

.582

.629

#5 Jordan Taylor

18.1

4.1

4.7

.433

.832

#6 Cody Zeller

*Incoming Freshman

#7 Ralph Sampson III

10.2

5.4

1.6

.471

.739

#8 Christian Watford

16

5.4

1.1

.422

.843

#9 Lewis Jackson

8

3.2

4

.503

.716

#10 Brandon Paul

9

3.1

2.1

.399

.767

#11 William Buford

14.4

3.9

2.9

.462

.843

#12 Verdell Jones III

12.5

3.3

3.2

.448

.672

#13 John Shurna

*3pt %= .434

16.6

4.9

2.6

.481

.707

# 14 Mike Bruesewitz

4.6

3.1

1

.471

.759

#15 Jacob Lawson

Incoming Freshman