Tag Archive: Aaron Craft



A long while ago I posted my Big Ten 2011-2012 predictions.  Well after looking at them recently knowing for certain whose still at their school and what each school is bringing in, recruiting classes, I’m more or less dumbfounded at who I picked to finish where.  I gave some schools way too much credit and really slapped other teams in the face with my rankings.  So, I’m here today to share my revised Big Ten 2011-2012 mens basketball predictions.

1.  Ohio State Buckeyes

I still think it’s hard to argue that the Buckeyes are going to fall off the top.  Yeah so they’re losing one of the best 3 point shooters to ever play the game in Jon Diebler and a very solid defensive play in David Lighty.  But, the Buckeyes are returning their two top scorers and are bringing in 5 freshman that all received a 91 or higher grade from ESPN, including 4 ESPNU 100 players!  This team is going to be a force to be reckoned with this season.  They play games for a reason so we’ll see how they do.  Still expect high expectations from this squad as we all know Thad Matta is going to.

2. Wisconsin Badgers

I’ve moved Wisconsin up dramatically since my last rankings.  The Badgers are losing two of their top three scorers from last season but Jordan Taylor was only .3 ppg away from being the leading scorer for the Badgers….as a point guard.  Other than that the Badgers are bringing back a solid assortment of players including Josh Gasser, Mike Bruesewitz, and Ryan Evans.   As well as their recruiting class that’s pretty decent.  I don’t expect Wisconsin to lose many games at home this season, they do host the Buckeyes which will be very exciting to watch!

3. Michigan Wolverines

The Wolverines also received a very favorable boost since my last rankings.  After looking over their roster and incoming freshman I realized Michigan didn’t lose much.  Well, they lost Darius Morris but, are replacing him with Trey Burke.  Burke is a freshman but has the ability to distribute the ball more than effectively.  If you’re going to judge a player that hasn’t played yet at the point guard position look at Aaron Craft from Ohio State. True freshman last year for the Buckeyes. He was deadly and gave teams much difficulty.  Michigan is also bringing in shooting guard Carlton Brundidge (I see Carlton and instantly think of Fresh Prince of Bellaire).  Brundidge should be a valuable addition to the already decent shooting back court consisting of Zack Novak and Stu Douglas.  The Wolverines are going to surprise a lot of basketball fans that are expecting the same old no good, pushover Wolverines.  They’ll definitely be a fun team to watch!

4. Purdue Boilermakers

I’ve dropped Purdue down two spots. My reasoning? Simple, they lost two of Purdue’s all-time top 5 scorers! With JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore heading to the NBA due to graduating the Boilers are going to need some support players to step up big! Ryne Smith and D.J. Byrd to be exact. The Boilers do regain Robbie Hummel, whose been out due to knee injuries for most of the past two seasons.  I look for Lewis Jackson and Terone Johnson to step up and pick up the scoring loads that were lost from a season ago.  Defensively? I’m not worried about Purdue. They’ve always played tough, in your face, man-to-man defense that forces a ton of turnovers and I don’t see that changing any time soon.  This season for the Boilermakers is filled with many many question marks.  We’ll see how this squad performs but I still see them finishing with a moderate but successful season.

5. Indiana Hoosiers

Cody Zeller. IU's hot commodity

The Hoosiers also fall back a bit.  Let’s be honest. IU can’t do any worse this season than they did last year.  They’re not losing any of their top 5 scorers from last year and are bringing in an outstanding power forward Cody Zeller.  Zeller should help the Hoosiers out defensively and should be a factor on the offensive end of the floor as well.  Jordan Hulls returns and always seems to fire the Hoosiers up with his hustle play, which is underrated in my mind.  I love hustle players that produce as well.  I don’t see the Hoosiers going on the road to any of the top 4 on this list and beating them, except possibly Purdue due to their rivalry.  Expect good, not great, things out of the Hoosiers this season.  It’s almost a guarantee they’ll be much better than in seasons past.  Cheer up Hoosiers and enjoy a good season!

6. Illinois Fighting Illini

Yes, I realize the Illini are loosing 3 out of 3 of their top scorers from last season.  They’re also loosing Jereme Richmond to the draft.  Richmond had a lot of talent and even more potential to become and Illinois great, but left early for the draft. This could hurt the Illini. However, Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson are coming back and look to lead this team.  The Illini are also bringing in an NCAA top 15 recruiting class according to ESPN.  This class includes 4 ESPNU 100 recruits.  Not only are they ESPNU 100 recruits they also fill positions the Illini needed to fill! They’ll be tossed into the mix early but one can expect them to learn and handle it well.  This will absolutely be more of a learning season for Illinois but it’ll still be more successful than the other half of the conference, no doubt.

7. Minnesota Golden Gophers

It wouldn’t surprise me if the Gophers creep up just a little bit and possibly tie with Illinois or IU.  I believe the former is bound to happen though.  But, for this post I have them ranked at 7.  Minnesota returns their leading scorer Trevor Mbakwe but lose Blake Hoffarber.  Al Nolen is also gone from the mix but thankfully Ralph Sampson III is returning too.  The Gophers are returning a decent lineup but are adding two ESPNU 100 incoming freshman. Both play shooting guard and should split Blake Hoffarber’s spot last season.  They won’t be quite the leader Hoffarber was but they’ll split his scoring and be valuable 3rd option scorers.  I still think the Gophers have much growing to do but think they’ll be alright this coming season.

8. Michigan State Spartans

The Spartans dropped significantly from my last prediction post.  I didn’t realize how many players Michigan State lost (Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Korie Lucious, Delvon Roe, and some others).  The fore mentioned players were all valuable to the Spartans, and they still somehow accomplished underachieving dramatically last year.  Tom Izzo is bringing in a small class as well, but it does include an ESPNU 100 shooting forward Branden Dawson.  I predict it’s going to be a very stressful, learning season for the Spartans and their fans.  What makes it worse is that it starts with the Carrier Classic against #1 ranked North Carolina on November 11!  Get ready Spartan fans, this could be a long season for you.

9. Northwestern Wildcats

John Shurna will undoubtedly lead this team.  With Michael Thompson gone whose going to fill the distraction + productive role for the Wildcats? Drew Crawford? Incoming freshman PG Tre Demps? Honestly I have no idea.  I do know one thing though, Northwestern always seems to play teams extremely tough at home.  Including an upset against Purdue a couple seasons ago.  We’ll see how they finish but I don’t expect them to make the NCAA tournament but could see them having a presence in the NIT.

10. Nebraska Cornhuskers

They’re losing their top scorer from last season, Lance Jeter, who averaged 11.7 ppg.  That’ll force Jorge Brian Diaz to step up and put up bigger numbers for the Cornhuskers.  Losing 2 of their top 3 scorers + only a decent recruiting class + playing in a new conference = very moderate/disappointing season.  I still like their odds compared to Penn State and Iowa though!

12.  Iowa Hawkeyes and Penn State

I skipped to 12 because this is a tie to me.  Both teams have very little talent returning from last season. The talent they do have returning can be great team leaders and producers but in this conference it takes more than just one guy for a team to finish high.  Mix in the inexperienced incoming freshman and you have recipes for disaster.  Again, I don’t have much hope for these two teams, unfortunately for Iowa and Penn State faithful.  Even more unfortunate I’m probably correct with these assumptions.

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After hearing about early declarations to the NBA draft and who will be staying in college for at least one more year I think I have  a pretty solid grip on who should be in the top 5 for the preseason.  And here they are:

North Carolina looks forward to a promising season bringing a top recruiting class and returning class

1)  North Carolina. The Tar heels may not have one of most dominating recruiting classes but they have a very solid recruiting class including 2 top 100 ESPNU recruits.  What’s more impressive for the Tar heels are the players returning.  After winning the regular season ACC Title and an Elite 8 appearance the Tar Heels will return their top 3 scorers AND rebounders from that squad.  Also, they return all 5 of their starters.  Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and Kendall Marshall all decided to return to North Carolina. This is said to have influenced Harrison Barnes decision to stay as well.  I won’t talk too much about North Carolina’s two McDonald’s All Americans they have coming in.  These two kids will supplement a well experienced and tough squad.  I like North Carolina’s chances this coming season.

2)  Ohio State.  I like the Buckeyes here because they have some young talent coming back in Deshaun Thomas and Jared Sullinger.  They also have Aaron Craft coming back, who ran the point for the Buckeyes for most of last season, also a freshman (going to be a sophomore).  Even though they’re losing some senior leadership in David Lighty, Dallas Lauderdale, and Jon Diebler they have William Bufford to step up and take on the leadership role.  They also have a very solid recruiting class coming in including 4 ESPNU top 100 recruits, 2 of which are McDonald’s All Americans.  I look for the Buckeyes to reload and pick up where they left off and can see them possibly winning 30 games for the second straight season in a row.

3)  Kentucky.  The decision hasn’t been made quite yet on whether or not Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones will return to the Wildcats squad. Doron Lamb has also stated that he’ll be back for his sophomore season.  As of right now they have the top recruiting class according to ESPNU signing 4 top 100 recruits.  All of which are McDonald’s All Americans.  John Calipari seems to reload every season with an outstanding recruiting class, which I find a little questionable.  However, Kentucky is my favorite to win the SEC this coming season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make another run to the Final Four.

4)  Texas.  With Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson making the decision to come back Texas is going to be tough to beat.  Not to mention the return of J’Covan Brown (possibly the best 6th man of the past season) who can score lights out when on.  Texas also has the 5th best recruiting class according to ESPNU.  They have one McDonald’s All American joining there already tough squad.  I have a feeling with all the Kansas Jayhawks players leaving early Texas is the favorite in the Big 12.  I can also see Texas making a run to the National Championship game.

5)  Duke.  Even though the Blue Devils are losing Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler I feel the Blue Devils will be just fine.  They still have Mason Plumlee, Andre Dawkins, and Seth Curry coming back.  I can’t forget to mention Duke’s incredible recruiting class.  They have the 3rd best recruiting class according to ESPNU.  They’re bringing 5 top 100 high school recruits.  Including Austin Rivers and Mason Plumlee’s little brother, Marshall Plumlee (both are McDonald’s All Americans).  4 of Duke’s recruits are McDonald’s All Americans.  Here’s my equation that will produce Duke’s success for next season:

  • Incoming Talent (Recruits) + Returning Talent (Mason, Andre, and Seth) + Top 5 best all time coaches in the game (Coach Mike Krzyzewski) = Contender for ACC Title and Final Four appearance

I know that equation is pretty intense but it’s the most accurate and accepted equation amongst basketball fans, coaches, players, and so called experts.  I came up with it myself just so you all know.

These are my top 5 preseason picks for the upcoming 2011-2012 season.  Soon I will have up my 6-10 followed by my 11-25 preseason picks.  Hope you all enjoyed reading and I thank you for stopping by. Also, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on preseason picks!


Ohio State has hands down been the most consistent and dominating team all season.  Only slipping up to two tough Big Ten teams during the regular season.  Both losses were on the road at Wisconsin and at Purdue.  However, when they played these two teams at home both margins of victories were 20+ points.  That’s impressive.

David Lighty and Jon Diebler have had the hot shooting hands since the Big Ten tournament.  With Aaron Craft at the point distributing the ball to these two guys and Jared Sullinger Ohio State is a force to be reckoned with.  There’s not much that hasn’t been said about the Buckeyes this year and I have to agree with all that’s been said.  I dogged these guys late in December saying they would fall off once Big Ten play started but they shut me up quickly.  I have nothing but respect for this team.

Sullinger (0) and Buford (44) are the Buckeyes two leading scorers this season

Sullinger is leading the team with 17.2 ppg as a true freshman on the Big Ten regular season Champion team and the Big Ten Conference tournament Championship team.  The kid is a monster.  Just like Kansas he has a great supporting cast in William Buford, second on the team in scoring averaging 14.4 ppg.  I’ve already mentioned the likes of Jon Diebler and the hot hand of David Lighty.  These guys can score and shoot lights out on any given night.  I don’t have the numbers and couldn’t find them but I would guess they have the best shooting percentage of any team remaining during tournament play.

Not only can these guys score but they get after it on the defensive end.  Good old fashioned Big Ten basketball.  You have to love it.  They’re scrappy and in your face.  Their hardwork and focus is a complement to their talent.  I’ve always lived by the saying that, “Hardwork beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”.  Well good luck beating talent that does work hard.  Thad Matta has gotten his team to hit on every cylinder so far in this year’s tournament (all year for that matter) and I expect them to continue to do so.  I don’t see Kentucky being able to pull of the upset but they’ll give the bordering Buckeyes a good game.  To be honest I don’t see Marquette or UNC giving Ohio State much of a fight either. Once Ohio State gets by Kentucky it should be an easy Elite 8 game to advance to the Final Four.

Something to keep in mind.  Back in December I heard some “experts” talking about how Sullinger has given his word that he’ll play at least 2 seasons at Ohio State.  If he gets to the title game and even wins a national championship it could be the end of a beautiful relationship between Sullinger and the Buckeyes.  Just something to keep in mind.

To wrap it up I have my Final Four looking like this.  Ohio State meets the Uconn Huskies  in Houston while the Kansas Jayhawks face off with the Butler Bulldogs! There you have it folks.  I hope my picks have peaked your interest and I thank you for reading my posts!

–Ryan K.