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PURDUE MENS BASKETBALL:
1997-98 Big Ten BB Predictions




Date: 8/27/97
Author: Rufus Talladega
Rufus Talladega

    1997-98 Big Ten BB Predictions


    Well ... it's time again to scavenge the closets for your crystal balls
    and Ouija boards and try to foretell the next Big Ten Basketball Champion.
    You have to do it before anyone else does so you can brag you were the
    first one to "know" it. Because that six-pack of Blatz beer is on the line
    (the loser is forced to drink it). And if you're completely wrong and you
    survive your drinking punishment ... well, you develop amnesia about
    Big Ten BB and start focusing your attention on spring baseball practice.

    Believe it or not (skeptics need not apply), I actually have some luck
    with this. Now, what makes my predictions a bit different from most of
    the Merlins and Madame Zarbos out there is that I'll actually present
    information and facts to back my perspective up.

    Whoa! A dated concept, I know. Using facts in sports analysis went
    out the window as soon as Hard Copy aired ... but bear with me. You
    just might enjoy it.

    First, let's look at how the Big Ten finished last year. Now, this isn't
    conjecture. This is actually as official as it gets. So don't have hurt
    feelings if your team isn't ranked that high. We all have to do our
    own little parts to deal with reality.

    1996-97 Big Ten Basketball Final Standings

    1. Minnesota
    2. Iowa
    2. Purdue
    4. Illinois
    4. Wisconsin
    6. Michigan State
    6. Indiana
    6. Michigan
    9. Ohio State
    10. Penn State
    11. Northwestern

    Many things have transpired since those standings, though. Horrible,
    gut-wrenching things to some Big Ten programs. Major personnel changes
    occurred to some Big Ten programs. Some programs changed very little.
    Overall, I would say the action that transpired in most of these
    programs was pretty intense. Thus, I predict some major shake-ups in the
    hierarchy of the Big Ten conference. As I defend my predictions, I'll try
    to enlighten you of the major highlights of occurrences for each program.

    The information I've gathered on these programs is not infallible.
    However, almost all of it has been contributed from at least two different
    sources (and the Ouija board doesn't count). Any information I'm unclear
    about I'll try to point out. If you find any information inaccurate-
    please let me know. I'll attempt to clear it up.

    Rufus Talladega's Predictions for the 1997-98 Big Ten Final Standings

    (8/25):

    1. Purdue
    2. Iowa
    3. (Tie) Indiana
    3. (Tie) Wisconsin
    5. Minnesota
    6. (Tie) Michigan
    6. (Tie) Michigan State
    8. (Tie) Ohio State
    8. (Tie) Illinois
    10. Penn State
    11. Northwestern

    In comparison, you'll notice that IU rose significantly from last year's
    results, while Minnesota and Illinois took nose-dives. I do have
    explanations for that. From a macroscopic point of view, most of the Big
    Ten programs have improved their status from last season- though due to
    a lot of setbacks to many Big Ten programs- their status dropped back
    from a level of improvement that would have made the Big Ten conference
    stunning this season. Purdue, Iowa, IU, and Wisconsin all look like
    significantly better clubs than they did last year. Thus, if a Big Ten
    program stood still over the summer (or lost ground), they dropped like
    a rock in this season's standings.

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
    1. Purdue

    Nutshell: Purdue returns basically the same team as last year except they
    have more help at point guard. But instead of playing 4 freshman for
    major minutes, they now have 5 sophomores (Mosi Barnes is all healed
    now). Purdue has won the Big Ten championship every year Keady gets to
    take his team on a Summer Europe Tour (happened three times before) to
    improve team chemistry and this summer Purdue had an unprecedented,
    unbeaten record overseas. Three of the Purdue players (Austin, Miller, and
    Cardinal) played ball all summer- either in Europe or on the USA team.
    Additionally, Purdue's the Big Ten team with the best winning record in
    this decade and is experienced in winning Big Ten Championships.

    Strengths: Keady and one of the best home-field advantages in the nation.
    Their team is young but they have two star seniors (Austin and Miller)
    and the young players they do have played more minutes as freshmen than
    most people short of the Fab Five did. Purdue was second in the conference
    in both steals and blocks (fourth in assists) and since Purdue didn't lose
    any major players, expect that to remain unchanged. Additionally, Chad
    Austin is the top returning scorer in the Big Ten from last season (AVG
    19.11 ppg). Brad Miller is the 9th top returning scorer in the Big Ten.

    Weaknesses:

    A. Fatigue

    Purdue has one of the toughest pre-conference schedules in the Big Ten
    (if not THE toughest). The entire Purdue roster this season will be 11
    players, and 7 of them are guards. So expect a three-guard offense with
    lots of running and fast-breaks. With the competition and the lack of
    bodies, the Boilermakers' flame could get snuffed out early due to
    exhaustion.

    B. Lack of Frontcourt Depth

    There are only 4 players on the Purdue roster taller than 6-3. Mike
    Robinson (6-6), Gary McQuay (6-8), Brian Cardinal (6-8), and Brad Miller
    (6-11). Although Purdue does not typically get into foul trouble, a big
    player fouling out or an injury in the frontcourt could set Purdue's
    sights back a bit.

    C. Questions at Point Guard

    One of Purdue's big weaknesses last year was a lack of ability at Point
    Guard. Chad Austin could play point, but only in sacrificing a lot of
    his scoring in the game. Sophomore Alan Eldridge had many problems
    playing point guard for Purdue last year and our other two point guards
    were unavailable due to red-shirting (B.J. Carretta (walk-on)) and
    injury (Mosi Barnes).

    One reason for Purdue's problem was the quality of point guard Purdue
    had to face in the Big Ten last season. Kiwane Garris, A.J. Guyton,
    Andre Woolridge, Bobby Jackson/Eric Harris, Louis Bullock, Damon
    Stringer ... you get the idea. Many of these guys have graduated and
    younger, less experienced PGs have taken their place.

    Purdue's situation at point guard will be much better this coming season,
    regardless of the shape of the other clubs. Eldridge had a 3:1 Assist to
    Turnover ratio playing for Purdue in Europe this season (which is awesome
    compared to his play in the Big Ten last season of 1:1). Also, Purdue has
    recruited a JUCO Point Guard (Tony Mayfield) who averages 8.0 apg and
    12 ppg. I've seen him play and I am well-assured he exactly fits the bill
    for what Purdue needs at point. And if I'm wrong, there's also red-shirt
    freshman B.J. Carretta and sophomore Mosi Barnes to choose from for point
    guard.

    So although a problem, I believe Purdue has it properly addressed.

    Personnel Graduated:

    Matt ten Dam Center
    Paul Gilvydis Walk-on Center

    Personnel Lost:

    Luther Clay Sophomore Power Forward
    Note: Left late summer 1996. Transferred to
    University of Rhode Island.
    David Lesmond Junior Wing Guard
    Note: Left to play pro ball in Europe.

    Personnel Gained:

    B.J. Carretta Freshman Walk-on Combo Guard Red-shirted
    Mosi Barnes Sophomore Point Guard Injury in 96
    Tony Mayfield JUCO Jr. Point Guard Recruited
    Cameron Stephens Wing Forward Recruited
    Note: Not acad. eligible this season.
    Jamaal Davis Power Forward/ Center Recruited
    Note: Not acad. eligible this season.
    Carson Cunningham Sophomore Combo Guard Transfer
    Note: Transfer from Oregon State.
    Not eligible this season.

    Recruiting:

    Both Stephens and Davis were Top 50 or Top 100 prospects. But neither
    made the grades well enough to play BB this season at Purdue. Although
    both intend to attend Purdue this year as Prop 48s and get their grades up
    for next year, Jamaal Davis is facing a "Class D Felony- Criminal Reckless
    Driving" charge (or something like that) relating to an auto accident he
    caused while speeding in a construction zone on an Indiana highway. He,
    himself, wound up in the hospital for a month.

    Mayfield has had some good things spoken about him. Most agree that he is
    a "true" point guard who can lead a team and create assists. He will have
    a strong presence at Purdue; particularly if Eldridge does a repeat
    performance of last season.

    Cunningham will be a prized asset to Purdue when he is eligible to play,
    either at shooting guard or point guard. He won't be able to play until the
    1998-99 season, however.

    Schedule:

    One of the toughest pre-conference schedules in the conference. Purdue will
    face Kentucky, Louisville, Xavier (OH), Providence, and possibly either
    UCLA or North Carolina in the Great Alaska Shootout Tournament.

    On the Big Ten front, they play Iowa only once and they have to face their
    most likely opponent for the Big Ten Championship on the Hawkeyes' home
    court. To Purdue's favor, they only play Wisconsin once, this time at
    Mackey Arena.

    Big Ten Club History:

    Purdue has swept IU the past two years (thanks in large part to last-second
    shots by Chad Austin). Purdue has also had a good record against Michigan
    and Minnesota this decade, though Purdue got swept by Minnesota last
    season. And Northwestern has a bad record against everybody so I won't
    mention them again.

    Illinois is the only Big Ten team to be close to beating Purdue out in the
    series record category. However, Purdue swept Illinois last season. This
    decade, Purdue's had a tough time beating Iowa (esp. at Iowa) and Coach
    Bennett of Wisconsin has always made a game of it against Keady.

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
    2. Iowa

    Nutshell: They lost Andre Woolridge but they gained Jess Settles. They
    have the deepest frontcourt in the conference and a rebounding advantage
    over any team in the country (if you forget about that Michigan State game
    last season). If their young guards can distribute the ball and become an
    outside scoring threat, Iowa will have a very good chance on getting the
    Big Ten Championship. They've been close a few times this decade, but
    haven't been able to pull it off. Yet.

    Strengths: Rebounding and depth, combined with an aggressive press defense
    and a lot of fast breaks. Iowa also has five seniors (one starter) and a
    long-time hunger for a Big Ten Championship.

    Weaknesses:

    A. Backcourt (Depth and experience)

    For the fall, Iowa has only four scholarship guards (Kent McClausland,
    Ryan Luehrsmann, Dean Oliver, and Wing Guard Ricky Davis). A junior, a
    sophomore, and two freshmen- respectively. Jeff Walker, a sophomore
    shooting guard who was ineligible last season is academically ineligible
    for the fall (at least) this season as well.

    Can Luehrsmann and freshman Dean Oliver (Top 50 prospect) distribute the
    ball effectively in the Big Ten this season? The Big Ten is harsh on
    young point guards. For every A.J. Guyton who does well their freshman
    year, there seems to be a half dozen guards (like Alan Eldridge and Mateen
    Cleaves) who don't. It's definitely a concern ...

    B. Injured/Ineligible Players

    There are questions about Jess Settles being back to full health by the
    beginning of this season. Jeff Walker, a needed body in the backcourt,
    may not play a single game this season if he doesn't get academically
    qualified. At this time, an injury or two in the guard positions could
    snub Iowa's dreams for the Big Ten- much like Purdue's dreams could be
    snubbed by injuries to their frontcourt.

    C. Pre-conference Schedule

    A few seasons ago, Iowa was the favorite for the Big Ten championship and
    they fell apart in early conference play. Although many reasons have been
    offered to explain the situation, I personally believe it was due to
    Iowa's weak pre-conference schedule. They were over-confident and
    unprepared for the brutality and cut-throat action of Big Ten play. Iowa's
    pre-conference schedule doesn't look too impressive this season either -
    playing the likes of Drake, Bucknell, and Long Island. However, some
    adversity may be found in the Missouri, Iowa State, and Northern Iowa
    games that are scheduled and it's unknown at this time who Iowa will face
    in the San Juan Shootout this fall in Puerto Rico. But, it looks like Iowa
    should have an easy time being unbeaten coming into Big Ten play.

    Personnel Graduated:

    Andre Woolridge Combo Guard

    Personnel Lost:

    Jeff Walker Sophomore Shooting Guard
    Note: Acad. Ineligible for fall semester.

    Personnel Gained:

    Jess Settles Senior Wing Forward Injured last season
    Marcelo Gomes Freshman Power Forward Red-shirted
    Ricky Davis Freshman Wing Guard Recruited
    Dean Oliver Freshman Point Guard Recruited
    John Carl Williams Freshman Forward Recruited
    Kyle Galloway Freshman Walk-on Forward Recruited

    Recruiting:

    The class was rated 45th in the nation, but that didn't include the
    walk-ons, the red-shirt Gomes or the returning Jess Settles (just Davis
    and Oliver).

    Marcelo Gomes is described by an Iowa BB follower as somebody who can
    come off the bench and lend some support. But he won't be a high-impact
    player for this season at least.

    Ricky Davis is a 6-6 Wing Guard who will probably play a lot of shooting
    guard since Jeff Walker is ineligible. Rated #14 in the nation by Francis,
    #48 by Prep Stars and #40 by Gibbons, he averaged 28.7 ppg and 7.6 rpg in
    high school.

    Dean Oliver is a 5-11 Point Guard rated #37 by Francis, #41 by Prep Stars,
    #38 by Ranker, and #45 by Gibbons, Oliver averaged 20.1 ppg and 7.6 apg in
    high school.

    John Carl Williams is a pre-Med major and a 6-9 defensive specialist in
    basketball (had 205 blocks in his last 3 years of high school). I am
    unclear on whether he is a scholarship or walk-on player.

    Kyle Galloway is a 6-7 walk-on forward from Sioux City. He averaged 23
    ppg, 13 rpg, and over 50% FG from 3 point range in high school. He was
    also over 90% on free throws. Not bad for a walk-on ...

    Schedule:

    They only have to play Purdue and Wisconsin once (at home and away,
    respectively). The month of January should be an easy month for Iowa in the
    Big Ten season as they play all the teams expected to be in the lower
    division of play.

    Their pre-conference schedule doesn't blow my skirt up, either. Missouri
    and Iowa State look to be their toughest competition coming into Big Ten
    play.

    Big Ten Club History:

    Iowa has a tough time winning at Purdue, but that won't be a problem this
    season. I believe the Illinois and Iowa games have been pretty contested
    this decade. Wisconsin gave Iowa a hard time last season and I don't
    believe that Iowa matches up well against the Michigan State team.

    UPDATE:

    I've since been told (unconfirmed) that shooting guard Jeff Walker will
    be heading to junior college this year, leaving Iowa only four deep in
    guards (with two true freshmen). Well ... I guess we can rule out a three-
    guard offense for Iowa this season. This realization alone doesn't warrant
    me demoting Iowa in the rankings- but it does put Iowa out on a limb as
    far as backcourt depth goes. Thus Purdue, IU, and Wisconsin's positions
    have been strengthened - in a potential sense. If Iowa's freshmen perform
    and there are no injuries, this is all a moot point, isn't it?

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
    3. (Tie) Indiana

    Nutshell: Seven new players in a Top 10 recruiting class adds talent to a
    roster that already has two or three McDonald's All-Americans on it
    (Patterson, Collier, and Charlie Miller?). Talent-wise, I have no doubt
    this team has what it takes to win not only the Big Ten Championship but
    also the NCAA championship this year. But it takes more than talent. It
    also takes teamwork and some knowledge of defense. If Knight and company
    can solve those problems, the Hoosiers make a nightmare of an opponent.

    Strengths: Third in blocks and scoring offense last season. First in Free
    Throw % and second in 3-Pt Field Goal % Off. Bobby Knight is still one of
    college basketball's great coaching talents (though he won't win any
    popularity contests outside of Bloomington). On offense, IU has more power
    than any opponent can reciprocate (possible exceptions are Duke and
    Arizona).

    Weaknesses:

    A. Rebounding

    Last in the conference in defensive rebounding and only fifth in offensive
    rebounding (ninth in rebounding margin). With as many big guys as they had
    (Mujezinovic, Mandeville, Patterson, Collier, Eggers, Richardson), I
    couldn't believe it possible how poorly they rebounded.

    B. Defense

    Tenth in the conference in scoring defense. Translation: they don't know
    how to defend properly. See the IU at Purdue or IU at Wisconsin games last
    year to see what I'm talking about. Complete break-down ...

    C. Team Chemistry

    Another concern for the Hoosiers is team chemistry. They were doing fine
    last year in pre-conference and then the team chemistry soured and IU went
    plummeting in the standings. Knight's solution to fixing team chemistry
    was to send (or allow the team, by voting, to send) point guard Neil Reed
    elsewhere. Time will tell if his (their) solution works.

    Personnel Graduated:

    Haris Mujezinovic JUCO Center

    Personnel Lost:

    Neil Reed Point Guard Transfer
    Note: Transferred to Southern Mississippi
    =0D
    Personnel Gained:
    =0D
    Luke Recker Freshman Wing Guard Recruited
    Kirk Haston Freshman Center Recruited
    Rob Turner JUCO Jr. Shooting Guard Recruited
    William Gladness JUCO Jr. Power Forward Recruited
    Antwaan Randle El Freshman Walk-on Point Guard Recruited
    Note: Part. acad. eligibility this season. He can
    practice but can't play in games.
    Tom Geyer Freshman Walk-on Power Forward Recruited.
    Levron Williams Freshman Walk-on Combo Guard Recruited
    Note: Acad. ineligible this season.

    Recruiting:

    In my opinion, Luke Recker is the most talented BB player to be recruited
    into the Big Ten this year. Offensively, he can kill any opponent if not
    guarded and harassed. He also knows how to pass and has at least heard of
    defense and how it pertains to basketball. He and Charlie Miller will
    make a deadly one-two punch at the small forward position. Recker was in
    the Top 50 (if not Top 10) of every ratings poll I saw and averaged 34.2
    ppg, 7.7 rpg, and 5.1 apg in high school. He's 6-5 and 190 lbs.

    Kirk Haston, a cousin to Recker, averaged 18.3 ppg, 12.2 rpg, and 4.1 bpg
    in high school. His offensive skills are there but his defense needs work
    (much like most of the IU team). He'll be a decent back-up (with
    development) to Jason Collier. Haston is 6-10 and 230 lbs. (about the size
    of Purdue's Brad Miller).

    Rob Turner is a shooting guard through and through. He can pass but not
    well enough to be a point guard. He looks to score and often does. He
    averaged 23.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, and 4.2 apg in his junior college- the same
    team where Purdue recruit Tony Mayfield (8 apg, 12 ppg) played point
    guard. Turner shoots more than 50% from the field and rebounds well for a
    6-4 guard. Most of his rebounding skill comes from the fact that he never
    gives up trying to get the ball.

    William Gladness is 6-8 and 230 lbs. He was 1st team JUCO All-American and
    had 20.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg, and a 63% FG. He gets a lot of his points from
    offensive rebounds and put-backs. He looks to me like he needs to develop
    more muscle to be effective in the Big Ten.

    The walk-ons are decent players but nothing (talent-wise) like the ones
    previously listed.

    Schedule:

    One of the better pre-conference schedules in the Big Ten. Kentucky ...
    Temple ... Notre Dame. May face other teams such as SW Missouri State,
    UNC-Ch., UW-Green Bay, and Illinois State. Last season's schedule was
    tougher but this one isn't bad.

    Three opponents who beat IU at least once last year (MSU, Wisconsin, and
    Minnesota), IU faces only once this year. But the Wisconsin and MSU games
    are away from Bloomington.

    Big Ten Club History:

    IU has been swept two straight years by their bitter rivals, Purdue. I
    believe that's unprecedented during Knight's reign in Bloomington. I'm sure
    the Hoosier fans aren't all that happy about that.

    But IU has many scores to settle this season. IU lost the single match-ups
    against both Iowa and Illinois last year- as well as getting beaten twice
    by Minnesota.

    And both IU-OSU games last season were bizarre ... first an IU loss to a
    rejuvenated OSU club and then a game a week later that would make Rod
    Serling envious ...

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
    3. (Tie) Wisconsin

    Nutshell: Good defense and heart make up for a lot. If you don't believe
    that, then explain how Wisconsin finished fourth in the Big Ten last
    season. The revered coach Bennett loses Paul Grant but recruits four
    role-players and a Top 50 recruit that strengthens the Badger's well-oiled
    machine. With the easiest Big Ten schedule this season, Bennett's team is
    a dark horse edging ever closer to that Big Ten trophy.

    Strengths: Defense, defense, and defense. Wisconsin was first in the
    conference in scoring defense, allowing only 56 points a game on average.
    They were also first in Field Goal % Defense and 3-Pt. Field Goal %
    Defense. They're also a well-coached club that makes few mistakes and they
    know how to use a home-field advantage. If you'll recall, they upset
    Minnesota in Madison at the closing of last year's Big Ten season. Bennett
    also has 6 seniors by my count and three of them are probable starters
    (Calderwood, Daughterty, and Coleman).

    Weaknesses:

    A. Offense

    Last in the conference on Field Goal % Offense.

    B. Lack of Guard Leadership

    Point Guards seem a little weak as well. Wisconsin was last in assists
    last season.

    C. Physical Talent (in speed and size)

    A lack of one-on-one quickness and size in their roster doesn't hurt
    their defense but it does affect their offense. Wisconsin was middle-of-
    the-road in rebounding, blocks, and steals as well.

    Personnel Graduated:

    Paul Grant Transfer (Boston College) Center

    Personnel Lost:

    Mosezell Peterson Small Forward Transfer
    Note: Transferred to Louisville.

    Personnel Gained:

    Mark Vershaw Freshman Power Forward/ Center Recruited
    Mike Kelley Freshman Point Guard Recruited
    Andy Kowske Freshman Power Forward Recruited
    Maurice Linton Freshman Wing Forward Recruited
    Charlie Wills Freshman Wing Forward Recruited

    Recruiting:

    Rated as the 56th best recruiting class in the nation, this group isn't
    flashy but that doesn't mean they aren't good or useful.

    Vershaw is a 6-8 PF/C who reminds me somewhat of Purdue's Brian Cardinal
    (but less suicidal). He was rated #46 in the nation by both Ranker and
    Gibbons. He averaged 22.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 4.1 apg in high school. He's an
    aggressive inside banger who has the ability to block and defend taller
    centers. He has a pretty good range as well. Vershaw is the jewel of
    Wisconsin's class.

    Kelley is a 6-3 point guard from Milwaukee who averaged 11.1 ppg and 6.1
    apg. Though his stats aren't all that impressive, he comes from a very
    successful High School career and he has a winning tradition. He may be
    able to provide immediate impact to the team from the point guard
    position, especially if he can dish out the assists like he did in high
    school.

    Kowske is a 6-8 forward who was seen in some Top 100 lists. Also from
    Wisconsin, he averaged 16.1 ppg and 8.3 rpg in high school.

    Linton is a 6-8 forward from Illinois who averaged 15.5 ppg and 7.3 rpg
    in high school. Linton has a Michigan player frame (thin but athletic)
    while Kowske is more meaty like Purdue's Cardinal or Iowa's Settles.

    Wills is a 6-8 forward from Indiana who averaged 17.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg,
    and 3.1 bpg in high school. From the few times I saw him play, he seemed
    to be offensively-minded (looks to score) and rebounds well. He may be
    able to adequately defend most Big Ten small forwards. He's a good role
    player for Wisconsin but I suspect his defense may need work.

    Schedule:

    Wisconsin got the cream of the crop in Big Ten schedules. Purdue, Iowa,
    and Indiana are all expected to be in the top of the Big Ten this season.
    Wisconsin has to play each of these teams only once and Wisconsin gets to
    play Iowa and Indiana at home (Wisconsin plays away for Purdue and
    Minnesota). If Wisconsin wins the games they're supposed to and wins two
    of the games against Purdue/Iowa/IU, then it'll be difficult for anyone
    to take Wisconsin out of the top three positions in the standings.

    In pre-conference, Wisconsin has a respectable if conservative schedule -
    playing Temple, Marquette, Ball State, and Fresno State. They also play
    two unknown opponents in the Big Island Invitational.

    Big Ten Club History:

    Wisconsin has been stunning all the Big Ten teams when they play at
    Madison. Wisconsin is getting as strong a home-court advantage as Purdue
    does and IU had (until last season). Wisconsin swept Illinois last season
    so the Illini will be looking to settle the score. And, surprisingly, the
    defensive-minded Michigan State Spartans swept Wisconsin last year.
    Perhaps Tom Izzo knows something about Bennett's game that the rest of the
    teams could use ...
    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
    5. Minnesota

    Nutshell: You're thinking ol' Rufus doesn't know what he's talking about,
    don't you? Minnesota reaches the Final Four and I think the Golden Gophers
    will barely make the upper division this season? I do when they lose three
    starters and three other key players. See below for details on a summer
    that really set the Minnesota program back on its heels.

    Strengths: They went to the Final Four last year- so they've got a taste of
    winning experience. Haskins is a decent, fundamentally sound coach and
    Minnesota has a good home-court advantage. Second in scoring offense, third
    in scoring defense, rebounding margin, FG% offense and FG% defense. First
    in steals, assists, and turnover margin. Unfortunately, this season we're
    talking about an entirely different team.

    Weaknesses:

    A. Loss of Personnel

    See Personnel.

    B. Lack of Depth

    See Personnel.

    C. Lack of Experience

    See Personnel.

    Personnel Graduated:

    Bobby Jackson Combo Guard
    John Thomas Center
    Trevor Winter Center
    Mark Jones Shooting Guard
    Aaron Stauber Forward

    Personnel Lost:

    Courtney James Junior Power Forward Suspended
    Note: Convicted of Assault charges.
    Out for the fall season at least.
    Charles Thomas Junior Shooting Guard Transfer
    Note: Transferred to E. Kentucky.
    Kevin Loge Red-shirt Fr. Center Transfer

    Personnel Gained:

    Kevin Clark JUCO Jr. Combo Guard Recruited
    Kevin Nathaniel Freshman Wing Guard Recruited
    Antoine Broxsie Freshman Forward/Center Recruited
    Dusty Rychart Walk-on Fr. Small For. Recruited
    Kyle Sanden Freshman Forward/Center Red-shirted
    Note: May not be medically cleared to
    play this season.

    Recruiting:

    Rated the 47th recruiting class in the nation, I don't see how this class
    can immediately replace the loss of Bobby Jackson, Charles Thomas,
    Courtney James, John Thomas, Kevin Loge, and Trevor Winter.

    Kevin Clark is a 6-2 guard who can play point or off-guard. At his JUCO,
    he averaged 23.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.7 apg, and 1.7 spg. He had 53.2% FG,
    83.9 FT%, and 36.1 3FG%. Nice numbers, though the Big Ten isn't Junior
    College. Regardless, Prep Stars rated Clark as the 11th best JUCO in the
    country.

    Kevin Nathaniel is a Wing Guard who will probably back up Kevin Clark at
    shooting guard. He averaged 28.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, and 5.3 apg in high school.
    Ignored by most scouts, he supposedly is a late bloomer. The latest Prep
    Stars had him as #77 in the country. He supposedly has a 42 in. vertical
    jump and he stands 6-4 tall.

    Antoine Broxsie is a 6-10 220 lbs. Power Forward/Center who averaged
    22.1 ppg and 13.5 rpg in high school. He's described by scouts as a
    sleeper, somewhere in the Top 150 of the nation. Broxsie had decided to
    attend Purdue while his mother had her heart set on Antoine attending
    Nebraska. They compromised by choosing on Minnesota. Since his decision,
    rumors have been flying around the Minnesota campus that Broxsie was
    unhappy with his choice and may leave Minnesota for a JUCO program.
    Broxsie has enrolled at Minnesota an now looks to be content.

    Kyle Sanden is a 6-11 230 lbs. Power Forward/ Center who was red-shirted
    last year at Minnesota. However, he has suffered a head injury of some
    sort and may not be medically cleared to play for the Golden Gophers this
    season.

    Dusty Rychart is a 6-6 205 lbs. walk-on small forward who averaged 28.2
    ppg and 13.4 rpg in his Minnesota high school (a state high).

    Schedule:

    Minnesota only has to play Wisconsin, IU, Illinois, and OSU once each.
    The Golden Gophers play Wisconsin at home but visit IU in Bloomington.

    Minnesota has a grueling pre-conference schedule. Outside of the pre-
    season NIT championship that they'll participate in, Minnesota faces
    Cincinnati, Villanova, Alabama, Nebraska, and Fresno State.

    Big Ten Club History:

    Minnesota didn't have a good road record until two seasons ago. They seem
    to have gotten that monkey off their back. Purdue and IU traditionally
    have been problems for the Golden Gophers, particularly when Minnesota
    plays them on their home court. Last year however, Minnesota cleaned
    house with everybody (sweeping both IU and Purdue) and lost only two games
    (tight games) against Wisconsin and Illinois.

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
    6. (Tie) Michigan

    Nutshell: If I were a Wolverine fan, I'd worry more about NCAA
    investigations than I would about how well the basketball team does this
    year. But I can't see how the Wolverines can do better than last year
    (sixth place) without Maurice Taylor and Brandun Hughes. Especially since
    so many Big Ten clubs (like IU) had stellar recruiting seasons and
    Michigan's was hum-drum.

    Strengths: First (tied with Minnesota) in scoring offense, and second in
    FG% Offense (fourth in 3pt. FG%). Fourth in offensive rebounding (only
    sixth in def. boards). Third in steals. Additionally, the players they do
    have on the roster are pretty talented physically.

    Weaknesses:

    A. Lack of Depth

    Outside of the starting five, there's only one player who isn't a walk-on
    or a true freshman (Sophomore center Peter Vignier). To me, that's a
    serious lack of depth. Even the anemic Purdue team will probably go nine
    deep in most games (though small line-ups) and none of those players are
    true freshmen. And, although I doubt anyone keeps stats on this, Michigan
    has got to be first in the conference (or near the top) on number of fouls
    committed during a season. Foul trouble and a lack of depth will spell
    disaster for the Wolverines.

    B. Lack of Discipline

    There are lots of people who like Fisher. That's their right. But players
    who continually get into foul trouble, commit technical fouls again and
    again, call for time-outs when there aren't any in a championship game ...
    well, their heads just aren't in the right place. I chalk that up to lack
    of discipline. Blame the coach, blame the players- it doesn't much matter
    to me. Neither course of action solves the problem- a problem that I fail
    to see diminishing any over the past six seasons at Ann Arbor. Without
    playing smart ball (game in and game out), a team will never win the Big
    Ten Championship.

    C. Defense

    Michigan was seventh in scoring defense last season, eighth in FG%
    defense, sixth in defensive rebounding, and fifth in blocking. With the
    speed and talent of Bullock, Traylor, Ward, and Baston - I just don't
    understand that.

    D. Guard Play

    With Brandun Hughes leaving (or being asked to leave) the program, it's
    up to Bullock and Conlan to do practically all the guard work for
    Michigan. Michigan was ninth in the conference in assists last season -
    showing me that Bullock and Conlan might need more help distributing the
    ball than what Michigan has to work with.

    E. NCAA Investigation

    Some seem to feel that this investigation is over nothing. The Detroit
    Press and the NCAA do not seem to share that opinion. And for right now,
    neither do I. There are some serious allegations held against the Michigan
    Basketball program and I haven't heard or seen anything out of Michigan
    over the last 12 months to allay my (or the NCAA's) apprehensions.
    Michigan has sent their internal report to the NCAA for examination. I
    fully expect the NCAA to investigate further into this matter and
    eventually hand out some penalties unless shocking, new evidence is
    uncovered between then and now.

    There is a black cloud over the Michigan program, violations or not. It's
    hurt recruiting and Michigan personnel seem to be leaving in a Great
    Exodus. One of the assistant coaches left last spring and the Michigan
    AD is retiring from his position (though neither have stated to the press
    that their leaving has anything at all to do with the NCAA investigation).
    Both Taylor and Traylor seriously considered leaving early for the NBA
    (Taylor did). One thing I do know for certain - this is not a good
    situation.

    Personnel Graduated:

    None.

    Personnel Lost:

    One Assistant Coach
    Maurice Taylor Senior Small Forward NBA
    Brandun Hughes Senior JUCO Point Guard Left.
    Note: Scholarship revoked.
    Dionte Harvey Freshman Recruited
    Note: Was dropped by Michigan as a result
    of his criminal history.
    Leon Jones Freshman Shooting Guard Recruited
    Note: Did not academically qualify.

    Personnel Gained:

    Brandon Smith Freshman Small Forward Recruited
    Josh Asselin Freshman Center Recruited

    Recruiting:

    Rated the 75th best recruiting class in the nation, this is far from
    Michigan's best recruiting class of this decade. Or last decade, for that
    matter.

    Brandon Smith is a 6-6, 210 lbs. small forward who averaged 19.2 ppg, 8.8
    rpg, and 5.1 apg in high school. Rated #64 in the nation by Francis, #98
    by Prep Stars, and #69 by Gibbons. I saw him play once. He excels in the
    fast break and in dunking. He slices well and he's a good rebounder and
    leaper for 6-6. But from what I saw, I question his defensive skills
    (big surprise).

    Josh Asselin is a 6-10, 230 lbs. Michigan native. Unknown in the national
    standings, he was ranked 15th in the state of Michigan. He averaged
    22.1 ppg, 11.5 rpg, and 3.8 bpg in high school.

    Schedule:

    Michigan lucks out (yet again) with a favorable Big Ten schedule. The two
    top contenders for the Big Ten trophy (Iowa and Purdue) only face Michigan
    once and the Wolverines face Purdue on their home territory.

    Michigan plays Duke and UNLV in pre-conference, but plays powder-puffs
    everywhere else. Still, those two games make up for a lot of Detroit-Mercy
    games ...

    Big Ten Club History:

    Purdue, IU, Minnesota, and Wisconsin all seem to be taking advantage of
    Michigan over the last few years. Northwestern, Penn State and Michigan
    State were the only Big 10 teams that Michigan swept last season.

    UPDATE:

    I've just been told (confirmed) that Michigan has a new recruit in junior
    Robbie Reid. Reid was a former Brigham Young point guard (his father
    coached there) and played two years there. Then he went overseas on a
    mission. Now, he's transferred to Michigan, where he'll be able to play
    both this season and next. He's 6-1 and 170 lbs. and he averaged 10.1 ppg
    and 3.0 apg as a sophomore at BYU. Reid will help boost the Michigan
    backcourt and replace the loss of Hughes, but I don't think it's enough
    to warrant raising Michigan any in the standings.
    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
    6. (Tie) Michigan State

    Nutshell: Sixth is how well MSU did last year. And if so many Big Ten
    programs had not improved over the summer, be assured MSU would have been
    ranked higher. But there's only so much room at the top. No matter how
    many boards Antonio Smith gets ...

    Strengths: Rebounding, defense, and talent- in a nutshell. MSU was first
    in offensive rebounding and second in defensive rebounding last season
    (thanks in large part to Antonio Smith). MSU is also fourth in scoring
    defense and out-defended Bennett's Wisconsin team twice and swept the
    Badgers last season. You don't do that unless you have a fundamental
    understanding of defense. Their third strength is, unknown to many, that
    coach Izzo has recruited some great talent into East Lansing the last
    two seasons. The potential talent for a Big Ten trophy run is present.
    All they need is a break.

    Weaknesses:

    A. Shooting

    The shooting talent is there- it just hasn't blossomed yet. Mateen
    Cleaves, Jason Klein, Jason Webber, and A.J. Granger could all shoot the
    ball in high school. But only one Spartan was in the conference's top 15
    in shooting last season and that was senior Ray Weathers (10th) with
    13.83 ppg.

    MSU was eighth in scoring offense and tenth in 3-pt. FG% offense last
    season. They need some players who are able to put the ball through the
    hoop.Another year of experience should help Smith, Cleaves and company
    to become more effective, offensive threats. Plus, Izzo's incoming class
    may help the Spartans increase their numbers on the scoreboard.

    B. Youth (Inexperience)

    MSU only has four upperclassman (though all four may be starters this
    year). Having six sophomores and four freshman is not an insurmountable
    obstacle to overcome in the Big Ten ... but this is sure to give Izzo
    some headaches this fall.

    C. Schedule

    See Schedule for details.

    Personnel Graduated:

    Ray Weathers Guard
    Jon Garavaglia Power Forward/ Center
    Steve Polonowski Power Forward
    Mike Respert Guard
    Anthony Mull Guard

    Personnel Lost:

    None.

    Personnel Gained:

    Charlie Bell Freshman Shooting Guard Recruited.
    Lorenzo Guess Freshman walk-on Combo Guard Recruited.
    Doug Davis Freshman Combo Guard Recruited.
    Andre Hutson ` Freshman Power Forward/Center Recruited.

    Recruiting:

    Rated the 30th best recruiting class in the nation, maybe some people
    will wake up to what's happening up in East Lansing. This is the third
    good recruiting class MSU has had in a row.

    Charlie Bell is a 6-3, 185 lbs. shooting guard who averaged 31.7 ppg,
    8.2 rpg, and 5.5 apg in high school. He was #33 in the nation by Gibbons,
    #61 by Prep Stars, and #39 by Francis.

    Lorenzo Guess is the best walk-on basketball player I've seen up to now.
    The only reason he's not on scholarship is because he's an even better
    football player (a sport at MSU where he did get a scholarship). He can
    play point guard or shooting guard and, although listed at 6-3, he looks
    taller to me. Maybe because he's so thin, he looks taller. Naturally, he
    won't be available to the team until his football commitment this fall is
    over. Prep Stars had him listed at #99 and Clark Francis rated him at
    #39 in the nation. Guess averaged 22.3 ppg, 6.1 apg, and 5.8 rpg in high
    school.

    Doug Davis is a 6-3 combo guard who excels in the fast break. He's very
    athletic. He can also hit the outside shot, another commodity desperately
    needed by the Spartans. His defense needs work. Davis averaged 22.2 ppg,
    4.3 apg, and 2.2 spg in high school. Coleman rated him as #52, as did
    Gibbons.

    Andre Hutson is a 6-8, 205 lbs. Power Forward/Center who averaged 21.0
    ppg, 11.2 rpg, and 2 bpg in high school. I haven't seen him play but
    I'm told he also loves to pass. Coleman rated Hutson at #64 in the nation.
    Hoop Scoop had him at #67 and Gibbons had him at #84.

    Schedule:

    Somebody in the Big Ten doesn't like MSU because they got the hardest Big
    Ten schedule in the conference this year. MSU only plays Northwestern,
    Ohio State, Penn State, and Indiana once each. That means that MSU has to
    play Iowa, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Michigan twice each. Not too many easy
    games for the Spartans. It will probably cost them.

    MSU tries to make up for the hard Big Ten schedule by having a cushioned
    pre-conference schedule. They only play 10 non-exhibition games in
    pre-conference with their only tough opponent, Temple, cushioned in by
    powder-puffs like Detroit-Mercy and South Florida.

    Big Ten Club History:

    Since Izzo has been there, it seems the Spartans lose the games they
    should and wins the games they should- regardless of opponent. But their
    were a few exceptions. MSU swept the 4th place Badgers last season and
    they also beat 2nd place Iowa in their only match-up of the year. Let
    me let you in on a little secret ... Iowa does not match up well
    against MSU.

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
    8. (Tie) Ohio State

    Nutshell: I had not intended on rating the Buckeyes this low. For as bad
    fortune befell other Big Ten programs, OSU rose among their ranks. But
    late-breaking events at Columbus threaten to place the OSU team back where
    it was last season- in the lower division. The team certainly has the
    potential to do better. The only question is if this potential will be
    realized. In light of recent events, I say the odds are against them.

    Strengths: With two seniors and five juniors, the Buckeyes certainly have
    the maturity to make a run in the Big Ten. With Stringer, Singleton,
    Stonerook, and Tate- they certainly have the talent in the positions. They
    were also second in the conference in assists (but being last in turnover
    margin offsets that achievement). See UPDATE below for possible loss of
    personnel.

    Weaknesses:

    A. Change

    Sometimes change is good, sometimes change is bad. But change is always
    disruptive. With a new head coach (Jim O'Brien from Boston College),
    disruption is certain within a club that had a roller coaster ride of ups
    and downs in the Big Ten last season. They beat Michigan, IU, and
    Wisconsin last season- yet lose to Northwestern by 31 points. One can
    only shake their head at such an occurrence and state that stability is
    desperately needed in Columbus. If this change of head coaches does bring
    stability (in a good way) to OSU, then this weakness could very well
    become a strength.

    B. Lack of Inside Presence

    OSU was last in the conference in rebounding margin (last in offensive
    rebounding and eighth in defensive rebounding). They were ninth in scoring
    defense yet were second in the conference in defending the three point
    shot. I translate that to mean that OSU lacked an inside presence last
    season. With two new centers and (hopefully) a healthy Jermaine Tate
    helping Stonerook out, OSU should do much better in this area this season
    and thus there is room for some optimism. However, if the centers aren't
    able to produce results, Buckeye fans should expect more of the same from
    last season. Which, if one recalls, was not fifth place in the Big Ten
    standings ...

    C. Injury/ Absences

    According to my information, Jermaine Tate is still a question as to
    whether he'll be medically cleared to play basketball this season (if
    ever). I believe Tate's absence will be a major blow to this year's OSU
    team and that without him, OSU might slip back a bit from where I
    predicted OSU to be. Also bear in mind that OSU center John Lumpkin
    probably won't be available to the team until January (he's also a
    football player).

    See UPDATE for further information on absences.

    Personnel Graduated:

    Don Jantonio Shooting Guard

    Personnel Lost:

    Randy Ayers Head Coach
    Ed Jenkins JUCO Sr. Center
    Note: He was a Prop 48 last season, and left
    this summer for greener pastures. He never played
    a game for OSU.

    Personnel Gained:

    Jim O'Brien Head Coach from Boston College
    Michael Redd Freshman Shooting Guard Recruited.
    Jon Sanderson Freshman Forward Recruited
    Shamar Herron Freshman Center Recruited
    Ken Johnson Sophomore Center Prop 48 last year
    James "Scoonie" Penn Junior Point Guard Transfer
    Note: Transferred from Boston College. Must
    sit out this season.

    Recruiting:

    Ken Johnson is a 6-11, 230 lb. center who, according to my OSU sources,
    are their main hope for developing an inside presence. Expect Johnson to
    be more of a blocking and rebounding presence than as a scorer. But,
    really, that would be all OSU would really need of him with Stringer and
    company.

    Shamar Herron is a 6-9, 240 lbs. center from Detroit who is another
    possible answer for OSU's inside problem. Herron averaged 10.3 ppg, 13.0
    rpg, 5.5 apg, and 4.0 bpg in high school.

    Michael Redd is a 6-4 shooting guard from Columbus. He was rated
    nationally at #99 by Clark Francis, #91 by Prep Stars and #96 by Gibbons.
    He averaged 26.0 ppg, 9.4 rpg, and 3.4 spg in high school.

    Jon Sanderson is a 6-7, 217 lbs. forward who may be sorely needed if
    Jermaine Tate becomes unavailable. Sanderson averaged 17.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg,
    and 3.0 apg at his high school in Lexington, OH. See UPDATE for more
    information on Sanderson.

    James "Scoonie" Penn is a 5-10 Jr. Point Guard with two years of
    eligibility remaining after he transferred to join his former head coach
    at Boston College. Last season at BC, Penn had 13.3 ppg and .402 FG. His
    first year in college, he was Big East Freshman of the Year. He was the
    Big East Tournament POTY his sophomore season.

    Schedule:

    I don't have their pre-conference schedule so I can't comment on it.

    The Buckeyes' Big Ten schedule doesn't favor them, though. They play
    Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois, and Michigan State only once- meaning
    they have to play the Big Ten favorites (Purdue, Iowa, Indiana, and
    Wisconsin) twice each. Not the best situation to be in.

    Big Ten Club History:

    Lately, the OSU club has been a head-shaker. Slaughtered by Northwestern
    last season, they still beat IU, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. It
    all seems to depend on which OSU team shows up to play.

    UPDATE:

    Bad news befell the OSU BB squad after this write-up was made. On August
    22nd, two OSU basketball players, lead scoring guard (and team captain)
    Damon Stringer and guard Trent Jackson, were arrested and charged with
    disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The Ohio State University
    athletic department is now investigating the incident. OSU Head Coach
    O'Brien was on vacation and was unavailable for comment. However, since
    he has stressed a need to clean up OSU's program since being hired- it
    seems likely that Stringer and Jackson will be penalized if found guilty
    of the charges. And perhaps their scholarships will be revoked.

    In similar but unrelated news, OSU forward recruit Jon Sanderson was
    arrested August 25th in Dayton for public intoxication, underage drinking,
    and assaulting a police officer. His scholarship may be in jeopardy now as
    well.

    The loss of these three players would set the OSU program back
    considerably (as far as the Win-Loss column goes for this season ...).
    The loss of Stringer would result in a lack of experienced leadership for
    the Buckeyes. The loss of Sanderson (coupled with the loss of injured
    Jermaine Tate) would deplete OSU's frontcourt. Put together, the situation
    looks bad for the OSU program this season. I previously had OSU rated as
    fifth in the standings. I now have them tied for eighth.

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
    8. (Tie) Illinois

    Nutshell: I know ... you think I'm out of my mind. How does a team who
    finished 4th in the Big Ten last year and brings in one of the top five
    recruiting classes in the country get to be ranked so low? Answer: Players
    graduate and recruits don't academically qualify. Combine those two
    ingredients and you have one ugly story in the making.

    Strengths: Second in free throw percentage and third in 3 pt. FG% offense.
    They were also second in turnover margin (thanks in large part to Kiwane
    Garris, who has since graduated). Kruger also did better in his first
    season as Illini coach than I expected.

    Weaknesses:

    A. Loss of Personnel/ Lack of Depth

    See Personnel.

    B. Rebounding

    Tenth in offensive rebounding and ninth in defensive rebounding. Like OSU,
    Illinois lacked an inside presence last season. The Illini made up for it
    by shooting the hell out of the three (3rd in 3-pt FG% offense), making
    138 three's in Big Ten play (they attempted a nightmarish 365 shots, 72
    more shots than any other Big Ten team attempted last season). But when
    you live by the three, you die by the three. Thus, the Illini need an
    inside presence. Unlike OSU, I don't think the Illini got it this year.

    C. Defense

    They were eighth in scoring defense, ninth in defending the three point
    shot and last in field goal % on defense. Their press defense was nowhere
    near as effective as Iowa's, Minnesota's or MSU's last season. However,
    I will testify that Illinois' press was more effective than Purdue's last
    season, if that makes anybody feel better ...

    Personnel Graduated:

    Kiwane Garris Point Guard
    Chris Gandy Power Forward/Center
    Herb Caldwell Power Forward

    Personnel Lost:

    Bryant Notree Jr.? Wing Forward Transfer
    Note: Transferred to Univ. Illinois-Chicago.
    Marcus Griffin Fr. Blue Chip Center Recruited
    Note: Academically ineligible. Reportedly
    enrolled at Lincoln JUCO.
    Leighton Nash Jr. JUCO Power Forward Recruited
    Note: Academically ineligible. Will play for
    Southern Indiana.

    Personnel Gained:

    Carvell Ammons Jr.? Power Forward Transfer
    Note: Transferred in from Northwestern.
    He will be a walk-on next season but cannot
    play ball this season.
    Corey Bradford Fr. Point Guard Recruited
    Note: Partial Qualifier...can practice with
    the team, but cannot play his first year.
    Arias Davis Jr. JUCO Shooting Guard Recruited
    Sergio McClain Fr. Wing Guard Recruited
    Rich Beyers Fr. Wing Forward Recruited
    Awvee Storey Jr. Small Forward Recruited

    Recruiting:

    Rated 4th in the nation, that rating was because reviewers believed that
    Griffin and Nash would both qualify. According to my sources, neither of
    them will probably even attend Ilinois.

    McClain, Davis and Beyers aren't bad recruits, though.

    Arias Davis is a JUCO junior shooting guard, is 6-3 and 180 lbs, and is from
    Othero JUCO in Georgia. He is a 3-pt. specialist, averaging 19.2 ppg and 5.1
    rpg. He was Honorable Mention JUCO All-American.

    Corey Bradford is a 6-3, 170 lbs. Point Guard who averaged 22.6 ppg and 7.4
    rpg in high school. He is a partial academic qualifier. He is able to
    practice but not play for the team this season.

    Sergio McClain is a 6-4 225 lbs. Small Forward. He was Mr. Illinois BB
    and is the only Illinois player in history to start on 4 state
    championship BB teams. He has a 3.7 GPA and averaged 17.9 ppg, 8 rpg,
    and 5.9 apg in high school. Prep Stars rated him at #68, Matt Ranker
    and Sporting News had him at #19, and Gibbons had him at #34.

    Rich Beyers is a 6-8 225 lbs. power forward who averaged 17.9 ppg, 10.2
    rpg, and 5 apg in high school. His team was the 1996 Class A Champions
    in HS.

    Carvell Ammons is a good power forward and will make a great walk-on,
    but he can't play for Illinois this season.

    Schedule:

    Illinois got a tough break in Big Ten scheduling. They play OSU, Penn
    State, Michigan, and Minnesota only once each. So Illinois plays all the
    top contenders (the tougher teams) twice each. It's an ugly schedule.

    It doesn't get any easier for Illinois in pre-conference as they battle
    UCLA, Clemson, Texas, St. Louis, and Missouri. They also play 3 unknown
    opponents in the Puerto Rico Classic.

    Big Ten Club History:

    Illinois was swept by Wisconsin and Purdue last season (mostly due to
    lack of defense) but swept Penn State, Michigan State, and Ohio State
    (mostly due to great outside shooting). I think it's going to be a tough
    season for Illinois ...

    UPDATE:

    I've been told (confirmed) that an Awvee Storey will be joining
    the Illini. He's a 6-5 small forward out of prep school, where he
    averaged 30 ppg and 15 rpg. He verballed to Tennessee but was released
    from his committment when Head Coach Kevin O'Neill left for NW. He played
    HS ball at Proviso West in Illinois- where he averaged 15 ppg and 10 rpg
    as a senior.

    However, none of these recent events lead me to believe that Illinois'
    position has been strengthened enough to warrant a rising in the
    standings.

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
    10. Penn State

    Nutshell: Penn State was ranked this low three seasons ago with Dan Earl
    and Pete Licisky in the backcourt and the Nittany Lions made a run for
    the Big Ten Championship (they ended up tied for second with IU, as I
    recall). Penn State has the "potential" to do it again. However,with the
    improvement of so many Big Ten programs and the "potential" of other
    clubs such as Ohio State and Michigan State- I think Penn State will find
    the upper division of the conference doesn't have any room for them. Even
    if they DO have a new arena and the No. 1 football team in the country.

    Strengths: They were first in the conference in blocks (the only
    statistical category they DID do any good in). With Dan Earl back, their
    leadership should improve dramatically (if he's healthy). Um ... they
    have a new arena. Um ... their football team is really good. Um ... I'll
    stop now.

    Weaknesses: The team last season was terrible. It's possible it was just
    a team chemistry problem and a lack of leadership. If that's all it was
    then the senior leadership of Licisky and Earl in the backcourt should
    rejuvenate them. If that wasn't the problem ... well, I'm not holding
    out too much hope for them then. The Big Ten is tough this year.

    Personnel Graduated:

    Phil Williams Power Forward
    Jeremy Metzger Center
    Bryan Machamer Forward
    Rashaan Carlton Power Forward
    Dana Fritz Point Guard

    Personnel Lost:

    Aaron Jack Forward Transfer to Texas A&M

    Personnel Gained:

    Dan Earl Sr. Point Guard Injured last year
    Greg Grays Fr. Shooting Guard Recruited
    Scott Witkowski Fr. Center Recruited
    Gyasi Cline-Heard Fr. Power Forward Recruited
    Joe Crispin Fr. Point Guard Recruited

    Recruiting:

    Ranked 91st in the nation. I'm still unsure if Crispin and Cline-Heard
    are really recruits for Penn State. I question some of the info I got on
    them. Greg Grays is a 6-0, 180 lbs. shooting guard from Detroit. Described
    as a project, he had 33.1 ppg and 5.9 rpg in high school. Street & Smith
    had him labeled as an Honorable Mention All-American.

    Scott Witkowski is a 7-0, 255 lbs. center from Colorado. Also described
    as a project, he averaged 16.2 ppg, 15.1 rpg, and 4.1 bpg in high school.
    Street & Smith had him listed as a High Honorable Mention All-American.

    Gyasi Cline-Heard is a 6-7 power forward who averaged 26.4 ppg, 18.3 rpg,
    and 4.1 bpg. Those stats were unable to be verified and I highly question
    the rebounding stat.

    Joe Crispin is a 5-11 point guard who supposedly had 32.2 ppg and 6.1 apg
    in high school. A pity no scout/recruiter I've seen seems to have heard
    of him ...

    Schedule:

    They only have 10 non-exhibition, non-conference games. Their toughest
    opponent is North Carolina State. The rest of their schedule is against
    powerhouses like Monmouth and Lehigh ... not a very strong schedule at
    all.

    The Nittany Lions have one of the easier Big Ten schedules- facing MSU,
    IU, Illinois, and Iowa only once each. The second half of the Big Ten
    schedule is far easier on Penn State than the first half.

    Big Ten Club History:

    To my knowledge, Penn State is having problems against everybody but
    Northwestern.

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
    11. Northwestern

    Nutshell: A team that was the basement of the Big Ten last season loses
    key players as well as a head coach. It doesn't take a genius to figure
    out this is going to be a "rebuilding" year.

    Strengths: Evan Eschmeyer and the fact that Northwestern has to play no
    Big Ten team more than twice this season (outside the tournament, that
    is). No one expects a whole lot from NW this season.

    Weaknesses: They only have one Evan Eschmeyer.

    Personnel Graduated:

    Jevon Johnson Wing Guard

    Personnel Lost:

    Ricky Byrdsong Head Coach
    Carvell Ammons Power Forward Transfer to Illinois.
    Geno Carlisle Shooting Guard Transfer to Pepperdine.

    Personnel Gained:

    Kevin O'Neill Head Coach From Tennessee
    Sean Wink Freshman Guard Recruited
    Terrence Avery Freshman Center Recruited
    Jonah Batambuze Freshman Guard Recruited

    Recruiting:

    Not ranked in top 126 of the nation.

    Sean Wink is a 6-4 guard from California who averaged 22.4 ppg in high
    school.

    Terrence Avery is a 6-9 225 lbs. center from Illinois who averaged 16.1
    ppg and 7.1 rpg in high school.

    Jonah Batambuze is a 5-10 175 lbs. guard from Bloomington, Illinois who
    averaged 14.3 ppg and 5.5 apg in high school.

    Schedule:

    I don't have their pre-conference schedule so I can't comment on it.

    Their Big Ten schedule is middle-of-the-road, having to face Purdue,
    Michigan, OSU, and MSU only once each. The first half of the schedule is
    messy for NW, particularly between Jan. 14th and 24th. That's when NW
    plays IU, at Wisconsin, at Penn State, and at Purdue. Now that's ten
    days I wouldn't wish on anybody ...

    Big Ten Club History:

    Northwestern doesn't have a great record against anybody in the Big Ten
    ... at least not in the last fifteen years or so.




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