These three teams I perceive as being a level above Northwestern and Penn
State, but because of their competition I think it unlikely for them to make
the upper division.
If NW or Penn State make the upper division, I'll be shocked. If these teams
make the upper division, I'll be mildly surprised. With a little good luck
smiling on these teams (and some dropped balls by other Big Ten teams), these
teams have a shot. But I wouldn't go so far as to say they were dark horses.
Longshots would be a better term.
Let's talk about Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio State in that order. You're
1. Why the hell I've got Michigan down so far.
2. Why the hell I don't have Wisconsin in last place.
3. And you're probably not having an opinion of OSU at all, which I think is a
dangerous thing to do and I'll explain why. Ohio State could be the biggest
surprise in the nation this season.
What they had:
A starting five of Robbie Reid, Louis Bullock, Jerod Ward, Maceo Baston, and
Robert "Tractor" Traylor. They had no depth, but their starting five was good
enough for an 11-5 record in the Big Ten last season and they were the first
champions of the Big Ten Tournament (yes, they beat both Michigan State and
Purdue to get it).
What they lose, what they get back:
They lost Maceo Baston and Robert Traylor to the NBA. Jerod Ward graduated.
Bye-bye, frontcourt. But Reid and Bullock both come back as seniors,
presenting the most experienced backcourt in the Big Ten and one of the best
in the country. Add sophomores Brandon Smith (wing forward) and Josh Asselin
(center) and you're still looking for a starting forward. Also note that
Asselin and Smith have yet to start a game in their collegiate careers.
Only two new faces. A center in Chris Young. He may start, but he's still raw
and is just 6-10 and 215 lbs. He may not be able to hold his own against
numerous Big Ten centers. There's also Leon Jones, a 6-4 guard. Jones is said
to be a great athlete, but he only averaged 12 ppg last season at his prep
school, so Wolverine fans shouldn't be expecting an offensive juggernaut
performance from him anytime soon.
Robbie Reid - G Sr.
Louis Bullock - G Sr.
Brandon Smith - F So.
Josh Asselin - C/F So.
Peter Vignier - C Jr.
or Chris Young - C Fr.
Leon Jones - G Fr.
Erik Szyndlar - F Sr.
Darius Taylor - G Sr.
Ron Oliver - G Sr.
Essentially, this team is like last year's team except that they have no
frontcourt. Since the Big Ten has many competitive backcourts in the
conference this season but not so many prized frontcourts, I expect Michigan's
weakness of young, inexperienced forwards and centers to get severely hammered
this season. I can't think of one Wolverine frontcourt person who can match up
against any one of the following players: Eschmeyer (NW), J. Stephens (PSU),
Johnson (OSU), A. Smith and Hutson (MSU), Koch and Rucker (Iowa), Vershaw
(Wisconsin), Hawkins (Illinois), Recker (IU), Quincy Lewis and Przybilla
(Minnesota), or Cardinal (Purdue). Given that realization, Bullock and Reid
are going to have to be perfect just to have a chance at winning a game. And I
don't think the Michigan backcourt is all THAT superior to most of the other
Big Ten backcourts. If I can envision Ohio State and Northwestern giving
match-up problems for Michigan, then Michigan has problems.
What they had:
A REALLY, REALLY bad season. Only 3 Big Ten wins last season. Why? Veteran
point guard Ty Calderwood was out due to injury and the lead reins were given
to a true freshman point guard who had to match-up against the likes of Mateen
Cleaves, Louis Bullock and A.J. Guyton. Add to that the fact that half of the
Badger roster were freshman unable to play Bennett's caliber of defensive
intensity and ... well, you have a mess on your hands.
The only returning offense they had from last season is guard Sean Mason. He
averaged 15 ppg while no other returning player averaged over 8 ppg.
What they lose, what they get back:
They lose F/C Sean Daughterty, who was the keystone to their frontcourt last
However, they get point guard Ty Calderwood back. And Sean Mason is back as
well. Hennssy Auriantal may also be able to help them at the guard spot. Mark
Vershaw, their prize recruit last season, started coming on late last season.
If he picks up where he left off and keeps improving, he could become the
Badgers' go-to guy on the inside.
Charlie Wills, a red-shirt 6-8 forward freshman, will probably contribute the
most. Jon Bryant, a JUCO transfer, could provide some offense at guard. That
leaves freshmen guards Travon Davis and John Moriarity and freshman forward
Maurice Sessoms to compete for supporting role positions.
Ty Calderwood - G Sr.
Sean Mason - G Sr.
Andy Kowske - F So.
Mark Vershaw - C/F So.
Hennssy Auriantal - G Sr.
Mike Kelley - PG So.
Duany Duany - WG Jr.
Maurice Linton - F So.
Charlie Wills - F Fr. (redshirted 97-98)
Jon Bryant - G Jr. (JUCO transfer)
Travon Davis - G Fr.
Maurice Sessoms - F Fr.
John Moriarity - WF Fr. (redshirted 97-98)
David Burkemper - G Jr.
They should be better with Calderwood. But the young players are going to have
to get much better on their defense before the Badgers are going anywhere. If
their D doesn't improve dramatically from last season, the Badgers will be in
last place once again. I don't think that will be the case, but I also don't
think this squad has the experience needed to reach the upper division.
What they had:
The worst September and October you could imagine last season. I predicted
last season that OSU could go places. Yeah, well, I was thinking of upward
mobility - not a freefall. However (in my defense), when I said I thought OSU
was looking good:
1. Damon Stringer and Trent Jackson were healthy and on the team.
2. Shaun Stonerook was academically eligible.
3. Jermaine Tate looked to be recovering nicely, medically speaking.
You lose three starters and your potential for good things goes in the crapper
real quick ...
But, this season the OSU squad looks pretty good (once again) in pre-season. I
figure lightning won't strike twice. Of all the teams I've mentioned
previously (NW, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan), I think OSU has the
greatest chance to get into the upper division.
What they lose, what they get back:
Damon Stringer is gone. He got into legal trouble (again) this summer and I
don't believe he is even on OSU campus any more. Shaun Stonerook may still be
on campus, but if he is he won't be playing basketball. Gone also is JUCO
center Ed Jenkins, who never played one game in a Buckeye jersey. Also gone is
Trent Jackson and Jeramaine Tate, who have transferred to who knows where and
What they get back is freshman-cum-sophomore sensation Michael Redd. He may be
a little overrated because of lopsided statistics (he was the sole scorer for
the team last year) but he's still a damn good guard. Junior center Ken
Johnson showed some stuff last season and, if he continues to improve, can be
an impressive center in the Big Ten. And there's also wing guard Jason
Singleton, in his senior year, who's always been a good supporter to offense
for the team.
OSU had a damn fine recruiting class, considering their recent pecking order
in the conference. First, there's Top100 guard recruit Brian Brown. He should
be able to help the shooting guard position immediately from the bench.
Probably of more importance, though, is point guard James "Scoonie" Penn. He's
a transfer from Boston College, Coach O'Brien's old stomping grounds. Scoonie
got Big East Freshman of the Year awards and a Big East Tournament Player of
the Year award when he was a sophomore. He sat out last season in Columbus,
redshirting for the transfer and practicing with the team. This point guard,
though new, has the advantage of already knowing the coach's system better
than anybody else on his team. Plus, Scoonie is probably second as a Big Ten
point guard only to Mateen Cleaves and possibly Dan Earl.
Now add Top100 recruit power forward Will Dudley. Yep. OSU Football Ricky
Dudley's younger brother. Except Ricky was better in football than basketball.
His younger brother is better in basketball. Dudley should be able to
immediately contribute on the boards and with some rough defensive
positioning- something Buckeye forwards have lacked since they last took the
Big Ten title in the earlier part of this decade.
But I'm not done yet. Add JUCO forward sensation George Reese. He's 6-7 and
220 pounds. And all power forward. Reese was a JUCO All-American 2nd team
selection. He averaged 20.2 ppg and 11.6 rebounds last season in junior
college. For you Purdue fans, those numbers are similar to Roy Hairston's
stats before he went to Purdue as a JUCO junior. If you put George Reese, Will
Dudley, and Ken Johnson together- you've got (potentially) a very good-looking
brute squad of a frontcourt.
Also add in a 6-6 foreign swingman in Slobodan Savovic. He played for the
Yugoslavian National Junior team not to long ago and may develop into
something special. Backing up Singleton this season, he doesn't have to worry
about producing until next season.
"Scoonie" Penn - PG Jr. (transfer from Boston College)
Michael Redd - G So.
Jason Singleton - G/F Sr.
George Reese - F Jr. (JUCO transfer)
Ken Johnson - C Jr.
Jon Sanderson - WF/PF So.
Brian Brown- SG Fr.
Neshaun Coleman - PG Sr.
Will Dudley - PF/C Fr.
Shamar Herron - PF/C So.
Slobodan Savovic - WF Fr.
Kwakjo Steele- F Jr.
Granted, what looks good here is only potential. None of it has been realized
yet. Reese may not start at the beginning of the season; Sanderson may have to
start out at power forward. But I don't think Penn will have any trouble
assuming the point guard duties and I feel Coleman is a suitable support
player at point. That leaves Michael Redd free to do his thing at the shooting
guard position and focus on offense. Jason Singleton and Brian Brown will be
on the court to make sure the opposition can't double or triple team Redd
without worrying about those two draining the open three-point shot. Now add a
stronger inside prescence with Dudley, Johnson, Herron, and Reese. Now add
more rebounds and inside scoring. Like I said ... things are looking good. But
I still feel that the upper division teams from last season (like Indiana,
Iowa, and Illinois) are going to have to fall on their face before OSU is
going to have room to creep into the upper division.
If you have questions or comments, you know where to send them.