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Previewing The Big Ten

Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State

Date: 10/01/98
Author: Rufus Talladega
Rufus Talladega

    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
    probably wondering:

    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.

    New faces:

    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.

    Starting Five:

    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.

    New Faces:

    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.

    Starting Five:

    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.


    Ohio State

    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
    UCinn, respectively.

    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.

    New Faces:

    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.

    Starting Five:

    "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.

    Next up...

    If you have questions or comments, you know where to send them.


    Rufus Talladega

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