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2017-18 Big Ten Conference Preview

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1. MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS – Tom Izzo is one of the best coaches in America everyone knows that. Izzo had advised his own player Miles Bridges that it would probably be smartest if he went to the NBA after last season but Bridges did Izzo a solid by returning to East Lansing after being projected a NBA lottery pick. Now Izzo has a for sure national championship caliber team. Mix Bridges with Nick Ward, Gavin Schilling, and incoming freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. and you have a pretty nasty team. Biggest Non-Conference games: vs Duke, vs DePaul, vs Notre Dame.

2. NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS – The Wildcats return six of their top seven scorers from last year’s and Northwestern’s only year ever in the NCAA Tournament. Chris Collins has this program rolling and now they’ll be forced to play with high expectations. The Wildcats are led by Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsay and Victor Law. This team should certainly be able to score the rock. It’s how they handle the expectations that could be concerning though but Collins should find a way to make it work. Biggest Non-Conference games: vs Creighton, @ Georgia Tech, vs DePaul.

3. PURDUE BOILERMAKERS – Caleb Swanigan may be gone and yes that’s a big blow but this Boilermaker team is still loaded with veterans that should have Purdue being a threat to contend for the Big Ten championship. Looking at this roster you become overwhelmed with the amount of seniors expected to contribute heavy minutes. Isaac Haas, Vince Edwards, Dakota Mathias & P.J. Thompson are all seniors who will make a difference. Mix them with sophomore Carson Edwards and you have a solid team. Experience always pays off in March when it comes to college basketball. Biggest Non-Conference games: @ Marquette, vs Tennessee, vs Louisville.

4. MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS – Nope there’s no sex parties or Adidas handouts running through Minneapolis, at least that we know of. Richard Pitino, son of Rick seems to be doing this his way and things are really starting to pay off for Minnesota. The Gophers return four of their five starters from a season ago, plus they bring in Texas A&M grad-transfer in Davonte Fitzgerald. They already returned three guards that averaged over double digits in points last season. This team should press Northwestern and Purdue for the number two spot in the conference. Biggest Non-Conference games: @ Providence, vs Alabama, vs Miami (FL).

5. MICHIGAN WOLVERINES – John Beilein is a in a plug and play situation coming into this year since the Wolverines are replacing three starters and just about 40 points per game from last season. Sure, they return Moritz Wagner, Muhammed-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, & Duncan Robinson who will all up their scoring but it’s the plug and play players like Ohio grad transfer Jaaron Simmons and Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews that should be the make or break players for the Wolverines to have a successful season. I like their chances. Biggest Non-Conference games: @ North Carolina, vs UCLA, @ Texas.

6. MARYLAND TERRAPINS – Mark Turgeon will need to rely on his sophomores after losing Melo Trimble. The Terps are led by sophomores Justin Jackson, Anthony Cowan, & Kevin Huerter. The Terps also welcome in Duke grad transfer in Center Sean Obi who should provide some much needed experience for this roster is mostly filled up with freshmen and sophomores. Turgeon has a ton of talent but the inexperience could tell the tale for the season. Biggest Non-Conference games: vs Butler, vs St. Bonaventure, @ Syracuse.

7. WISCONSIN BADGERS – The Badgers have their work cut out for them since they return just one lone starter in Ethan Happ. Still, somehow someway head coach Greg Gard seems to get the most out of his teams. They may lack experience but Happ is one of the better players in the Big 10 and Gard should be able to move some pieces around him. Look for D’mitrik Rice, Brevin Pritzl, and others to up their scoring with the additional minutes they will be playing. Biggest Non-Conference games: vs Baylor, @ Virginia, @ Temple, vs Marquette.

8. INDIANA HOOSIERS – Archie Miller is the new head coach in Bloomington and Miller walks into somewhat of a decent situation. Indiana has some talent providing they can stay healthy. Led by Robert Johnson, Juwan Morgan, & De’Ron Davis this team should be able to score some points. The real question will be how they handle the defensive side of the ball where the Hoosiers were one of the worst in the country last year. Miller is a great hire so I expect to see a big change defensively. Biggest Non-Conference games: @ Seton Hall, vs Duke, @ Louisville, vs Notre Dame.

9. PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS – I really like this Penn State team. Last year it seems like the Nittany Lions lost a ton of close games and this year they return all five starters and as I’ve mentioned before experience normally pays off. Head coach Pat Chambers has plenty to be optimistic about despite having a tough season last year and although the Big 10 is loaded this team could really surprise some people. Penn State is led by Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens, & Mike Watkins who can all score the ball. If Chambers really wants to improve from last season’s mistakes he has to get them to play better on the defensive side of the ball which I expect he’ll have them do. Biggest Non-Conference games: vs Pittsburgh, @ NC State, @ George Mason.

10. IOWA HAWKEYES – Well Peter Jok is gone and well he was only the Big 10 leader in points but now the Hawkeyes will have to turn to forward Tyler Cook and guard Jordan Bohannon to pick up the slack. This team is really going to lack experience and they’ll need to really improve on the defensive side of the ball since the offense won’t be as good as last seasons. Biggest Non-Conference games: @ Virginia Tech, @ Iowa State, vs Colorado.

11. OHIO STATE BUCKEYES – I was a bit surprised when Ohio State fired longtime coach Thad Matta let alone the timing of the firing. Chris Holtmann seems to be a good hire in replacing Matta but I’m still a bit shocked. Ohio State was bringing back four upperclassmen in their starting five and well now they’ll have a new coach and a new offense. The Buckeyes are led by Jae’sean Tate, Keita Bates-Diop, & Kam Williams who should all average over double digits in points this year. This Buckeyes team could be a tough out if Holtmann gets them playing his game. Biggest Non-Conference games: vs Gonzaga, vs Clemson, vs North Carolina.

12. ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI – Brad Underwood was a home run hire for Illinois. Not only is he from the state but he’s a proven winner when it comes to coaching. Illinois did however lose four of their starting five from last season though but Underwood is used to overachieving. Underwood has two incoming freshman guards that should contribute right away in Mark Smith & Trent Frazier mix them with Wright State grad transfer Mark Alstork and maybe this team isn’t so bad. They’re still a few years away but Underwood has proven to be a winner. Biggest Non-Conference games: vs DePaul, @ Wake Forest, vs New Mexico State, vs Missouri.

13. NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS – It’s been a long time since Nebraska really contended in their own conference and this year looks to be more of the same. The Cornhuskers do have some nice pieces coming in that could potentially make them a few spots higher than I have them. Glynn Watson is the leader of this team and Watson proved to be one of the better point guards in the Big 10 last season. Plus they inherit Isaac Copeland from Georgetown and James Palmer from Miami (FL) so this team has some talent. Still, I’m reluctant to think they can put it all together and be somewhat of a threat in the Big 10. Biggest Non-Conference games: @ St. Johns, vs Central Florida, vs Boston College, @ Creighton, vs Kansas.

14. RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS – We are now entering year two of the Steve Pikiell era at Rutgers and there’s some slight room for optimism. The Scarlet Knights have a solid backcourt in Corey Sanders and Mike Williams and they should both average double digits in points this season. Plus they have senior forward Deshawn Freeman who could very well end up leading this team in scoring. Rutgers will still need to find a better way to score the basketball, plus their free throw shooting was awful last year. Pikiell is doing some nice things but let’s give the man some time. Biggest Non-Conference games: vs Florida State, vs Fordham, vs Seton Hall.

Colby Dant is a stand up comedian and The Sports Gambling Podcast’s official college football and basketball expert. Unfortunately he’s also a huge Jets fan.

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