Coach: 2009 proved to be even more difficult to stomach than anyone expected in Iowa City. Last year I wrote:
Lickliter's biggest challenge is getting good players. He's been the first to admit that it's a challenge to recruit Big Ten players and not just guys who fit his scheme.
This appears even more apparent this season after a mass exodus of last year's team. If the Hawkeyes don't improve upon their 15-17 record this could be it for Lickliter.
Lineup: G Matt Gatens, G Anthony Tucker, G Cully Payne, F Jarryd Cole, F Brennan Cougill
Bench: Eric May, Devan Bawinkel, Aaron Fuller, Andrew Brommer
Star: Matt Gatens is head and shoulders the best player on this team. With his versatility and high percentage shooting, he could go down as one of the best Hawkeyes ever.
Top Freshman: Cully Payne
NIT Bid: No
Coach: Tom Crean has shown he is a master recruiter and a patient mentor. He inherited a Hoosier team bereft of all talent and only managed to win one conference game. This season, with the conference's top recruiting class and a few of last year's recruits on board, IU looks to make some noise as they attempt to move up the ranks. They're still a year away though.
Lineup: PG Verdell Jones III, G Maurice Creek, G Jeremiah Rivers, F Tom Pritchard, F/C Christian Watford
Bench: Derek Elston, Devan Dumes, Jordan Hulls, Bobby Capobianco
Star: Look for Verdell Jones to really improve now that he has some legitimate players around him.
Top Freshman: Christian Watford
NIT Bid: No
9. Penn St.
Coach: Last year may have been the most successful season in Nittany Lion history. Snubbed by the NCAA despite finishing 4th in the Big Ten and winning 23 games, this team went on to win the NIT championship proving its doubters wrong. Yet Ed DeChellis knows this season may be even tougher after the departure of three seniors. But as long as Talor Battle is around this team will scare people.
Lineup: G Talor Battle, G Jeff Brooks, F Andrew Jones, G Chris Babb, F David Jackson
Bench: Tim Frazier, Cammeron Woodyard, Adam Highberger
Star: Talor Battle was all Big Ten last year as a sophomore. This guy is a true game changer.
Top Freshman: Tim Frazier
NIT Bid: Yes
Coach: Bruce Weber got his team back to the tournament last year. However the good news ends there. When Sr. guard Chester Frazier got went down late in the year, the Illini offense went with him. Putrid offensive showings vs. Purdue in the Big Ten tournament and in a blowout loss to 12th seeded Western Kentucky have left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Unfortunately last year's team had several seniors so a minor step back may occur this season. For the first time in his tenure, Weber managed to bring in two of the top freshmen in the conference. If these two can contribute right away look for the Illini to return to the NCAA Tournament.
Lineup: G Demitri McCamey, G Brandon Paul, G DJ Richardson, F Mike Davis, C Mike Tisdale
Bench: Alex Legion, Bill Cole, Dominique Keller, Jeffrey Jordan
Star: Mike Davis exploded last year. Named to the Big Ten 2nd team, he averaged 11.3 pts/game and led the Big Ten in rebounding.
Top Freshman: DJ Richardson. Richardson's team went 33-0 and won the state title his senior year.
NIT Bid: Yes
Coach: Bill Carmody almost got his team where no Northwestern team had ever been: the NCAA Tournament. With a team loaded with seniors this looked to be the year, if ever, they would finally make it. Unfortunately a pre-season injury to the team's best player may prevent the Wildcats from reaching their full potential. Good teams tend to struggle against NWU as their 1-3-1 zone defense causes opponents fits. I'm not sure Carmody's job is on the line but if they don't make the tournament it will be another disappointing season in Evanston.
Lineup: G Michael Thompson, G Jeremy Nash, G/F Drew Crawford, F John Shurma, C Luka Mirkovic
Bench: Kyle Rowley, Alex Marcotullio, Ivan Peljusic
Star: With Kevin Coble out for the year, Michael Thompson assumes the reins of team superstar. Only 5'10", he's a strong rebounder and penetrator
Top Freshman: Drew Crawford
NCAA Bid: No
Coach: Never count Bo Ryan out. I, for one, thought last season's team would be awful. Although they didn't dominate the way some Badger teams of the past have done, they still won 20 games and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. This season will be even more of a challenge after his top two players graduated. Expect more Wisconsin basketball: slow, grinding offense and an in-your-face defense focused on rebounding. I don't see a lot of talent on this squad but as I already said, don't count Bo Ryan out.
Lineup: PG Trevon Hughes, G Jason Bohannon, G/F Tim Jarmusz, F Keaton Nankivil, F Jon Leuer
Bench: Ryan Evans, Jordan Taylor, Mike Bruesewitz
Star: Trevon Hughes is lightning quick and one of the best defensive players in the country.
Top Freshman: Mike Bruesewitz
NCAA Bid: Yes