Coach: John Beilein hopes this is the year. The entire starting lineup is returning from last season and another solid recruiting class adds depth. Sims and Harris are stars while Perry, Gibson, and Novak are great role players. The conference schedule is always tough but with a couple of superstars and a tricky zone defense this is the type of team that can get hot and make some noise in tournaments.
Lineup: G Laval Lucas-Perry, G Manny Harris, F Zack Gibson, F Anthony Wright, F DeShawn Sims
Bench: Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, Darius Morris, Matt Vogrich
Star: One of the most versatile players in the Big Ten, Manny Harris contemplated going pro at the end of last season. Not only is he the most likely player to lead the conference in scoring, he's also a threat for a triple double every night.
Top Freshman: Darius Morris is a big guard that will be a role player this season. Next year though - especially if Harris leaves - expect him to be on nightly highlight reels.
NCAA Seed: 7
Coach: Tubby Smith coaxed a fourth place finish out of last season's Gopher squad. This year the expectations are even higher. Ralph Sampson III is expected to take the next step to team with veteran guards Al Nolen and Lawrence Westbrook. The fact that Tubby seems to like coaching in Minnesota (as opposed to using this as a stopgap for a more prestigious program) has had a great effect on the recruiting. Once again, the Golden Gophers have a top recruiting class. The added depth and quality give this team an outside shot at the Big Ten title.
Lineup: PG Al Nolen, SG Lawrence Westbrook, SF Damian Johnson, Rodney Williams, C Ralph Sampson III
Bench: Colton Iverson, Devoe Joseph, Blake Hoffbarber, Paul Carter
Star: Nagging injuries have prevented Lawrence Westbrook from playing an entire season. If he's able to make complete a year unscathed, Minnesota will get some recognition on the All Big Ten team.
Top Freshman: Royce White. Minnesota's Mr. Basketball chose to stay in-state instead of attending other high profile schools like Kansas and Michigan St. A possible red-shirt season is likely to keep him off the court this year but he may be the best Gopher player since Kris Humphries or Bobby Jackson.
NCAA Seed: 6
3. Ohio State
Coach: Thad Matt has won two Big Ten championships, has gone to the national title game, and averages 25 wins a game. What more does he need to accomplish to be considered one of the elite coaches? For three straight years Ohio State has lost a 7'0" freshman to the NBA. Next season it is almost certain they will be without Turner. Luckily 2010 is probably the nation's #1 recruiting class. I don't know what else Matta can do to increase his recognition but winning 2 games in the NCAA Tournament seems likely yet again for the Buckeyes.
Lineup: SG David Lighty, SG William Buford, SG Jon Diebler, SF Evan Turner, Kyle Madsen
Bench: Dallas Lauderdale, Jeremie Simmons, PJ Hill
Star: Evan Turner is the best player in the Big Ten. No one else is capable of filling up a stat sheet as consistently. Without a true PG, Turner fills in. When the team needs to go small, Turner plays power forward. Expect him to be a lottery selection in the NBA draft.
Top Freshman: No freshmen on roster.
NCAA Seed: 4
2. Michigan State
Coach: Tom Izzo reached the national title game last year for what seems like the tenth time. This year's squad returns all the guards and has some solid freshmen as well. Unfortunately three big men have graduated leaving a gaping hole down low. Expect some struggles early in the year against taller teams particularly North Carolina. But these games will allow Izzo's youngins to grow into their roles as the Big Ten season gets underway. I think Ohio State is a better team but Izzo has worked magic before.
Lineup: PG Kalin Lucas, SG Durrell Summers, F Delvon Roe, F Raymar Morgan, F Garrick Sherman
Bench: Draymond Green, Chris Allen, Korie Lucious, Derrick Nix
Star: Kalin Lucas doesn't look like a typical big-time scorer but that's just what he is. The junior averaged 14.7 ppg last year and also took home the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Top Freshman: Garrick Sherman is starting as a freshman. Although he doesn't have the high ceiling most other freshman starters have had under Izzo, he'll be a solid Big Ten player for four years.
NCAA Seed: 3
Coach: Matt Painter's desire to recruit players that will stay four years and gel into a team has paid off. The Baby Boilers are no more, instead they're a team ranked in the top ten that expects to compete for the Final Four. It's possible Johnson or Hummel could leave at the end of the season. If that's the result of a Final Four appearance I think most Purdue fans will tell you it's worth it. The 2010 recruiting class is similar to the one three years ago so it's hopeful the cycle is about to begin anew.
Lineup: G Kelsey Barlow, G E'Twan Moore, G Chris Kramer, F Robbie Hummel, C JaJuan Johnson
Bench: Keaton Grant, Ryne Smith, DJ Byrd, Patrick Bade
Star: Robbie Hummel's ability to hit the timely three and find the open man are qualities that make the Purdue team tick. The Boilers really struggled when he went down with a back injury last season.
Top Freshman: Kelsey Barlow is taking over at PG due to Lewis Jackson's foot injury. Long and quick, he has the potential to be an elite on-ball defender.
NCAA Seed: 2