SportsTemps home

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2012-13 Atlantic 10 Preview

The A-10 is often forgotten when discussing major basketball conferences.  Maybe it’s because most of these schools do not have football or perhaps it’s because most of the members are mid-sized private universities.  Whatever the reason, you can find good basketball here. Five straight years three or more teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament with four teams going in both 2009 and 2012.  The conference has been dominated by Xavier (15 conference titles in 28 years) and Temple (9 A-10 tournament titles) but now new challengers appear poised to make a move. 

The Reigning Champs
As mentioned above Temple should always be mentioned when discussing the potential contenders for the league crown.  Last year’s squad went 24-8 (13-3) and qualified for the NCAAs.  Unfortunately they were bounced in the first round by South Florida.  It’s going to be tough for the Owls to repeat after losing two starters including leading scorer Ramone Moore. To further complicate matters is the potential ban of stud senior Khalif Wyatt. If Wyatt is out for any length of time I think it makes Temple a bubble team and not a team that can win the conference.
St. Bonaventure
The Bonnies surprised many people (including yours truly) last season in route to winning the conference championship.  They were one and done in the NCAAs though, losing by three to Florida St. in the second round.  Their best player (Andrew Nicholson) was selected in the NBA draft and starting forward Da’Quan Cook graduated. I’m not sure there’s enough left here to compete for a repeat performance.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

2012-13 Big Ten Preview

And we're back!  The summer flew by and unfortunately the blog was neglected as a result. But now it's time for college basketball so I'm feeling a little more energetic this weekend.

I'll start off by giving a short preview of all twelve Big Ten teams and then I'll just pick and choose my way through conferences later. So here we go, my predicted reverse order of finish, the Big Ten preview begins now...

12. Nebraska
Last Season: 12-18, tied for 11th in Big Ten
Graduated: G Bo Spencer, G Toney McCray, G Brandon Richardson, G Caleb Walker, C Jorge Brian Diaz (retired)
Brandon Ubel is the last big man left in Lincoln.
He'll need to anchor this team to avoid a last place finish.
New Faces: Devell Biggs, Benny Parker, Shavon Shields, Sergej Vucetic
Outlook: Poor coach Tim Miles.  In his first season as Huskers head coach he'll have only five returning scholarship players including one starter.  There is potential talent coming in but it will have to wait a year due to transfer requirements.  With a short and shallow roster, Nebraska is destined for a last place finish but with three seniors there will be nights when they compete.
Projected Starters:
G Ryan Gallegos (Jr)
G Dylan Talley (Sr)
Devell Biggs (Jr)
F Andre Almeida (Sr)
Brandon Ubel (Sr)
Bench: F David Rivers (So), G Benny Parker (Fr), G Shavon Shields (Fr), C Sergej Vucetic (Fr), G Jordan Tyrance (RS Fr), G Trevor Menke (So), F Kyle Kurkowski (RS Fr)

11. Illinois
Last Season: 17-15, tied for 9th in Big Ten
Graduated/Went Pro: C Meyers Leonard, G Sam Maniscalco
What's going on with this guy? He has all the talent in
the world but his disappointing career to date is a micro-
cosm of Bruce Weber's failed tenure in Champaign.
New Faces: F Sam McLaurin (transfer), Devin Langford (redshirt)
Outlook: There are talented seniors on this roster but none of that talent has materialized for any stretch of length. Now, with no freshmen on the team, Illinois will switch to new coach John Groce's system which relies heavily on a talented point guard. If Tracy Abrams can't handle the job it may be a really long year in Champaign. I think this prediction is conservative though, and still believe there's a chance Brandon Paul finally puts it all together.
Projected Starters:
G Brandon Paul (Sr)
G Tracy Abrams (So)
DJ Richardson (Sr)
F Tyler Griffey (Sr)
Nnanna Egwu (So)
Bench: F Mike Shaw (So), F Myke Henry (So), F Ibrahima Djimde (So), Devin Langford (RS Fr)

10. Penn St.
Last Season: 12-20, tied for 11th in Big Ten
Graduated: G Cammeron Woodyard, G Trey Lewis (transfer), G Matt Glover (transfer), C Peter Alexis (retired)
Rumors are Penn St. is challenging the NCAAs anti-cloning
rule regarding Tim Frazier. Five of him would be fun to watch!
New Faces: Brandon Taylor, Donovan Jack, Akosa Maduegbunamm
Outlook: Penn State has an excellent backcourt led by All Big Ten selection Tim Frazier.  The frontcourt, however, is a big question mark. Their lack of experience and talent will be exploited by teams with skilled big men.  This will be a fun team to watch and if the young bigs develop an NIT berth isn't out of the question.
Projected Starters:
G Tim Frazier (Sr)
G DJ Newbill (RS So)
Jermaine Marshall (Sr)
F Ross Travis (So)
Sasa Borovnjak (Jr)
Bench: G Nick Colella (Sr), F Patrick Ackerman (So), F Jon Graham (So), F Brandon Taylor (Fr), F Donovan Jack (Fr), G Akosa Maduegbunamm (Fr)

9. Northwestern
Last Season: 19-14, tied for 7th in Big Ten, NIT appearance
Graduated: F John Shurna, F Luka Mirkovic
In a loaded Big Ten, it will take a career year
from Drew Crawford to give Northwestern
some excited high fives post buzzer.
New Faces: Jared Swopshire (transfer), Nikola Cerina (transfer), Tre Demps (redshirt), Michael Turner (redshirt), Alex Olah, Kale Abrahamson, Sanjay Lumpkin, Chier Ajou
Outlook: Last year Northwestern became the only Big Ten school ever to go to the NIT four straight years. Sadly, 2012-13 looks like it will be a fifth.  The young talent on this team is real and just like the last two seasons, there will be a point during the season where people think this team has a shot to earn their elusive NCAA bid.  However, I'm bearish on a defense that was twelfth in the conference last season. Once the young guns get a season under their belts this team can really take off.  If the Wildcats don't make the NCAAs in 2013-14 then I'll be surprised.
Projected Starters:
G Drew Crawford (Sr)
G JerShon Cobb (Jr)
David Sobolewski (So)
Jared Swopshire (Sr)
Alex Olah (Fr)
Bench: G Tre Demps (Sr), G Alex Marcotullio (Sr), F Kale Abrahamson (Fr), G Reggie Hearn (Sr), C Aaron Liberman (Fr), F Chier Ajou (Fr), F Sanjay Lumpkin, G Nikola Cerina (Jr)

8. Iowa
Last Season: 18-17, tied for 7th in Big Ten, lost in second round of CBI tournament
Graduated: G Matt Gatens, F Andrew Brommer, G Bryce Cartwright
Basabe might want to start practicing against
adults if he's to lead Iowa back to the NCAAs.
New Faces: Adam Woodbury, Mike Gesell, Kyle Meyer
Outlook: Iowa made huge strides last season under Fran McCaffery.  The fast pace the Hawkeyes play is a bit refreshing in the grind-it-out Big Ten.  This team could finish anywhere from fifth to tenth. Much of that depends on the incoming freshmen and the improvements made by last year's freshmen. Either way this is a team who should be knocking on an NCAA berth this season.
Projected Starters:
G Mike Gesell (Fr)
G Roy Devyn Marble (Jr)
G Josh Oglesby (So)
Aaron White (So)
Melsahn Basabe (Jr)
Bench: F Eric May (Sr), F Zach McCabe (Jr), C Adam Woodbury (Fr), F Gabe Olaseni (So), F Kyle Myer (Fr)

7. Minnesota
Last Season: 23-15, tied for 9th in Big Ten, lost in NIT championship
Graduated: F Ralph Sampson, Chip Armelin (transfer)
Here's to hoping Trevor Mbakwe can be the same player
he was before he tore his ACL. The man was a beast in the paint!
New Faces: Charles Buggs, Wally Ellenson
Outlook: Minnesota must wonder what they've done to upset the basketball gods. Each year they look like a contender only to have injuries severely hamper their roster. Last season was no exception and it took until late in the year for the team to come together. If this team can just stay healthy they can compete with anyone in the conference. I'm not one to bet against history hence my prediction that the Gophers finish in the middle of the pack. That shouldn't prevent this team from qualifying for the NCAA tournament.
Projected Starters:
G Andre Hollns (So)
G Austin Hollins (Jr)
G Joe Coleman (So)
Rodney Williams (Sr)
F Trevor Mbakwe (RS Sr)
Bench: F Elliott Eliason (RS So), G Charles Buggs (Fr), G Julian Welch (Sr), G Maverick Ahanmisi (Jr), G Wally Ellenson (Fr), F Andre Ingram (Sr), F Oto Osenieks (So),

6. Purdue
Last Season: 22-13, 6th in Big Ten, lost in Round of 32 to Kansas
Graduated: F Robbie Hummel, G Ryne Smith, PG Lewis Jackson, G/F Kelsey Barlow (dismissed)
Purdue fans held many candlelight vigils in an attempt
to rectify Terone's embarrassing .435 FT%.
New Faces: Ronnie Johnson, Donnie Hale (redshirt), AJ Hammons, Raphael Davis, Jay Simpson
Outlook: The Boilermakers are a team in transition. The Baby Boilers are officially gone and are replaced by one of the nation's top recruiting classes. Led by guard Terone Johnson and seven footer AJ Hammons, Purdue will look to clamp down on defense and make the lane a place opponents avoid .  There will be struggles for this team but head coach Matt Painter has only failed to win twenty-two games once in his career as a head coach.
Projected Starters:
G Ronnie Johnson (Fr)
G Terone Johnson (Jr)
DJ Byrd (Sr)
Donnie Hale (RS Fr)
C Sandi Marcius (RS Jr)
Bench: G Raphael Davis (Fr), G Anthony Johnson (RS So), C AJ Hammons (Fr), F Jacob Lawson (So), F Jay Simpson (Fr), F Travis Carroll (Jr), F Dru Anthrop (Sr)

5. Wisconsin
Last Season: 26-10, 4th in Big Ten, lost in Sweet 16 to Syracuse
Graduated: PG Jordan Taylor, G Rob Wilson
By channeling his inner Manute Bol,
(draining 3's, blocking shots), this string bean
has become a very good player.
New Faces: Sam Dekker, Zak Showalter
Outlook: The Badgers lost All-American candidate point guard Jordan Taylor and their top perimeter player Josh Gasser will miss the season after tearing his ACL.  Things may seem dark but haven't we learned not to count Bo Ryan out? Wisconsin has never finished worse than fourth in his eleven years with the program.  I'm picking them fifth here but that's no slouch in the country's top conference. Also, I expect them to make the Sweet 16 for the sixth time in the last eleven years. This is a solid program.
Projected Starters:
G George Marshall (RS Fr)
G Ben Brust (Jr)
F Ryan Evans (R Sr)
Mike Bruesewitz (Sr)
Jared Berggren (R So)
Bench: G Sam Dekker (Fr), C Frank Kaminsky (So), G Traevon Jackson (So), C Evan Anderson (RS So), F Duje Dukan (Jr), G Jordan Smith (So), G Zak Showalter (Fr), F Zach Bohannon (RS Jr)

4. Michigan
Last Season: 24-10, tied for 1st in Big Ten, lost in first round to Ohio
Graduated: F Zack Novak, G Stu Douglass
Trey Burke is flipping awesome. The Wolverines
might want to win some tournament games this year
because I doubt he's back for his junior season.
New Faces: Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, Max Biefeldt, Spike Albrecht, Caris Levert
Outlook: The Wolverines surprised many by winning a share of the Big Ten last season but followed that up with a very disappointing loss in the first round of the NCAAs. This season they're bringing in the conference's top recruiting class and look to reclaim a share of the title.  While their starting lineup may be the best outside Bloomington, their depth remains questionable. Still, this is a team that should earn a top four or five seed in the Big Dance come April.
Projected Starters:
G Trey Burke (So)
G Tim Hardaway (Jr)
Glenn Robinson III (Fr)
Mitch McGary (Fr)
Jordan Morgan (Jr)
Bench: F John Horford (RS So), G Matt Vogrich (Sr), G Eso Akunne (Sr), C Blake McLimans (Sr), G Nik Stauskas (Fr), F Max Biefeldt (RS Fr), G Spike Albrecht (Fr), G Caris Levert (Fr)

3. Ohio St.
Last Season: 31-8, tied for 1st in Big Ten, lost in Final 4 to Kansas
Graduated/Went Pro: F Jared Sullinger, G William Buford, Jd Weatherspoon (transfer), Jordan Sibert (transfer)
Sure Craft fouls on every play, but that's more a knock on
officials than him.  Expect him to lead the BIG in steals again.
New Faces: G Amedeo Della Valle
Outlook: Ohio St. may have lost its two best players last season but that is no reason to expect them to fall down the Big Ten standings. Aaron Craft is possibly the most tenacious defender in the college ranks while DeShaun Thomas is still an underrated scorer.  Though many people may not recognize the names on the roster, everyone should remember Thad Matta doesn't rebuild. He just reloads.
Projected Starters:
G Aaron Craft (Jr)
G Lenzelle Smith (Jr)
DeShaun Thomas (Jr)
Sam Thompson (So)
Amir Williams (So)
Bench: PG Shannon Scott (So), F Evan Ravenel (Jr), F LaQuinton Ross (So), G Alex Rogers (Jr), G Amedeo Della Valle (Fr)

2. Michigan St.
Last Season: 29-8, tied for 1st in Big Ten, lost in Sweet 16 to Louisville
Graduated: F Draymond Green, G Brandon Wood, F Austin Thornton
Some may say this was Branden Dawson's date
with Karma for the way he spurned Purdue.
New Faces: Gary Harris, Denzel Valentine, Matt Costello, Kenny Kaminski
Outlook: The Spartans again have loaded up their non-conference schedule in an attempt to prepare for the NCAA tournament.  Izzo knows they may struggle early but as Branden Dawson continues to improve (torn ACL) and the team gels they'll be right there in Big Ten play. I'm calling an Elite 8 appearance for this team.
Projected Starters:
G Keith Appling (Jr)
G Gary Harris (Fr)
Branden Dawson (So)
F Adreian Payne (Jr)
Derrick Nix (Sr)
Bench: PG Travis Trice (So), F Denzel Valentine (Fr), G Brandon Kearney (So), F Alex Gauna (So), G Kennan Wetzel (So), F Matt Costello (Fr), G Kenny Kaminski (Fr)

1. Indiana
Last Season: 27-9, 5th in Big Ten, lost in Sweet 16 to Kentucky
Graduated: G Verdell Jones, F Tom Pritchard, G Matt Roth
I feel you, Oladipo. You're the most under-
rated player in the BIG. Hello NBA.
New Faces: Yogi Ferrell, Peter Jurkin, Jeremy Hollowell
Outlook: Want to know why IU is the consensus #1 team in the country? Last year they ranked fourth in the nation in offensive efficiency and the entire starting lineup is returning. The top bench players are also coming back and IU landed a top five recruiting class. The defense may still be bad but with this offense that shouldn't be a problem.  This team should win the conference and go to the Final Four.
Projected Starters:
G Yogi Ferrell (Fr)
G Victor Oladipo (Jr)
Will Sheehey (Jr)
Christian Watford (Sr)
Cody Zeller (So)
Bench: F Derek Elston (Jr), G Jordan Hulls (Sr), G Remy Abell (So), Maurice Creek (RS Jr), F Austin Etherington (So), F Jeremy Hollowell (Fr), C Peter Jurkin (Fr)

All Big Ten First Team
C Cody Zeller
G Victor Oladipo
G Aaron Craft
G Trey Burke
F DeShaun Thomas

All Big Ten Second Team
G Terone Johnson
G Brandon Paul
G Tim Frazier
C Jared Berggren
F Trevor Mbakwe