2013-14 Big Ten Primer

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Austin Lederman (@AustinLederman)

2013-14 Preseason First Team All-Big Ten
*=Preseason Player of the Year
*Roy Devyn Marble (Sr., Iowa)–15.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg
Tim Frazier (Sr, Penn State)–18.8 ppg, 6.2 apg (2011-12 stats)
Adreian Payne (Sr., Michigan State)–10.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg
Aaron Craft (Sr., Ohio State)–10.0 ppg, 4.6 apg
Glenn Robinson III (Soph., Michigan)–11.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg

1. Michigan State (27-9, 13-5 Big Ten)
Coach: Tom Izzo–18th year, 439-178 (.712)
Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16
RPI/KenPom: 9/9
Starters Returning: 4
Key Loss(es): Derrick Nix (9.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Brandan Kearney (2.3 ppg, 1.5 rpg)
Name to Know: Adreian Payne. The 6-foot-10 senior has improved every year under Izzo. He averaged 2.5 ppg his freshman year, 7.0 ppg in his sophomore season and then 10.5 ppg last year. Payne also increased his rebounding average from 2.4 in his freshman year to 7.6 in his junior campaign. Payne has also grown off the court, from an immature freshman to one of the senior leaders on this year’s squad. Without Nix lining up next to him in the frontcourt, Payne will likely increase his numbers across the board once again as he tries to lead his team to a National Championship.
The Skinny: Michigan State is the preseason No. 2 team in the country for good reason. They return almost all main contributors from last year’s Sweet 16 team, outside of Nix and Kearney. How far these Spartans go may ultimately fall on the play of point guard Keith Appling, who ranked eighth in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4). Shooting guard Gary Harris is finally healthy from a nagging shoulder injury and the athletic Branden Dawson should improve. This is a legitimate National Championship contender.

2. Iowa (25-13, 9-9 Big Ten)
Coach: Fran McCaffery—4th year, 54-50 (.519)
Postseason: NIT Championship
RPI/KenPom: 81/25
Starters Returning: 4
Key Loss(es): Eric May (5.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
Name to Know: Roy Devyn Marble. Marble will see a lot more time this season as the lead guard as he will try to prove to NBA scouts that he’s more than a scorer. Marble was Third Team All-Big Ten last year and will try to make his way onto the first team in his final year in Iowa City. Marble was nearly a no-show in the NIT Championship game when he scored six points on 3-of-12 shooting and turned the ball over four times. Marble will try to get that sour taste out of his mouth as he tries to lead Iowa to its first Big Ten title since 1979.
The Skinny: Fran McCaffery returns nine players from last year’s squad and has his eyes set on a conference championship. With 11 potential rotation players, the Hawkeyes will rely on their depth to get through the rugged conference slate. Junior standout Aaron White will be one of the top players in the country, using his incredibly smooth offensive game to put points on the board for the Hawkeyes. Big men Adam Woodbury and Gabe Olaseni will see time together, forming a massive frontcourt that will be hard to score against. The Hawkeyes have been in the bottom half of the Big Ten for a while, but it seems like it might be the year to burst to the top.

3. Ohio State (29-8, 13-5 Big Ten)
Coach: Thad Matta–9th year, 250-73 (.774)
Postseason: NCAA Elite 8
RPI/KenPom: 10/7
Starters Returning: 4
Key Loss(es): Deshaun Thomas (19.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Evan Ravenel (4.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
Name to know: Sam Thompson. When people think of Ohio State these days, Aaron Craft is usually the name that comes to mind. But we know what the senior leader is at this point: a hounding defender and someone who takes care of the ball. Thompson has NBA-level athleticism and will help Craft wreak havoc on the perimeter and form the best defensive backcourt in the conference. Thompson will have to increase his scoring (7.8 ppg) and be a better distributor (1.0 apg) in order to have the breakout season he seems primed for.
The Skinny: Replacing Thomas’ scoring is going to be the major focus for the defending Big Ten champs this year. LaQuinton Ross showed flashes at the end of last season of being a go-to scorer and he’ll be the one expected to carry the offensive load. Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. will provide the leadership on this team and Amir Williams will have to learn how to stay out of foul trouble and use his 6-11, 250 lb. body to make penetrators think twice of entering the paint.

4. Michigan (31-8, 12-6 Big Ten)
Coach: John Beilein–6th year, 122-85 (.589)
Postseason: NCAA National Runner-Up
RPI/KenPom: 21/4
Starters Returning: 3
Key Loss(es): Trey Burke (18.6 ppg, 6.7 apg), Tim Hardaway Jr. (14.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
Name to Know: Mitch McGary. It took the bruising center awhile to get adjusted to the college game, but once he did, McGary flourished. Highlighted by a 25-point, 14-rebound performance over No. 1 seed Kansas – in which he outplayed current New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey – McGary flashed double-double potential and will be key in helping Michigan try to get back to the National Title game. If he can add a post-up game to his already potent rolling ability in pick-and-rolls, McGary has a chance to be a top NBA pick at the end of this year.
The Skinny: The Wolverines played one of the more exciting national championships in recent history. Michigan lost two players to the first-round of the NBA Draft and have a lot of scoring to replace. Burke was the best player in college basketball last year. Either Spike Albrecht or freshman Derrick Walton Jr. won’t be asked to replicate Burke’s success, but will be asked to command the offense and run the pick-and-roll effectively with McGary. Glenn Robinson III might be the best player in the conference and Nik Stauskas is arguably the best shooter in the Big Ten. Last year, Burke took all the big shots and Michigan will have to discover who will step up in late-game situations this season.

5. Wisconsin (23-12, 12-6 Big Ten)
Coach: Bo Ryan–13th year, 291-113 (.720)
Postseason: NCAA Tournament 2nd Round
RPI/KenPom: 32/13
Starters Returning: 2
Key Loss(es): Jared Berggren (11.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Mike Bruesewitz (6.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Ryan Evans (10.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg)
Name to know: Sam Dekker. The 6-foot-7 forward has a great skill set for his size. With the ability to put the ball on the floor, stroke it from deep and attack inside, Dekker is one of the best all-around players in college basketball. Dekker was inconsistent like most freshmen in his debut season, but put together a string of six consecutive games of double-digit points late in the year. Expect more consistency from the Wisconsin native.
The Skinny: Wisconsin is boring. There is no getting around it. But they are also effective and Bo Ryan has his team in Big Ten contention year after year. Dekker will step into a starting role this season with last year’s starting frontcourt having graduated. 6-foot-11 Frank Kaminsky will have an expanded role this season, but the success of this team will come down to guard play. Playmakers like Ben Brust, George Marshall, Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser will be at the helm of Ryan’s slow-paced offense.

6. Indiana (29-7, 14-4 Big Ten)
Coach: Tom Crean–6th year, 84-82 (.506)
Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16
RPI/KenPom: 8/3
Starters Returning: 1
Key Loss(es): Victor Oladipo (13.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Cody Zeller (16.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg), Christian Watford (12.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Jordan Hulls (9.7 ppg, 2.9 apg)
Name to know: Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell. While the generously listed 6-foot point guard is small in stature, he plays far above his height when he steps on the court. Ferrell was able to defer to more talented players last year with his main role being to push the ball in transition and distribute to the likes of Oladipo and Zeller. This year, Ferrell will have to score more while getting less experienced players involved on offense.
The Skinny: The Hoosiers were the third-highest scoring team in the country last year, but don’t expect this year’s version to put up 80 points per game. Losing four starters can sometimes cripple a program, but Indiana brings back super-sub Will Sheehey, as well as an impressive freshman class highlighted by future lottery pick Noah Vonleh. Internal development will be key for this team. Players like Jeremy Hollowell and Hanner Mosquera-Perea will all see increased playing time and if this Indiana team is to contend for a Big Ten title, the two sophomores will have to make the most of their minutes.

7. Penn State (10-21, 2-16 Big Ten)
Coach: Pat Chambers–3rd year, 10-21 (.349)
Postseason: None
RPI/KenPom: 186/148
Starters Returning: 3
Key Loss(es): Jermaine Marshall (15.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.8 apg), Sasa Borovnjak (7.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg), Nick Colella (4.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
Name to Know: Tim Frazier. The fifth-year senior had his season cut short last year just four games in when he ruptured his Achilles’ tendon. Frazier will look to return to his 2011-12 form, when he was a First Team All-Big Ten player. The Houston native has his explosiveness back and gained a different perspective on basketball while sitting out most of last season. Frazier will repeatedly attack opposing big men and try to get others involved as he tries to make Penn State a relevant basketball program.
The Skinny: Chambers is in his third year now as head coach and the pressure is heating up. Frazier will team with D.J. Newbill to form one of the best backcourts in the conference. Newbill can move back to his natural shooting guard position while using what he learned last year as a point guard to improve his game. Rebounding could be an issue for this team as there’s no traditional center on the roster, but Newbill and Frazier are two of the best rebounding guards in the country. Ross Travis could average a double-double this season and might have to if this team wants be taken seriously by the rest of the conference. The freshman class should provide more depth than in years past, and transfer Allen Roberts should help fill the void left by Marshall.

8. Minnesota (21-13, 8-10 Big Ten)
Coach: Richard Pitino–1st season
Postseason: NCAA Tournament 3rd Round
RPI/KenPom: 34/26
Starters Returning: 2
Key Loss(es): Trevor Mbakwe (10.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg), Rodney Williams (10.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Joe Coleman (8.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
Name to know: Andre Hollins. The 6-foot-2 guard isn’t afraid to let it fly from anywhere on the court, averaging double-digit shot attempts last year. While Hollins shoots a lot he also knocked down nearly 42 percent of his three-point attempts last season. Hollins is a stat-stuffer, averaging 3.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Hollins will have the ball in his hands a lot this year and has the chance to be a consistent 20-point scorer.
The Skinny: After the confusing firing of Tubby Smith one day after the team’s loss to Florida in the NCAA Tournament, Richard Pitino will have a shot at carrying on what Smith started. This is a program that was going nowhere before Smith was brought in because of an academic cheating scandal. Smith laid the foundation for this program to succeed and it’s up to Pitino to get the best out of his players. Andre and Austin Hollins aren’t brothers, but you could easily get confused with how well they play together. Losing Mbakwe hurts, but junior Elliot Eliason will see more than the 13.7 minutes per game he played last year. Maverick Ahanmisi will split point guard duties with Andre Hollins and will try to improve upon his 0.9 apg.

9. Illinois (23-13, 8-10 Big Ten)
Coach: John Groce–2nd year, 23-13 (.639)
Postseason: NCAA Tournament 3rd Round
RPI/KenPom: 40/39
Starters Returning: 1
Key Loss(es): Brandon Paul (16.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg), D.J. Richardson (12.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg), Tyler Griffey (7.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg)
Name to Know: Kendrick Nunn. The 6-3 freshman was one off the top point guard recruits in the Class of 2013. Nunn helped lead perennial powerhouse Simeon to its fourth straight state championship. He brings a winning attitude and the ability to play well with other high-level talents (see: Jabari Parker). He also has experience with USA Basketball – experience that will ease the transition to the college game.
The Skinny: Groce did a great job in his first year leading the Illini to the NCAA Tournament. Groce has a difficult task ahead of him, having to incorporate a bunch of new pieces with his veterans. Tracy Abrams has to be more consistent and Nnanna Egwu has to be more of a post presence. Groce will likely use this year trying to get his freshmen acclimated to the college game while leaning on veterans like Ahmad Starks for leadership.

10. Purdue (16-18, 8-10 Big Ten)
Coach: Matt Painter — 8th season, 176-95 (.649)
Postseason: CBI Tournament Quarterfinal
RPI/KenPom: 136/61
Starters Returning: 4
Key Loss(es): D.J. Byrd (10.1ppg, 4.1 rpg), Anthony Johnson (4.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
Name to Know: A.J. Hammons. The towering 7-footer returns for his sophomore season with the chance to be the best big man in the Big Ten. Hammons was one of two freshmen in the power six conferences, along with lottery pick Nerlens Noel, to average at least 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks per game. The future is bright for Hammons, but Painter will need him to produce now to make any noise in the Big Ten.
The Skinny: The Boilermakers return the majority of their starters, but lost their best three-point shooter in Byrd. Outside shooting will determine how well this team can perform. If the Boilermakers fail to knock down shots from beyond the arc, Hammons won’t have room to operate in the low-post as he’ll be double-teamed repeatedly. Redshirt freshman Jay Simpson didn’t see any time in conference play last year, but will be expected to step up his game and be a key contributor for the Boilermakers. Senior guard Terone Johnson continues to improve as a shooter and playmaker and will be relied on to initiate the offense.

11. Northwestern (13-19, 4-14 Big Ten)
Coach: Chris Collins–1st season
Postseason: None
RPI/KenPom: 168/132
Starters Returning: 3
Key Loss(es): Reggie Hearn (13.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg), Jared Swopshire (9.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg)
Name to know: Drew Crawford. The 6-foot-5 swingman played only 10 games last season before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. Crawford will try to return to his junior year form – when he averaged 16.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Crawford played under Bill Carmody for his college career up until now. It’ll be interesting to see how much first-year coach Collins relies on the fifth-year senior.
The Skinny: Collins has been an assistant for 16 years, spending 13 of them at Duke. While Collins is no Coach K, he will bring in the same principles and apply them to this Wildcats roster. Heavy ball pressure, over denial and shooting threes are staples of Duke teams and Collins will implement those strategies with his mix of veterans and freshmen. Dave Sobolewski and Tre Demps are back – two guys who nearly averaged double-digit points last year. With Crawford back from injury, expect more opportunities for lesser-known players like Alex Olah and Kale Abrahamson.

12. Nebraska (15-18, 5-13 Big Ten)
Coach: Tim Miles–2nd season, 15-18 (.455)
Postseason: None
RPI/KenPom: 103/130
Starters Returning: 3
Key Loss(es): Dylan Talley (13.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Brandon Ubel (11.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg)
Name to know: Shavon Shields. Standing at 6-foot-7, the sophomore swingman is due for a big second year. Shields flashed high-scoring capabilities, such as dropping 29 points on Penn State in a January matchup and scoring 18, 19 and 19 points against Purdue, Michigan State and Purdue again respectively. If Shields improved his ball-handling and free throw-shooting, he will be a difficult matchup on most nights for Big Ten opponents.
The Skinny: It won’t be a smooth road for Miles and the Cornhuskers. The transition from the Big 12 wasn’t easy, but there’s new energy in the program with a brand new arena. New arenas don’t always equal wins though and Miles will have to maximize the talents of his players to not be a doormat in the conference. Shields and fellow swingman Terran Petteway, who transferred from Texas Tech, are interchangeable and their versatility can allow Miles to play with lineups. Leslee Smith is a junior college transfer who should help provide experience for this Cornhuskers squad.

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