How does three Big Ten teams in the top 10 sound? That’s what Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg has in his Preseason top 25 best-case and worst-case scenarios. The three teams, of course, are Michigan State (No. 4), Michigan (No. 7) and Ohio State (No. 8). Eisenberg also lists Wisconsin (No. 19), but no Indiana or Iowa.
The four ranked Big Ten teams are fewer than other experts, who either include the aforementioned Hoosiers or Hawkeyes, or both. Still, three teams in the top 10 – top 8, to be precise – is nothing to ignore.
Here’s a portion of Eisenberg’s best-case for each team:
No. 4 MICHIGAN STATE
Expectations are high for a Michigan State team with four starters and a slew of key reserves back from last season, but the talented, experienced Spartans have no trouble living up to them. Even though the graduation of Derrick Nix removes Michigan State’s top low-post scorer, the Spartans compensate fairly easily by sliding Adreian Payne to center, Branden Dawson to power forward and promising Denzel Valentine into the starting backcourt.
No. 7 MICHIGAN
Neither freshman Derrick Walton nor sophomore Spike Albrecht come close to matching Trey Burke’s scoring output, but the two young point guards solidify Michigan’s weakest position. Walton showcases basketball IQ beyond his years and an ability to set up his teammates. Albrecht builds off his memorable first half in the national title game last April, delivering pinpoint passes and timely buckets.
No. 8 OHIO STATE
In addition to a strong defense spearheaded by guards Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith and Shannon Scott and rim protector Amir Williams, Ohio State actually generates more offense than expected. The loss of last year’s leading scorer DeShaun Thomas isn’t debilitating because talented but enigmatic LaQuinton Ross emerges as a viable replacement.
No. 19 WISCONSIN
Is this the year Wisconsin finishes lower than fourth in the Big Ten for the first time in Bo Ryan’s tenure? Not a chance. Though Wisconsin lost all three frontcourt starters from last year, Bo Ryan compensates by going to a three-guard look with 6-foot-7 Sam Dekker at power forward and 6-foot-11 Frank Kaminsky at center. Dekker blossoms into an All-American candidate, Kaminsky defends and rebounds capably and the three-guard look gives the Badgers two ball handlers (Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson) and a knock-down shooter (Ben Brust).
Click here to read all of Eisenberg’s analysis. It’s entertaining analysis, too, as he provides a lot of funny scenarios.
Other than leaving Indiana and Iowa out of the top 25 – teams that I think will be ranked – Eisenberg nails it on Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. That said, I might put the Spartans closer to the top spot. Oh, and I’d also have Ohio State higher – maybe in the top 5. The Buckeyes lost Deshaun Thomas, but they return a bunch of talent and, as always, will play stingy defense. Seriously, with Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Amir Williams, points are going to be hard to come by for opponents.
|About Brent Yarina||BTN.com senior editor Brent Yarina covers football and men’s basketball for BTN.com. He writes the popular uniform feature “Clothes Call,” which also focuses on the latest cosmetic changes across Big Ten arenas and stadiums. Read all of his work here. You can subscribe to Yarina’s RSS feed and follow him on Twitter @BTNBrentYarina.|