Bold predictions for 2017-18 Big Ten men's basketball season
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Happy hoops season!
With the return of college basketball Friday, we made our BTN basketball analysts go out on a limb, as they each submitted one bold prediction for the upcoming season.
Stephen Bardo: Iowa will finish in the Top 4 in the Big Ten. Not many people have mentioned the size (Luke Garza) and depth of this team. Iowa is a hungry bunch that will wreak havoc on the league.
Jon Crispin: The Big Ten will have four teams in the Sweet Sixteen this year. I’ve got Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern and Iowa as the Big Ten’s Cinderella this season. Northwestern will be a matchup nightmare for NCAA tourney opponents and Iowa will be peaking at the right time to make a run. If Minnesota can stay healthy, keep Reggie Lynch on the floor and develop some depth throughout the season, they’ll be in the mix too.
Tom Dienhart: Penn State will make the NCAA tourney. Yep. The Nittany Lions will go dancing for the first time since 2011. Pat Chambers finally has this program ready to breakthrough in his seventh season in State College. Chambers has had just one postseason appearance with the Nittany Lions, getting to the CBI in 2013-14. But this is his most talented roster yet, led by guys like Tony Carr, Shep Garner and Lamar Stevens. And it will help when Mike Watkins returns from suspension.
Robbie Hummel: Iowa finishes in the Top 5 in the Big Ten. Iowa loses Peter Jok, last year’s leading scorer in the conference, but its young and talented depth will guide it to a top-five finish in the conference this season.
Andy Katz: Kobe King will be one of the most important freshmen in the country. King will start the season coming off the bench. But the Wisconsin guard will end up having a critical role throughout the season. He can post, score facing the basket, make shots and can be a distributor. His piston-like frame puts him in position to be a tough matchup for opposing teams. If the Badgers are once again going to be a top five Big Ten and at least NCAA Tournament round of 32 team then King will have a large say in the matter.
Shon Morris: Robert Johnson of Indiana will be an all-conference player. He will be the focus of Indiana’s attack and will not have to defer offensively as he has in the past. He has been a very good barometer of Indiana’s success throughout his career and is a versatile defender.
Alex Roux: A record eight Big Ten teams will make the NCAA tournament. The conference was criticized heavily last year for a lack of firepower at the top, but teams clustered around the middle of the conference were solid enough to secure seven berths in the Dance. I expect many of those middle-tier teams to improve and all seven to return to the tournament, with at least one team from last year left out in the cold (Penn State, Indiana, Illinois, perhaps?) sneaking in to secure a record eight tournament bids.
Brent Yarina: Carsen Edwards leads the Big Ten in scoring. Few, if any, players in the conference can create and get his shot better than the Purdue sophomore. He may have some inconsistent nights, but his ability to score in bunches and get to the line, plus Matt Painter’s willingness to give him the green light, will yield a prolific scorer.