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It’s gotten to the point of cliche. “As long as Bo Ryan is head coach at Wisconsin, put the Badgers in your top 25.” We Geeks take pride in scoffing at conventional wisdom, but don’t some things become cliche for a reason?
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It was a frustrating and disappointing season for Purdue basketball. For just the second time in the Matt Painter era, the Boilermakers missed the NCAA tournament, and they really weren’t even that close. Will things be better this time around?
It was a lost season for Penn State after Tim Frazier went down with an injury. Can the Nittany Lions make up for lost time in Frazier’s final go-round?
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Last season, the Ohio State basketball program just kept on rolling. Its run to the Elite 8 made it four straight seasons that the Buckeyes reached the Sweet Sixteen or beyond. Now, in the final go-round for Aaron Craft, will Ohio State be good enough to do it again?
Change is afoot in Evanston, as the Northwestern basketball program moves away from the Princeton offense and into a new era. Will that change bring immediate success?
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Enthusiasm is running high as Nebraska basketball enters Year Two of the Tim Miles era. As our season previews roll on, let’s take a look at just how much improvement can be expected from the Huskers.
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Last year, the Gophers started out strong but ended the season on a low note. Soon after Minnesota was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, Athletic Director Norwood Teague made a change at the top, dismissing Tubby Smith after 6 seasons at the helm.
Michigan State won 27 games last year, the 5th time in 6 years it’s won at least that many.
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Last year Michigan started and finished the season on a red-hot streak, going 18-1 against teams from other conferences.
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Last year Iowa returned to respectability, amassing 25 wins for the first time since Steve Alford was the coach.
Last year, the Hoosiers moved on from a rebuilding job to regaining its place among the best teams in college basketball. But Indiana came up short against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone in the Sweet 16.
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The yo-yo continues. Since the Dee Brown Era, Illinois has reliably alternated good season with mediocre, missing the NCAA Tournament every other year. This past season did its part in an up year, as the Illini were only 5 points from reaching their first Sweet 16 since 2005.
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After nearly five months of basketball, we’re now down to the Final Four, with Michigan the lone Big Ten representative. Needless to say, a national title for the Wolverines would provide a nice boost for the conference’s reputation, as banners carry more lasting relevance than computer ratings that have pegged the Big Ten as the nation’s best conference for three years running. Rightly or wrongly, postseason success trumps all else.
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As expected, four Big Ten teams have advanced to the Sweet 16, with play resuming Thursday night. Let’s take a close look at tomorrow’s matchups (Ohio State vs. Arizona; Indiana vs. Syracuse). On Thursday, we’ll preview Friday’s regional semifinals (Michigan State vs. Michigan vs. Kansas).
Now, it’s time to unveil the projected champs of the Big Ten. Look at us, out here on this limb, picking the Buckeyes.
Our penultimate preview is for the Wisconsin Badgers, a team that’s been a lot more dominant over the Big Ten of late than most people realize.
Next up on our Big Ten season previews are the Boilermakers, who lost stars E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson but return the other popular Baby Boiler, Robbie Hummel. What’s a reasonable range of expectations for Matt Painter’s team? We have them finishing in third place.
It’s time now to turn to the teams that figure to be in the thick of the conference title hunt. First up is a team that exhibited a split personality last season: Michigan.
We continue to work our way up our projected standings, and today we’ve reached our pick for fifth place: the Illinois Fighting Illini. Bruce Weber’s squad may be the biggest wild card in this season’s Big Ten, as it is supremely talented but woefully inexperienced. What’s a reasonable range of expectations for a team like this? Let’s find out.
Next up on our previews are the mighty Spartans, who endured a pretty substandard season last year (where “substandard” = still dancing. Must be nice.).
In Big Ten play, Minnesota was better than Michigan State last season. Seriously. And the season started out so well. Through 20 games, the Gophers had 16 wins, including victories over UNC, West Virginia, Michigan, and Purdue. But in January, Minnesota lost Al Nolen and Devoe Joseph, and the backcourt play crumbled. It’s a remarkable feat to finish dead last in the Big Ten in three-point percentage even while carrying Blake Hoffarber on the roster. With defenses focusing on guarding The Hoff, and no other outside threats to speak of, Minnesota finished the year on a 1-10 skid.
Our season previews continue in reverse order of projected finish. Penn State, Iowa, and Northwestern have been covered. We now move on to the newest member of the Big Ten, the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Our season previews roll along in reverse order of expected finish. We’ve covered Penn State and Iowa. Up next: the Northwestern Wildcats.
With the 2011-12 regular season nearly upon us, we here at Big Ten Geeks will be previewing all 12 conference members over the next couple weeks, in reverse order of expected finish. Penn State led things off Monday, and now it’s time for Iowa.