Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, October 16, 2014

Are you ready for basketball season? It?s on our doorstep, with Big Ten Media Day 2014 here (watch live on and the season right around the corner.  The Big Ten storylines are plentiful: Wisconsin looks again to reign supreme, Michigan State moves on without stalwarts Adreian Payne and Gary Harris, and great expectations await Nebraska.

There also are plenty of questions as a new era of 14-team hoops begins with the addition of Rutgers and Maryland. As I begind to straddle two sports in the busiest time of year, here are my three questions for each school.


Tell me yours in the comments below, or come find me on Twitter @BTNTomDienhart:


  • Can the Illini make three-pointers?
  • Who will provide production on the front line?
  • Can John Groce find enough playing time to keep everyone happy?


  • Is true freshman James Blackmon the real deal?
  • Will the Hoosiers get it done inside with Noah Vonleh gone?
  • How will all of this young talent develop?


  • Can Adam Woodbury become a dominant big man?
  • Who will replace the production of Roy Devyn Marble?
  • Will this team learn how to finish after losing six of its final seven games last year and then flaming out in the Big Dance?


  • Will a talented collection of newcomers that includes Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter produce?
  • Is touted freshman Melo Trimble ready to play the point?
  • Can this team turn up the pressure defensively and also hit the glass?


  • How will a depleted frontcourt play with guys like Kameron Chatman and Mark Donnal?
  • Is point man Derrick Walton ready to pick up his offensive production?
  • Will inexperience hurt a squad that has just three players who have started a game?

Michigan State

  • Can Travis Trice stay healthy after seemingly always battling injury?
  • Will Branden Dawson finally become a star as a senior?
  • With Adreian Payne gone, will Gavin Schilling or Matt Costello step up on the interior?


  • Can Elliott Eliason and Maurice Walker take the proverbial next step as interior players?
  • Will the perimeter defense be better after the Gophers ranked last defending 3-pointers last year?
  • Can a few of the newcomers impact, guys like Carlos Morris and Nate Mason?


  • Will the offense improve? The Huskers were 274th in the nation in scoring last year.
  • After a breakout season, how will a veteran Nebraska club deal with big expectations?
  • Have the Huskers improved their rebounding after ranking 11th in the conference in rebounding margin.


  • Is touted freshman Vic Law-the gem of a good five-man class–as good as advertised? Some newbies must be scorers.
  • Who will replace the scoring and shot-making skills of Drew Crawford?
  • Can this team rebound better after having a minus-4.5 margin last year?

Ohio State

  • Can Temple transfer Anthony Lee be an offensive weapon in the paint?
  • Who will bring the defensive juice and mojo that departed Aaron Craft provided?
  • Will a touted recruiting class led by D?Angelo Russell shine and help what was an offensively challenged team?

Penn State

  • How will prolific Tim Frazier be replaced?
  • Is D.J. Newbill ready to be a star for a backcourt that is otherwise anonymous?
  • Can this team shoot? No vets hit more than 32 percent from 3-point range.


  • Do the Boilermakers have a point guard in the house? Freshly-minted transfer Jon Octeus must help.
  • Is this team committed to doing the dirty work, like rebounding and defending?
  • Will atrocious 3-point shooting improve? Purdue was 235th in the nation in 3-point percentage (32.7 percent).


  • Will the defense improve? RU ranked 306th in the nation in scoring defense last year.
  • Are six newcomers (five freshmen and a JC) ready to contribute? D.J. Foreman has the most sizzle. Bishop Daniels and Mike Williams also have potential.
  • Can Myles Mack be a leader?


  • Is Bronson Koenig primed for a breakout as a sophomore?
  • Can this veteran team stay hungry after a Final Four run last season?
  • Who will replace Ben Brust?s production?


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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