Jon Crispin, BTN men's basketball analyst, November 19, 2015

First impressions in the world of college basketball can often be deceiving, especially with questions surrounding the quality of many unknown non-conference opponents. Michigan State has certainly passed its first major test of the season, and that answered a lot of questions about Tom Izzo?s Spartans. Indiana continues to excite me with an upbeat style of play and a bright green light for anyone who can drain a 3-pointer. Then there is Wisconsin, who many already count out because of the opening day loss to Western Illinois.

Here is my initial take on these three Big Ten programs and their potential.

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Michigan State: The Spartans continue to impress with their ability to handle adversity as they are currently without junior forwards Gavin Schilling and sophomore forward Marvin Clark. Denzel Valentine?s performance against Kansas was one for the ages, but I wouldn?t be  surprised to see a couple more like that this year. He is simply that good. Bryn Forbes and Matt McQuaid bring balance to this team with their ability to score from the perimeter. Add that to the depth and toughness of Izzo?s bunch and they?ll be one of the top two teams in the conference all year with the pundits picking them to make it to yet another Final Four.

Indiana:  A lot of my colleagues think I?m crazy because I think Indiana can be a Final Four team. They are a matchup nightmare for 95 percent of college basketball. James Blackmon Jr., Troy Williams and the young Thomas Bryant will receive a lot of well-deserved hype and attention this year but the key to their success lies with Yogi Ferrell. His poise, experience and determination is what this team needs to be able to grind out tough victories against Big Ten foes who will look to slow down this Golden State Warriors-like offense. I expect to see Indiana score over 80 points per game and don?t have an issue with some of their defensive woes. They will improve defensively this season, but the goal for the Hoosiers should be to simply outscore their opponents.

Wisconsin: When you lose a home-opener on the night you hang a NCAA Final Four banner it?s hard to keep your composure and stay the course. Bo Ryan understands the challenges he faces with this young Badgers team. Ryan?s offense has evolved over the years to create more spacing, flow and freedom for certain players. While this was a key to their success in recent years past, there?s going to be a learning curve for this young team. The loss in game one may prove to be beneficial as it is the type of loss a team can rally behind to fully buy into the process. Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes will continue to improve as the young pieces around them begin to grasp the principles of the offense. Although there will still be hiccups and challenges along the way, this is still an NCAA tournament team in my opinion. I think by now we?ve learned not to count out teams that have a guy named Ryan or Izzo running the bench.

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