Crispin: One question for each Big Ten team entering the season
With college basketball season tipping off Friday, every coach, player, fan and broadcaster is entering the season with questions about their team. Yes, even Tom Izzo and No. 2 Michigan State.
Below I’ve listed one question for each Big Ten team (in alphabetical order to avoid angry tweets). Also, here’s how to watch Friday’s games on BTN Plus and BTN.
Illinois: What is the identity of this team going to be? Brad Underwood wants this to be an uptempo offense and pressure-packed defensive team. I’m interested to see how the personnel has responded to their new coach and how this team handles potential struggles in the non-conference schedule.
Indiana: Will the experienced Hoosiers–Collin Hartman, Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk–set the tone for Archie Miller or will this truly be a rebuilding year? If the experienced players for IU bring Archie’s level of intensity and are leaders on and off the court, this team is talented enough to win in conference play.
Iowa: Will the Hawkeyes’ youth take the big step forward to find consistency throughout the nonconference and conference season? If the youthful but talented Hawkeyes consistently execute and defend, they will surprise a lot of people this season.
Maryland: Can Anthony Cowan set the tone on both ends of the floor? Losing Melo Trimble may help Maryland play with better balance on the floor, but Cowan will have to be an offensive threat to provide space for the talented and dangerous Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson to work.
Michigan: Who will be the floor general for John Beilein’s Wolverines? Even if you think you have this figured out in week one, I get the sense that battle for the PG position will be competitive and the go-to guy may change throughout the season. Michigan could be a tough team to match up against if the PG position is solidified along the way.
Michigan State: Will the level of intensity and sense of urgency match the level of expectation for one of the best teams in the country? If anyone can make sure of this, it’s Tom Izzo. The reason the Spartans won the championship in 2000 was not due to talent; it was due to a consistency of effort that didn’t change with the level of competition.
Minnesota: Who will provide depth for what should be a high-level Gopher team this year? Usually, I’d question whether Reggie Lynch can stay out of foul trouble, but losing Eric Curry to injury for the season brings their lack of depth to the forefront–particularly on the wing.
Nebraska: What is the true mentality and culture of this team after losing so many key players to transfer? Tim Miles answered this question well at Big Ten Media Day, but you’ve got to think players are in some way affected by the departure of so many teammates. Positive morale and togetherness will greatly contribute to their ability to compete.
Northwestern: How does Chris Collins manipulate his lineup to maximize the potential of his dangerous and versatile group? The personnel is as good as I’ve ever seen from a Northwestern team and has the potential to truly put Wildcat basketball on another level nationally. Establishing the right rotation (lineup wise) will be a key to their success.
Ohio State: How will Chris Holtmann’s system work for the established Buckeyes? (Jae’Sean Tate, Keita Bates-Diop and Kam Williams) Holtmann’s teams have had tremendous success playing balanced, principle-based basketball. It will be interesting to see how Tate, Bates-Diop and Williams settle in a new system.
Penn State: Will the level of internal expectations match the potential and the level of talent in State College? After losing so many close games last season, the Nittany Lions need to play with the swagger and confidence of a team that expects to win at a high level. This will change the outcome of many of those close losses from last season.
Purdue: Will it be addition by subtraction for the Boilers this year, as I’m anticipating? Losing Biggie Swanigan to the NBA may actually provide for better balance and a more versatile lineup for Matt Painter and Purdue. I (and everyone else apparently) am predicting that Carsen Edwards has a breakout year because of that improved balance.
Rutgers: Will this be the year Rutgers takes a big jump forward in the conference? The Scarlet Knights are more respected around the league by coaches and players than anyone outside of the game may realize. They turned into a formidable opponent last year and if they improve the way they did last season, they will begin to move out of the basement in conference standings.
Wisconsin: How will Ethan Happ handle double and triple teams this season? He is not the point guard, but because of the attention he gets around the basket he is the catalyst for everything good that can happen on the offensive end. Happ is a remarkable young man, and as tough and frustrating as it will be at times for him this season, his patience and persistence will make his teammates better as the season goes on.