Sunday, November 24, 2013

Big Ten Top

Time for basketball predictions. I feel like I have neglected this blog a bit. With the football season coming to a close soon, the Buck's sucking, and UW hoops set for a long break during the holidays that may not change much. We'll see. I haven't even got a chance to see every Big Ten  team play yet, so here is my semi-informed projections. First the top half, and I'll do the remaining 6 in another post.

Michigan State

Everyone's favorite to win the Big Ten this year and it's easy to see why. This team has talent. Harris will be a lottery pick, and Payne should get a shot at the NBA too. This team has experience. 5 of the 8 players in the rotation are upperclassmen, and the other 3 are sophomores who played extensively last year. This team has quality guard play. Appling and Harris are among the best starting backcourts in America and Trice off the bench is like a 6th starter. They can go 3 guards easily and both Trice and Appling can run the point. They aren't huge, but they have enough size. Payne played next to Nix last year but he is the man at center now. Costello and Gauna give them some bulk to dominate the boards as Izzo teams do. Valentine and Dawson are versatile wings that can play the 3, but are good enough rebounders that they can play the 4 if Izzo wants to play small.

So how does this team not win the Big Ten? They have a very tough league schedule. MSU plays IN, MI, Iowa, and OSU twice. They get UW only once but on the road, and the other single road game is at Purdue which is not an easy place to win. They're 2 single matchup home games are Nebraska and Minnesota, 2 teams that you have a good chance to get a Big Ten road win against. MSU also has the habit of dropping the weird road game against PSU or Northwestern when no one expects it. Last season MSU struggled a bit when early injuries limited Trice and Harris. While no one wants to see college kids get hurt, MSU is no more immune to injuries than any other team and it would only take one for this team to look more ordinary.


I am predictably higher on UW than most people. I think the 3 guard rotation will serve this team well offensively with the new rule changes. Bo will have what he always wants at UW, a starting 5 where every player can hit the 3. UW should bomb away from deep this year and open up enough driving lanes to let the guards drive. The dribble drive has not been a big part of Bo's teams in the past, but with no hand checking and less risk of getting a charge, Bo will use this more. It also helps to play Dekker at the 4, giving UW 4 guys that can dribble to the rim. This team will be bad defensively. It is obvious against even the lesser competition they have played that no one is afraid of going into the lane against UW. By playing 3 guards and Dekker at the 4 they are also too small to rebound effectively against big teams.

How does this team win the Big Ten? Start with an easy league schedule. UW only plays Iowa, MI, and IN twice. They play MSU and OSU only once and get them both at home. The 2 single road games are Nebraska and PSU. If UW defends the Kohl Center as they usually do, and gets a bunch of road wins against the 2nd division Big Ten teams they can find their way to a Big Ten Championship. Dekker will have to become the 1st round pick that early draft boards have him listed at if this team is to reach such lofty goals. Freshman will have to play a big role on this team, as both Hayes and Koenig will need to play key roles, and even Brown may find his way into meaningful minutes as the season goes on.

Ohio State

OSU was a very good team last year that fell just a game short of a share for the regular season title before taking the tournament championship. They lost the offense of Deshaun Thomas, and the size and defense of Ravenel. They bring back 6 very good and experienced players in Craft, Scott, Smith Jr, Ross, Thompson and Williams. They don't have the ridiculous talent of the Oden, or Sullinger teams Matta had in the past, but these guys are no slouches. The question is can these guys step it up and become something better than they were last year. Thomas dominated the offense last year, so there will be opportunities for others to step up their offense, but so far no one really has. All 6 guys are averaging between 7 and 12.5 points. Matta's best teams have a single post player that can get them easy buckets and open up shots and driving lanes for all the wings he recruits. I just don't see Williams developing into that player. He is just not aggressive enough and not good enough in the post.

Where does OSU end up? OSU has as easy a league schedule as any of any of the contenders. They get Iowa and MSU twice, and have UW, IU, and MI only once. They get single home games against MI and Northwestern, and play OSU and UW on the road. That leaves 11 of 18 games against the 2nd division teams, compared to MSU who has 9. Williams will anchor what could be the best defense in the country, so I don't see this team finishing out of the top 3.


I was in love with Trey Burke last year. I picked this team to win the Big Ten and the Big Ten tourney, and they let me down on both. In the end they made a run to the NCAA championship and proved I wasn't that off about them (thankfully I didn't give up on them so I made some money in one of my pools). This year there is no Burke, so we will see if it was Burke making everyone better, or if these guys can stand on their own. MI will fill Burke's spot with freshman Walton Jr, and sophomore Albrecht, but neither looks to be able to replace the play making ability of Burke. MI also lost Hardaway Jr who was 2nd in scoring and assists on the team. That's a lot of ball handling to replace. So far Stauskas appears to be the guy they are going with. Late in the game against FSU, MI ran the pick and roll consistently with Stauskas and McGary. He may be their best option, but Stauskas is miscast as a point wing. He is a great spot up shooter and very good driving the ball when he gets it open on a wing, so forcing him into a point role makes him less effective. Robinson Jr looks to be about what he was last year (very good shooter and great in transition, but doesn't make plays for others in the half court) but with more shooting opportunities. Lavert has continued to blossom since about mid season last year. He keeps getting better and does most everything well. Horford and Morgan give them some competent rebounders and post defense.

Will MI win the championship a year late for me? They will have to fight through a schedule as tough as MSUs. They get UW, MSU, IU, and Iowa twice. They get OSU once but on the road, and the other road single is IL. They get PSU and Northwestern only once and both at home. If McGary can stay healthy then they should be OK, but this is the 2nd year in a row with early season injury problems for him. If it were an ankle or something I wouldn't worry, but a back injury for a 20 year old big man is a little concerning. This team has the talent to compete with any team in the country, and so their ceiling is pretty high.


This is where the predictions get tough. I feel pretty confident about the other 4. When you take the 4 best coaches in the league (Ryan, Izzo, Matta, and Beilein) and give them talent, they will win. IU has talent, but that talent is sooooo young. This team has 0 juniors, and just 1 senior (Sheehey) who played on the team last year (Evan Gordon is a senior but is a transfer). I know in this day and age Major programs live on young talent and one and doners, but this IU team plays like a young team. They remind me of the Kentucky team last year that was loaded with young NBA talent but lost in the NIT. I don't think IU is bad enough to miss the NCAA, but I think they will struggle. Vonleh is a beast and looks like one of those one and doners. Williams may not be one and done, but he looks like a kid that could play in the NBA someday. Yogi has made a huge jump from last year, but he is the only player on this team that can shoot. He has jacked up 40 3s in the first 6 games and is hitting 40%, but Sheehey is the only other player to attempt more than 10 3s and he's only hitting 25%. A big change from a team that was one of the best shooting teams in the country last season. Hollowell has been a disappointment to date. He was expected to play off guard and play some point. He is only shooting 36%, with 0.7apg to 3.0 turnovers.

Does Indiana miss the Tourney? Probably not. That would take a pretty epic collapse. Not beyond Tom Crean, but not likely. IU has an easy league schedule. They play MSU, UW, and MI twice. They play Iowa and OSU just once and get both at home. The 2 single road games are Purdue and Minn. That means they get 6 games against PSU, Northwestern, and Nebraska. The ceiling on this team is admittedly high, but I don't think they reach it. If the freshman keep getting better and the sophomores step up this team could be very dangerous come tourney time, but my guess is they struggle with inconsistency through the season and are a first round out.


Iowa was my surprise team last year, and I even picked their league record right at 9-9. I still ended up being wrong about them making the tourney because they failed to beat anyone good outside of Big Ten play. They have a similar non-conference schedule this year, so it will be league play before we know how good this team really is. Iowa is probably the deepest team in the league. Through 5 games they are running 10 guys that average between 17.6 and 23.4 minutes per game. The high scorer is at 14.6 and the 10th guy still gets 5.0ppg, and this is without injured Oglesby who was a contributor last year. Iowa is currently 11th in the country in scoring at 92.6 ppg, but that is largely because they are playing such terrible competition. Woodbury is a solid 5 man, and White is a scoring stretch 4. Iowa has a bunch of Guards that can play, and Basabe and former badger Uthoff give them some versatile forwards.

Can Iowa challenge for the title yet? No, but maybe next year. This team has a very tough league schedule, so they will have a chance to prove themselves there even if they don't in non-conference play. They play OSU, UW, MSU, and MI twice and they play Indiana once but on the road. The other road single is PSU, and the 2 home singles are Purdue and Nebraska. That's 9 games against the top tier teams and only 4 against Northwestern, PSU and Nebraska. This team should return to the NCAA this year, and with one more year of development this team could contend next season.
Here are my predictions for the top teams finish:

MSU 14-4
UW 14-4
OSU 13-5
MI 12-6
Ind 10-8
Iowa 10-8

1 comment:

  1. Nice work Chorlton. I will try to get my predictions out this weekend. I like your confidence in Wisconsin. I want to see them play St. Louis before I get too excited.