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2013-14 College Basketball Preview: Big Ten
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Published: 10/28/2013  at  12:00:00 PM
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The 2013-14 college basketball season tips off Friday, Nov. 8, and StatFox has you covered by previewing all the major conferences with predicted standings. The Big Ten continues the run of the big conference previews, as it was widely considered to be the top conference in the country last season, and with players like Aaron Craft (Ohio State), Adreian Payne (Michigan State) and Glenn Robinson III (Michigan) back, the conference one again should rank among the best in the nation.

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Michigan State appears to be the head of the conference with four starters back from last seasonís Sweet 16 team. However, other schools like Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin have the potential to influence the race and even take the conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:
1. Michigan State
2. Ohio State
3. Michigan
4. Wisconsin
5. Indiana
6. Iowa
7. Illinois
8. Penn State
9. Purdue
10. Northwestern
11. Minnesota
12. Nebraska

2012-13 SU Record: 75% (27-9)
2012-13 ATS Record: 47% (15-17-1)
2012-13 Over (Total): 41% (13-19)
Returning Starters: 4
Odds to win 2014 NCAA Championship: 8/1

Last season, the Spartans made a run to the Sweet 16, and expectations are even higher in 2013-14. The team brings back one of the most potent backcourts in the country in senior PG Keith Appling (13.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.3 APG) and sophomore SG Gary Harris (12.9 PPG, 41% 3-pt FG). Harris gave serious consideration to the NBA, but decided to come back for his sophomore campaign. Appling and Harris complement each other perfectly. Appling does a terrific job of getting in the paint and driving, while Harris is a knockdown shooter. Senior PF Adreian Payne (10.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.3 BPG) is one of the most dominant big men in all of the country, and has continued to develop an outside jumper. He is also a dominating presence on defense. Junior F/G Branden Dawson (8.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.6 SPG) is the key to the Spartans making a championship run. He is an explosive athlete, but has too many games where he disappears. If he is able to play up to his potential, Michigan State will be a nightmare. With Tom Izzo leading the Spartans, Michigan State is one of the top contenders in the country, and in two weeks, the they'll face Kentucky in Chicago in a game that will show how good Michigan State is as a potential No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup.

2012-13 SU Record: 78% (29-8)
2012-13 ATS Record: 57% (20-15)
2012-13 Over (Total): 44% (15-19)
Returning Starters: 4
Odds to win 2014 NCAA Championship: 18/1

The Buckeyes were just four points away from the Final Four last season, but were upset by Wichita State in Elite Eight. While Deshaun Thomas is gone to the NBA, there is still a lot of talent in Columbus. PG Aaron Craft (10.0 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.6 RPG) is one of the top point guards in all of the country. While he still may have his limitations shooting the ball (42% FG, 30% threes), he's widely regarded as the nation's best on-ball defender. Craft also does a terrific job of setting up teammates for easy baskets, and he once again has some very talented scorers to share the ball with. One of those, SF Sam Thompson (7.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 40% 3-pt FG) figures to be one of the most improved players in all of the country. Thompson is one of the top athletes in the country, while also developing as a much better shooter throughout the season. With Thomas no longer the go-to guy, look for Thompsonís scoring average to double this season. Center Amir Williams (3.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.4 BPG) must develop and become more of a defensive presence. If the Buckeyes are able to get solid play from their frontcourt, then thereís the potential to advance even farther this season.

2012-13 SU Record: 80% (31-8)
2012-13 ATS Record: 54% (20-17-1)
2012-13 Over (Total): 55% (21-17)
Returning Starters: 3
Odds to win 2014 NCAA Championship: 35/1

Last yearís national runner-ups lost one of the best backcourts in the country, but return PF Glenn Robinson III (11.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.1 APG) and C Mitch McGary (7.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.1 SPG) to form one of the nation's best frontcourts. With Robinson III, the Wolverines have one of the most athletic big men in all of the country. He is an explosive athlete that can absolutely get out and run with of the best them, while McGary is more of the prototypical low-post scorer operating mostly down low. With Trey Burke onto the NBA, a problem for the Wolverines will be their ability to get the ball up the court. Incoming freshman Derrick Walton Jr. has a chance to be special, but will be asked to do a lot in his first season. He will have one of the best shooters in all of the country in the backcourt with him in SG Nik Stauskas (11.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 44 % 3-pt FG) with him. Stauskas is an underrated athlete, with the ability to put the ball on the floor and make some plays. If Walton Jr. is able to step up and fill the void of Burke, then the Wolverines are going to be a very difficult team to beat this season.

2012-13 SU Record: 66% (23-12)
2012-13 ATS Record: 41% (13-19-1)
2012-13 Over (Total): 45% (13-16)
Returning Starters: 2
Odds to win 2014 NCAA Championship: 80/1

The Badgers are coming off a season that ended in disappointment, falling in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. However, Wisconsin has some very talented players coming back, including 6-foot-7 stud sophomore SF Sam Dekker (9.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 39% 3-pt FG). He is one of the most versatile scorers in all of the country with the ability to hit from the outside, but all use his size to finish over smaller defenders in the paint. The Badgers will also get back PG Josh Gasser, who missed all of last season because of a torn ACL. Two seasons ago, Gasser (7.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 45% 3-pt FG in 2011-12) was a huge part of the Badgers offense as a shooting guard, but will man the point this season in a backcourt pairing with senior SG Ben Brust (11.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 39% 3-pt FG). While the Badgers will be missing the majority of their post scoring from last season, they will remain one of the top three-pointing shooting teams in all of the country. Head coach Bo Ryan has been very difficult to beat because of his team's slow-paced style of play, and that figures to be the case this season as well.

2012-13 SU Record: 81% (29-7)
2012-13 ATS Record: 50% (17-17)
2012-13 Over (Total): 43% (13-17-2)
Returning Starters: 1
Odds to win 2014 NCAA Championship: 70/1

The Hoosiers were supposed to be the best team in the country last season, but were defeated by Syracuse in the Sweet 16. Gone from that team are four starters, but the cupboard is not entirely bare in Bloomington. PG Yogi Ferrell (7.6 PPG, 4.1 APG) had a very solid freshman campaign, showing that he has the ability to lead a team. He must improve on his perimeter shooting (30% 3-pt FG) to force defenses to pressure him, which would allow Ferrell to use his quickness. Senior SF Will Sheehey (9.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 35% 3-pt FG) is the glue guy that every team needs. Even on last seasonís team, Sheehey was the guy that would step up and get the crowd back into the game with a well-timed three. The Hoosiers have a lot of talent in their incoming freshman class that will be counted upon to contribute immediately, headlined by 6-foot-9 McDonald's All-American Noah Vonleh. By late February and early March, this team should be playing some very good basketball.

2012-13 SU Record: 66% (25-13)
2012-13 ATS Record: 71% (24-10)
2012-13 Over (Total): 39% (12-19-2)
Returning Starters: 4
Odds to win 2014 NCAA Championship: 100/1

The Hawkeyes were improved last season, going all the way to the NIT Finals before falling to Baylor. Junior PF Aaron White (12.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG) is a skilled offensive player that showed last season he is capable of taking over games. At 6-foot-9, 200 pounds, he is very strong with a nice touch from 15-feet in. One negative on him is that he has a tendency to fall in love with the three-point shot, (23% on 67 attempts) rather than demanding the ball on the block. Iowa will have one of the best inside-outside duos in the conference, with senior PG Roy Devyn Marble (15.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.0 APG). He is not a great perimeter shooter (33% 3-pt FG), but at 6-foot-6, he is very difficult for opposing guards to match up with. With these two scorers along with talented role players like SG Mike Gesell (8.7 PPG, 2.6 APG) and SF Melsahn Basabe (6.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG in 18.5 MPG), the Hawkeyes have the ability to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.

2012-13 SU Record: 64% (23-13)
2012-13 ATS Record: 46% (15-18)
2012-13 Over (Total): 39% (12-19)
Returning Starters: 2
Odds to win 2014 NCAA Championship: 300/1

Illinois will be looking to replace a ton of scoring from last season, but do-it-all guard Tracy Abrams (10.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.4 APG) has the ability to become the go-to guy for the Fighting Illini. Abrams has great ability to get to the basket off the bounce, where he is also very good at finding the open teammate. But he still needs to improve his shooting, making just 39% FG and 27% threes. Transfers are going to play a huge role this season for Illinois as SG Rayvonte Rice (16.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.9 SPG at Drake in 2011-2012) and SF Darius Paul (10.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG at Western Michigan) will provide Illinois with experience and scoring for a team that will have five freshman on the team. Last season, the Illini showed the ability to pull off big upsets as they defeated No. 1 Indiana, and they will need those types of wins to earn a trip back to the NCAA Tournament.

2012-13 SU Record: 32% (10-21)
2012-13 ATS Record: 50% (13-13-1)
2012-13 Over (Total): 57% (13-10-1)
Returning Starters: 2
Odds to win 2014 NCAA Championship: 100/1 (Field)

While the Nittany Lions had a very difficult 2012-13 campaign, they continued to keep playing hard and were rewarded with an upset over Michigan. However, star PG Tim Frazier (16.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.8 APG) was granted another year of eligibility after suffering a season-ending Achilles injury in the fourth game of the season. Frazier will team up with SG D.J. Newbill (16.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.0 APG) to form a backcourt as good as there is in the conference, including Michigan State. Newbill is a very interesting prospect, with great size for a guard at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds. Neither of these two shoot from deep very well, but are both terrific at getting to the line, averaging 16.1 combined free-throw attempts per game last season. PSU also returns junior PF Ross Travis (7.0 PPG), whose 7.4 RPG make him the conference's second-leading returning rebounder. If the backcourt is able to stay healthy and knock down more outside shots, Penn State should be the most improved team in the Big Ten.

2012-13 SU Record: 47% (16-18)
2012-13 ATS Record: 46% (15-18-1)
2012-13 Over (Total): 59% (17-12-1)
Returning Starters: 2
Odds to win 2014 NCAA Championship: 200/1

The Boilermakers were a very young team last season, and Matt Painterís team underwent some growing pains in a sub-.500 season. Despite those losses, Purdue should be improved this season, in large part because of senior SG Terone Johnson (13.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.9 APG). He is a multi-talented guard that has the ability to both score and create for his teammates. Younger brother PG Ronnie Johnson (10.3 PPG, 4.1 APG) is lightning-quick but made just six three pointers his entire freshman season. Seven-foot sophomore center A.J. Hammons (10.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.0 BPG) continued to improve throughout the season, scoring 30 points against Indiana and Cody Zeller. Painterís teams are always going to play very tough defense, and that will be the key for the Boilermakers this season as they look to improve greatly off last season's disappointment.

2012-13 SU Record: 41% (13-19)
2012-13 ATS Record: 48% (14-15)
2012-13 Over (Total): 55% (12-10-2)
Returning Starters: 1
Odds to win 2014 NCAA Championship: 500/1

The Wildcats got great news on April 20 when F/G Drew Crawford was given another season of eligibility, giving the Wildcats their best player back for the season. Crawford (13.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG) is a menace on both the offensive side, as well as on defense. With his 6-foot-5 size and length, Crawford has the ability to shoot over defenders, as well as harass opponents when they try to score on him. PG Dave Sobolewski (9.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 4.0 APG) emerged as a solid ball handler last season, while not having the luxury of playing with the talented Crawford in conference play. Big things are expected from 7-foot sophomore C Alex Olah (6.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG in 22.2 MPG) this season too. The Wildcats have never been in the NCAA Tournament, and are hoping new head coach Chris Collins, a former Duke assistant, will bring them to the Big Dance with his faster-paced offense.

2012-13 SU Record: 62% (21-13)
2012-13 ATS Record: 52% (16-15-1)
2012-13 Over (Total): 42% (11-15)
Returning Starters: 2
Odds to win 2014 NCAA Championship: 200/1

The Golden Gophers made it to Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament, but lost three starters, as well as their head coach. Tubby Smith left for Texas Tech and was replaced by Richard Pitino, the son of Louisville head man Rick Pitino. Luckily for Minnesota, it returns its starting backcourt of Andre Hollins (14.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.4 APG) and Austin Hollins (10.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.6 APG). Andre was terrific late in the season, averaging 26.5 PPG and 7.0 RPG in the Golden Gophers two NCAA Tournament games. Both are very talented players and should be able to really push the action in Pitino's up-tempo offense. But the club will need to find reliable frontcourt players for any shot at an NCAA tournament berth this upcoming season.

2012-13 SU Record: 46% (15-18)
2012-13 ATS Record: 53% (16-14-1)
2012-13 Over (Total): 48% (11-12-1)
Returning Starters: 3
Odds to win 2014 NCAA Championship: 100/1 (Field)

Head coach Tim Miles is one of the most likeable coaches in college basketball, and despite the record last season, the Cornhuskers are improving. SG Shavon Shields (8.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 36% 3-pt FG) continued to make great strides throughout the season, playing his best basketball late in the season, scoring a career-high 29 points in a victory over Penn State. SG Ray Gallegos (12.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG) is the only other returning player that averaged at least six points per game. With many newcomers this season, things will be tough in Lincoln again. However, the folks need to be patient with Miles, because he will have Nebraska playing much better basketball.

Other Conference Previews

BIG 12 Conference
BIG TEN Conference
PAC-12 Conference
OTHER Notable Schools

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