Today we’re going to tell you, with 100 percent accuracy, the order of next season’s final Big Ten standings.
Quick hint -– Indiana will not be in the top five.
How do we know it’s 100 percent accurate given that we are six months away from the start of the season?
Well, we have analyzed, scrutinized and, in the end, guessed. In other words, we’ve done the same thing all those bloggers have done trying to decipher the meaning of the final “Lost” episode.
First, we know that the Big Ten lost only two players early to the NBA draft. The first was Ohio State’s Evan Turner, who absolutely had to go given he’ll be one of the first two picks taken.
The second was Michigan’s Manny Harris. He didn't have to go, but it was probably a good decision for him, although not so much for the Wolverines.
Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson are back. So is Penn State’s Talor Battle and Illinois’ Mike Davis and Demetri McCamey. The Big Ten is better for it.
The Indiana Hoosiers -– not so much.
Overall the Big Ten is so loaded, it might win the Big Ten-ACC Challenge for a second straight year (this is huge considering the Big Ten played the patsy role in this made-for-TV event for years), and should have three top 10 teams, which is great for fan interest, but brutal for coaches who have to face it.
Anyway, today we will showcase the top five teams. This is, of course, guaranteed, so bet the house, the life savings, the kids’ college fund. And if, by chance, it doesn’t turn out this way, we will remind you of that great Animal House line that said, “Hey, you (bleeped) up, you trusted us.”
Here we go:
1) Purdue: The Boilers are loaded. They have three superstars in Johnson, Moore and Robbie Hummel. Yes, there is uncertainty about Hummel’s knee given he blew his ACL and needed surgery to fix it. If this were say, 1967, his future would be grim. Now, guys come back from this stronger than ever. He said, in fact, he's at least on schedule as far as his rehabilitation. Purdue lost Big Ten defensive player of the year Chris Kramer, but bring in a strong freshman class highlighted by high-scoring guard Terone Johnson.
2) Michigan State: Coach Tom Izzo’s knack for strong March runs remains unmatched these days. The Spartans basically have everybody back but Raymar Morgan. Point guard Kalin Lucas should be full go from injury. Draymond Green is going to dominate and, well, never, ever count out Michigan State come NCAA tourney time.
3) Ohio State: Yes, losing Turner is big, but coach Thad Matta’s strong recruiting touch continues with center Jared Sullinger and forward Deshaun Thomas. Four starters return, including William Bufford, who seems destined for a breakthrough season.
4) Wisconsin: We almost put Illinois here, but Badger coach Bo Ryan’s track record is too strong to ignore. Forget about losing senior guards Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon. Wisconsin returns point guard stud Jordan Taylor, plus versatile Jon Leuer and a cast that knows how to play the game. The Badgers will stifle you with defense and break you down with swing offense. Plus, is there a tougher place to play in America than the Kohl Center? The answer, of course, is no.
5) Illinois: The Illini have as much talent as anybody in the conference, but a lot of it is still young with sophomores Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson. No matter. McCamey and Davis are as good a 1-2 punch as you’ll see in the Big Ten. Assembly Hall is another tough place to play and the defense should be stifling. These guys could make a strong postseason run if they play to their potential.
So where does Indiana fit in all of this? We’ll let you know on Wednesday.