Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Final review of the Big Ten Basketball season…
The college basketball is coming to a crescendo. This weekend in Atlanta, arguably the four best teams in college basketball hoop it up to see who gets crowned 2007 champs. Two number ones and two number twos grace the Final Four and we’re all in for a treat in what should be a fantastic three last games of the season.

The Big Ten fared about as I expected, though Ohio State got the conference to basketball’s Promised Land, a step further than I expected. Go Buckeyes, represent well.

Now, a long overdue look at how the season transpired compared to my previews. Sort of me grading me along with some expectations for next year. Note that the predicted records didn’t include the Big Ten tourney or postseason play. When adjusted for that, I’d say I graded out pretty well!

Illinois Fighting Illini
2006-07 Outlook: Illinois will sorely miss the leadership and uncanny big play abilities of Dee Brown and the inside punch of James Augustine. However, don’t cry too hard for Bruce Weber. This will still be a team capable of doing some things with a not-so-bad schedule and plenty of talent remaining on the roster.

Prediction: 20-11 (8-8, 7th) – NCAA Berth
Reality: 23-12 (9-7, T-4th) – NCAA First Round Loss

Comments: The Illini pretty much followed my preseason script. A little bumpy here and there, and a nervous Selection Sunday. The only real disappointment was the blown lead against Virginia Tech, because I thought the bracket set up well for them. Illinois should court a similar team next winter but need to avoid the off-court shenanigans in the off-season…

Indiana Hoosiers
2006-07 Outlook: Indiana is finally fully removed from the Bobby Knight era now that embattled coach Mike Davis has moved on. Kelvin Sampson seems to have a skeleton or two in his closet but that will all be forgotten once fans see his rugged style take hold. D.J. White, when healthy, has been among the best players in the country, let alone the Big Ten. This team lost a lot but will be very solid by season’s end.

Prediction: 21-9 (10-6, 4th) – NCAA Berth
Reality: 21-11 (10-6, 3rd) – NCAA Second Round Loss

Comments: Indiana also followed my preseason predictions almost to a “T”. The Hoosiers had the benefit of an easier Big Ten slate but still played well for most of the season, protecting the home court and eventually making a solid last gasp run at UCLA in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. A few players will move on but with some golden recruits coming in, Indiana should be firmly among the Big Ten’s upper echelon next year and beyond.

Iowa Hawkeyes
2006-07 Outlook: It can be said that with the graduation of Horner, Brunner and Erik Hansen the Iowa Hawkeyes lost their heart and soul. The truth is, they probably did. In order to rise up and grind out another winning season, Steve Alford is going to have to get a lot out of some unproven players. Iowa will be a tough game all season long, but just doesn’t have enough polish to get above .500 this season.

Prediction: 14-16 (5-11, T8th) – No postseason play
Reality: 17-14 (9-7, T-4th) – No postseason play

Comments: Iowa fared a little better than I expected, thanks to guys like Tyler Smith stepping up to help Adam Haluska carry the team. The Hawkeyes were a grinding team that might have been slighted when the NIT built its field, but it is what it is. Next year will see a new leader and maybe a new style. Personally, I’d love to see the old Tom Davis pressing style return. Iowa should be about the same type of team next year but we won’t know much until the new coach and recruits are in place.

Michigan Wolverines
2006-07 Outlook: Michigan has really been an enigma the past few years. Strong starts have been followed up by major late season slumps and NCAA bids have turned to NIT berths. Part of it could be that the maize and blue are only challenging themselves once or twice before Big Ten play each year, although injuries have played a role as well. Floor general Daniel Horton is gone, but plenty of talent returns and that means Michigan will finally get back to the Big Dance next March.

Prediction: 21-10 (9-7, T5th) – NCAA Berth
Reality: 22-13 (8-8, T-7th) – NIT Second Round loss

Comments: Well, that cupcake preseason slate I alluded to in my preview seems to have come back to bite Michigan. That and the typical mid to late season swoon. Had the Wolverines not blown the sizeable late game lead in the regular season finale against OSU, Tommy Amaker may still be coach and the Wolverines may have been dancing. A plethora of seniors depart and the future is in flux so expect more of the same from Michigan next season.

Michigan State Spartans
2006-07 Outlook: Teams with fans that routinely find themselves rushing the court after beating perennial Big Ten power Michigan State might have to temper that enthusiasm this year. Why? This is a bit of a rebuilding year in East Lansing. 78% of the scoring has departed for the NBA and this is the youngest team Tom Izzo has ever had on the court with ZERO seniors on the roster. The usually brutal non-conference slate isn’t so brutal this year and as always with Izzo coached teams, this will be a much better team in February and March than today. Think 2002 team, but a little better yet…

Prediction: 21-10 (9-7, T5th) – NCAA Berth
Reality: 23-12 (8-8, T-7th) – NCAA Second Round Loss

Comments: The season was on par with my expectations but one could argue that they far exceeded the casual observers’ predictions. The Spartans got back to two tried and true Tom Izzo principles – defense and rebounding. State gave North Carolina a run in the second round but fell a few bodies short. With everyone coming back next year, a redshirted 7-footer looking for PT and three backcourt star recruits coming in, something special could be on the horizon in East Lansing.

Minnesota Golden Gophers
2006-07 Outlook: Is it just me or does poor Don Monson always seem to be in rebuilding mode at Minnesota? Perhaps the same group championing the new football stadium should look at new basketball digs as well. This team loses its heart and soul in Boone and Grier and though it will scrap and claw and fight along the way, it just not destined to win very many games.

Prediction: 9-21 (2-14, 10th) – No postseason
Reality: 9-22 (3-13, 9th) – No postseason

Comments: Well, the typical rebuilding year for Coach Monson never came to fruition after he was rather unceremoniously shown the door just a few games into the season. Minnesota had a few bright moments this year but on a night in and night out basis, had little to look forward to… that is until the coup of the coaching carousel. Enter Tubby Smith. It may take a season or two, but folks, Minnesota will soon be a regular player in the Big Ten race again.

Northwestern Wildcats
2006-07 Outlook: Last year will be looked back upon as the one that got away. Northwestern actually put a highly competitive team on the court and still came up empty at season’s end. It is back to rebuilding this year with several new faces being counted on to make up for all that was lost with the departure of Hachad and Vukusic. Tim Doyle is the logical candidate to step up, but who else is with him?

Prediction: 7-23 (1-15, 11th) – No postseason
Reality: 13-18 (2-14), T-10th) – No postseason

Comments: Well, I was furthest off on the Wildcats. With not much more than a really good I.M. team on the court most of the time, Northwestern scrapped and clawed its way to 13 wins. Bill Carmody’s style is still very tough to prepare for so if he can get lucky and land a big-ish recruit or find another European gem, look out.

Ohio State Buckeyes
2006-07 Outlook: When the “Thad Five” committed together to play for Coach Thad Matta last November, they were automatically crowned as the team to beat for as long as they played together. Well, that may be the case, but there are others in the Big Ten with something to say about that (Wisconsin among others). Don’t discount the fact that this team lost four starters from last season and is replacing them with rookies. Talented or not, this team will experience a few growing pains along the way. Greg Oden is out until January, which may slow the progress down some more, but come March, this will be a very, very good basketball team.

Prediction: 24-5 (13-3, 2nd) – NCAA berth, Sweet 16 or better
Reality: 34-3 (15-1, 1st) – NCAA berth, Final Four – maybe better!

Comments: Ohio State has a bunch more wins than projected, but take into account the seven in the postseason and two less losses than predicted and they are right where I expected. The Buckeyes have such a well-rounded squad on the floor at all times that they have a really good shot at winning it all. My only beef is that Greg Oden will get all the credit and I am more convinced than ever that Mike Conley, Jr. is why OSU is so good. Next year the scarlet and gray will be just as good, light Oden and some seniors or not…

Penn State Nittany Lions
2006-07 Outlook: On paper, this team appears poised to make great strides and return to the NCAA Tournament. There is plenty of talent, the team is well-coached and there is more depth than perhaps any time in Penn State’s history. Still, until the team can win all of the games it should (it recently lost an exhibition game to Shippensburg) and hold serve at the cavernous and typically empty Bryce-Jordan, I can’t see more than the NIT. That said, this might and more likely should be the year that Penn State makes a quiet run to the top tier of the Big Ten.

Prediction: 15-15 (5-11, T8th) – NIT, Trip to MSG for the Final Four
Reality: 11-19 (2-14, T-10th) – No postseason

Comments: Okay, so I was just as far off on PSU as Northwestern, but in this case, for the bad. Penn State really bothered me this year. With two scorers and rebounders in the top five or six in the league, the Nits still managed to do nothing special all season long. Much like at Michigan, it is obvious that football comes first, second, third… you get the picture. Penn State better rebound next year or Ed DeChellis will be seeking employment.

Purdue Boilermakers
2006-07 Outlook: Don’t let last season’s record and finish fool you. Why? Purdue had key players drop like flies in October and November and paid for it when the season started. Two players in particular, Teague and Landry, would have led this team to a .500 record overall a season ago. The good news is the pair, combined with the players that made it through last seasons tough campaign will contend for a Big Ten title. Purdue doesn’t need to be convinced that it can be a top tier team like Penn State and thus will win the games it should, protect the home court and earn Matt Painter Coach of the Year honors in the Big Ten this season.

Prediction: 24-6 (12-4, 3rd) – NCAA berth, Sweet 16
Reality: 22-12 (9-7, T-4th), NCAA Second Round loss

Comments: Purdue was my sleeper pick this season and despite falling short of my predicted outcome, was just that. The Boilers gave the big boys a run for their money all season long – including Florida. There will be some heavy personnel losses (Landry and Teague) but how can you not build something special around a guy like Kramer?

Wisconsin Badgers
2006-07 Outlook: Every year I expect Wisconsin to achieve less than the so-called experts do. Every year, or so it seems, I undersell the job Bo Ryan has done and can continue to do with this team. Not so this go around. Everyone else is talking up the Buckeyes, but not me – not yet. Wisconsin just knows how to win. The offense gets under your skin, the defense is in your face, the Badgers rarely lose to teams they should beat and protect the homecourt as well as powers Illinois and Michigan State. Alando Tucker has been in the Big Ten for fifteen years – or so it seems – and he and an underrated cast of very talented players will take this team further than anyone expects…

Prediction: 28-3 (14-2, Big Ten Champs) – NCAA berth, Elite 8 or better
Reality: 30-6 (13-3, 2nd) – NCAA Second Round loss

Comments: Wisconsin was rock solid all season long. Two late hiccups on the road took the team down a notch and then the Badgers got an awful draw with “better than a seven” UNLV in their way of a Sweet 16 berth. There will be some key losses but Bo Ryan finds a way over and over and over again.

My All Big Ten Team (in November):
G – Adam Haluska
G – Drew Neitzel
F – D.J. White
F – Alando Tucker
C – Greg Oden

Freshman of the Year: Raymar Morgan
Coach of the Year: Matt Painter

My All Big Ten Team (final):
G – Drew Neitzel
G – Mike Conley, Jr.
G – Adam Haluska
F – Alando Tucker
C – Greg Oden

Freshman of the Year: Mike Conley, Jr.
Coach of the Year: Matt Painter

5 comments:

Andy Gamm said...

Buckeye Nation - you may as well start looking for you prize.

With the final four to go, here is how we stand for Get Gamm:

Buckeye Nation - 90-22 & 12-1 with a chance to go 14-1, 13-2 or 12-2

Gamm - 97-27 final (.782)

Dan Meyer - 88-24 & 9-3 with a chance to go 11-3, 10-3 or 9-4)

phatsdawg - 86-26 & 9-2 with a chance to go 10-2 or 9-3.

Buckeye Nation said...

Andy,
What's the prize again?
Thanks!
-Buckeye Nation

Andy Gamm said...

$25 to spend in the TFS Fan Shop. Was pulling for your Bucks on Monday. Oden was as good as I have ever seen him.

Buckeye Nation said...

Andy,
The buzz around Columbus is that Oden might stay for his sophomore year. Thanks for the support in the finals...if we could have made just a few of our threes....oh well, it was a fun ride and a great season!
For my Get Gamm prize, I choose the Michigan countdown clock:
http://www.footballfanatics.com/COLLEGE_Ohio_State_Buckeyes/Ohio_State_Buckeyes_Rivalry_Countdown_Clock

Let me know if you need my addy and I'll e-mail it to you.
Congrats to the Spartans in the Frozen 4 and good luck in the title game!

Andy Gamm said...

It's on the way BN. I need to do a finals recaps here, maybe today.

Not a huge hockey fan, but I am pretty pumped about the Frozen Four and finals berth. Let me know when you get that clock.