Wildcat Write-up: Conference Preview
Better late then never right? For the first time in Northwestern history the journalism majors have missed their deadline. The professors have instilled singapore-style caning as a punishment. Rest assured it won't happen again. Without further ado, here is how the conference is guaranteed to shake up, starting with the East:
1. Michigan State - The run of consecutive Sweet 16's won't end this year. tmac is one of the best coaches and recruiters in the country and this team is poised for a deep run. Aaron Collard might be the best player in the conference but he won't have to do it alone in East Lansing. MSU goes 10-deep with a bench that is better than some teams starters. The part of this team exciting the fans the most is the fact that only 1 of the 10 players that will see court-time is an upperclassman; and he's a junior. If the young guys can gel at the right time they might be celebrating more than a conference championship at season's end.
2. Wisconsin - Schilling will lead this team that willchallenge for the division title. As the only remaining piece from their national title run he will make sure the younger guys know what they are playing for and will hold everyone accountable. This is a solid team whose depth and great coaching will be the key to their season.
3. Michigan - goofypork is a proven winner with a solid team to work with this season. Carl Stevens is a star who might just turn in his maize and blue after this season. He will lead a solid group of players to the top half of their division and a National Tournament berth.
4. Notre Dame - Coach Ferris enters his 3rd season in South Bend looking to return to the postseason. The Irish might be a little thin on the front line but have a chance to play into April.
5. Iowa - wvyjack moved a few hundred miles east and is looking to build a winning tradition in Iowa City like he has every other stop of the way. Iowa has a really good starting lineup but their bench play will determine where they finish. If the bench can keep them in the games the Hawkeyes have a chance to move up this list.
6. Minnesota - The last remnants kkyutzy's tenure remain but that's about it. Simmons and Cook are amazing talents sure to be wasted this season. As bad as this year looks the future is even worse. This once national power has been run into the ground with poor coaching and recruiting. Whomever the next Gopher coach is, they will have a long uphill battle in one of the countries toughest conferences.
And in the West (PSU????):
1. Illinois - ledfoot has 9 postseason appearances and 9 20-win seasons in his 9 years at Illinois. The guy can flat out coach. This will be the difference in the three-horse race in the West. Well, this and Anthony Lachapelle. Lachapelle is a stud among studs for Illinois. The talent and experience (5 seniors) will put Illinois over the top.
2. Indiana - Top to bottom Indiana is one of the most athletic and best defensive teams in the conference. They have good guard play and solid bigs. Historically the Hoosiers have fared well within their division and this year should be no different. Having Kent Setzer return for his senior year will be the edge the Hoosiers need for a bye in the conference tournament.
3. Northwestern - The Wildcats return 11 players from a team that finished 5th in the country last year losing only 6 games. Unfortunately for their fans the player they lost was a three time Conference POY. Northwestern returns a team full of good, but not spectacular players. If Coach Evans can find a rotation that works they could challenge for another conference championship. Having 9 players with a defensive rating of 95 or higher (7 at 99 or better) should help their chances.
4. Penn State - As I write this I'm still trying to figure out how Penn State is in the West. If I were splitting up the Big 10 I would have put Minnesota, Iowa, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Notre Dame in the West. This would leave Indiana, Purdue, MSU, Michigan, Ohio State, and PSU in the East. I don't have a map in front of me but this seems like a more natural geographic split and would keep the traditional rivals together. Maybe WIS should hire me? But, I digress, senior leadership should slide PSU into the 4th slot out West. The NIttany Lions are on their way back and have a solid core to work with. The frontcourt should be the difference for PSU in a good way at times this year.
5. Purdue - mcauley has been a bad boy lately and it might have hurt the Boilermakers this past offseason. Purdue has a good starting lineup but will their lack of depth hurt them too much?
6. Ohio State - OSU is a good team but this is a great conference. As of right now, the Buckeyes just don't have what it takes to challenge for the title.
Pre-Season All-Conference Team:
PG - Collard, Michigan State
SG - Setzer, Indiana
SF - Lachapelle, Illinois
PF - Stevens, Michigan
C - Cook, Minnesota