I would usually use the term “know” very lightly when it comes to a game and a conference full of variables and unknown possibilities. But, if there’s ever a time to feel confident in what you know or think, it’s got to be the preseason where everyone is full of optimism and excitement for what’s ahead.
Here is what I’m feeling good about heading into the 2017-18 season.
1. Michigan State is going to be really good. It’s good to start with a sure thing, and Michigan State is as close to that as possible. Size and versatility are there, but 3-point shooting could make or break the Spartans’ Final Four hopes.
2. Northwestern will be one of the toughest teams to match up against. Chis Collins has a great point guard in Bryant McIntosh and has tremendous length and experience around the perimeter with Scottie Lindsey, Vic Law and Aaron Falzon.
3. Iowa will be one of the most entertaining teams to watch on offense. Without Peter Jok, there will likely be better balance on both ends of the floor. Scoring won’t be an issue, but defense could determine the outcome for the Hawkeyes this year.
4. Purdue, once again, will boast the best inside-out/outside-in game in the conference. The improvement of the Purdue backcourt and the year over year progress of Isaac Haas will position the Boilers to beat anyone in the conference.
5. Minnesota will be a serious contender. The Gophers showcase two of the conference’s best guards in Nate Mason and Amir Coffey. Despite losing sophomore Eric Curry for the year (knee), the Gophers have the potential to be a Sweet 16 team in March.
6. Ethan Happ will be the key playmaker for Wisconsin this year. Sounds obvious, right? But, with Bronson Koenig no long around, I see the junior star serving as the point guard from the post. He’ll face numerous double and triple teams when he gets the ball, but his ability to pass out of the double will help maximize the potential of his young and inexperienced teammates. I wouldn’t be surprised if he leads the team in points, rebounds, steals and assists.
7. Moe Wagner is a lottery pick in the making. John Beilein will utilize his offensive versatility well. Without Derrick Walton Jr., Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and transfer Charles Matthews will need to be effective in all aspects, including leadership.
9. The experience of Maryland’s terrific sophomore trio makes it a legitimate threat, in conference play and beyond. Anthony Cowan is, in my opinion, the best on-the-ball defender in the Big Ten with the ability to disrupt any opponent’s initial attack.
10. Penn State has NCAA tournament level talent. Chemistry and cohesion on the offensive end will be the key to its success. Tony Carr has the ability to make everyone around him better. We have yet to see this team play to their potential and that should excite Nittany Lion fans.