A team to review from last year...
The Gophers were quietly a quality team last season. They shot the ball very well and took care of the ball. On defense, they also had success. As a result, Tubby Smith's club had a number of big wins. Minnesota defeated Butler, Ohio St., Wisconsin, Michigan St., and Purdue. Still, they struggled with consistency finish 8-8 in the Big Ten.
This season, the Gophers are a step behind the top heavy Big Ten. A couple months ago, we interviewed The Daily Gopher about Blake Hoffarber and Minnesota. The guys over there summed it up best, "There is the talent to compete for a conference title but the starts kind of have to align for that to be realistic possibility. If guys do not become eligible and Williams doesn't figure out how to get himself on the floor, this team will miss the NCAA Tournament and could finish way down in the Big Ten pecking order."
A flaw to consider...
Michigan State's turnovers
Turnovers and turnovers only are what kept Coach Izzo's club out of the top 20 in adjusted efficiency rankings. They were the problem on both offense and defense. Offensively, only two players had a TO% of under 18%. Defensively, the Spartans only caused their opponents to turn the ball over 18.7% of possessions. Michigan St. rebounded and shot the ball extremely well. However, if the Spartans are a true national title contender the turnovers will have to improve this season.
A team that will get more attention than their body of work merits...
The expectations aren't very high for the Wolverines entering this season. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims are gone from a team that finished just 7-11 in conference. Ballin' is a Habit has some interesting words about Michigan, "On paper, this looks like a team destined for a rebuilding year. But keep in mind, this is the kind of team that Beilein succeeds with. A bunch of scrappy underachievers willing to buy into Beilein's system." However, scrappiness is sometimes (not always) more perception than reality. Michigan probably just won't be good enough to compete this season.
A team that will get less attention than their body of work merits...
The Badgers are probably the cliche team for this category. Nearly every year they fly under the radar. The Badgers play at a slow pace and are by no means flashy. With the losses of Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon, new names will have to emerge. Knowing Bo Ryan's team, however, new players will step up. Jordan Taylor appears ready to breakout in the backcourt. Wisconsin will almost certainly shoot the ball well, take care of the ball, and rebound defensively. With these three attributes, the Badgers seem to be a lock to contend in the Big Ten.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jon Leuer, Wisconsin
Last year, Leuer had great numbers co-starring with Trevon Hughes. He shot 39% from three and 55% from two. He also had a ridiculous 8.5 TORate. The 6'10" senior will be back for part two, but minus Hughes. Leuer will not only be one of the top players in the Big Ten, but a top player nationally.
Best of the Rest:
1) Robbie Hummel, Purdue
2) Joe Shurna, Northwestern
3) Kalin Lucas, Michigan State
4) Demetri McCamey, Illinois
5) Talor Battle, Penn State
6) William Buford, Ohio State
7) Maurice Creek, Indiana
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin
Taylor does not fit the standard definition of a breakout player we have been using throughout the conference previews. He was third on the Badgers in minutes played. However, Taylor's role will go way up with the departures of Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon. As Dylan Burkhardt of umhoops.com pointed out, Taylor's sophomore season numbers were very similar to Hughes' sophomore numbers. Taylor is ready to emerge as the go-to guard for Bo Ryan.
Best of the Rest:
1) Rob Wilson, Wisconsin
2) Tyler Griffey, Illinois
3) Rodney Williams, Minnesota
4) Luka Mirkovic, Northwestern