The second set of topics I'm most looking forward to is, unsurprisingly, centered around the Big Ten.
Over the last few years, it's been the toughest conference in the country--tons of talent, loads of great coaches, lots of competition. This year looks like much of the same.
I'm really, really interested to see how the conference race shapes up. Understandably, Indiana is the favorite, given that they're all preseason #1 right now, but that will absolutely be threatened in conference play. I see Michigan, Ohio State, MSU and even potentially Wisconsin The key (I think) will be 2 things:
1.) Who maintains their homecourt advantage and 2.) Who can snag the most wins on the road (a near-impossible feat in Big Ten play).
In the past years, the champs or co-champs have had about 3 or 4 losses in conference play--and it may be similar....which brings me to other teams I'm interested in...
Indiana: TONS of hype around this team, mostly because of the tree that is Cody Zeller. However, what I didn't realize at first is how many OTHER key players are coming back as well--Jordan Hulls provides a long-range scoring threat, Christian Watford is tough and strong and is a threat from anywhere on the floor, Victor Oladipo can score AND rebound--eek! Add in a top 10 recruiting class and they're pretty much stacked. I'm a Tom Crean fan, and not just because he's a former Izzo assistant. He's intense, he knows how to interact with the fans, he respects the tradition of IU, he can recruit and his teams always play hard. If MSU isn't winning the conference, I'd be good with IU taking it all.
I'm really curious to see how they live up to expectations and how long they can maintain that top rank. If they do lose in the uber-competitive Big Ten, how harshly will they be punished for it? Can everyone stay healthy? Will the guys that were virutally unknown at this time last year handle their stardom or buckle under the pressure? Stay tuned!!