1. Michigan State
Coach: Tom Izzo (16th season, 364-146)
Marquee nonconference game: vs. Duke at Madison Square Garden, Dec. 1
2009-10 postseason: Lost to Butler in national semifinals of NCAA Tournament.
Outlook: The Spartans return three of their top four scorers, including their leading scorer, point guard Kalin Lucas. Lucas, who returns from an Achilles’ tendon injury that knocked him out of the NCAA tournament, is the conference’s preseason player of the year. Michigan State lost second-leading scorer Raymar Morgan to graduation. Despite no dominant center, Michigan State outrebounded opponents by 8.5 per game last season.
FYI: A tough nonconference schedule should prepare the Spartans for the Big Ten season. They play in the Maui Invitational along with Connecticut, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington and Wichita State.
2. Ohio State
Coach: Thad Matta (7th season, 156-54)
2009-10 postseason: Lost to Tennessee in regional semifinals of NCAA Tournament.
Marquee nonconference game: at Florida, Nov. 16.
Outlook: Evan Turner, who became the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, is not easy to replace. But the Buckeyes have four senior starters back, three of whom were double-digit scorers, and two impressive freshmen. Jon Diebler connected on 42 percent of three-pointers last season. Dallas Lauderdale, a 6-foot-8 forward, blocked a league-best 77 shots to go with 5.6 rebounds per game. Forward Jared Sullinger, a 6-foot-9 freshman, should help on the boards.
FYI: Will Sullinger become the next Ohio State freshman phenom? He is the first Ohioan to be named a Parade All-American since LeBron James.
Coach: Bruce Weber (8th season, 174-72)
2009-10 postseason: Lost to Dayton in quarterfinals of NIT.
Marquee nonconference game: vs. North Carolina, Nov. 30
Outlook: The Illini have a lot of weapons, with four double-digit scorers returning, led by Demetri McCamey (15.1 ppg), one of the best point guards in the country. Offense shouldn’t be lacking with Mike Tisdale (11.9), Mike Davis (10.7) and D.J. Richardson (10.5) all back. Defense is the key to Illinois’ season. Play good defense and win games. Don’t and it could fall apart. Davis led the Big Ten in rebounds last season and Tisdale was fourth in blocked shots.
FYI: Bruce Weber’s big question for his team headed into the season, “Who will be our leaders?” Somebody from Illinois’ veteran core needs to step up.
Coach: Matt Painter (6th season, 112-56)
Marquee nonconference game: at Virginia Tech, Dec. 1.
2009-10 postseason: Lost to Duke in regional semifinals of NCAA Tournament.
Outlook: Losing Robbie Hummel, the Boilermakers’ top scorer, to a second knee injury in eight months will take its toll. Purdue needs a boost in the young frontcourt. Center JaJuan Johnson (15.5 points per game) and E’Twaun Moore (16.4 points per game) must carry the load on offense. The Boilermakers need their solid defense to thrive. Last season they forced 15.7 turnovers per game.
FYI: How will coach Matt Painter handle the lineup without Hummel? Can Kelsey Barlow make a transition from backup point guard to power forward?
Coach: Bo Ryan (10th season, 217-82)
Marquee nonconference game: at North Carolina State, Dec. 1
2009-10 postseason: Lost to Cornell in second round of NCAA Tournament.
Outlook: The Badgers lose their top guns — point guard Trevon Hughes and shooting maestro Jason Bohannon. Jordan Taylor will step in smoothly for Hughes after averaging a league-best 3.0 assist-to-turnover ratio. But Wisconsin has no obvious answer from long range. Freshmen Ben Brust and Josh Gasser could help.
FYI: Forward Jon Leuer might just be the league’s best player. He can post up, nail 3-pointers and put the ball on the floor. A broken wrist cost him nine games last season, otherwise he would have finished in the top 10 in scoring (15.4 points per game).
Coach: Tubby Smith (4th season, 63-39)
Marquee nonconference matchup: vs. Cornell, Dec. 4
2009-10 postseason: Lost to Xavier in first round of NCAA Tournament.
Outlook: The Gophers need to replace leading scorer Lawrence Westbrook, who averaged 12.8 points per game. But with key returning starters Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber, Minnesota has a chance to keep up its 72-point average from a year ago. The graduation of defensive leader Damian Johnson leaves a void. The Gophers return leading rebounder Ralph Sampson III, who grabbed 5.8 per game. Trevor Mbakwe, a 6-8 forward who redshirted last year, could help as a low post presence.
FYI: The Gophers return nine players from last season’s 21-14 team that made the NCAA tournament, including three starters.
Coach: Bill Carmody (11th season, 140-163)
Marquee nonconference matchup: vs. Georgia Tech, Nov. 30
2009-10 postseason: Lost to Rhode Island in first round of NIT.
Outlook: The Wildcats topped the Big Ten in scoring (68.7 points per game) in league play last season, and all they lose is Jeremy Nash (8.9) and Kyle Rowley (2.0). Point guard Michael “Juice” Thompson does more than rack up assists and log minutes; he shot 41.1 percent from 3-point land in 2009. John Shurna, named the nation’s most improved player by the Sporting News, averaged 20.1 in league play. Kevin Coble, who decided not to return after missing all of last season, would have helped.
FYI: Every Northwestern fan knows that the Wildcats never have reached the NCAA tournament. But coming off its first 20-win season in school history, Northwestern is loaded with confidence.
Coach: Tom Crean (3rd season, 16-46)
Marquee nonconference matchup: at Kentucky, Dec. 11.
2009-10 postseason: None.
Outlook: Indiana has all five starters returning and sophomore guard Maurice Creek back from injury. Guard Verdell Jones III, forward Christian Watford, and guard Jeremiah Rivers were double-digit scorers. Indiana allowed opponents to shoot 44.4 percent last season and score a Big Ten-worst 71.5 points per game.
FYI: Hoosiers fans hope Creek’s return is a boost for the team. He averaged 16.4 points in 12 games before fracturing his left kneecap and missing the rest of last season.
9. Penn State
Coach: Ed DeChellis (8th season, 95-123)
Marquee nonconference matchup: at Virginia Tech, Dec. 12
2009-10 postseason: None.
Outlook: No surprise that Talor Battle excelled last season, averaging 18.5 points per game. And the 5-foot-11 guard somehow also led his team in rebounding (5.3 per game), not to mention assists (4.2). The Nittany Lions need to improve their 3-point shooting defense after yielding a league-high 36.3 percent.
FYI: Penn State rarely plays a difficult nonconference schedule, but this season’s slate does include dates with Mississippi, Maryland and Virginia Tech. Hey, it’s a start.
Coach: John Beilein (4th season, 46-53)
Marquee nonconference matchup: vs. Syracuse, Nov. 26
2009-10 postseason: None
Outlook: Michigan had two of the Big Ten’s most dynamic players last season but regressed to a 17-loss campaign. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims ranked fourth and fifth in scoring, but the rest of the team fired blanks (league-worst 29.9 percent from 3-point land), with Zach Novak and Stu Douglass fighting slumps. Expect the young Wolverines to struggle on defense. It also won’t help that Michigan lost its entire staff of assistants, including one who left for Purdue.
FYI: Michigan has two sons of former NBA players: Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Dumars, Joe’s son. Hardaway is a just a freshman, but the 6-foot-5 guard excelled during an August trip to Belgium. Beilein has said he has “beautiful” jump shot.
Coach: Fran McCaffrey (1st season)
Marquee nonconference matchup: at Wake Forest, Nov. 30
2009-10 postseason: Did not qualify.
Outlook: Leading returning scorer Matt Gatens will miss at least three weeks with a torn tendon in his left non-shooting hand. The Hawkeyes will need to take better care of the ball after turning it over 13.8 times per game last season. They averaged a league-worst 60.5 points per game.
FYI: Iowa registered two wins between Jan. 27 and the end of last season.