For the second consecutive season, Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans have been voted to win the Big Ten Championship.
That was the verdict handed down by a combination of conference coaches and media members who attended the Big Ten Basketball Media Day on Sunday in Chicago.
"I enjoy being picked to win the league because it's a sign of respect more for our program than this year's team," said Izzo, who enters his ninth season as head coach. "We have a chance to be really good, but so do other teams in our league. We lost three key guys from last season, all at the same position and now we don't have much frontline depth. On top of that, the Big Ten is going to be a lot better as a conference than it's been in the last few years.
"I believe we'll have a couple of national powers that will bring respect to the entire conference. But I'm happy that we have a program that people think is worthy to be on top."
Two of the reasons that Michigan State is picked to win the Big Ten are its two preseason all-conference selections. Junior shooting guard Chris Hill made both the media and coaches all-conference team, while standout sophomore center Paul Davis landed on the coaches team.
"It's an honor that people have picked us to win the league," said Hill. "But we've been here before and we know it's not where you're ranked in the preseason that matters.
"Individually, I'm honored that the coaches and media see me as an All-Big Ten player. But I've not set my sights on personal goals like that. I know if I play well and we win a team championship that I won't be the only one on this team to earn some honors."
Izzo wasn't too surprised with the selections.
"It's no secret that two of the guys I was on the most last year were Chris Hill and Paul Davis," explained Izzo. "It's not surprising that those two might have also made the most improvement since last year. They've earned the exposure and accolades they've received because of their hard work. But I also think they'd be the first to tell you that they have some talented teammates that are equally deserving."
Hill, Davis, and the rest of the youthful Spartans will have an opportunity to backup the media hype when they battle Magic Johnson and the Harlem Globetrotters in an exhibition battle next Sunday. The game will be televised by ESPN, and will tip-off at approximately 2:30 p.m.