Big Ten Hoops Conference Off-season Overview

With no more encounters between Kansas, Texas, Kansas State and Texas A&M in conference play, who will Nebraska be up against from 2011 on? BRR's Big Ten Correspondent, Kyle Phillippi, has constructed a brief preview of Nebraska's newest competition. Come inside!

On paper, the Big 12 conference comes across as one of, if not, the best conference in college basketball. With household names continually making the tournament (Kansas, Texas) and other nationally recognized programs (Kansas St, Oklahoma, and Missouri), the Big 12 is no easy task -- just ask Nebraska.

So the move to the Big Ten should give Nebraska a better chance to make noise in March...not exactly.

The conference sent seven of their eleven teams, or 63% of their conference, to the tournament, whereas the Big 12 only sent five to the big dance.

Here's a quick rundown of each school Nebraska will be up against:

Ohio State: A year after going 34-3 (16-2), the Buckeyes will surprisingly return their star big man, Jared Sullinger. A would-be lottery pick in this year's NBA Draft, Sullinger opted to return for his sophomore year, giving Ohio State yet another chance to make a deep run in March. Also, William Buford will be returning for his senior year, making him the lone senior for next year's roster.

Purdue: The Boilemakers, who finished 26-8 (14-4) will definitely take a hit with the loss of JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore. Without their two Big Ten first-team selections, Purdue will lose most of their offensive production, leaving guards Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith, both seniors next season, with a lot of weight on their shoulders.

Wisconsin: The Badgers, who fell to Butler in the Sweet 16, will lose six seniors, including their scoring leader Jon Leuer. After averaging 18.3 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game, the loss of Leuer will be no easy task to replace. However, guard Jordan Taylor, who also averaged 18 points in 2011, will return for another season and will have the majority of the scoring load on his shoulders.

Tim Hardaway Jr.
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Michigan: Perhaps the biggest surprise in the Big Ten last season, the Wolverines narrowly pulled off a third round upset over Duke, falling by a score of a 73-71. That experience will definitely carry into next season, and with the entire team returning, the Wolverines could be primed for a deep tournament run in 2011-12. Guards Darius Morris (15 PPG) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (13.9 PPG) will make up a terrific backcourt in Ann Arbor, while Zack Novak will look to control the boards after finishing with a team-high 5.8 rebounds per game.

Illinois: After going 20-14 (9-9) and falling in the third round to No. 1 Kansas, the Illini will be without three seniors: Mike Tisdale, Bill Cole, Mike Davis, and Demetri McCamey. The four seniors combined for 42 points per game -- nearly 60% of the scoring. It will be difficult to replace that large amount of scoring, but guards Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson will receive more opportunities after combining for 17.4 points per game last season.

The Rest: The five teams aforementioned will continue to fight it out at the top of the conference, but that doesn't mean the other remaining teams can't crash the party. Penn State crashed the party last year, going 19-15 (9-9) and earning a trip to the big dance. But the loss of Talor Battle (20.1 PPG) and Jeff Brooks (13.1 PPG) will be too much for the Nittany Lions to overcome. Michigan State also loses some firepower in Kalin Lucas (17 PPG), Durrell Summers (11.6 PPG) and Korie Lucious, who transferred to Iowa State. However, the Spartans will return Draymond Green, who averaged 12.6 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game.

And then there's Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa, and Indiana. All four teams finished with losing records in conference play; Indiana went 3-15 in Big Ten play. The most likely team out of the bunch to improve next season is Northwestern, who returns John Shurna (16.6 PPG), Drew Crawford (12.1 PPG) and Luka Mirkovic (7.4 PPG). The Golden Gophers will only lose two seniors: Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen. The two combined for 22 points per game in 2011. However, leading scorer Trevor Mbakwe (13.9 PPG/ 10.5 RPG) and Devoe Joseph (11.3 PPG) will return in hopes of turning things around for the Tubby Smith-led team. The Gophers lost ten of their last eleven games.

2011 Freshman to Watch

PG.) Shannon Scott (6-foot-2, 170 lbs), Ohio State: Ranked the No. 7 point guard in the country and is a 4-star player.

C.) Amir Williams (6-foot-10, 220 lbs), Ohio State: Ranked the No. 2 center in the country and is a 4-star player.

SG.) Carlton Brundidge (6-foot-1, 205 lbs), Michigan: Ranked the No. 23 shooting guard in the country and is a 4-star shooting guard.

C.) Nnanna Egwu (6-foot-10, 220 lbs), Illinois: Ranked the No. 9 center in the country and is a 4-star guard.

SF.) Branden Dawson (6-foot-6, 220 lbs), Michigan St: Ranked the No. 4 small forward in the country and is a 5-star player overall.

?C.) Cody Zeller (6-foot-11, 210 lbs), Indiana: Ranked the No. 5 power forward in the country and is a 5-star player overall.

?SG.) Andre Hollins (6-foot-1, 190 lbs), Minnesota: Ranked the No. 26 point guard in the country and is a 4-star player overall.

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