I've rated Duke and Connecticut 1-2
Cutting edge, eh?
Here's a look at the the 5 Big 10 Teams in the Scout.com Top 25, as well as some of the rationale that went explaining how it was assembled, and Coach Roy looks at all the games Northwestern has scheduled against these teams and tries to draw a few conclusions about Northwestern's Big 10 Schedule against the top teams this year.
3. Michigan State [H 2/4]
Rating Rationale: Four starters, under-appreciated center Paul Davis, spectacular wings Maurice Ager and Shannon Brown, and a point guard on the verge of a breakout sophomore season, Drew Neitzel, return from Coach Tom Izzo's fourth Final Four team.
Concerns: Who will be the fifth starter/post to go along with Davis? How quickly can Izzo develop backcourt depth?
Frank Says: In a season in which Duke and Connecticut seem superior to the rest of the field, we'll give the Spartans the nod at the moment as the "best of the rest".
daCoach: This will have to be the toughest home game the Cats will get this year - Davis, Ager and Neitzel picked us apart last year.
7. Iowa [H 2/8]
Rating Rationale: The Hawkeyes closed strongly in the Big Ten, winning five in a row before losing to Wisconsin in the conference tournament semifinals. The top eight players off that squad are back, including at least three potential all-conference players in guard Jeff Horner and forwards Greg Brunner and Adam Haluska, who averaged from 14.0 to 14.7 points per game.
Concerns: Starting post players Brunner and Erek Hansen combined to foul out 11 times last season.
Frank Says: Something to keep in mind – the Hawkeyes beat seven NCAA Tournament participants last season.
daCoach: We beat these guys at home last year - they're not going to look past us this year, unless they get embroiled in all the legal issues again. Alford is also under the gun to produce a winner this year.
13. Wisconsin [H 2/23, A 1/14]
Rating Rationale: Junior forward Alando Tucker has a better than decent chance to be the Big Ten's Player of the Year and classmate Kammron Taylor will be one of the better lead guards in the conference. Look for sophomore posts Brian Butch and Greg Stiemsma to play significant roles for Coach Bo Ryan.
Concerns: The Badgers will need major contributions from at least a few of their seven newcomers.
Frank Says: They'll chase Michigan State for the Big Ten lead all season.
daCoach: The final score of both these games could wind up looking like this year's football game.
17. Ohio State [H 3/1, A 2/18]
Rating Rationale: A self-imposed post-season ban was all that kept this team out of the NCAA Tournament last spring. And with his top six players returning from that 20-victory (eight of those in the Big Ten) squad, Coach Thad Matta will have a team capable of doing some post-season damage this time around. Senior Terence Dials (15.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game) would be a chore for any post player in the country to deal with. And newcomer guards Ron Lewis and Sylvester Mayes give Matta a much deeper and explosive backcourt.
Concerns: Minus Dials, the Buckeyes get smaller and much less formidable in the post
Frank Says: As tempting as it might be, there's no reason for the faithful to spend too much times fantasizing about 2006-07 and Greg Oden. This team will do just fine in the meanwhile.
Illinois [H 1/21, A 2/15]
Rating Rationale: Sure, Coach Bruce Weber lost a lot (starters Deron Williams, Luther Head and Roger Powell) from that scintillating 37 victories/NCAA final runner-up season. No one is worrying much around Champaign, however. That's because guard Dee Brown (the Big Ten's Player of the Year) and center James Augustine are still around for their senior seasons. If three 2004-05 red-shirts, Marcus Arnold (Illinois State transfer), Brian Randle (sidelined with broken hand) and Calvin Brock (freshman held back because of the upper-class talent), perform as most think they will, those assembled in orange in Assembly Hall will be pleased.
Frank Says: The broken foot in June that pulled Brown out of the NBA Draft in June indirectly kept Illinois in the Top 25 in November.
daCoach: Can you say revenge of the Cats? Of course Brown and Augustine are still there and there is a lot of unknown talent on the bench who will have to step up. Don't count Weber's ability to build a winner fast out either. We do get them out of the way early at home, but have to deal with Champaign during the final stretch run.
Big 10 Just Misses: Indiana, [A 2/1]
daCoach: Watch out for the Hoosiers - Mike Davis is really under the gun to produce a big winner this year, maybe even more pressure than Steve Alford [who just might be on their bench next year]
A little more analysis: OK, if you include the Hoosiers, the Cats have 9 of their 16 games on the schedule against these preseason Top 25 teams. The good news is that 5 of the 9 games are at home at Welsh-Ryan, where the cats agressively defend their home floor.
I'm not going to try to project wins-losses against these guys, but one thing in the schedule that favors NU is that our only games with MSU and Iowa are at home. this year. We also have a little payback to administer to Illinois and maybe Ohio State too.
We'll have to see just how the team plays starting this Sunday, but reread the above and think about how the Cats line up with each of the teams. Feels good, doesn't it?
An April inductee into the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's National Basketball Expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.FrankHoops.com
Beat 'em All!
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