Hail to Sparta

Returning three starters and 12 letterwinners from a team that earned its first outright Big Ten title since 1999, Michigan State is tabbed the team to beat in the conference race, as the Spartans were named the preseason favorite by the media.

CHICAGO - Defending Big Ten Champion and national runner-up Michigan State has been selected as the preseason conference favorite for the 2009-10 men's basketball season, as voted upon by a 24-member media panel.

Purdue was chosen second while Ohio State was chosen third.

Michigan State (31-7 overall, 15-3 Big Ten) returns three starters and 12 letterwinners from a team that earned its first outright Big Ten title since 1999 and advanced to the Final Four for the fifth time in 14 years, falling to North Carolina in the national championship game in Detroit.

Big Ten Coach of the Year Tom Izzo will already have a leg up on the competition, as reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas of the Spartans was tabbed as the Preseason Player of the Year.

After five sophomores were named to the All-Big Ten first team last season, five juniors were selected for the 2009-10 Preseason All-Big Ten Team: Lucas, Michigan's Manny Harris, Ohio State's Evan Turner, Penn State's Talor Battle and Purdue's Robbie Hummel, ranking second among all players with 16.5 points per game in conference play.

Purdue brings back all five starters and nine letterwinners from a squad that won its first Big Ten Tournament title last season. Head coach Matt Painter guided the Boilermakers to a tie for second place in the conference standings at 11-7 while producing an overall record of 27-10 and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.

Ohio State also returns all five starters, along with 10 letterwinners, after finishing in a tie for fourth place in the Big Ten standings at 10-8 last season. Head coach Thad Matta led the Buckeyes to an NCAA Championship berth for the third time in four seasons, and compiled a 22-11 overall mark.

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