Big expectations for Big Ten teams

11. Iowa

Our take:

Head coach Todd Lickliter has plenty of ground to make up in the Big Ten, and he has Kelvin Sampson to thank for not finishing in the cellar of the conference last year. We expect Iowa to rot there now.

Their take:

“We know that expectations are low, but if predictions always came true than you wouldn’t have to play the games … We have two really good leaders in Devan Bawinkel and Jarryd Cole. The other guys need to fulfill their responsibilities, play to their strengths and play good team basketball.” — head coach Todd Lickliter

10. Indiana

Our take:

The Hoosiers were a step above a high school team last year. New head coach Tom Crean is in the second year of rebuilding the program, but their youth will prevent Indiana from making a dent in the conference.

Their take:

“Every part of us has gotten better, but that may not be relevant to where the rest of the league is … The biggest thing for us right now is just to maintain a level of effort, energy and competition. That’s the stuff you have to work on with a young team. They just don’t know how hard they have to work, how long they have to work, and the level that they have to work at.” — head coach Tom Crean

9. Penn St.

Our take:

Perhaps the biggest surprise last year, the Nittany Lions come off a season in which they finished tied for fourth in the Big Ten. They beat Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State on the road, Illinois twice, and still couldn’t make it to the NCAA Tournament. They won the NIT, yet don’t have enough depth to compete late into March. We don’t see PSU recapturing last season’s magic.

Their take:

“Hopefully, Talor Battle can provide that leadership that Jamelle (Cornley) provided in the past. He’s been playing with a lot of confidence, so I’m hoping that he can be that spiritual, emotional leader that Jamelle was.” — head coach Ed DeChellis

8. Northwestern

Our take:

The pesky Wildcats return everybody from a team that was on the verge on dancing for the first time in school history. It’s logical to assume their main guys — Kevin Coble and Michael Thompson — will push this squad to another two or three wins in the conference. But will that be enough to go dancing? Quite possibly. In this conference, an eighth-place finish wouldn’t look too bad.

Their take:

“We’re aiming to go from the postseason NIT to making the NCAA Tournament … It’s going to be a tough year in the conference. Just looking around, it’s going to be tough from top to bottom, so it’s going to be very difficult.” — head coach Bill Carmody

7. Wisconsin

Our take:

Does anyone else feel like the Badgers are the same every year? They lost a few key guys, including, yet we couldn’t bring ourselves to bump them lower than seventh in the conference. Bo Ryan is still the coach, and Wisky is always better than it seems. But look for the Badgers’ NCAA Tournament streak, which began in 1999, to be in jeopardy.

Their take:

“Unlike the rest of the Big Ten, we have some players that have to grow up in a hurry. That’s our challenge right now … (Jason) Bohannon and (Trevon) Hughes, it’s great to have two guards like that, but you can’t play through the non-conference with two guards like that. You got to have four.” — head coach Bo Ryan

6. Michigan

Our take:

Everybody’s so high on Michigan, and I can see why, but we don’t quite agree. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims are very good players, but where’s the depth? We may be alone in this, but we don’t believe Michigan has the guys necessary to bang night-in and night-out with the elite of this loaded conference.

Their take:

“We play an attractive schedule that is very demanding out-of-conference … We’re still hunting. Until it’s normal to get Michigan into the NCAA Tournament, we haven’t turned anything around yet.” — head coach John Beilein

5. Minnesota

Our take:

Tubby Smith arguably did the most with the least last season, as he led the Golden Gophers to a .500 record in the Big Ten, a 22-11 overall mark and an NCAA Tournament bid. And to think, their current freshman class is probably more talented than anybody returning. No contest against Minnesota will be an easy one.

Their take:

“It’s my third year under coach (Tubby) Smith now as a senior, and now I know exactly what to expect from him. I know what type of a coach he is, what he likes and what he doesn’t like. We have a good mix of upperclassmen and of younger guys.” — senior guard Lawrence Westbrook

4. Illinois

Our take:

The “most unpredictable” tag in the Big Ten can be hung on our Illini. How will the freshmen fare? Can Alex Legion score? Can Mike Tisdale get some rebounds? Can Demetri McCamey keep the engine revving all year? Overachieving is a Bruce Weber specialty, and for the first time in awhile, the talent on the floor will match his. An unquestioned dark horse in the conference.

Their take:

“We’re going to fight to be in that upper part of the league and not only get in the NCAA Tournament, but move forward in the NCAA Tournament. We had some great success last year and surprised some people.” — head coach Bruce Weber

3. Ohio St.

Our take:

Had an epic mental debate on whether or not our Illini deserved the No. 3 spot, but decided against it. With zero freshmen, the Buckeyes are led by the best player in the Big Ten, junior Evan Turner, who looked like a superstar the last few months of last season. We expect issues to crop up with Turner being named the point guard, but the team is talented enough to overcome them.

Their take:

“We open up with four of our first five games on the road in the Big Ten, which is going to be a tremendous challenge for us … Getting David Lighty back is huge for this basketball team. When he went down last year we had one of the best defenses in the country.” — head coach Thad Matta

2. Michigan St.

Our take:

Last year, MSU made it to the National Championship and got clobbered by a loaded North Carolina squad. Yet head coach Tom Izzo has led the Spartans to five Final Fours in 14 years, and could very well add another notch to the bedpost this season. The loss of Goran Suton’s presence on the boards will be missed, but the Spartans are always good and will be led by Big Ten preseason player of the year Kalin Lucas.

Their take:

“I think we can be one of the best teams in the country … When the games start, our team will be grinding together because we know we have a (target) on our backs and every team’s going to try to come at us.” — junior guard Kalin Lucas

1. Purdue

Our take:

The Boilers underperformed last year, with much of the reason being Robbie Hummel’s bad back. But as he sat, center JaJuan Johnson blossomed into a force. Include dangerous guard E’Twaun Moore and defensive specialist Chris Kramer, and expect this to be the year it all comes together for Purdue.

Their take:

“With our returning guys, the leadership and experience of the guys being through the grind is very important to future success … Injuries are part of the game, and you really can’t use them with excuses. Last year we did not, and we got better as the year went on … Now I think we’re stronger because of it.” — head coach Matt Painter