Big Ten Media Day News & Notes

CHICAGO – Right before head coach Bruce Weber took the stage to kick off Big Ten Media Day, the preseason Big Ten accolades were announced.

The Big Ten all-conference preseason team, selected by the media, consists of all juniors. The team is composed of Manny Harris (Michigan), Kalin Lucas (Michigan State), Evan Turner (Ohio State), Talor Battle (Penn State) and Robbie Hummel (Purdue). Lucas was also selected as the conference’s preseason player of the year.

The media chose Michigan State, who lost last year’s NCAA Championship game to North Carolina, to finish first in the conference. Purdue was picked to finish second, while Ohio State was third.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said his goal this year is to begin building a great program, not just a great team. Although the Spartans made the Final Four last season, it’s time to look ahead.

“I wish last year was still here,” Izzo said. “But it’s not and it’s still time to move on.”

Purdue head coach Matt Painter said nothing is certain with the way the Big Ten looks this year. He believes it is stronger than ever and that anything can happen.

“I think we’ll have an opportunity to grow to be one of the premier leagues, if not the premier league in the country,” Painter said.

The Boilermakers return all five starters from a team that made the Sweet 16 last season, and six of their top-seven scorers.

Meanwhile, the USA Today released its preseason poll this morning, placing Michigan State at No. 2, just behind No. 1 Kansas. Illinois received 83 votes in the USA Today poll, ranking in at No. 27.

Now here are a few notes about Big Ten players and coaches’ expectations for the upcoming season:

Head coach Bruce Weber will look to junior Demetri McCamey to lead the squad back to contention. Illinois was sixth in the Big Ten preseason media rankings.

Indiana will have a very young team this season, but sophomore Verdell Jones said he looks to help revamp the Hoosier program by helping to nurture a solid incoming freshman class.

Iowa’s head coach, Todd Lickliter, will find himself in the same situation as Tom Crean’s Hoosiers. Lickliter said he will depend heavily on senior Devan Bawinkel and junior Jarryd Cole to begin lifting the Hawkeyes from the Big Ten basement.

Michigan head coach John Beilien said the Wolverine basketball program is hungrier than ever after losing the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year to Oklahoma. Junior Manny Harris quietly admitted that he’s the team’s leader, along with DeShawn Sims and Zach Novak.

All eyes will be on Michigan State, though, as Izzo and the Spartans aim to get back to the Final Four. Izzo, who has been close friends with Weber for more than 20 years, is happy that preseason Big Ten Player of the Year (media) Kalin Lucas chose to stay in school rather than opt for the NBA. Many reporters at Media Day deemed Izzo the “Dean of Big Ten coaches.”

Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith was absent from Media Day due to the passing of his father. Senior Lawrence Westbrook was feeling sympathy for Smith, but advocated that in due time the players’ performance on the court will bring smiles back to Smith’s face on the sidelines.

Northwestern, possibly the youngest team in the Big Ten, will be led by Chicago native Michael Thompson. Izzo said this is the year for a program like Northwestern to get back into the field of 64.

Many believe Ohio State will be the conference’s surprise team of the season. Led by another Chicago native, Evan Turner, the Buckeyes will be strong on defense and “efficient” on the boards. The Buckeyes have no freshmen on this year’s squad.

After winning the NIT last year, Talor Battle will be back to lead Penn State, who is coached by last year’s Big Ten Coach of the Year, Ed DeChellis.

Purdue has all five starters returning, and head coach Matt Painter doesn’t want any of his players to “make excuses” this season.

Wisconsin rounds out the highly touted conference this season, and is the only squad who lost one of their most significant contributors in Marcus Landry.