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College Basketball 2014-15: Big Ten Predictions and Awards

Bo Ryan

Bo Ryan

Arguably, the Big Ten has been at the top of the pile in college basketball for the last four seasons.

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That may come as a surprise for a league hasn’t produced a national champion since Michigan State in 2000.

Yet, the Big Ten is the only conference to send a team to the Final Four in each of the last three seasons and has done so with three different teams — Wisconsin in 2014, Michigan in 2013 and Ohio State in 2012.

The league has also produced its share of regular season excitement with as many compelling teams as any league. Consider: Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State remain as consistent as ever, Michigan has become a national power, Indiana enjoyed one season as a No. 1 team for much of the year, and Iowa and Nebraska have risen their levels of play.

The question for 2014-15 is how long it continue. 

Wisconsin returns from the Final Four with nearly its entire roster intact. Other mainstays at the top of the Big Ten heap have lost major cogs — Michigan State enters the season without Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling, Michigan without Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III, Ohio State without Aaron Craft and Iowa without Roy Devyn Marble.

Those are major losses for a league that has relied on upperclassmen for the most of the last four years. 

Does that mean the league as a whole will take a step back in 2014-15 while Wisconsin runs away with the title? Will the Wolverines, Spartans and Buckeyes reload? Will the Cornhuskers take the next step?

In any event, the depth in the Big Ten is in question for the first time in several years. 

Previews of every Big Ten team and more are available in the 2014-15 Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview.

Big Ten 2014-15 Preseason Picks

1. Wisconsin (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA runner up

Four returning starters from a Final Four team has ignited intriguing talk of a national championship run.

2. Nebraska (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16

With Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields, the Huskers are the trendy pick to do big things.

3. Michigan State (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16

Replacing Gary Harris and Adreian Payne won’t be easy, but Tom Izzo built depth while battling injuries last season.

4. Ohio State (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA round of 32

Life without Aaron Craft (or LaQuinton Ross) will be a challenge for a team that was offensively challenged last season.

5. Michigan (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA round of 32

Give John Beilein three perimeter guys like Derrick Walton Jr., Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin and he’ll do the rest. 

6. Iowa (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA round of 32

Hawkeyes’ fans will expect more than merely a trip to the NCAA Tournament from a veteran team led by a talented senior like Aaron White. 

7. Illinois (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA round of 64

John Groce has put together a nice blend of veterans, youth and transfers but the Illini remain a big man away from the Top 25.

8. Indiana

Postseason projection: NIT

Tom Crean has addressed his team’s shooting issues, but now the worry is rebounding and interior defense.

9. Minnesota

Postseason projection: NIT

Richard Pitino won the NIT during his first season, but could not close down the recruiting border.

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10.   Maryland

Postseason projection: NIT

Embattled Mark Turgeon adds a top-10 recruiting class, but watched five players transfer out of his program. Hot Seat alert.

11  Penn State

Postseason projection: NIT

The Nittany Lions remain a team nobody wants to play because they defend and D.J. Newbill is always capable of a 20-point night.

12.  Purdue

If A.J. Hammons improves from good to great, the Boilermakers could move to the middle of the pack.

13. Northwestern

Lack of depth remains the leading issue as Chris Collins aims for progress in his second season.

14. Rutgers

It won’t be any easier for the Scarlet Knights here than it was in the Big East.

2014-15 Pac-12 Superlatives

Player of the Year: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin

Dekker bulked up during the offseason and, oddly enough, grew from 6-7 to 6-9 since the end of last season. He already was Wisconsin’s top NBA prospect, and he'll make a run an All-America honors. He returned to add an outside shot to his game and for a run at a national title.

Best Defensive Player: Shannon Scott, Ohio State

Scott has major shoes to fill stepping in for point guard and defensive stopper Aaron Craft. His per 40 minute numbers were close to Craft’s, but carrying that over to a full-time role is easier said than done.

Most Underrated Player: Caris LeVert, Michigan

LeVert won’t be underrated for long. A secondary player for the Wolverines last season will be the focal point for this Michigan team. After averaging 12.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 rebounds, he’s suited to being a team leader for a young, rebuilding squad.

Newcomer of the Year: Anthony Lee, Ohio State

Ohio State was a mediocre rebounding team last season. Lee will be a major boost in that area after averaging an American Athletic Conference-best 8.6 boards per game at Temple last season.

Top Coach: Tom Izzo, Michigan State (full rankings of Big Ten coaches)

First-Team All-Big Ten

G Yogi Ferrell, Indiana

G Caris LeVert, Michigan

G/F Terran Petteway, Nebraska

F Sam Dekker, Wisconsin

C Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

Second-Team All-Big Ten

G D.J. Newbill, Penn State

G Rayvonte Rice, Illinois

G/F Branden Dawson, Michigan State

F Aaron White, Iowa

C A.J. Hammons, Purdue

Third-Team All-Big Ten

G Derrick Walton, Michigan

G Shavon Shields, Nebraska

G Andre Hollins, Minnesota

G/F Dez Wells, Maryland

F Anthony Lee, Ohio State