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Hoops Reality for 2012-13

There have been several ‘way too early’ 2012-2013 basketball polls released thus far and it has made for some entertaining reading. Iowa fans are paying more attention to these items this offseason than they have in six years because many feel they might see the Hawks name pop up on the radar.

Yet in nearly every instance, Iowa is nowhere to be found. Indiana has been a chic preseason #1 and I’ve seen Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State garner Top Ten mentions in various polls with Wisconsin in the Top 25. Andy Katz of ESPN updated his early April Top 25 to adjust for early entry declarations to the NBA draft and even included Minnesota in his Top 25, but no mention of Iowa.

CBS published a Tempo Free analysis of each conference and they project Iowa to finish 6-12 in Big Ten play next year, good for 9th place. That doesn’t exactly scream ‘We’re Back!’ now, does it?

Uber-nerd Joe Lunardi has posted an early Bracketology and the Hawks did not make the bubble.  He has Indiana as a 1-seed, MSU as a 2-seed, Michigan as a 3-seed, Wisconsin & Ohio State as 4-seeds, Minnesota as an 8-seed and Purdue as an 11-seed.  That’s seven Big Ten teams in the dance and no Iowa or Illinois, so Lunardi also sees Iowa fighting for an 8th place finish at best.

So amidst all of this Hawkeye Hoops euphoria many us have been enjoying (me included), what gives? Here is my ‘way to early’ look at the Big Ten for the 2012-2013 season.

1. Indiana: Yeah, I’ll jump on the Hoosier bandwagon too. While I don’t think they will wind up being the best team in the nation at season’s end, I do feel they have the most compelling returning cast in the nation. They were 11-7 last year which was two games out of a first place tie and they return more than anyone else. Keep in mind that Maurice Creek will have another shot at playing a full season. He can’t get hurt again, can he? As a freshman, he was averaging over 16 points per game through the non-conference before going down. As a sophomore, he was recovering and was pushing 10 points per game before he got hurt and then last year he was lost for the season before it even began. He is a 6-5 combo guard who could add more quality depth for the Hoosiers, who are also welcoming in one of the nation’s best recruiting classes. Heck, I might have just convinced myself that they COULD be the best team in the nation by late February.

2. Michigan: It’s risky picking these two teams as my top two, two teams who have barely begun to show consistency winning away from home in the Big Ten.  But Michigan is so talented.  With Trey Burke returning, point guard is not a problem.  Tim Hardaway Jr is back and Glen Robinson Jr will be part of a talented recruiting class and could give this team the most exciting backcourt in the league come January. Toughness may be an issue for this team, which is not a good question mark to have in this league if you are a would be contender.

3. Michigan State:  It almost doesn’t matter who leaves the the program; Tom Izzo has things rolling, another solid recruiting class to add to a program that does that every year.  Draymond Green is gone but Derrick Nix has been reinstated to the program.

4. Ohio State:  You can say the same thing about Ohio State now that Thad Matta has things rolling.  Jared Sullinger turned pro but they have post players in waiting at Ohio State. I could see them stumbling a bit in January but putting things together over February and early March.

5. Minnesota: I am higher on the Gophers than some.  Trevor Mbakwe will return and that is a big, big deal for the Gophers.  He was averaging 14/9 before getting hurt midway through the non-conference game.  He was on pace for 60 blocks and teammate Rodney Williams had over 50 himself this season.  They only lose Ralph Sampson, a player Tubby Smith never took a shining to.  This is going to be  one of the best defensive teams in the Big Ten IF they can find chemistry, something that has eluded Tubby Smith coached Golden Gopher teams.  Good luck scoring points in the paint against this team, good luck beating them in transition and stopping them at the rim.  I think they could finish higher than 4th if Mbakwe is 100% and expect 1st place and 5th place to be separated by two or three games again this season.

6. Wisconsin:  This program is getting preseason rankings and mentions based upon their style, not their personnel.  They don’t have Top 25 personnel in my opinion, but the way they play makes them better than the sum of their parts.  Frankly, I find them incredibly boring to watch but they are typically in the thick of things.  Newcomer Sam Dekker is going to be an immense nuisance for the next four years.  The kind of kid you love to have on your team but hate when you are the opposing fanbase.  He’s fun to watch and could galvanize the Badgers the minute he walks in as he plays like Aaron White of Iowa; relentless.

7. Iowa: This is where I see Iowa sliding in.  Losing Matt Gatens is big and they will need Josh Oglesby to step up and fill some of that three-point shooting void.  If Melsahn Basabe has a renaissance season, that would go a long way to helping this team fight for an NCAA bid.  Devyn Marble is an emerging star in this league and Aaron White will be improved, too.  The freshman class will have a hand in things and I expect Mike Gesell to get a lot of minutes at the point and flourish in Fran McCaffery’s uptempo style.  More on Iowa here in a bit.

8. Illinois:  Losing Meyers Leonard is big, but they do have some young talent on the bench.  Brandon Paul has the ability to be a force in the league and DJ Richardson can be a deadly scorer. They have more gross talent than Iowa but this program is starting over on the chemistry front; the players voted a lightly used freshman as the team MVP a few weeks back.  Will the new coach be the ticket?  Did not hiring Jerrance Howard, a player favorite, create too big of a rift?

9. Purdue: I just don’t see this team holding it together to reach next year’s tournament.  They went 10-8 last season, but nine of those ten wins came against teams who were below .500 in conference play.  They lose three of their four best scorers, including Robbie Hummel and point guard Lewis Jackson.  Using the linked tempo free stats from above, Purdue returns fewer possessions per minute than any other team in the league save Nebraska.

10. Penn State:  I think they will win six games next year, which will keep them out of 11th and 12th.  Tim Frazier is fun to watch with one of the prettiest floaters in the league.

11. Northwestern: John Shurna, the school’s all time leading scorer, is gone.  They will still be pesky enough to stay out of the cellar.

12: Nebraska:  They were the second-oldest team in the nation last year, out of over 340 schools.  They lose all of their firepower, have had other players leave the program and have a new coach.  Next year’s Nebraska team may challenge for one of the worst Big Ten teams in the last decade.  Not a good thing in a league as good as this one will be.

IOWA’S PATH TO THE NCAA TOURNAMENT:  Iowa went 8-10 last year.  Four of those eight wins came off of sweeps over Minnesota and Wisconsin.  You can’t expect that again and if Iowa can play those teams 2-2, it would be a good sign for this team.  Iowa lost both games against Purdue last year and need to be at least 1-1 this year with a shot at 2-0.  The Hawks split with Nebraska but must sweep the Huskers next season.  Iowa also split with Penn State and were swept by Northwestern; they need to be 3-1 against those clubs.  Iowa hosts Illinois, a team it lost to last year and that could prove to be a big, big game for their NCAA chances as they only play the Illini once this year.  Iowa’s other ‘one off’ foes this year are at Michigan, at Ohio State and home against Michigan State.  If Iowa can get to 2-2 in those games, that would be about as good as you can expect; they were 1-3 against those teams last year, with the one win against Michigan in Carver-Hawkeye.

Here is a quick and dirty projection that is certainly subject to change before we do this for real next November:

Indiana: 0-2
Wisconsin: 1-1
Minnesota: 0-2
Nebraska: 2-0
Northwestern: 2-0
Penn State: 1-1
Illinois: 1-0
Ohio State: 0-1
Michigan State: 1-0
Michigan: 0-1
Purdue: 1-1

B1G RECORD: 9-9

Could Iowa split with Minnesota?  Sure they could.  They could also lose both games against Wisconsin.  Could they sweep Purdue?  Yes, I think they could but wins at Mackey Arena have been few and far between.  They could lose both against Illinois and Michigan State or split them.  In the end, I feel a 9-9 look is in the ballpark.

In the out of conference, we know Iowa will host Iowa State, play UNI in Des Moines and host Central Michigan coached by Keno Davis.  Iowa is in the Cancun Challenge with Austin Peay, DePaul, Gardner-Webb, Howard, Western Carolina, Western Kentucky and Wichita State.  Iowa will also play against an ACC team in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge and may play a PAC 12 team given the two leagues agreeing to schedule more games against one another in football and basketball.

Iowa needs to beat both Iowa State and UNI.  Winning three games in the Cancun Challenge seems possible given the field.  They simply cannot afford to have another loss to a Campbell, however.

Go 10-3 or 11-2 in the non-conference along with a 9-9 record in the Big Ten and win the opening round Big Ten tournament game?  Given that the Big Ten is shaping up to be the #1 RPI league in the nation again next season, that is probably enough to get a 10 or so seed in the Big Dance.  Purdue was 21-11 after going 1-1 in the Big Ten tournament one year ago and received a 10-seed.

  • Dhksc

    Those large first half leads that were fumbled away last season , as soon as the second unit entered the game, may be expanded by the new second unit.

  • Jts87047

    In Paragraph, Iowa path to NCAA Tournament, I think you meant Wisconsin instead of Northwestern that Iowa Swept last year,  Good info though!  I sense too, Iowa being a little and even maybe a lot better than expected.

  • Grady

    I agree with you about Purdue — they are due for a fall.  Nwestern looks to be higher than you have them listed, tho.  Iowa is very possibly looking at another 8-10 BTen season, but with an improved non-con I see the Hawks at 18-13 heading into the BTen tourney.  Both ISU and UNI arguably will be better next year than this past year.

  • Hawkeye4ever

    Yawn…. you guys kill me, I think Iowa was picked almost last in the big ten the past season. Then almost making the NCAA tourney. If they would of beat Northwestern plus one more big ten win and a couple of preseason teams there in.

    Much better team next year I think top 5 teams in the big ten….
    My starting five-
    PF-Basabe,Mcabe ” Zach was a beast at times and was out of position like Basabe was. Could be a battle at this spot. One of them will be a huge addition off the bench.Basabe was good at times and lost at others. Should be solid if he losses some weight. Could be the best 1-2 PF punch in the big ten.
    F- Aaron White Can you say Mr everything for Iowa last year. if not for Gatens team MVP for sure.The kid is for real I think will fight for 1st or 2nd team all big ten. Marble will give him a spell when needed along with Mcabe at times.
    C- Adam Woobury This one is on me. I have discussed this kid before and I will say Freshman of the year in the Big Ten if not top 3 in the leauge as newcomers. 7-1 and has all the skills. You can’t teach height and this kid is BIG. Will be the man in the middle for the next 4 years.Can run and play with anyone in this leauge. MVP at the high school top 100 NBA camp which they loved him. had 11 and 11 in the high school allstar game the past 2 weeks ago and was one of the top players there.
    G- Roy Marble Jr has major talent. Kenyon Murray eat your words!! you stated wygive this kid a full ride when he was a high school senior look at him now. I will say you later said you were wrong.”yes you were” Will be another 2nd team all big ten player. Josh Olgelsby will push for major playing time here spelling him when he plays some point and some at small foward.
    Josh could be ahuge factor for us. Will really get some open looks with the big boy in the middle. Adam is a great passer and will get Josh major open looks.
    PG- Mike Gessell Will be a great point guard for Iowa. Will go to the hole and dish, can hit the three ball and play major D. Could also get looks a big ten freshman of the year. Will play great with Adam and others.

    Iowa will make it to the NCAA tourney next year and will break the top 25 at some point. laugh at me if you will but Fran is the man. Go hawks!!

  • Jeffbuck7

    Your light regard of Woodbury continues to perplex. Are you afraid of jinxing it? 

    • HNStaff

      I don’t believe in jinxes. I do believe in what I have seen in this sport the last 30 years. Freshmen big men typically struggle
      Jon Miller
      http://www.hawkeyenation.com
      Twitter.com/hawkeyenation
      http://www.Facebook.com/hawkeyenation
      (from my iPhone)

      • Jeffbuck7

        Well, that’s an answer, I guess. 

      • Hawkeye4ever

        yea your right on Woodbury.. He must not be that good

        Woodbury Invited to USA Tryout

  • Hawkgeek

    Jon, you forgot about Mitch McGary coming to Michigan.  He’s going to eat a lot of teams for breakfast.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Then he’s going to digest those teams and evacuate the waste product out of his lower intestine.  Then he’s going move on to his next meal, eat, expel waste, flush, repeat.

    Michigan will finish no worse than 2nd in the conference.

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