- The Big Ten Geeks run down MSU’s nonconference schedule. Doing my work for me!
- Seth Davis like us more than Luke Winn and Grant Wahl do. MSU is #12 in SI’s preseason rankings; Davis has us at #5.
- College Hoopsnet has the Spartans at #7 nationally and #1 in the Big Ten. Props for mentioning Austin Thornton.
- Would Tom Izzo beat Bo Ryan in a cage fight? Eternal tie.
- G0EL suggests Miami-Ohio for the 12th Big Ten team. Superb outside-the-box thinking. They’ve actually got the academic chops to make this worth considering.
A Singular Bold Prediction
I find that I do a lot less prognosticating than most college sports bloggers do. Two reasons:
- I’m not very good at it. (If I were good at it, I wouldn’t spend all my Sunday afternoons mumbling about the bad decisions I made regarding my fantasy football lineup.)
- I’m not sure how interesting predictions are to my readers.
Example of the latter: Nearly every prediction I’ve seen about the Big Ten standings for the upcoming basketball season have the 11 teams grouped as follows:
- The Contenders: Michigan State and Purdue
- Can’t Rule Them Out: Wisconsin
- Young But Very Talented: Minnesota and Ohio State
- Leaning Toward NIT: Illinois, Michigan, and Penn State
- Hard to Take Seriously: Indiana, Iowa, Northwestern
Predicting a precise order of finish, then, merely becomes an exercise in sorting the 2-3 teams in each group. And I’ m not sure my guesses are better than anyone else’s. This’ll be a more interesting exercise once we have some data on nonconference performance.
Similarly, just about every preseason all-conference teams I’ve seen includes 5 of these 8 players: Manny Harris, Robbie Hummel, Marcus Landry, Kalin Lucas, E’Twaun Moore, Raymar Morgan, B.J. Mullens. All solid picks. I have a hard time eliminating three names from that list.
So I must force myself to make at least one bold prediction about the upcoming season. I worry they’ll pull my sports blogger union card if I don’t. Here it is:
Kalin Lucas will be the Big Ten Player of the Year.
The popular preseason picks for this honor are Hummel and Morgan. And you can make a reasonable argument for both. My inclination is to think that there’s less room for either of those guys to improve on their performances from last year (at least statistically) than there is for Lucas, though.
Hummel was so darn efficient last year: .447 3-point %, 10.5% OReb %. He could have a very good season this year and not match those numbers. So the percentage of his team’s possessions he uses would really have to go up dramatically, which seems unlikely given Purdue’s balance on offense, to improve significantly on the 11.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game he posted last year.
As for Morgan, we all hope he’ll be a more consistent outside shooter, which should boost his scoring production from the 14.0 points/game he scored last season. But he may also lose some scoring opportunities to Delvon Roe and Durrell Summers.
Lucas, meanwhile, should see substantial increases in his numbers. MSU’s commitment to push the ball on offense, along with Lucas’ new role as the clear #1 point guard, should boost his assists/game number from last year’s 3.8. There’s room for his shooting percentages to rise from the .445/.364/.768 numbers he posted last season, and he’ll have even more oppotunities to score in the half-court offense as the go-to guy with the shot clock running down. Both those factors should boost his scoring from 10.3 points/game.
Caveat: No one know exactly how good B.J. Mullens will be. If he’s really in the same class as Greg Oden, he could put up huge numbers for an Ohio State team that doesn’t return a double-digit scorer, playing against conference oppnents who generally lack the sort of big men it will take to defend him.
So there you go: a bold prediction. If I’m right, that should be a very good thing for MSU, indicating the up-tempo thing worked. If I’m wrong, let’s hope that means Raymar Morgan became the big-time 18-points-per-game scorer we’ve seen glimpses of.