Published Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 12:01 am / Updated at 12:50 am
Lee Barfknecht's Big Ten Outlook

World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht takes a look at the Big Ten conference race.

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1. Michigan State Spartans

Last season: 27-9 overall, 13-5 in Big Ten (T-second)
Coach: Tom Izzo (19th season, 439-178 at MSU)
Last NCAA appearance: 2013
Newcomer to watch: F, Gavin Schilling
Returning starters
Keith Appling, 6-1, Sr., 13.4
B. Dawson, 6-6, Jr., 8.9
Adreian Payne, 6-10, Sr., 10.5
Gary Harris, 6-4, So., 12.9
Outlook: Four starters are back, including potential All-Americans in Harris and Payne. This is another deep and talented roster that looks primed for a long-lasting NCAA tournament run.

2. Michigan Wolverines

Last season: 31-8 overall, 12-6 in Big Ten (T-fourth)
Coach: John Beilein (seventh season, 122-85 at UM)
Last NCAA appearance: 2013
Newcomer to watch: G, Zak Irvin
Returning starters
G. Robinson III, 6-6, So., 11.0
Nik Stauskas, 6-6, So., 11.0
Mitch McGary, 6-10, So., 7.5
Outlook: The Wolverines will keep rolling, even after losing two first-round NBA draft picks (Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr.). Robinson and McGary are future first-rounders. Incoming recruits include Indiana and Michigan prep players of the year.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

Last season: 29-8 overall, 13-5 in Big Ten (T-second)
Coach: Thad Matta (10th season, 250-73 at OSU)
Last NCAA appearance: 2013
Newcomer to watch: G, Kam Williams
Returning starters
Aaron Craft, 6-3, Sr., 13.7
L. Smith Jr., 6-4, Sr., 5.2
Outlook: It's been all good for the Buckeyes since Thad Matta took over. OSU has won five regular-season Big Ten titles in his first nine years and four postseason titles in seven years. This team should be in the title hunt again, but will struggle more to score.

4. Iowa Hawkeyes

Last season: 25-13 overall, 9-9 in Big Ten (sixth)
Coach: Fran McCaffery (fourth season, 54-50 at U of I)
Last NCAA appearance: 2006
Newcomer to watch: F, Jared Uthoff
Returning starters
Zach McCabe, 6-7, Sr., 5.7
R. Devyn Marble, 6-6, Sr., 15.0
Aaron White, 6-8, Jr., 12.8
Mike Gesell, 6-1, So., 8.7
Outlook: The Hawkeyes return 92 percent of their scoring, 90 percent of the rebounds and 89 percent of the minutes. Also, transfer Jared Uthoff from Wisconsin, a former four-star recruit, is eligible.

5. Wisconsin Badgers

Last season: 23-12 overall, 12-6 in Big Ten (T-fourth)
Coach: Bo Ryan (13th season, 291-113 at UW)
Last NCAA appearance: 2013
Newcomer to watch: F, Vitto Brown
Returning starters
Josh Gasser, 6-3, Jr., 7.6
Ben Brust, 6-1, Sr., 11.4
Traevon Jackson, 6-2, Jr., 6.8
Sam Dekker, 6-7, So., 9.5
Outlook: All good things must end, including coach Bo Ryan leading his team to no worse than a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten. Point guard Gasser (torn ACL) is back, but frontcourt questions linger.

6. Indiana Hoosiers

Last season: 29-7 overall, 14-4 in Big Ten (first)
Coach: Tom Crean (seventh season, 84-82 at IU)
Last NCAA appearance: 2013
Newcomer to watch: C, Noah Vonleh
Returning starter
Yogi Ferrell, 6-0, So., 7.6
Outlook: With only one starter back and 10 newcomers on the roster, this will be as close to a rebuilding year as the Hoosiers get. Freshman 6-10 center Noah Vonleh will ease the pain a lot. Look for IU to get better as the season goes on.

7. Purdue Boilermakers

Last season: 16-18 overall, 8-10 in Big Ten (T-seventh)
Coach: Matt Painter (10th season, 176-95 at PU)
Last NCAA appearance: 2012
Newcomer to watch: G, Bryson Scott
Returning starters
A.J. Hammons, 7-0, So., 10.6
Terone Johnson, 6-4, Sr., 13.5
Ronnie Johnson, 6-0, So., 10.3
Rapheal Davis, 6-5, So., 5.7
Outlook: After a rare losing season, four players left the team. The staff wasn't happy with lackluster defense. Hammons is a potential dominant force.

8. Illinois Fighting Illini

Last season: 23-13 overall, 8-10 in Big Ten (T-seventh)
Coach: John Groce (second season, 23-13 at IU)
Last NCAA appearance: 2013
Newcomer to watch: G, Rayvonte Rice
Returning starters
Tracy Abrams, 6-2, Jr., 10.6
Nnanna Egwu, 6-11, Jr., 6.5
Outlook: The Illini lose leading scorers Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson, but Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice, a second-team All-Missouri Valley pick in 2012 (16.8, 5.8), is a key pickup.

9. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Last season: 15-18 overall, 5-13 in Big Ten (10th)
Coach: Tim Miles (second season, 15-18 at NU)
Last NCAA appearance: 1998
Newcomer to watch: F, Terran Petteway
Returning starters
Ray Gallegos, 6-2, Sr., 12.5
Shavon Shields, 6-7, So., 8.6
David Rivers, 6-7, Jr., 5.6
Outlook: NU will be more athletic. But improvement may not show in the record because of a difficult schedule. Transfers Terran Petteway and Walter Pitchford must quickly contribute.

10. Northwestern Wildcats

Last season: 13-19 overall, 4-14 in Big Ten (11th)
Coach: Chris Collins (first season, 0-0 at NW)
Last NCAA appearance: Never
Newcomer to watch: F, Nathan Taphorn
Returning starters
Drew Crawford, 6-5, Sr., 12.8
D. Sobolewski, 6-1, Jr., 10.8
Alex Olah, 7-0, So., 6.1
Outlook: New coach Chris Collins has ditched the Princeton offense for a motion attack. Senior Drew Crawford is back from shoulder surgery.

11. Penn State Nittany Lions

Last season: 10-21 overall, 2-16 in Big Ten (12th)
Coach: Patrick Chambers (third season, 22-41 at PSU)
Last NCAA appearance: 2011
Newcomer to watch: G, Geno Thorpe
Returning starters
Tim Frazier, 6-1, Sr., 18.8
D.J. Newbill, 6-4, Jr., 16.3
Ross Travis, 6-6, Jr., 9.1
Outlook: Having Tim Frazier back from a torn Achilles is a big lift. He was first-team All-Big Ten as a junior. Losing Jermaine Marshall (15.6, 4.6) as a transfer to Arizona State hurts.

12. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Last season: 21-13 overall, 8-10 in Big Ten (T-7th)
Coach: Richard Pitino (first season, 0-0 at UM)
Last NCAA appearance: 2010
Newcomer to watch: F, Joey King
Returning starters
Andre Hollins, 6-2, Jr., 14.6
Austin Hollins, 6-4, Sr., 10.7
Outlook: New coach Richard Pitino wants to play fast. His roster doesn't lend itself to that. Center Elliott Eliason from Chadron, Neb., should play a big role. Drake transfer Joey King, a 6-7 forward, likely will start.



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