News-Sentinel college basketball writer Pete DiPrimio predicts the order of finish in Big Ten basketball for this season:
With All-America forward Cody Zeller and All-Big Ten level players Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo, Hoosiers can win it all. The big key –- staying healthy and playing championship-caliber defense.
2. Ohio State
With former Bishop Luers standout and Indiana Mr. Basketball Deshaun Thomas providing the offense, and point guard Aaron Craft running the show, the Buckeyes are primed for contention.
Trey Burke rates with Penn State's Tim Frazier as the Big Ten's best point guard. Having guard Tim Hardaway back is huge. So is a powerhouse recruiting class that includes Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary.
The Badgers ALWAYS contend under coach Bo Ryan. Senior forward Jared Berggren provides veteran leadership, and freshman Sam Dekker will make instant impact.
5. Michigan State
Powerful talent, as usual, with guard Keith Appling and inside players Branden Dawson, Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne.
The Boilers lost standouts Robbie Hummel and Lewis Jackson, but bring in one of the nation's best freshman classes. Point guard Ronnie Johnson, shooting guard Rapheal Davis (a former South Side standout) and center A.J. Hammons must produce right away.
If double-double power forward Trevor Mbakwe overcomes personal troubles and the Gophers cut down the turnovers, they will be Big Ten factors.
Coach Fran McCaffery eyes a breakthrough season in his third year. Forward Aaron White and swingman Roy Devyn Marble will be hard to handle. The Hawkeyes will be tough and physical.
Can coach Bill Carmody replace leading scorer John Shurna? Former Snider standout Reggie Hearn will do his part as a guard. Guard Drew Crawford should improve on last year's 16.7-point scoring average.
The Illini are a program in transition under new coach John Groce, who led Ohio to the Sweet 16 last year. The backcourt will be strong with guards Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson, who combined for 26.3 points last season.
11. Penn State
Tim Frazier might be the Big Ten's quickest player. You can't keep him out of the paint. He's a do-it-all guard who can carry the Nittany Lions. If he gets help from his teammates, Nittany Lions will be dangerous.
12. Nebraska The Cornhuskers were bad last year and won't be much improved under new coach Tim Miles, who had success at Colorado State. Three freshmen will like get major minutes. The top returner, guard Dylan Talley, averaged 8.9 points last year.