Notes: Top/Bottom 2 teams are highlighted in each category. Recruiting rankings are taken from ESPN.
Last year I posted a similar table alongside rosy predictions about how bright the future was for Michigan basketball. I concluded that because Michigan returned almost their entire team and added a couple highly rated recruits, they were a lock for success. Of course we all know what happened, Michigan went 15-17.
I also focused on how a vast majority of the Big Ten’s talent was returning and how it would be a glorious year for the conference. Again, the Big Ten went from the #2 RPI conference in 2008-09 to the #5 conference in 2009-10.
Despite the fact that these numbers turned out to be misleading last year, I think they are still worth looking at again. Returning production isn’t a be all end all of preseason evaluation but it’s still a useful metric.
As expected, this year’s table won’t leave Michigan fans with warm and fuzzy feelings. Michigan ranks dead last in all but one category (3PFG), often times by a significant margin. The numbers are so grim that they are roughly on par with Iowa’s numbers a year ago. Michigan only returns 3 players that played significant minutes last year and all three of those players used less than 16% of Michigan’s possessions when they were on the floor.
Of Michigan’s remaining players, Matt Vogrich is the only one with experience as he played 166 minutes last year. The final six players on Michigan’s roster have only seen the court on TV or from the end of the bench in dress clothes.
For the second year in a row, the Big Ten returns a majority of its talent. The percentage of returning minutes across the board is actually a touch higher this year than last (72.37% vs 70.41%). Two of the three Big Ten champs return the core of their roster while four members of the all-conference first team return as well. The conference should be very strong.
Using returning metrics or not, it’s tough to project Michigan anywhere but the bottom third of the conference next year. Using returning production as a baseline, here’s how I would breakdown the Big Ten on July 20th:
- Michigan State: Returning 80% of a Final Four team is enough to make any coach drool or, in Tom Izzo’s case, turn down a 3 million dollar raise. The fact that top 30 incoming freshmen like Keith Appling and Adreian Payne will struggle to get major minutes says everything you need to know about next year’s Spartans.
- Purdue: First it was Robbie Hummel’s back and then it was his knee. Despite back to back Sweet 16s it feels like Purdue has been a healthy Robbie Hummel away from making the serious NCAA tournament run that they are capable of. Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant are gone but Purdue still returns enough talent in E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, and Hummel to battle for the Big Ten title.
- Wisconsin: The Badgers lose two of their top three scorers Bo Ryan continues to make prognosticators look foolish. The names on the jerseys change but the Badgers worst Big Ten finish under Ryan is a 4th place tie.
- Ohio State: Losing the national player of the year speaks for itself but a top 5 recruiting class that includes instant impact players like Jared Sullinger (recently measured at 6-foot-9, 286 pounds) and Deshaun Thomas certainly helps to ease the blow. William Buford should be first team all conference while David Lighty has been through it all. The only question is who plays point guard.
- Illinois: Illinois had an up and down season that saw them go from the thick of the Big Ten title race to the NIT in just over a month. The good news is that their entire roster, including Big Ten first teamer Demetri McCamey and Co-Freshman of the Year DJ Richardson, returns besides sparsely used substitute Dominique Keller.
- Northwestern: Last year was supposed to be Northwestern’s chance at their first NCAA berth, then Kevin Coble went down. Even after Kevin Coble’s preseason injury the Wildcats came extremely close. Now they return everyone but defensive stopper Jeremy Nash and big man Kyle Rowley. Kevin Coble, John Shurna, and Drew Crawford have the potential to be the best trio in the Big Ten.
- Minnesota: Minnesota was a team, like Michigan, that returned almost all of their talent last year. The Gophers had a largely disappointing season that was somewhat rescued by a late Big Ten Tournament run and NCAA berth. This year Minnesota loses most of their production and doesn’t have a notable recruiting class.
- Indiana: Indiana returns their entire team minus the turnover prone, inefficient, elbow throwing Devan Dumes. Maurice Creek was on pace to win Big Ten Freshman of the Year before tearing his knee on the eve of the Big Ten season. They won’t be contend for the title but significant improvement should be expected from the Hoosiers.
- Michigan: As I mentioned above, it’s tough to project Michigan anywhere but the bottom of the conference. One interesting side effect of Michigan’s young team is that, barring attrition, their entire roster will be back for the year after next.
- Penn State: Talor Battle is one of the most electric players in the Big Ten, unfortunately he doesn’t have much help. Penn State lost Chris Babb to transfer but Battle’s brother, incoming freshman Taran Buie, could be the sidekick that Battle has so dearly lacked.
- Iowa: Iowa’s raw numbers aren’t quite as glum as they were a year ago but beyond the stats there isn’t anything to be excited about in Iowa City. Aaron Fuller was about as close to a potential star as there was in Iowa City before he decided to transfer.