2012 Big Ten Basketball Recap (non-tournament teams)
Friday, April 20, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Northwestern entered the 2011-12 season desperately seeking their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance and felt like they had a team worthy of competing for a spot in the field of 68. A successful non-conference season ended with a defeats to eventual Elite Eight finisher, Baylor and a loss at Creighton. A series of heartbreaking narrow losses in Big Ten play doomed the Wildcats to an 8-10 conference mark.
Northwestern suffered a total of six losses in Big Ten action by five points or less or in overtime. An overtime loss to Minnesota in their first game of the Big Ten tournament sealed their fate and led to an appearance in the NIT. Along the way, Senior forward John Shurna became the Wildcats all-time leading scorer with over 2,000 career points. Freshman point guard Dave Sobolewski established himself as a legitimate Big Ten guard. Junior Drew Crawford had another solid season and will lead the Wildcats next season.
John Shurna, Davide Curletti, Luka Mirkovic
Jared Swopshire (Transfer from Louisville), Three 3 Star Recruits
Projected Starting Lineup
: Drew Crawford, Jared Swopshire, Dave Sobolewski, Jershon Cobb, Reggie Hearn
Northwestern will once again seek that elusive NCAA appearance. It is difficult to picture a better Wildcat team in 2013 with the loss of all-time leading scorer in John Shurna. Jared Swopshire, a senior to be transfer from Louisville will make up for some of Shurna’s production but he has never been a huge offensive force. Crawford will be asked to handle even more scoring. Northwestern will not be a pushover but expect another second division finish in a brutally difficult Big Ten in 2013.
The Iowa Hawkeyes were expected to be an improved ball club in the 2011-12 season after a rough debut for head coach Fran McCaffery. The Hawkeyes returned most of their key players from the prior season including senior Matt Gatens, and sophomores Melsahn Basabe, Devyn Marble, and Zach McCabe. The non-conference season was a struggle for the Hawkeyes which included losses to in-state rivals Northern Iowa and Iowa State and a loss to Campbell College. The Big Ten season exhibited some of the Iowa potential as a program on the rise with two victories over Wisconsin and home wins against Indiana and Michigan. They also suffered some head scratching defeats with two losses to Purdue and Northwestern, a loss at Penn State, and at home to Nebraska. Gatens caught fire near the end of the season as he finished his career in fine fashion. Iowa also found a new leader for next season with the fine play of freshman Aaron White. The season ended with a second round NIT loss at Oregon.
Matt Gatens, Bryce Cartwright
Adam Woodbury, Mike Gesell
Projected Starting Lineup
: Adam Woodbury, Melsahn Besabe, Aaron White, Josh Oglesby, Devyn Marble
Iowa will be a threat to move into the first division of the Big Ten in 2013 as they return most of their key players outside of Gatens and add a solid recruiting class including a 7’-0” center in Woodbury and a second 4 star recruit in point guard Gesell. Iowa will have excellent depth due to several former starters now coming off the bench. Basabe needs to have a bounce back year after the sophomore jinx caught up to him after a solid freshman year. Iowa has a good shot at the sixth spot in the conference race next season.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Gophers entered the 2011-12 season with high hopes led by a talented front line of Ralph Sampson III, Rodney Williams, and Trevor Mbakwe. Unfortunately, Mbakwe tore his ACL very early and tore Minnesota’s hopes for a first team finish in the Big Ten and an NCAA berth. A solid non-conference season with only one loss gave hope to the Gopher faithful but they couldn’t overcome the loss of Mbakwe in conference play as they staggered to a 6-12 record with the only highlight being a defeat of Indiana in Bloomington for the only Hoosier home loss of 2012. The Gophers managed to shine in the post season as they progressed all the way to the NIT Final before a defeat against Stanford concluded the season. Minnesota was led by Rodney Williams and Austin and Andre Hollins. Sampson III ended his Gopher career as an enigmatic afterthought.
: Ralph Sampson III,
The return of Trevor Mbakwe for a sixth season of eligibility
Projected Starting Lineup:
Rodney Williams, Trevor Mbakwe, Elliott Eliason, Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins
The Gophers are projected to be a Top 25 team in 2013 with the return of Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams on the frontline and Andre and Austin Hollins, and Julian Welch at the guard positions. Minnesota will be experienced and deep and will give the top echelon Big Ten teams a tussle. Look for the Gophers to battle for the fifth or sixth position in the conference and an NCAA bid.
Illinois Fighting Illini
The Fighting Illini entered the 2011-12 campaign expecting to fight for a first division finish in the Big Ten and an NCAA Tournament berth. Illinois had a talented roster led by junior guards Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson. They also returned 7’-1” sophomore center Meyers Leonard, a talented big man that would take on a starring role in the new season. Illinois also gained a highly regarded recruiting class of six players with help at every position. Coach Bruce Weber was reportedly on the hot seat and would need a successful season to retain his job. The non-conference season included some impressive victories including a win over Gonzaga. However a blowout loss to UNLV foretold of atrocities to follow. The Illini staggered to a 6-12 record in the Big Ten. They did manage to beat both Ohio State and Michigan State at home which showed the potential of the team. The rest of the season was a dismal mess with the team visibly quitting on Coach Weber. Illini Nation had seen enough of the Bruce Weber Show and fired him shortly after the season.
Meyers Leonard (NBA Draft)
Coach John Groce
Probable Starting Lineup: Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, Nnanna Egwu, Tracy Abrams, Tyler Griffey
The Illini will have new leadership in 2013 with John Groce assuming the coaching reins. Groce has almost an entire roster returning with the exception of Meyers Leonard. Illinois will have an experienced backcourt in Paul and Richardson and the six man class from 2012 that will now be sophomores. The sophs need to mature quickly in the brutal Big Ten because they underachieved in 2012. The Illini are looking at another second division finish in 2013, probably eighth place being the best they can hope for and ninth or tenth being more realistic.
The Cornhuskers were rudely introduced to Big Ten basketball in 2012. They picked a heck of a time to join the conference as the Big Ten was the highest rated conference in the country according to both the RPI and Sagarin Ratings. Nebraska was lightly regarded entering the season and they performed as expected struggling in the Big Ten with one unexpected victory in a comeback win at home against Indiana. The mediocre record led to the firing of Coach Doc Sadler at the conclusion of the season.
Bo Spencer, Jorge Brian Diaz (Quit Playing), Toney McCray, Brandon Richardson, Caleb Walker
: Coach Tim Miles, Three 3 star recruits
Probable Starting Lineup:
Brandon Ubel, Dylan Talley, David Rivers, Deverell Biggs, Shavon Shields
I wonder if new coach Tim Miles knows what he has stepped into. He will be taking over a depleted Cornhusker roster, lightly regarded recruits, and a monster conference in 2013. Nebraska might not win a game in the Big Ten season in 2013. A finish in the cellar is highly likely.
Penn State Nittany Lions
New head coach Patrick Chambers entered the 2011-12 season with two major goals in mind; play hard, and play together. Chambers was left with a mostly depleted roster from the prior season and they did manage to play hard and together. Penn State may not have had a stellar record in 2012 but they did fight in every game and demonstrated solid team chemistry. Guard Tim Frazier gained first team All Big Ten honors as he averaged over 18 points per game and led the league in assists.
Cammeron Woodyard, Billy Oliver
Brandon Taylor, Akosa Maduegbunam, D.J. Newbill (Transfer)
Probable Starting Lineup
: Tim Frazier, Ross Travis, Jon Graham, D.J. Newbill, Jermainne Marshall
: The Nittany Lions are in rebuilding mode and the Big Ten is a difficult place to rebuild because gratifying results are difficult to come by. Tim Frazier will once again lead Penn State in his senior season but the rest of the roster are support players at best. One good thing for Penn State is that Nebraska is now in the conference and Penn State should avoid the cellar. Look for the Nittany Lions to finish 11th in 2013.