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Conference Catchup: Wisconsin is an obvious favorite to win the Big Ten

Things are now mostly settled in college basketball. We basically know who will be coaching where. We basically know who will be playing where. So this seems like as good of a time as any to reset everything and get caught up on all of the notable leagues.

That's the idea behind the CBSSports.com Conference Catchups.

We'll post one every other day over a four-week span. We've covered ACC, the American Athletic Conference, the Atlantic 10 and the Big East already. Today we look at the Big Ten.


1. Michigan State kept its coach: Tom Izzo has many times been approached about leaving East Lansing for the NBA, and he's passed on every opportunity regardless of the money offered and opportunity presented. Still, this offseason, I really did think he might jump for a variety of reasons, among them the fact that he's losing three of his top four players from last season's team that won 29 games. But it's now June 6, and Izzo remains after reportedly being pursued by the Pistons and Timberwolves. So barring something strange over the next month or so, it's safe to assume the future Hall of Famer will coach the Spartans for the 20th consecutive season.

2. All the other coaches stayed, too: The Big Ten currently has a nice collection of coaches, almost all of whom should be considered good fits at their respective schools. That's why it wasn't surprisng to see no Big Ten coaches fired and no Big Ten coaches leave. Sure, Nebraska's Tim Miles and Minnesota's Richard Pitino were informally pursued for various jobs. But neither seriously entertained any opportunities to leave, meaning the league will have no new faces this season ... except for the faces in charge of new members, of course. (More on that in a moment.)

3. Michigan star revealed he failed a drug test: Nobody I know genuinely expected Mitch McGary to return for his junior season rather than enter the NBA Draft, but the preseason All-American was essentially forced to forgo his final two years of eligibility when he failed a drug test during the Wolverines' run in the NCAA Tournament. The failed test, you see, automatically triggered a one-year suspension, meaning McGary would've been ineligible for all of next season had he returned to Michigan. Consequently, the 6-foot-10 forward had no choice but to enter the NBA Draft, where he's expected to be a second-round pick coming off of back surgery.

4. Here comes Maryland (and Rutgers): I'm not sure what Rutgers can add to the league considering the Scarlet Knights haven't been good in forever and were really bad last season. But the addition of Maryland is an undeniable plus for the Big Ten, and the top-10 recruiting class that Mark Turgeon assembled will give the Terrapins a chance to compete in the top half of the league right from the jump.


Will we ever hear from Darius Paul again?

The former Western Michigan standout enrolled at Illinois last year, sat out all of last season per transfer rules, and was expected to be a significant contributor this season. But coach John Groce announced last month that Paul would be suspended for the 2014-15 season because of "multiple transgressions," and the 6-foot-8 forward subsequently enrolled at a junior college. Whether he'll ever make it back to Division I basketball remains unclear.


  • Could've gone and did: Gary Harris (Michigan State), Mitch McGary (Michigan), Glenn Robinson III (Michigan), LaQuinton Ross (Ohio State), Nik Stauskas (Michigan), Noah Vonleh (Indiana).
  • Could've gone but stayed: Sam Dekker (Wisconsin), Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin).


  • Coming: Moses Ayegba (Georgetown to Nebraska), Robert Carter Jr. (Georgia Tech to Maryland), Jeremiah Kreisberg (Yale to Northwestern), Anthony Lee (Temple to Ohio State), Zach Lofton (Illinois State to Minnesota), Richaud Pack (North Carolina A&T to Maryland), Trevor Thompson (Virginia Tech to Ohio State).
  • Going: Kale Abrahamson (Northwestern to Drake), Seth Allen (Maryland to Virginia Tech), Deverell Biggs (Nebraska to TBA), Russell Byrd (Michigan State to Master's College), Shaquille Cleare (Maryland to Texas), Nick Faust (Maryland to TBA), Luke Fischer (Indiana to Marquette), Austin Eitherington (Indiana to Butler), Wally Ellenson (Minnesota to TBA), Nathan Hawkins (Nebraska to UT-Arlington), Jon Horford (Michigan to Florida), Aaron Liberman (Northwestern to TBA), Ronnie Johnson (Purdue to Houston), Zach Lofton, George Marshall (Wisconsin to South Dakota State), Jonny Martin (Indiana to Indiana Wesleyan), A.J. Metz (Maryland to TBA), Kyle Meyer (Iowa to Eastern Florida State), Charles Mitchell (Maryland to TBA), Darius Paul (Illinois to Lamar State), Roddy Peters (Maryland to South Florida), Darius Stokes (Iowa to TBA), Sergej Vucetic (Nebraska to Evansville), Tim Wagner (Nebraska to Winona State), Graham Woodward (Penn State to Drake).


Illinois: The loss of Darius Paul is significant. But Leron Black, a freshman from Memphis, could help that loss hurt less than it otherwise would.

Indiana: Indiana fans forgot about that No. 1 seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament pretty quickly. Tom Crean will enter this season with some pressure.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes barely won any meaningful games after January 1 last season. But there's enough returning to keep Iowa relevant in the Big Ten.

Maryland: There's been a lot of roster turnover at Maryland, no doubt. But Mark Turgeon has the type of recruiting class that could do nice things.

Michigan: John Beilein has proven capable of winning with just about any roster. But losing three players to the NBA Draft will probably cause a slip.

Michigan State: The losses of Gary Harris, Keith Appling and Adreian Payne have Michigan State in a rebuilding mode relative to Michigan State standards.

Minnesota: Richard Pitino made Minnesota look smart in his first season for taking a chance on him. Will his second year in the Big Ten be similar?

Nebraska: Tim Miles has lifted enthusiasm at Nebraska the way Bruce Pearl once did at Tennessee. The Huskers are as good as almost anybody in Lincoln.

Northwestern: Chris Collins is recruiting in a way that's going to give Northwestern a shot at the NCAA Tournament. Not this year, probably. But soon.

Ohio State: Perhaps Aaron Craft was overrated by some for lots of reasons. But he was still a nice college player, and he'll be missed at OSU.

Penn State: Pat Chambers won six Big Ten games last season, which was his career-high. But this is such a hard job, and this season will be, too.

Purdue: Matt Painter was considered a rising star not long ago, and he's still good. But consecutive losing seasons have damaged his brand.

Rutgers: Rutgers finished 5-13 in the American Athletic Conference last season. The Scarlet Knights will be lucky to match that in this league.

Wisconsin: Frank the Tank back in college is a great thing for Wisconsin. Now Bo Ryan's second Final Four could come just one year after his first.


  • 1. Wisconsin
  • 2. Nebraska
  • 3. Ohio State
  • 4. Michigan State
  • 5. Michigan


  • G: Yogi Ferrell (Indiana)
  • G: Caris LaVert (Michigan)
  • F: Sam Dekker (Wisconsin)
  • F: Terran Petteway (Nebraska)
  • F: Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin)

Final thought: The idea that I could reasonably pick the Nebraska Huskers to finish second in the Big Ten -- in men's basketball!!!! -- is surprising even to me, and I'm somebody who always thought Tim Miles would do positive things in Lincoln.

But Nebraska second?

In men's basketball in the Big Ten?

It just sounds kinda crazy, doesn't it?

In fairness, the top four or five or six in this league could finish in any order with Wisconsin, probably, being the only school to qualify as a truly safe bet to consistently be ranked in the top 15 of the national polls. But there's no denying that Nebraska belongs, and the success already achieved and the good things ahead are a testament not only to Miles but to the athletic department in general.

The school invested in men's basketball in every way imaginable.

This is the result.

And it really should be a lesson to all so-called football schools.

Make excuses, if you want. But Nebraska -- which has no real tradition and no natural recruiting base -- is proof that you can be relevant in this sport if you invest in this sport and hire the right coach. Nebraska did the first, then the second. The byproduct of that is the Huskers being ranked 18th in the CBSSports.com preseason Top 25 (and one) and in position to make the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and college basketball insider for the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts an award-winning radio show in Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two sons and two dogs.
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