Welcome to 2005-2006!
Well, tonight officially marks the return of basketball for another glorious year. I’ve been teased over the past few weeks with midnight madness events, increased season preview coverage, and occasional encounters with friends who are just as excited about the season as I am. But tonight when I walk though the doors of the Mecca Arena (for those of you just joining me this season, if you’re a true Milwaukeean, you’re not allowed to call it the U.S. Cellular Arena) for the UW-Milwaukee vs. UW-Parkside exhibition game, it is officially on.
Of course, I also always make it my goal to have my annual season preview out before the first exhibition game that I attend each year. In a shocking display of advance planning, I actually did start working on a season preview ahead of time this year. I’ve actually scrapped a lot of it and tried to make it a bit more basic. Gone this year are my detailed predictions for the Big Ten, in favor of a summarized version. Lord knows that there are plenty of people out there that know more about the Big Ten than I do. Instead, I’ve chosen to focus my energies on my impressions of and predictions for Wisconsin, Marquette and UWM (if UW-Green Bay keeps getting better, this is going to take forever next year!). And instead of dumping it all on you at once, I’m going to follow the lead of some commentators who are slightly more gifted than I, and let it trickle out over time. Of course, there will be a couple of days (like tomorrow) when I'm busy recapping games that I've seen, so that should break up the monotony. Here’s my tentative schedule of topics which are, as always, subject to change for any reason that I deem necessary:
Today: The Big Ten: My Quick Predictions
Thursday: Recap of UWM vs. UW-Parkside
Friday: Marquette and Wisconsin roster breakdowns
Weekend: Recap of Wisconsin vs. UW-River Falls
Next Monday: All-Big Ten and All-American Teams
Next Tuesday: 3 Bold Predictions
Next Wednesday: Recap of UWM vs. Platteville
Next Thursday: UWM roster breakdown
Next Friday: Egocentric Discussion of Changes and Goals of the Chris West Basketball Journal for the 2005-6 (a prior commitment prevents me from recapping the Marquette vs. Michigan Tech game the prior evening)
So, let’s kick off the year with my predicted finish of the Big Ten. For efficiency’s sake, I’m limiting myself to two sentences per team to explain why I’ve picked them to finish where they are. Enjoy:
1. Michigan State
The only team that might match the Spartans in talent and experience is Iowa, and Iowa doesn’t have Tom Izzo running the show. These are the Spartans that we’ve come to expect..
Most people look at the losses, but I see two key starters from a national runner up team, several reserves who are ready to shine, and Bruce Weber at the helm. That equals a very solid team, and a very brightly colored jacket.
Bo Ryan has done more before with much less talent than he has now, even if virtually no one has seen the floor before. Plus, I’m a tremendous homer, so they have to go no lower than third in my picks.
4. Ohio State
Recruiting success aside, Thad Matta’s got the Buckeyes on the rise. Do you really want to bet against a guy who won 20 games last year while starting Brandon Fuss-Cheatham?
With Iowa’s excellent talent and strong finish last year, logically they should be no lower than third in the conference. However, no matter how great Iowa looks on paper every year, they always seem to disappoint me, so they’re not tricking me this year.
Every year I hear more and more about how Indiana’s new recruiting class is stellar and will save Mike Davis’s job. That group of savior freshmen never seems to come, but Davis always seem to do just enough to make his employers think that he might be on the verge of a breakthrough.
One can predict how the Gophers will be based on the Dan Monson Inverse Theory of Talent, which states that the lower the talent level of a Monson-coached team, the more successful it will be. Monson’s team has enough talent that it should be pretty good this year, so of course, it will be mediocre and fare no better than 7th in the Big Ten.
They’ve got just enough talent (even without Brent Petway) to be capable of causing problems for other teams. As usual, though, Tommy Amacker won’t be able to pull everything together and make this a winner.
With Bill Carmody, Vedran Vukusic and Michael Thompson, if things go well, these guys could go as high as 7th. If Vukusic’s surgically repaired shoulder decides to fall out of joint and Thompson again decides that going to class isn’t in his best interest, then well, at least Penn State is guaranteed to be worse.
New head coach Matt Painter has already told us that Carl Landry, responsible for roughly 92% of last year’s scoring and 94% of last year’s rebounding hasn’t fully regained his explosiveness following his ACL tear last season. Do you really want to take a chance on a Keady-less AND Landry-less team?
11. Penn State
It seems that the moment anyone gets moderately good at basketball, they transfer out of Penn State. I actually don’t think Ed DeChellis is a bad coach, but he’ll be remembered as one if he doesn’t start keeping some talent around.
I'll be back tomorrow after game #1....