BY ZAK PYZIK
Daily Sports Writer
Published November 1, 2010
In no specific order, the Daily breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of the remaining Big Ten teams.
Kevin Coble — the Wildcats' leading scorer the last three years — quit this July, and he will not suit up for his senior season. Coble gave Northwestern its best shot to make its first tournament in school history. Now, Coach Bill Carmody is grounded with a mediocre team that doesn’t have a definitive leader, on or off the court. But don’t count the Wildcats out quite yet. Junior center Luke Mirkovic is a large presence underneath. He averaged more than seven points per game and led Northwestern in field goal shooting last season — sinking 48 percent of his attempts.
Some call them the Nittany Lions and some call them Talor Battle. The senior guard returns for one more year in an attempt to regain the pride that the entire Penn State squad lost last year. After winning just three Big Ten games in the 2009-10 season, two of which came against Northwestern and one against Michigan, Battle and four other seniors make up a dark horse in the conference. Remember, they did win the NIT just two years ago, and the team still has seven players on the roster who were there during that era. Maybe the Nittany Lions will rebound.
At Big Ten Media Day, Hoosier coach Tom Crean acknowledged how difficult it is to play against a "Beilein-coached" team. But Crean's sincerity has reason to be questioned, as few teams struggled against the Wolverines last year. Also, Crean has a competent leader in junior guard Daniel Moore, who played alongside Michigan's Stu Douglass in high school. Moore put up 18 points in the team's preseason scrimmage, and he should be a force to reckon with in conference play. In the end, it may not matter how tricky Beilein's scheme is. Crean has his card.
The Hawkeyes are in trouble. Iowa's a roster has just two seniors. T.J. Sayre is a walk-on who has almost no game experience, but forward Jarryd Cole could possibly help Iowa win some games. Last year, Cole averaged eight points and five rebounds a game. His presence in the post can only help the Hawkweyes in conference play, but don’t expect any miracle out of Iowa — they’re in a rebuilding phase. On the bright side, the Hawkeyes should be a contender in 2012. They have six true freshmen just waiting for their chance to play.
Permitting that senior captain Al Nolen remains studious the Golden Gophers should finish, uhhh... at least better than last. Nolen missed the final 17 games of the 2009-10 season because of academic ineligibility. So long as there are no surprises, he will start when he returns. According to coach Tubby Smith at Big Ten media day, Nolen’s ball handling skills and defensive patience have improved. Smith also commented that Nolen has become more matured. With his skill and leadership Nolen is a serious threat.