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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Michigan State Spartans

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With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Michigan State Spartans.

Michigan State started the 2013-2014 season as the favorite to win the national championship. Tom Izzo, no stranger to building Final Four teams, constructed a roster that had talented veterans (Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson) to go along with a young superstar (Gary Harris).

And while the Spartans ultimately fell short of their goal, Izzo and his company still enjoyed plenty of success including a trip to the Elite Eight and the Big Ten conference tournament title.

This year’s version of the Spartans will certainly look different than the group we last saw in Madison Square Garden in March. Payne and Harris are now in the NBA after being taken in the first round of the draft in June. Appling will be in training camp with the Los Angeles Lakers. Three other players, Kenny Kaminski (dismissed), Alex Gauna (opted not to return) and Russell Byrd (transferred) are gone.

But as we’ve learned in the past, despite the uncertainty, it’s never smart to count Michigan State out of the Big Ten race.

The prized returnee for Izzo is Dawson, a former McDonald’s All-American who is entering his final season of eligibility. The 6-foot-6 senior is one of the Big Ten’s best rebounders and defenders, but needs to show off a more polished offensive game as three of the team’s four leading scorers are gone. Dawson is very efficient (61.5 percent on 2s), but will need to morph into a guy who is capable of hitting midrange shots with consistency.

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2015 guard Shake Milton recaps his official visit to Indiana

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Heading into last weekend’s official visit to Indiana, 2015 Owasso (Okla.) guard Shake Milton said he knew Indiana fans were passionate about Hoosiers basketball. But he had yet to see the full extent of it in person, having taken an unofficial visit to Bloomington during the summer in June.

This past weekend, though, Milton said he got a better understanding of how passionate IU fans truly are. And he left Bloomington on Sunday impressed, saying the visit “went really well.”

“Me and coach (Tom) Crean were walking back from the football game and we were trying to have a conversation but couldn’t because everybody was coming up asking for pictures and saying they can’t wait for the season and stuff like that,” Milton told Inside the Hall on Sunday night. “I like the fact that it’s a real basketball school and people there are really passionate about basketball.”

The 6-foot-4 Milton is the No. 84 prospect in the 2015 class, according to the 247Sports Composite, and took his official visit to Indiana as his final one. During the visit, which was shortened due to his flight being cancelled on Friday from the FAA radar fire in Illinois, Milton was able to see campus, speak with strength and conditioning coach Je’Ney Jackson and spend time with this year’s team. Milton also had the chance to play with the team on Saturday, calling the experience “a lot of fun.”

But for Milton, perhaps the most valuable part of his official visit came on Sunday, during a “pretty personal” conversation with Crean.

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Podcast on the Brink: Offseason thoughts, Canada recap

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Podcast on the Brink is back for another season with host Jerod Morris of The Assembly Call.

Morris is joined by Inside the Hall editor and co-founder Alex Bozich, to discuss a variety of topics, including:

· How this offseason compares to last offseason
· A recap of Indiana’s five-game exhibition tour of Canada
· Hanner Mosquera-Perea’s importance to the team for the upcoming season
· Discussion of the potential impact of transfer Nick Zeisloft
· A rundown of IU’s 2014-2015 roster with observations from Canada

So tune in and enjoy. As always, feel free to drop the show a note at jerod@assemblycall.com.

Listen in the embedded media player below, download the episode, subscribe via iTunes or subscribe to the RSS feed.

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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Illinois Fighting Illini

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With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Illinois Fighting Illini.

As John Groce enters year three in Champaign, an intriguing mix of talent allows for some cautious optimism about a return trip to the Big Dance.

After losing seniors Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson off his first-year squad that advanced to the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament, the Illini suffered through an eight-game losing streak during conference play last season. But it rebounded to finish out the season a respectable 6-6 — a record that included an opening round victory against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament and one against Boston University in the NIT.

And while the team took a hit earlier this month when senior point guard Tracey Abrams suffered a season-ending injury (torn right ACL), there are a pair of transfers available to pick up the slack.

With Abrams out at point, Oregon transfer Ahmad Starks — who averaged 10.4 points per game in 2012-2013 — could step up and take the starter’s role. Aaron Cosby, a transfer from Seton Hall, will also be eligible to play this season and has the ability to give minutes at the point guard position as well.

The duo will be joined in the backcourt by Simeon product Kendrick Nunn. Nunn emerged towards the end of his freshman campaign, as Groce gave him more minutes during the team’s final 12 games. Nunn finished the year as the team’s second-most efficient scorer (54.1 eFG) and scored in double-digits seven of the team’s last 12 games after failing to do so once before the final stretch.

Wing Rayvonte Rice, who sat out Groce’s first year as a Drake transfer, was the team’s top scorer as a redshirt junior a season ago (15.9 points) and also led the team in minutes played (32.7). Rice could stand some shooting and efficiency improvement (48.0 eFG percentage /29.5 percent from 3-point range), but figures to be the team’s top returning offensive threat along with Nunn.

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Blue Ribbon picks Indiana to finish 9th in Big Ten

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Over the last month, we’ve reported on several preseason prognostications for the 2014-2015 Indiana team, including Lindy’s Sports ranking the Hoosiers the nation’s preseason No. 28 team and The Sporting News picking IU to finish 10th in the Big Ten.

Another college basketball annual, the Blue Ribbon college basketball yearbook, is scheduled to hit newsstands next month, but Brendan F. Quinn of MLive.com has already provided some Big Ten related tidbits.

Indiana is picked to finish ninth in the Big Ten by the Blue Ribbon college yearbook and junior Yogi Ferrell is listed as a preseason first team All-Big Ten selection.

Blue Ribbon has five Big Ten teams in its preseason top 25: Wisconsin (3), Ohio State (15), Michigan State (20), Michigan (23) and Nebraska (24).

More details from the Blue Ribbon yearbook are available after the jump:

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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Minnesota Golden Gophers

With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Despite the fact that he won 20 games in five of his six years at the helm of the Gophers, Minnesota fired coach Tubby Smith following the 2012-2013 season. And after a lengthy coaching search saw the program get turned down by several of its leading candidates, AD Norwood Teague ultimately settled on a coach with just one year of head coaching experience in Richard Pitino.

The first year of the Pitino-era at Minnesota ended with a NIT championship and a 25-13 record, but the team scuffled down the stretch of the regular season after amassing a 15-5 record to start the year. A postseason championship of any kind is nothing to scoff at, but after only losing one starter, there are expectations for improvement in year two for Pitino.

The Gophers return one of the better backcourts in the conference with seniors Andre Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu, two players that both made our preseason list of the top 25 Big Ten players. Hollins battled an ankle sprain during the second half of the conference schedule, but still finished as the team’s leading scorer at 13.6 points per game. And Mathieu, a 5-foot-9 guard with tremendous quickness, is the top returning player in terms of assist rate at 31.1 percent.

Chipola Junior College (Fla.) guard Carlos Morris is expected to take on a major role in his first season and could slide right into the position departed by Austin Hollins.

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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Maryland Terrapins

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With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Maryland Terrapins.

Entering year four under Mark Turgeon, the Maryland basketball program is awaiting the breakthrough season it has been hoping for since bringing the former Texas A&M coach on board in 2011.

After an NIT-semifinal effort at the end of the 2012-13 season, Terrapins fans were hopeful of a potential NCAA tournament appearance last season in Turgeon’s third at the helm of the program. But that never happened, as an underwhelming 17-15 mark resulted in Maryland even missing out on the NIT.

And as Turegon enters year four in College Park, patience is becoming thin amongst fans who haven’t seen an NCAA tournament berth since the 2009-2010 season — when legendary coach Gary Williams was still leading the program.

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