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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Wisconsin Badgers

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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 wrap up our look at the Big Ten with the Wisconsin Badgers. Our player-by-player look at the IU roster begins on Monday.

There’s an overwhelming favorite in the Big Ten this season and with good reason. Wisconsin, which finished last season 30-8 and narrowly lost to Kentucky in the Final Four, is as big of a favorite as the league has seen in several seasons.

The Badgers welcome back four of five starters and besides Ben Brust, every notable contributor from a team that was a few plays away from the national championship game. Most notable of the returnees are Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, who have both received numerous preseason accolades and should be in any conversation for preseason Big Ten player of the year.

Kaminsky was arguably the country’s biggest surprise last season as he emerged from a role player into a first team All-Big Ten performer. As noted in our list of the league’s top 25 players, the 7-footer hit 58 percent of his 2s and 38 percent of his 3s a season ago and was also among the league’s best rebounders and shot blockers. Kaminsky is a difficult player to contain because he can score on the block, facing up, in the pick-and-pop and also from behind the 3-point line.

Dekker has a chance to develop into a lottery pick with a strong junior season and has reportedly grown another inch this offseason. He’s now listed at 6-foot-9. As a sophomore, he made 55 percent of his 2s and only turned it over on 10.2 percent of his possessions, the fourth best mark among returning Big Ten players.

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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Michigan Wolverines

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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 Wolverines.

The 2013-2014 campaign was expected to be one of retooling in Ann Arbor. John Beilein had lost a pair of first round picks in national player of the year Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., and although the Wolverines returned a talented roster, it’s never easy to replace that type of production.

But when the dust settled on the Big Ten race, Michigan had distanced itself from the rest of the conference pack and in doing so, earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Led by Big Ten player of the year Nik Stauskas, the Wolverines reached the Elite Eight, falling to national runner-up, Kentucky.

This year, Beilein will once again have plenty of production to replace if Michigan plans to compete again for a conference championship. Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary are all now in the NBA, Jordan Morgan is playing professionally in Italy and Jon Horford transferred to Florida.

In most circumstances, a program that lost three NBA draft picks and two valuable frontcourt pieces would be expected to take a step back. But it’s a credit to Beilein that Michigan is still being projected as a probable top 25 team and one that should compete for a top five finish in the conference.

So why, exactly, is there optimism about this Michigan team?

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Big Ten informs NCAA of recommended reforms; IU announces quantification of scholarships

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The Big Ten Conference announced on Wednesday afternoon it has informed the NCAA of several reformations to student-athlete benefits it wishes to enact, similar to those in the IU Student-Athlete Bill of Rights released in July.

The conference has proposed giving its student-athletes full cost-of-education financial aid, guaranteed four-year scholarships, lifetime scholarships that will allow former student-athletes to complete their degree should they leave school early to pursue professional careers and “improved, consistent” medical insurance.

According to a release from the conference, it hopes to achieve these proposals through individual institutional action, conference-wide action or under the new NCAA semi-autonomy structure, which grants the major five conferences — the Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12 — more authority to create their own governing rules.

The proposals were first raised by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany at the Big Ten Football Media Day in July 2013 and were designed to enhance the quality of student-athlete life while maintaining amateur status and educationally-sponsored intercollegiate athletics in a time period in which support for pay-for-play and student-athlete unionization models have been growing.

“I know athletes at a younger and younger age are asked to select a sport or either select a sport and that they train for it very rigorously,” he said at the time. “And this is not just an American phenomena. I think it’s an international phenomenon. So I want to make sure that our rules, regulations, constraints, and standards are properly balanced so that once a student is admitted, he or she has the opportunity to do what they need to do academically to continue to move forward.”

This past July, IU led the NCAA in enacting student-athlete benefits reform by producing its Student-Athlete Bill of Rights, a document which ensures student-athletes at IU will have access to a lifetime degree assurance (in which former student-athletes can return to finish their degree with the University paying for their tuition, books and fees), a guaranteed four-year scholarship and full cost-of-education aid, among other reforms.

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Roundup: Former Hoosiers start NBA training camp

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Opening night of the NBA season is less than a month away and training camps have opened across the league this week along with media day events taking place.

Here’s a look around the league at former Indiana players and their start to the 2014-2015 season, which includes some video interviews, quotes and links:

· Victor Oladipo is expected to take on larger role in his second season in Orlando and will look to help bring along rookie Elfrid Payton, who has a similar background in many ways.

· In Charlotte, rookie Noah Vonleh is still recovering from surgery to repair a sports hernia, but is hoping to get medical clearance soon.

According to the Charlotte Observer:

Vonleh said he was playing pickup basketball on Indiana’s campus when he felt a “pop,” which he thought was just a groin pull. But the pain grew worse, and he had an MRI that revealed a tear. Vonleh is now able to work out on an elliptical machine and start some light shooting and jogging. He says he’s feeling much better in the last week.

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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Nebraska Cornhuskers

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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 Nebraska Cornhuskers.

There was no team in the Big Ten last season that surprised more than Nebraska. In year two under the energetic Tim Miles, the Cornhuskers saw the emergence of several stars, the opening of their new arena and an NCAA tournament appearance, all after a 5-13 Big Ten mark just one season prior.

Under Miles, the 2013-14 Big Ten Coach of the Year, the Cornhuskers have taken off as one of the hottest programs in the Big Ten. Last season, the team only lost once in the new Pinnacle Bank Arena — beating the likes of Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin at home — and pulled off a significant road win at Michigan State, one that clinched the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 1998.

Nebraska also saw the emergence of former Texas Tech transfer Terran Petteway, who was playing his first season in Lincoln. Petteway went on to average 18.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, earning first team all-Big Ten honors. Petteway used 31.7 of Nebraska’s possessions as a sophomore, the highest of any Big Ten player last season.

Other standouts from last season’s team, guard Shavon Shields, forward Walter Pitchford, guard Tai Webster, forward David Rivers and guard Benny Parker, are all back, as well. Shields is one of the Big Ten’s best in terms of getting to the foul line (60.5 free throw rate) and Pitchford was the least mistake prone player in the conference last season with a turnover percentage of just 6.8.

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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Ohio State Buckeyes

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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 Ohio State Buckeyes.

The Aaron Craft era in Columbus is over and his departure, along with the loss of Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross, means there is plenty of production that Thad Matta must replace to keep the Buckeyes in thick of the Big Ten race.

The Craft and Smith departures (both graduated) were much easier to plan for than the loss of Ross, who made the head-scratching decision to declare for the NBA draft and is now in Italy. The production vacated by the trio is substantial: 36 points, 14.6 rebounds and seven assists per game.

So who is ready to step up and fill the void? Matta returns three seniors with starting experience in Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott and Amir Williams.

Scott, a former McDonald’s All-American, may be the Big Ten’s best returning perimeter defender (4.6 steal percentage), but is offensively challenged. He hit just 30.2 percent of his 3s as a junior and is turnover prone (22.2 TO%). Thompson is the team’s leading returning scorer and despite being one of the league’s best finishers, he hit just 49.7 percent of his 2s as a junior. And Williams, another former McDonald’s All-American, has been a disappointment so far in Columbus. As a junior, Williams averaged 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, but only averaged 23.1 minutes per game.

Beyond those three returnees, Matta has some other pieces to work with including sophomore Marc Loving, senior big man Trey McDonald and redshirt freshman Kameron Williams, a combo guard. Loving will need to shoot it better to see the floor regularly (25.9 percent on 3s as a freshman) and Williams is likely to earn a role as a backup guard in the rotation.

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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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