The All-Big Ten preview is ITH’s look at our picks for the top players in the Big Ten this season. Today: Kalin Lucas of Michigan State.
The tradition of quality guard play (Cleaves, Charlie Bell, Mo Pete, Jason Richardson, Neitzel, shall I continue?) for Tom Izzo coached teams continues in East Lansing as Izzo hands the keys to the Spartans to Kalin Lucas.
Lucas, a sophomore, averaged a shade over 10 points and just under four assists per game last season. After splitting time with Travis Walton a year ago, he’s looking forward to taking the reigns.
“I feel like this is my team now,” Lucas recently told The Detroit News.
Lucas is a unique combination of power and ridiculous speed. He’s a bit undersized at a shade under 6-0, but his quickness is unmatched by anyone in the conference and perhaps, the country. In fact, Izzo recently commented that Lucas is the fastest player he’s ever coached.
More importantly, however, will be his ability to lead and get the most out of a loaded MSU roster. He’ll have plenty of options up front with Marquise Gray, Goran Suton, Delvon Roe and a candidate for player of the year in the league, Raymar Morgan. The backcourt is just as loaded with Chris Allen, Durrell Summers, Walton and freshman Korie Lucious.
“You can’t be a leader if you don’t know what you’re talking about,” Lucas said at Michigan State’s media day. “I’ve been coming in and watching more film. I’ve become a gym rat. I’ve gotta be more vocal and be more of a leader.”
You may be wondering, what does Scarlett Johansson have to do with the Big Ten? Absolutely nothing. We just like looking at her and I bet you do, too.
The real fun begins tonight when the Hoosiers travel to Carver-Hawkeye Arena to take on Iowa. The last part of our Big Ten preview is our predictions for the following: order of finish, all-league teams, player of the year and coach of the year. (We might throw in a podcast at some point, if you’re lucky.) At the end of the season, we’ll be able to look back and say, “What were we thinking?”
PostmanE: Drew Neitzel, Eric Gordon, Raymar Morgan, Geary Claxton, D.J. White PostmanR: Drew Neitzel, Eric Gordon, Raymar Morgan, Geary Claxton, D.J. White Big A: Drew Neitzel, Eric Gordon, Raymar Morgan, Brian Butch, D.J. White
The Hoosiers are finishing up their cupcakes and the New Year is nearly upon us, which can mean only one thing: It’s Big Ten Preview Time! Here’s a look at the teams that will challenge the Hoosiers for the conference crown … or fall under the weighty boot of crimson dominance. Probably the latter. Today: Michigan.
There are two things you need to know about Michigan in 2007-08. The first: They have a new coach in John Beilein, a system-oriented coach known for maximizing his overmatched teams’ potential. The second: His new team has very little potential to maximize.
The Wolverines are almost entirely new this season. Not only do they have a new coach, but their starting five is 80 percent new; only Ron Coleman returns. That means no Courtney Sims, no Lester Abram, no Dion Harris, and none of Brent Petway’s occasionally brilliant highlights. That also means no Tommy Amaker, whose inability to turn last year’s senior-laden lineup into anything better than a marginal bubble team sent him packing to Harvard before he had the chance to coach this year’s rebuilding effort.
The Hoosiers are finishing up their cupcakes and the New Year is nearly upon us, which can mean only one thing: It’s Big Ten Preview Time! Here’s a look at the teams that will challenge the Hoosiers for the conference crown … or fall under the weighty boot of crimson dominance. Probably the latter. Today: Iowa.
Come to think of it, we really should have assigned Iowa to PostmanE, seeing as the Quad Cities were his home base during the developmental years. But alas, here I am typing this for you guys. So yes: the biggest and boldest news out of Iowa before this season started was the departure of Stevie Alford and the entrance of Todd Lickliter. Lickliter brings with him quite a resume over from Butler — although, when Alford came to Iowa, he looked like a pretty darn good coach, too — including a Sweet 16 appearance last season. (IU’s loss to Butler up in Indy at the start of last year was perhaps the single most frustrating game I’ve ever seen.)
But although Lickliter has proven himself worthy of stepping into a pair of Big Ten shoes, he doesn’t quite have the talent or depth to make a splash yet. For starters, the Hawkeyes are 6-6 so far on the year. Here’s who they’ve lost to: Bradley, Utah State, Wake Forest, Louisiana-Monroe, Iowa State and Drake. Not exactly all world beaters. Now, the mediocre start can in part be attributed to the “star” of this team, guard Tony Freeman, being out 10 of the first eleven games with a broken foot. In the two games he’s played in this year, he’s averaging 15 points. The Hawkeyes are 1-1 with him in the lineup.
The Hoosiers are finishing up their cupcakes and the New Year is nearly upon us, which can mean only one thing: It’s Big Ten Preview Time! Here’s a look at the teams that will challenge the Hoosiers for the conference crown … or fall under the weighty boot of crimson dominance. Probably the latter. Today: Northwestern.
Bill Carmody returns to Northwestern for his eighth season at the helm and will be faced with an uphill battle to field a competitive team in the conference race. Northwestern finished tied for last with Penn State in the Big Ten last year at 2-14.
Tim Doyle, arguably one of the most underrated players in the conference a season ago, graduated and is now an studio analyst for the Big Ten Network. Doyle was an All-Big Ten honorable mention selection last season and set a Northwestern season record with 157 assists.
Carmody’s leading scorer a season ago, sophomore Kevin Coble, took a leave of absence in mid-October to be with his mother, Carlys, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Mrs. Coble is scheduled to undergo her fifth chemotherapy treatment in the Phoenix area on December 27. After that, she plans to move to the Chicago area with her husband Randy. Coble is planning to return just in time for the start of conference play.
Northwestern’s slim chances for a successful season rest squarely on the return of Coble. Without him, Northwestern is easily the worst team in the conference. Coble has a unique skill set for a 6-8 player as he can rebound, shoot the three and play solid defense.
As it stands right now, the Wildcats are without Coble and they are leading Big Ten teams in very undesirable categories. Consider these numbers as of Dec. 14: Northwestern is last in scoring offense, last in scoring margin, last in free throw percentage and last in rebounding margin.
It’s taken over a month to do it, but I finally have my complete All-Big Ten preseason team. Drew Neitzel, the senior point guard from Michigan State, rounds out my list of five and is my preseason pick for player of the year.
When I first saw Drew Neitzel as a freshman during the 2004-2005 season, it was hard to imagine him as someone with the potential to become an all-league player. Quite frankly, he looked over matched during his first couple of seasons. And then, he got better. A lot better.
Neitzel came into his own last season for the Spartans when coach Tom Izzo needed a go-to-guy. Neitzel was a role player his first two seasons, deferring to the likes of Maurice Ager, Shannon Brown and Paul Davis. In fact, Neitzel never had a scoring average in double figures before last season.
As a junior, he led the Spartans in scoring at 18.1 ppg and was an absolute load for opposing defenses. More importantly, he emerged as the leader on a team that won a game in the NCAA Tournament, something that Brown, Ager and Davis were unable to do in their last season together.
Neitzel returns for his senior season in East Lansing with no shortage of accolades. Most publications have him tabbed as a first or second team All-American. He’ll be the centerpiece and the captain of a Michigan State team that is expected to start the season ranked in the top ten.
Expect an encore performance for the Grand Rapids native as the Spartans will battle it out with IU for the conference crown and Neitzel will try to nab the player of the year title over D.J. White.
I’ll continue my conference preview over the next couple of months and break down my predictions for the order of finish in the conference. And if we’re lucky, E and R will chime in with their picks as well.
We’ve already revealed the first three members of our preseason All-Big Ten first team: Raymar Morgan of Michigan State, Jamar Butler of Ohio State and Geary Claxton of Penn State. The tough part came in deciding who would be our preseason player of the year: Drew Neitzel or D.J. White. After putting all bias aside, the nod went to Neitzel. It was not an easy decision and I’m sure it’ll generate quite a bit of discussion here at the Hall.
This will be the year that White’s star finally shines bright in Bloomington. As a freshman, White burst onto the Big Ten scene by leading all freshmen in scoring in the conference. Unfortunately, that talented team never lived up to its potential and dropped a first round NIT game at home to Vanderbilt.
In 2005-2006, White struggled with a foot injury that limited him to five games and left many wondering if he’d ever return to his freshman form.
Last season was a bounce back year for White, as he was named second team All-Big Ten under new coach Kelvin Sampson. He played in his first NCAA Tournament and led IU in scoring (13.3), rebounding (7.3), blocks (2.3) and minutes (31.8). He was the only Hoosier to start every game.
White entertained the idea of testing the NBA waters following IU’s second round tournament loss to UCLA, but decided to return because he felt it was in his best interest and more importantly, he wants to earn a degree:
“I believe it is in my best interest to return for my senior season. I learned a lot from Coach Sampson and the rest of the coaching staff and really improved my game last year. I’m excited to take my game to another level and I look forward to a very successful season with my team. Another factor in my decision is I want to graduate. Getting my degree from Indiana University is very important to me and my family.”
While much of the buzz for the upcoming season surrounds the arrival of Eric Gordon, White is the key to getting the Hoosiers to San Antonio. The Hoosiers are heavy with talent on the perimeter and thin on experience in the paint. D.J. will be counted on to carry the load down low and also be a leader as one of the captains. He’s already embracing that role:
“We have a lot of young guys, so we just have to do the right things on the court and do what Coach Sampson asks. I think these guys want to learn enough that they’ll follow our guidance, so I think that will be big for Lance and I to lead by example.”
In the end, White’s play this season will propel IU to a deep run in the NCAA Tournament and first round status in the NBA Draft. He and Neitzel will decide the player of the year award with two head-to-head battles and ultimately, the nod will go to the player who leads his team to a league title.
It’s Monday and that means it’s time for another player to be revealed in our All-Big Ten preview for the upcoming season. Inside the Hall has already taken a look at Raymar Morgan of Michigan State and Jamar Butler of Ohio State. This week, Geary Claxton of Penn State joins our list of soon-to-be five players.
If Claxton played for a more prominent Big Ten program — say Ohio State, Michigan State or IU — I’d be talking about him as one of the favorites for Big Ten Player of the Year.
Since he plays for one of the lesser known programs in the league, he has to settle for the title of “Best Big Ten Player You’ve Never Heard Of.”
Passed over by the likes of Connecticut, Syracuse and Villanova, Claxton came to coach Ed DeChellis and the Nittany Lions as a two-time first team All-State selection out of West Haven, Connecticut.
To give you an idea of how overlooked he was on the national scene, his only other offer came from Fordham, an Atlantic 10 program.
As a freshman in 2005, he was named one of the five best freshman in the league. As a sophomore in 2006, he was third team All-Big Ten by the coaches and the media (he was the first Penn State player to be selected to an all-league team since 2001).
And last season as a junior, Claxton was second team All-Big Ten by the media and third team by the coaches.
The 6’5″, 215 pound guard-forward has been forced to play out of position at Penn State due to the personnel surrounding him. He can take larger defenders out on the perimeter and hit the midrange jumper and overpower smaller defenders down on the box. He’s a stud athlete for his size and once he is able to play his natural position full-time, his game could translate well at the NBA level.
Despite being the center of attention each time he steps on the floor, he’s averaged 14.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game over his career.
Expect more good things for Claxton this upcoming year as he looks to try and get Penn State to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001.
Steve Grinczel is the Michigan State beat writer for the Booth Newspaper chain, which includes the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, and Saginaw News — and MLive.com. He recently took the time out of his busy schedule to give Inside the Hall an in-depth, early look at Michigan State hoops for 2007-2008. Check out Steve’s Spartans Insider blog by clicking here.
Inside the Hall: With Drew Neitzel and Raymar Morgan returning and a solid incoming freshman class, what are the expectations going to be like this year in East Lansing?
Steve Grinczel: While MSU has had some terrific NBA-caliber talent and experience come through the tunnel in recent seasons, the most the program seemed to generate is a hopeful hum. That said, I expect a buzz that’s been conspicuous by its absence in recent years will be back in 2007-08. To some, the Spartans are building toward a run to the Final Four that will be played in Detroit in 2009. However, Neitzel’s reputation for not being denied preceded him to East Lansing and as a senior he’s down to his final season of eligibility. This is a payoff year for him, and I’m certain he’s expecting nothing less than leading MSU to its first Big Ten title since ’01 and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Neitzel has the credentials as a scorer and set-up man to justify likely preseason All-America honors. And, the backcourt should be as good as any in the country with point guard Travis Walton establishing himself as a lock-down defender. Morgan showed why he’s considered a special player during his injury-slowed freshman season and should make a big jump with a year under his belt.
Goran Suton and Marquise Gray struggled to find consistency in the frontcourt, but should have ironed out those problems with experience. I look for lanky 7-foot Tom Herzog, who redshirted last season as a freshman, to be the surprise player of the Big Ten. A true postman who likes to play with his back to the basket, his skills and athleticism defy the first impression of being ungainly. Then there’s senior Drew Naymick, whose breakout second-half-of-the-season was critical to the Spartans’ 10th straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
A lack of depth forced Coach Tom Izzo to go against everything he holds near and dear and slow things down last season. With three athletic freshmen coming in, MSU will be back to its withering, up-tempo game. All-in-all, things are falling back into place for the Spartans.
I’m back for our second installment of our All-Big Ten preview and this week we have our second piece of the puzzle, Jamar Butler of Ohio State. For those who didn’t see it, last week we profiled Raymar Morgan of Michigan State.
With Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook now in the NBA, Butler will be counted on by coach Thad Matta as the leader for the Buckeyes and I fully expect the Lima, OH native to respond to the challenge.
Butler was named honorable mention All-Big Ten last season by the coaches and the media as he started all 39 games, averaged 8.5 points per game and hit 85% of his free throws. He was second on the team in assists behind Conley Jr.
Expect those numbers to jump considerably as he’ll be expected to take on more of the scoring load while the Buckeye newcomers get acclimated to life in the Big Ten.
While he wasn’t the one getting the brunt of the attention as Ohio State made their remarkable run last season, Butler was one of the “glue” guys that held the team together. He knew the role he needed to play for the team to be successful and played it magnificently.
He’ll now step to the forefront in his final season in Columbus as the leader of what should be another fun Buckeye team to watch.