Tony Paul of The Detroit News provides a team-by-team outlook as the Big Ten basketball season gets underway.
Coach: Tom Crean (8th year; 131-114, 321-210 overall)
2014-15: 20-14; lost in NCAA Tournament second round
Best win: Notre Dame (80-73, Dec. 19, neutral)
Worst loss: Wake Forest (82-78, Nov. 23, neutral)
Outlook: The Hoosiers have been waiting for Crean to take them to the promised land. They’re poised to have a shot this year with a potent offense that leads the Big Ten in scoring (89.1 ppg), and features UM transfer Max Bielfeldt (8.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg).
Predicted finish: 4th
Coach: John Groce (4th year; 70-47, 155-103 overall)
2014-15: 19-14; lost in NIT first round
Best win: Missouri (68-63, Dec. 23, neutral)
Worst loss: North Florida (93-81, Nov. 13, neutral)
Outlook: The Fighting Illini are riding a five-game winning streak into conference play after a slow start, a start that can be attributed to the loss of Kendrick Nunn. He’s back from injury and averaging 18.5 ppg, while teammate Malcolm Hill is averaging 18.7 ppg.
Predicted finish: 10th
Coach: Frank McCaffery (6th year; 105-78; 356-255 overall)
2014-15: 22-12; lost in NCAA Tournament third round
Best win: Wichita State (84-61, Nov. 29, neutral)
Wost loss: Dayton (82-77, Nov. 26, neutral)
Outlook: The nonconference schedule wasn’t easy, so the record is better than it seems — even if it suffered a tough one-point loss to Iowa State. Jarrod Uthoff leads the offense, scoring in double figures every game, while preferred walk-on Nicholas Baer is heating up.
Predicted finish: 5th
Coach: Mark Turgeon (5th year; 98-51, 348-210 overall)
2014-15: 28-7; lost in NCAA Tournament third round
Best win: Princeton (82-61, Dec. 19, neutral)
Worst loss: North Carolina (89-81, Dec. 1, away)
Outlook: The Terrapins suffered a blow in November when Dion Wiley, who was expected to be a key contributor, was lost for the season to knee surgery. Five players are averaging in double figures for Maryland, led by Melo Trimble (14.8 ppg).
Predicted finish: 3rd
Coach: John Beilein (9th year; 176-113, 727-431 overall)
Best win: Texas (78-72, Nov. 27, neutral)
Worst loss: SMU (82-58, Dec. 8, away)
Outlook: Rebounding and defense, again, will be a struggle for the Wolverines, but per usual, they can shoot from deep. Transfer Duncan Robinson shot better than 60 percent from three-point range in nonconference play, and Zak Irvin (back surgery) is starting to find his stroke.
Predicted finish: 6th
Coach: Tom Izzo (21st year; 508-199)
2014-15: 27-12; lost in NCAA Tournament Final Four
Best win: Kansas (79-73, Nov. 17, neutral)
Worst loss: N/A
Outlook: The Spartans are off to their best start ever, but they’ll have to work around the two-week absence of star Denzel Valentine (two triple-doubles). He’s not expected to miss any of the marquee showdowns, but the absence will give Bryn Forbes time to shine.
Predicted finish: 1st
Coach: Richard Pitino (3rd year; 49-34, 67-48 overall)
Best win: Clemson (89-83, Nov. 30, home)
Worst loss: South Dakota (85-81 2OT, Dec. 5, home)
Outlook: The Golden Gophers shoved Tubby Smith out of town for the kid of a successful coach, and they might be having second thoughts. Minnesota is off to a brutal start, though Jordan Murphy has three straight double-doubles, becoming the first Gopher since Kris Humphries in 2003 to accomplish such a feat.
Predicted finish: 13th
Coach: Tim Miles (4th year; 55-54, 338-274 overall)
Best win: Tennessee (82-71, Nov. 28, neutral)
Worst loss: Samford (69-58, Dec. 20, home)
Outlook: The Huskers made the NCAA Tournament just once in Miles’ first three years, and things aren’t looking too promising this year. The scoring is very top-heavy, with a significant falloff after Andrew White III (17.1 ppg) and Shavon Shields (16.3 ppg).
Predicted finish: 11th
Coach: Chris Collins (3rd year; 41-37)
Best win: Virginia Tech (81-79 OT, Dec. 1, away)
Worst loss: North Carolina (80-69, Nov. 23, neutral)
Outlook: The Wildcats have matched their best 13-game start, set in 1930-31, so, per usual, everybody’s buzzing about this being Northwestern’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament. Hold your horses on that one because its nonconference schedule was cupcake central.
Predicted finish: 8th
Coach: Thad Matta (12th year; 307-99, 409-130 overall)
2014-15: 24-11; lost in NCAA Tournament third round
Best win: Kentucky (74-67, Dec. 19, neutral)
Worst loss: Texas-Arlington (73-68, Nov. 20, home)
Outlook: The Buckeyes have made the NCAA Tournament seven straight years under Matta, but the streak could be in jeopardy this year, as it seems like a down season. Well, at least it did until Ohio State dominated Kentucky earlier this month.
Predicted finish: 7th
Coach: Patrick Chambers (5th year; 65-79, 107-107 overall)
Best win: Boston College (67-58, Dec. 2, away)
Worst loss: Radford (86-74, Nov. 24, home)
Outlook: Time could be running short on Chambers, who hasn’t taken the Nittany Lions to the NCAA Tournament since being hired. Things will start tough this year, as Penn State plays Purdue, Maryland and Michigan State in three of its first five Big Ten games.
Predicted finish: 12th
Coach: Matt Painter (11th year; 224-126, 249-131 overall)
2014-15: 21-13; lost in NCAA Tournament second round
Best win: Florida (85-70, Nov. 22, neutral)
Worst loss: Butler (74-68, Dec. 19, neutral)
Outlook: This is one big team. Purdue’s two leading scorers — A.J. Hammons (13.3 ppg) and Isaac Haas (12.2 ppg) — are at least 7-foot, while Caleb Swanigan (11.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg), a one-time Michigan State recruit, is no small fry at 6-9, either.
Predicted finish: 2nd
Coach: Eddie Jordan (3rd year; 27-50)
Best win: Howard (82-70, Nov. 15, home)
Worst loss: St. John’s (61-59, Nov. 19, away)
Outlook: It’s been quite the tough transition to the Big Ten for Rutgers, in both football and basketball. Things don’t figure to get any better here under Jordan, a former NBA coach who might want to keep his options open for the time being.
Predicted finish: 14th
Coach: Greg Gard (1st year; 1-0)
2014-15: 36-4; lost in NCAA Tournament Championship game
Best win: Syracuse (66-58 OT, Dec. 2, away)
Worst loss: Western Illinois (69-67, Nov. 13, home)
Outlook: It’s been tough in Madison, where longtime coach Bo Ryan stunningly retired on Dec. 15. That gives Gard a chance to make his mark and win the full-time job, though there will be doubters since so much talent is gone from last season’s banner team.
Predicted finish: 9th