In preparation for the 2012-13 college hoops season, SI.com breaks down the best of the best in each of the six major conferences. Andy Glockner serves up his picks for Player of the Year, breakout candidate and more for the Big Ten.
With apologies to Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft, Trey Burke, and the rest of a deeply talented conference, it's hard to peg anyone as a better bet for this distinction than Zeller, who doubles as the favorite for national player of the year honors. The 7-footer's high-volume, highly efficient offensive game was more than advanced during his freshman season as he averaged 15.6 points on 62.3 percent shooting while grabbing 6.6 boards per game -- and now coach Tom Crean says Zeller is the Hoosiers' most improved player, which is bad news for the rest of the conference.
One of the top fits for Luke Winn's
The successor to Zeller as Indiana's Mr. Basketball is a 6-4, 205-pound, attacking scorer whom Tom Izzo described to ESPN as "one of those superstars who guards people," which sounds like a perfect fit for a team looking to replace the do-everything production of Draymond Green. How good of an athlete was Harris at Hamilton Southeastern High? He reportedly drew football offers from Notre Dame, Iowa, Indiana and Purdue. He should fit in well right away alongside Keith Appling in the Spartans' backcourt.
As usual, this conference offers plenty to choose from, but it will be hard to beat the atmosphere in Bloomington when Michigan visits on Super Bowl weekend. The teams split their two meetings last year and both bring back most of the key pieces from those squads plus two top-15 recruiting classes. Given the game's placement in the middle of the Big Ten slate, both should be hitting their stride as the regular season's stretch run begins. Factor in ESPN College GameDay's presence and a 9 p.m. start time and you should have an Assembly Hall that's ready to burst and a game that matches that energy level.
That's the Big Ten's winning percentage against other conferences last season, best in the nation. If that's too crude an estimation of the league's power for your tastes, perhaps its best-by-a-good-margin overall rating (bottom right
The 13th-year coach's job is not necessarily in serious jeopardy, but several near-misses after flirting with the Wildcats' first-ever NCAA tournament berth only increase the pressure to finally come through. In a statement on Carmody's continued employment at the end of last season, athletic director Jim Phillips was sure to note that he was "not satisfied" with a fourth straight trip to the NIT. And given the program's even more restless fanbase, a disappointing season could prompt the administration to go in another direction.
This conference has a better chance than any to be well-represented deep into the tournament. It should be well-represented at the onset too, with Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State getting bids and Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Northwestern, and Purdue being in the mix as well. It's the first four that look like the contenders to make a run: The Hoosiers are the preseason No. 1, the Buckeyes and Wolverines have the ingredients to become special, and you could go broke betting against Tom Izzo in March.