One year after each sharing a piece of the Big Ten regular season crown, three teams again find themselves pegged to make some noise in conference play.
Michigan State will enter the year as the preseason favorite to win the men’s league, with Ohio State and Purdue rounding out the top three in the rankings released at the Big Ten media kickoff.
The Spartans are coming off their second straight appearance in the Final Four, the latter of which was attained despite losing guard Kalin Lucas in a tournament victory against Maryland. Projected to be back to full health this season, the senior point guard was named the preseason player of the year. As a sophomore, he brought home the league’s postseason player of the year honor.
Although the Buckeyes return four starters and six letterwinners from a squad that won the Big Ten tournament championship last season and advanced to the Sweet 16, none of those players earned first-team preseason all-league honors. Lucas made the cut and is joined by Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, Illinois’ Demetri McCamey and Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer.
On the women’s side, the Buckeyes are tabbed to win a seventh consecutive conference crown thanks to the play of senior center Jantel Lavender who was tabbed by both coaches and media as the preseason player of the year.
Iowa is pegged second in both the media and coaches polls. Michigan State is picked third by both groups, although the media also have Purdue tied with the Spartans for third place.
Lavender is a unanimous player of the year pick by the coaches but not by the writers, although both named her a unanimous selection to the preseason all-conference team. She is joined on both squads by junior guard Samantha Prahalis, who was a unanimous pick by the media.