Nov. 6, 2012
The 2012-13 college basketball season officially begins on Friday when nine Big Ten schools take to the court. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Penn State and Purdue all open their seasons at home on Friday evening. Also on Friday, Michigan State begins its season at the Armed Forces Classic on Ramstein Air Base in Germany, and Ohio State tips off at the Carrier Classic in Charleston, S.C. Nebraska and Wisconsin both open their seasons at home on Sunday, while Northwestern begins play next Tuesday on its home court.
Big Ten teams have received favorable rankings in several preseason polls. The Big Ten leads all conferences with five teams ranked in the Associated Press (AP) and USA Today coaches preseason polls, led by No. 1/1 Indiana. No. 4/4 Ohio State and No. 5/5 Michigan give the Big Ten three teams in the polls' top five, while no other conference has more than two squads in either poll's top 10. In addition, Michigan State checks in at No. 14 in each set of ratings, while Wisconsin is ranked No. 23 by the AP and No. 21 by the coaches. Minnesota is receiving votes outside each poll's top 25.
The Big Ten welcomes back 19 players for the 2012-13 season that have earned All-Big Ten distinction, including 17 that earned accolades last year.
Penn State's Tim Frazier was a first-team All-Big Ten honoree a season ago, while Indiana's Cody Zeller, Michigan's Trey Burke and Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas earned second-team recognition in 2011-12. In addition, Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe, a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2010-11, returns this year after sitting out last season due to injury.
Illinois' Brandon Paul, Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan State's Keith Appling, Northwestern's Drew Crawford and Ohio State's Aaron Craft all earned third-team accolades in 2011-12, while Indiana's Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford, Iowa's Aaron White, Michigan State's Branden Dawson, Purdue's D.J. Byrd and Wisconsin's Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans earned honorable mention recognition. Iowa's Melsahn Basabe was also tabbed honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2010-11.
In addition to All-Big Ten recognition, Zeller, White, Burke, Dawson and Northwestern's Dave Sobolewski were named to last year's Big Ten All-Freshman Team and return in 2012-13, and Oladipo, Craft and Frazier return from last year's All-Defensive Team.
Several Big Ten players have received preseason honors from a variety of outlets prior to the start of the season. Indiana's Cody Zeller has been named National Preseason Player of the Year by CBSSports.com and earned spots on the Associated Press, CBSSports.com, Sporting News and Blue Ribbon Yearbook Preseason All-America first teams. Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas was named a first-team preseason All-American by the AP, Sporting News and Blue Ribbon Yearbook and earned third-team accolades from CBSSports.com. Michigan's Trey Burke is an AP All-American, a second-team CBSSports.com preseason All-American and a third-team pick by Sporting News. Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe and Ohio State's Aaron Craft were third-team selections by CBSSports.com. In addition, Zeller was named the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year by a select panel of conference media and was joined by Burke, Craft, Thomas and Penn State's Tim Frazier on the Preseason All-Big Ten Team, which was announced at Basketball Media Day in October.
Leaders of the Pack:
The Big Ten returns four players who have scored 1,000 or more points in their careers, led by Indiana's Christian Watford, who has amassed 1,287 points in his three years on campus. Watford is followed on the list by Northwestern's Drew Crawford (1,283) and Illinois' Brandon Paul (1,056) and D.J. Richardson (1,035). Several other players are close to cracking the 1,000-points milestone, including Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. (980), Indiana's Jordan Hulls (970), Penn State's Tim Frazier (970), Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas (897) and Minnesota's Rodney Williams (812).
Topping the Charts:
Also back on Big Ten courts in 2012-13 are five players that led the conference in a statistical category last season. Indiana's Cody Zeller led the conference in field-goal percentage last year, shooting 62.3 percent as a freshman. Penn State's Tim Frazier paced the Big Ten in assists as a junior, averaging 6.2 per game. At the free-throw line, Minnesota's Andre Hollins led all conference players, hitting 90.4 percent of his attempts. Ohio State's Aaron Craft topped the steals chart last season, averaging 2.5 swipes per game. As a freshman, Northwestern's Dave Sobolewski led the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio with a mark of 2.6.
Putting Up the Points:
The Big Ten returns 16 of last year's top 25 scoring leaders, including four players who ranked in the top 10 last season. Penn State's Tim Frazier leads all returners and was second last season with 18.8 points per game. Frazier is followed by Northwestern's Drew Crawford (16.1 ppg), Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas (15.9 ppg) and Indiana's Cody Zeller (15.6 ppg). Frazier and Zeller both led their respective teams in scoring last year, while Illinois' Brandon Paul (14.7 ppg), Michigan's Trey Burke (14.8 ppg) and Minnesota's Rodney Williams (12.2 ppg) also return as their teams' leading scorers from a season ago. Overall, the Big Ten returns 18 players that averaged over 10 points last season.
Crashing the Boards:
The Big Ten also welcomes back 10 of its top 15 rebounders from a season ago. Wisconsin's Ryan Evans is the conference's leading returner on the glass, having averaged 6.8 per game last season. Indiana's Cody Zeller (6.6 rpg) and Christian Watford (5.8 rpg), Iowa's Aaron White (5.7 rpg), Michigan's Jordan Morgan (5.6 rpg) and Minnesota's Rodney Williams (5.6 rpg) also ranked among the Big Ten's top 10 in 2011-12, while Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas (5.4 rpg), Nebraska's Brandon Ubel (5.3 rpg), Indiana's Victor Oladipo (5.3 rpg) and Wisconsin's Mike Bruesewitz (5.1 rpg) round out the top 15 and all averaged over five boards per game last season.
They've Got CLASS:
Five Big Ten players were named candidates for the Senior CLASS Award, a total that leads all conferences. Illinois' Brandon Paul, Indiana's Jordan Hulls, Northwestern's Drew Crawford, Penn State's Tim Frazier and Wisconsin's Jared Berggren are in the running for the honor that recognizes an NCAA Division I senior with notable achievements in four areas of excellence -- community, classroom, character and competition.
The Big Ten led the nation in attendance for the 36th consecutive year during the 2011-12 season. Nearly 2.9 million patrons passed through the turnstiles for an average of 12,868 per game. The conference surpassed the two-million mark for the 20th straight year, and surpassed the one-million milestone in conference games for the 35th consecutive season. Nearly 1.5 million fans attended Big Ten contests, an average of 13,511 per outing. Six conference teams ranked among the nation's top 25 in average attendance, while no other conference had more than four top-25 programs. Wisconsin led the Big Ten and ranked fifth nationally with an average of 17,181 fans per game. Ohio State (16,511) and Indiana (16,462) ranked eighth and ninth, respectively, followed by No. 14 Illinois (14,986), No. 15 Michigan State (14,797) and No. 21 Purdue (13,324). The Buckeyes and Hoosiers also posted two of the highest increases from the previous season.
Glad to Have You:
The Big Ten welcomes two new coaches to its sidelines in 2012-13. John Groce takes over at Illinois after racking up 85 wins and two NCAA Tournament appearances with Ohio the last four years. Tim Miles takes the reins at Nebraska after having accumulated 283 wins in his 17-year career, including an NCAA Tournament appearance with Colorado State last season.
Stars on the Small Screen:
For the sixth consecutive season, every Big Ten home game will be produced and distributed to a live national audience. BTN, which is available in more than 80 million homes in the U.S. and Canada, will broadcast over 100 events on its linear channel or on BTN.com. More than 75 games will be aired by an ESPN platform -- ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPN3, and CBS Sports will carry 15 games.
March is (Almost) On:
The 2013 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament returns to Chicago's United Center for the first time since 2007 and the eighth time in the event's history, including the inaugural event in 1998. Every game of the tournament will be broadcast to a national audience with contests appearing on BTN, ESPN, ESPN2 and CBS Sports. Every tournament game since its inception has reached a live national television audience.
The Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament will also be played at the United Center in 2015, and will be held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind., in 2014 and 2016.
All-session tickets for the 2013 Big Ten Men's and Women's Basketball Tournaments are on sale now. For more information, visit bigten.org.
The Challenge Continues:
The 14th annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 27 and 28, with games set to appear on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. The Big Ten has won the last three Challenges, including last year's by a final tally of 8-4. The Big Ten's eight victories tied a Challenge record, and the margin of victory is the Big Ten's largest and the widest for either conference since 2007. In the event of a tie, the Commissioner's Cup will remain with the conference that won the Challenge the previous season. This year's full Challenge schedule can be found at