Remember how the Big Ten fared in the NCAA tournament last
season? The conference's six representatives won a grand total
of one game, and that victory was by conference champ Purdue,
which beat Wisconsin-Green Bay by one point, 49-48. What can be
expected from the league this season? Even less. Michigan (page
78) and Iowa (page 89)--the league's likely bullies--have some
weaknesses. The Wolverines are young and talented but have just
one senior who contributes and no juniors, while Iowa's hopes
rest on the rickety back of Jess Settles. All in all, the
not-so-Big Ten is likely to again be college basketball's
98-pound weakling come the postseason.
Even Purdue, without one big-name player, will be in the hunt
for the title, which would be its third straight. Why? Because
the Boilermakers have six seniors, a potentially dominant
freshman in Luther Clay, and the league's best bench coach in
The six-pack of seniors is led by a pair of 6'8" forwards,
Brandon Brantley and Roy Hairston. Brantley is the top returning
player (10.0 points per game and 6.1 rebounds); Hairston (9.6
ppg, 4.5 rpg) had his ups and downs last year and will now try
to recapture the skills he displayed at Hutchinson (Kans.)
Community College when he was the 1993-94 Junior College Player
of the Year.
Joining them on the front line will be the 6'8" Clay, the best
recruit Keady has had who isn't named Glenn Robinson. But the
Boilermakers will live or die with their seniors, whose sheer
number may cause one problem. "I don't know what we're going to
do for captains," Keady says. "I don't think you can have six."
At Indiana the only certainty is the captain. Forward Brian
Evans, one of only two seniors, will be counted on to improve
upon his monster contributions (17.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg) of last year.
But he will need help from three talented though oft-injured
sophomores--forward Andrae Patterson, point guard Neil Reed and
guard Sherron Wilkerson.
Patterson, who hurt his knee early last season, will move to the
perimeter, where his size (6'8") and shooting touch will be
advantages. Reed, who separated his shoulder last November but
waited until after the season for surgery, and Wilkerson, who
has two pins in his left leg, which he broke in 1994, will try
to make up for the departure of guards Steve Hart and Michael
Hermon. Both transferred because of academic difficulties: Hart
to Indiana State, and Hermon to Parkland College in Champaign,
Champaign is also home to the league's best player, Kiwane
Garris of Illinois. Garris, a 6'2" junior playmaker, led the
Illini in scoring (15.9), assists (3.8), steals (1.2) and free
throw shooting (83.1%). Rebounding will be his team's biggest
weakness. Coach Lou Henson was unable to sign a center, so 6'11"
Brett Robisch, an unproven and unintimidating sophomore, will
get the nod.
This is an important season for the 63-year-old Henson, who has
two years left on his contract. His Illini haven't won 20 or
more games since 1991 and now have a nasty reputation for
Speaking of underachieving, last year Minnesota had five
polished seniors and still couldn't get past the first round of
the NCAA tournament. But coach Clem Haskins has signed six
top-notch recruits, including juco transfer Bobby Jackson, a
6'1" point guard whom Wake Forest coveted to replace Randolph
Childress. Signing so many top players was a boost for Haskins,
who had a lousy summer otherwise, undergoing knee surgery in
June and angioplasty to clear a blockage in a coronary artery in
The summer was much less painful for Tom Izzo of Michigan State,
who after 12 years as an assistant has moved down the hall to
take over for retired coach Jud Heathcote. The Spartans'
backcourt also has a new look. Gone are All-America Shawn
Respert and assist whiz Eric Snow. Their replacements will be
junior Ray Weathers, who averaged 12.9 points per game on a Big
Ten All-Star team that toured Japan in the summer, and sophomore
Thomas Kelley, a speedy 6'2" point guard.
A new coach will also be on the bench at Penn State. But while
Heathcote's departure was announced before the season, Bruce
Parkhill's Sept. 6 resignation was a shocker. "I just didn't
have the spark to continue coaching," the 46-year-old Parkhill
said before turning the program over to Jerry Dunn, a longtime
assistant. Dunn will look for sizable production from Phil (Big
House) Williams, a 6'8", 265-pound junior described somewhat
oddly in Penn State's preseason prospectus as "one of the Big
Ten's most effective screeners."
At Wisconsin, Stan Van Gundy is gone after a 13-14 season,
replaced by Dick Bennett of Wisconsin-Green Bay, whose overall
coaching record is a sparkling 361-188. Before Van Gundy left,
he did sign Sam Okey, a top-10 recruit from Cassville, Wis.,
described by recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons as a player who
"refutes the theory that white men can't jump." But Van Gundy
failed to sign Wisconsin's second-best high school player, 6'10"
center Joe Harmsen.
Harmsen, instead, opted to join Northwestern coach Ricky
Byrdsong. "That was probably the biggest coup for this program
ever," Byrdsong says. "Everyone in the state took for granted
that he'd go to Wisconsin." The Cats need Harmsen: They lost a
dozen conference games by at least 20 points last season.
Losing by big margins was also a common occurrence at Ohio
State, where coach Randy Ayers is still trying to recover from
losing five potential starters before last season. With a decent
new eight-man group led by guard Damon Stringer, Ayers has a
shot at keeping his job.
COLOR PHOTO: VINCENT MUZIK The gifted Garris puts the fight in the Illini. [Kiwane Garris]
COLOR PHOTO: BRIAN SPURLOCK Indiana's Evans (34) and Purdue's Brantley (42) will vie for intrastate laurels. [Brian Evans, Brandon Brantley, and others]
1 Michigan (9)
2 Iowa (16)
7 Michigan State
8 Penn State
11 Ohio State