Illinois' Brandon Paul and Ohio State's Lenzelle Smith Jr.… (Bradley Leeb/US Presswire )
With the Big Ten men's basketball season under way, we're only a few months from learning who will reign as conference champs. Of course, we'd rather not wait that long. So we asked alums from all 12 schools to tell us why their team is the one to beat in 2012-13.
I-L-L! The team hasn't played this well since the days of Dee Brown and Deron Williams, back when we ended up at the Final Four in 2005. Brandon Paul and Co. have made watching Illini basketball exciting again—as opposed to embarrassing. The Big Ten is tough this year, but this team will fight its way to the top.
—Leonor Vivanco, RedEye reporter, @lvivanco
I appreciate you trying to trick me into jinxing my team, but it won't work. However, IU will CONTEND for the Big Ten title. And they'll contend harder than anyone else. Why? Look no further than Cody Zeller and Christian Watford. No one else in the Big Ten can keep up.
—Julie DiCaro, RedEye special contributor, @juliedicaro
Why will Iowa win the Big Ten? 'Cause it's the year of the Hawkeye. It began Labor Day weekend when we took down eventual Orange Bowl participant Northern Illinois, 18-17. Fine, so that wasn't the start of a dominating football season. But maybe it can be the catalyst to a Big Ten basketball championship.
—Zoran Stanoev, Old Town
A new practice facility, a completely renovated arena and a top 5 recruiting class have Michigan ready to defend its Big Ten title. A blossoming all-American point guard, a freshman 3-point machine, two stud NBA legacies and a team that goes 11 deep has the Wolverines primed for Big Ten dominance and a national title run.
—Kevin Wallace, Old Town, @kwallace23
Who's tougher than Tom Izzo? Spartans players have a motto. It's "Players play. Tough players win." Izzo has a great freshman in guard Gary Harris, and Branden Dawson returns from injury. In short, it's toughness, speed, athleticism, strength and Izzo. And Izzo knows how to build. For March.
—Chris Kelsch, Lincoln Park
As a Gophers fan, it's hard to get excited about a successful nonconference schedule—we've been burned too many times. However, this season just feels different. Even without Trevor Mbakwe playing like we'd hoped, we've finally got a talented and deep team. Time for coach Tubby Smith to erase the memory of Clem Haskins …
—Brian Dusek, RedEye special contributor, @brianjdusek
Nobody realized we joined the Big Ten last year. In fact, most Nebraskans don't even know we have a college basketball team, so the element of surprise is definitely on our side. Also, our coach tweets more than Tom Izzo. That counts for something, right? #Nebrasketball
—Matt Taege, Lakeview, @taege
No Drew Crawford? Yeah, that one hurt, but Northwestern's hoops team has harnessed the school's collective brain power to develop an algorithm that totally guarantees us the title. Revenge of the nerds!
—Kate Bernot, RedEye nightlife reporter, @katebernot
The Buckeyes will win the Big Ten (12, 14) because we Mighty Buckeyes will dot the i's on the Hoosiers, Hawkeyes and Illini. The Huskers, Wildcats and Boilermakers—we're for real and they're all fakers. Nittany Lions, Badgers, Gophers? Worth less than pennies in our loafers. Sparty and Lil' Blue won't win, 'cause we never give a bleep about the whole state of Michigan.
—Alyssa Ryan, Oak Park
The reason Penn State will win the Big Ten hoops title this year is because while the rest of Pennsylvania has been drilling for natural gas, the Nittany Lions have been drilling buckets! Why the frack wouldn't we win?
—Alexis Puhala, Pilsen, @pooholla
Karma. That's the only reason why my beloved Boilermakers will win this year's Big Ten title. Robbie Hummel tearing his ACLs in consecutive years robbed us of at least one potential national championship run. This team ain't that good, but it's going to get the breaks needed to win a Big Ten title. Because the universe owes us one.
—Matt Lindner, RedEye special contributor, @mattlindner
Wisconsin alumni know cheese rocks, Miller Lite's awesome and offense does not a basketball team make. Sure, UW doesn't score a lot of points, but we don't let other teams score many, either. Big Ten champions? Why not. The Badgers made the Rose Bowl this year. Crazier things have happened.
—Margaret Bogenrief, Uptown, @bfullycomplex
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