The 2012-13 Big Ten basketball season, one of the best in the conference's history, will be largely remembered for its compelling and intense inter-conference matchups as well as finally producing another national title game representative. It's going to be near impossible to match the number of elite teams and excitement of last season -- especially with Michigan and Indiana losing a significant portion of their talent -- but this season holds a great amount of promise, as well.
In light of Wednesday evening's exhibition game between the Badgers and UW-Platteville, lets take a look at some of BTN.com's preseason predictions for the latest rendition of Big Ten basketball.
Most importantly, lets start with how the BTN hoops experts envision the end-of-season standings unfolding. You won't be surprised to discover nearly every one picked the Badgers to place fourth in the conference. This is how most expected the standings to look:
1. Michigan State
2. Ohio State
Four of the six writers predicted the exact scenario listed above to occur, with the last two picking Wisconsin to finish sixth (oh, when will you learn) and the other slotted the Badgers at third in the conference.
Michigan State was the consensus pick to win the Big Ten, which in large part has to do with sophomore guard Gary Harris. He averaged nearly 13 points and over three assists per game as he looked like anything but a freshman last season. That's why all six experts picked him to be the player of the year in the Big Ten.
The Spartans really only lost big man Derrick Nix, so they'll have plenty of experience with the likes of Keith Appling, Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine.
Consensus all-conference first-team selections only included Gary Harris and Adreian Payne, with most writers placing Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft and Michigan center Mitch McGary in there as well.
A few other guys to keep an eye on as potential first-team type players are Penn State guard Tim Frazier, Michigan's Glen Robinson III and UW's very own Sam Dekker.
Dekker was the only Wisconsin player to make any of the three All-Conference lists and is primed for a breakout year with the Badgers losing all three starters in their frontcourt, which will make him a primary scorer on this team. In BTN's predictions, three writers tabbed Dekker as a first-team All-Big Ten player, while two placed him on the second team and one on the third.
Frazer, after averaging nearly 19 points per game two seasons ago, returns after missing all of last season due to a ruptured Achilles.
And Robinson opted to return to Michigan for a sophomore campaign, which is huge for the Wolverines. He's a player loaded with potential who often deferred to the likes of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. on the offensive side of the ball last season, so he'll have more opportunities to shine this time around.
It should be another great year of college basketball in the Big Ten. Expect Indiana to have plenty of growing pains after losing four starters this off-season, but also look for Iowa to make some more noise and make the NCAA tournament and even Purdue to make great strides with A.J Hammons and the Johnson brothers leading the charge.
ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan said it best last week:
"Perhaps the only sure things are that a) Michigan State will compete for the national title, and b) Wisconsin will finish no lower than fourth."
Let the games begin.