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Posted on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 1:51 p.m.

5 questions bound to be asked at Thursday's Big Ten basketball media day

By Nick Baumgardner

There are plenty of questions for reporters to ask Thursday when the Big Ten Conference conducts its annual basketball media day in Chicago.

We've already begun to take a look at some questions entering Michigan basketball's 2011-12 season, and will continue to do so in the coming days and weeks.

But what about the rest of the league?

Here are five questions you'll likely hear asked:

1) Will Indiana look closer to its old self this year? Or are we going to continue to hear more about how good the Hoosiers "could be" down the road?

Tom Crean had an unenviable task when he took over a mess prior to the 2008-09 season. The excuses for why Indiana has won just eight Big Ten games Crean's three seasons are legit, but they're also starting to become pretty well played.

We know Crean can recruit, he brought in mega-prospect Cody Zeller and has the nation's top-ranked 2012 recruiting class in place.

But eight league wins in three years? That has to change.

Zeller will be an impact player and he'll help Christian Watford become even more efficient this season. Verdell Jones III and Jordan Hulls return in the backcourt and fellow guard Victor Oladipo showed promise last season as a freshman.

Indiana should be better. But NCAA Tournament better? Or just a few more wins than last year better?

The Big Ten needs the Indiana of old, but how much longer is it going to have to wait to see it?


Purdue's Robbie Hummel laughs while doing stretching exercises during a team practice earlier this month.

AP Photo

2) How healthy is Robbie Hummel?

It really doesn't matter which Big Ten team you cheer on, Purdue redshirt senior Robbie Hummel should be one player you root for this season.

After entering the 2009-10 season as a preseason All-Big Ten performer, the 6-foot-8, 215-pounder backed up his accolades, averaging 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds.

However, he suffered a season-ending ACL injury in late February, robbing him of postseason play.

Things went from bad to worse prior to last season, when Hummel appeared ready to return to form, but suffered the exact same injury to the exact same knee during preseason practice, wiping out 2010-11 altogether.

Hummel is back for one final go-around at Purdue. Former Boilermaker standouts JaJaun Johnson and E'Twaun Moore are gone, but if Hummel can resemble anything close to the player he was prior to his injury, he'll surely be one of the league's best and Purdue could be much better than expected.

3) Does Michigan State have enough in the tank to wash away the sting of 2010-11?

Tom Izzo's crew was expected to be a Final Four team a year ago.

Obviously that didn't happen, as a drama-filled campaign left Spartan fans with one of the program's more disappointing seasons in recent memory.

MSU brings back one of the league's more versatile players in forward Draymond Green, and add highly touted Valparaiso transfer Brandon Wood. Keith Appling and Adreian Payne are a year older, McDonald's All-American freshman forward Branden Dawson appears to be a monster and Derrick Nix has dropped a good deal of baby fat.

Among that group, Green is truly the only proven night-in, night-out performer. Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers graduated, Korie Lucious transferred to Iowa State and Delvon Roe called it a career due to injury.

Michigan State, as always, has more than enough talent to finish toward the top of the league and be a tough out come NCAA Tournament time.

But can unproven talent turn into reliable playmaking? Izzo's made it happen before, can he do it again?


Michigan's Evan Smotrycz tries his best to stop Jared Sullinger last season, but the Ohio State sophomore forward is hands-down the Big Ten's biggest and best weapon. file photo

4) Can anyone stop Jared Sullinger?
With all due respect to the rest of the league's big men, the answer to this question might be a resounding "no."

And not because the league has no ability in the paint, but because Ohio State sophomore forward Jared Sullinger is hands-down the Big Ten's biggest and best weapon.

Had he declared for the NBA Draft following his freshman season, he would've been a lottery pick. If he leaves following this season, he's a safe bet to be a top-five selection.

Just how dominant can Sullinger be in the Big Ten this season? And if all goes as expected, how much will his continued dominance make up for the loss of Jon Diebler and David Lighty?

William Buford is back, Aaron Craft is back, Deshaun Thomas is a year older and Sullinger is still a monster.

Maybe the better question should read, "Can anyone stop Ohio State?"

Who wears the glass slipper?

Outside of Ohio State, the Big Ten isn't loaded with sure-fire bets this season.

Purdue lost talent, but brings back Hummel. Darius Morris left Michigan, but the Wolverines return everyone else. Michael Thompson isn't at Northwestern any longer, but John Shurna is one of the league's best players. Illinois lost Demetri McCamey, but still has plenty of backcourt talent. Indiana hasn't been itself, but the addition of Zeller was the equivalent of a B12 shot this off-season.

And where in the heck does Nebraska fit into this?

The only certainties at this point seem to be that Penn State will struggle, Ohio State will be the favorite and everything in the middle is murky.

The league may not be top heavy, but it should definitely be competitive this season.

Which team makes a surprise run? If ever there were an opportunity to turn a head or two, it seems this year is as good as any in the Big Ten.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.