Too much basketball for things like editing, paragraphs, complete sentences or even coherent thoughts. But as we get to know these teams and players who will inhabit our brains for the next several months, I've certainly got some thoughts on what's going down. So here are at least some of them, on a game-by-game basis.

Hampton @ Wake Forest

--The new ESPNU open for college basketball is horrible. Just some bad local public access looking stuff.
--There are some pieces here for the Deacs, but the lack of a PG will kill this team.
--Walker is a great shotblocker, but his offensive game lags far behind.
--I suppose Clark is the best option at point for Wake, but he isn’t meant to be there. Harris has got to be the go-to scorer for the Deacs, and I think he is better off the ball. He's probably better than Clark at the point (though neither is good), but he is needed more as a scorer than as a distributor.
--Neither team can make a FT to save their lives.
--Wake 63-56, survive a scare from Hampton.
--Pellum probably gunned the Pirates out of the game (6/22 FGA), but Funches was fun to watch.

--McKie is something else, 21pts, 8 rebs.
--No Deac w/ more than 2 assists, 3 w/ more than 2 TOs. 19 total TOs for Wake.

Siena @ Minnesota
--My goodness, what a start to this game, nobody missing. We’re on pace for like a 150-130 game after 4min. After 8min, Siena’s pace has slowed to just 125pts, shooting 77% from field.
--Jackson has 14 in the first 8 min, and the amazing thing is that a lot of those were on Nolen, a first-rate defensive guard.
--Jackson is spectacular.
--Minnesota big run to close the half, 17-7, get back within a point.
--I think this Minnesota could be a team that has many different leading scorers/go-to guys, depending on the night.
--Siena scores 25 in first 8 min, then 24 in the next 26.
--Minnesota is for real: excellent athleticism, excellent rebounders, balanced defense all around, shooters, ballhandlers, and all this w/o Joseph.
--Rossiter at least three travels on the night, Siena with a ton of turnovers.
--This maybe isn’t as talented a Siena team as we’ve seen the past 2-3 years, but there are some serious parts here (Jackson, Rossiter, Brookins, Anosike, Griffin, Wignot) and they should be near the top of the MAAC.
--Brookins comes out of nowhere down the stretch to catch fire, but too much of a drought in the middle of the game.
--Minnesota 76-69 final.
--Jackson 29, Brookins 12 for the Saints, but 24 TOs for the team.
--Minnesota balanced scoring: Hoffarber 16, Sampson 13, Hollins 12, Mbakwe 10 plus 11 rebounds.
--Minn 30 FTs, Siena 15.

Pepperdine @ UCLA
--In the first half I’m having flashback to last year’s CSUF/UCLA abortion. UCLA still struggling against the zone, the point guard situation still isn’t excellent, but they’re a more talented team this year.
--And Jerime Anderson still sucks.
--KeionBell is not meant to play point. He’s not good at it, and it limits his effectiveness in the offense and turns the team into little more than a series of 1-on-1 moves. --Nelson’s block at the start of the 2nd half is beautiful.
--Josh Smith is disturbingly earthbound.
--UCLA big run at end of first/start of second.
--Howland with his run-breaking timeouts back for another season.
--Final UCLA 79-69, score closer than the game, Bruins impressive in 2nd half.
--26-2 run for Bruins wrapped around halftime is the difference, but maybe the biggest story is the ankle injury to Lee early in the game that kept him out of the final 34 minutes and will keep him out of Tuesday’s NIT Quarterfinal matchup with Pacific.
--Bell 24 unimpressive points, just two assists.
--Nelson 20/11, Honeycutt 16, Smith/Jones 13.
--UCLA 21 assists, 13 TO. Pepp 18 TO, 10 assists.

Miami @ Memphis
--I know Kendrick is a very good player, but Pastner definitely had the luxury to let him leave. This team has plenty of talent at the guard spot.
--Unbelievably entertaining albeit sloppy back-and-forth first half.
--Aside from Johnson, Hurricanes don’t have much offensive punch in frontcourt. Kirk and his nice midrange jumper may earn a spot in the starting lineup.
--Dequan Jones has just never added anything beyond his athleticism. My notes on this kid from his freshman year are just filled with exclamation points. Now he just bores me.
--Miami is definitely at its best when it works inside out (or more to the point, just inside). Johnson is incredibly efficient, especially when fresh.
--Memphis is an immature team with some absolutely terrible body language at times: players sagging their shoulders, rolling their eyes, at both ref calls and poor plays by teammates. This does not immediately look like a team with great chemistry.
--Miami guards definitely settled down for a stretch, played under control and they got right back into it, and then in the last minute or two, both Grant and Scott have terribly out of control plays.
--After the first time seeing these incarnations of these teams play, I’m not sure how good either of these teams are. They’ll both get better, but they both certainly need to get better.
--Final score 72-68 Memphis.
--Jackson 17, Carmouche 13, Witherspoon 12, Antonio Barton 10.
--Scott 20, Grant 18, (a combined 10/27 and eight turnovers for those two), Johnson 12 points, 12 rebounds.
--5 assists for Miami on 20 field goals, Memphis 10 assists on 19 field goals.
--Teams a combined 7/41 from beyond the arc.
--Entertaining, but sloppy.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Michigan State
  2. Purdue
  3. Ohio State
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Illinois
  6. Minnesota
  7. Northwestern
  8. Indiana
  9. Penn State
  10. Michigan
  11. Iowa
The Big Ten looks loaded this year. A quick look at the all-conference teams below shows that this is a very experienced conference (eight seniors and a junior on my all-conference squads), and with a 09-10 Final Four team (Michigan State) and a team that was a key injury away from being a Final Four contender (Purdue) returns almost all of their key contributors, clearly the top of the heap here is very talented. Given those two squad’s past success and key returnees, they are the co-favorites in the league with the Spartans getting a bit of a nod due to slightly fewer question marks.

However, the next tier of teams, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Illinois, will likely be right on the heels of the leaders all season long. Ohio State and Illinois both feature intriguing mixes of returning experience and incoming talent, while Wisconsin is Wisconsin and you can pencil them in for about 12 conference wins and 25 wins on the season today.

Those top two tiers in the league are the teams that should be fairly comfortable on Selection Sunday with their lot; the next tier (Minnesota and Northwestern) is made up of teams who could be a little nervous that day. An early guess? Both teams get in.

And then there’s the bottom tier, teams that are either rebuilding or should be rebuilding. Penn State and Indiana both have some players that could carry their teams at times, but lack the overall roster to compete for an upper-division finish in such a talented league. Michigan could finish higher just on the strength of John Bielein and his system, but Iowa, poor Iowa and new head coach Fran McCaffrey, could have a rough season with a remade roster and a program starting all over from scratch.

All-Big Ten First Team
G Kalin Lucas, Sr, Michigan State
G Talor Battle, Sr, Penn State
F Mike Davis, Sr, Illinois
F Jon Leuer, Sr, Wisconsin
C Jared Sullinger, Fr, Ohio State

All-Big Ten Second Team
G E’Twaun Moore, Sr, Purdue
G William Buford, Jr, Ohio State
F Robbie Hummel, Sr, Purdue
F Kevin Coble, Sr, Northwestern
C JaJuan Johnson, Sr, Purdue

All-Freshman Team
G Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan
G Roy Marble Jr., Iowa
F Jereme Richmond, Illinois
F DeShaun Thomas, Ohio State
C Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

This early in the offseason, there are still a ton of unanswered questions for Tubby Smith and his Golden Gophers. Last season, two of the Gophers biggest recruits, Royce White and Trevor Mbakwe, never played a single minute due to legal issues. White went so far as to quit school and basketball altogether (at least for a melodramatic moment or two), and Mbakwe is still mired in a felony battery case. Throw in point guard Al Nolen missing the second semester due to an academic suspension and a very talent Gopher team had a pretty miserable season. All three of those players remain question marks at this point for the 2010-11 season. Mbakwe will not play until his trial is complete, Nolen will have to get back on track academically and White? Well, White needs a lot of things, not the least of which is some growing up.

However, despite those question marks and the loss of leading scorer Lawrence Westbrook and team leader Damian Johnson to graduation,  and hustle-man extraordinaire Paul Carter to a tragic transfer (he is transferring to a school closer to his Chicago home to be closer to his sister Bria who is battling cancer), the cupboards are far from empty in The Barn. If Nolen returns, he’ll likely share the three-guard backcourt with junior point Devoe Joseph and senior shooter Blake Hoffarber, the team’s leading returning scorer. Sophomore Justin Cobbs will get the spare minutes at the point. Up front, the Gopher’s could go with a twin-tower frontcourt with juniors Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson, each having shown flashes of brilliance in their first two seasons. If both continue to improve, that could be an excellent post duo. If Smith chooses to start just one of the post players and bring the other off the bench, Mbakwe and White would both be potential starters assuming that they are even on the team. Sophomore Rodney Williams could also be a contender to start up front, but he is more of a natural swingman rather than a power player.

Minnesota’s recruiting class was put together late, and doesn’t feature any major impact players, but there could be some surprises there. There are three frontcourt options in the class: Mo Walker (a massive 6-10 center with a bit of skill) Elliott Eliason (a 6-9 center from a small town in Nebraska who has drawn some comparisons to Iverson, another Gopher recruit from a small town), and 6-9 power forward Oto Osenieks (a relatively unknown Latvian player who brings a face-up game that the most effusive Gopher fans compare to Robbie Hummel). Their sole backcourt recruit to this point is Austin Hollins, the son of Memphis Grizzlies’ head coach Lionel Hollins. As is common for coaches’ kids, Hollins is regarded as a smart backcourt player who can do a little of everything.

Even if all the question marks on this team get answered in the affirmative, this won’t be as talented of a Gopher team next year as it was last year, but there is still enough talent for an upper-division Big Ten finish and a NCAA bid. While Mbakwe and White may not ever play a minute in a Gopher uniform, if Smith can bring Nolen back for his senior season and get some useful minutes out of the freshmen bigs, everything should be okay in The Barn. And if Sampson and/or Iverson turn it up this season, things might just turn out better than “okay”.