Media Picks MSU To Win Big Ten Basketball Title

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) -- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is back in a familiar spot -- expected to win the Big Ten title.
Izzo's Spartans were selected by the media Sunday as the preseason favorites to win the conference championship for the first time since 2000-01.
The dean of Big Ten coaches has already notched four conference championships in his 13 years at Michigan State, but he isn't taking success in the league for granted. Two-time defending champion Ohio State brought in another highly touted recruiting class, and Indiana was chosen a close second behind the Spartans.
Adding to the pressure: Big Ten teams will play 18 league games this year, instead of 16.
"Let's face it, two or three losses has won the Big Ten (recently)," Izzo said. "Now you've got 18 games, it'll probably take two or three losses. That means you can't be off many nights."
Michigan State guard Drew Neitzel was selected as the preseason player of the year.
Joining him on the preseason all-Big Ten team are Illinois forward Shaun Pruitt, Indiana forward D.J. White, Ohio State guard Jamar Butler and Penn State guard Geary Claxton.
Ohio State was picked to win the women's conference title and Wisconsin's Jolene Anderson was named the preseason player of the year.
Neitzel said the key to the league this year will be success on the road.
"It's a very tough conference to win on the road," Neitzel said. "A lot of teams can handle their business at home when they have the home crowd around them, but winning on the road is something so tough that not a lot of teams are able to do it on a consistent basis."
Three teams -- Ohio State, Wisconsin and Indiana -- finished 8-0 at home in Big Ten play last season. But only Ohio State and Wisconsin finished above .500 on the road.
Despite losing five standout players, including No. 1 NBA draft pick Greg Oden, the Buckeyes were picked to finish third in the conference.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta said he's waiting to see exactly what he has this year.
"You know the old story of the bus driver," Matta said. "He tells the kids on the bus, 'I've got good news-bad news. The good news is we're making great time, the bad news is I have no idea where we are."'


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