The Big Ten once again will be the best conference in the country this season. Yes, I know the ACC added two elite programs in Syracuse and Pittsburgh. But the Big Ten, from top to bottom, is different.
The conference is special not just because of the talent level, but because of the ownership and atmosphere. Games are not games; they are events, and they have not been lost because of realignment.
This season the Big Ten has multiple teams with the potential to make it to the Final Four, and as many as eight that could play in the NCAA tournament. Here's how I have them ranked right now.
Tom Izzo's Spartans return the dynamic backcourt of Keith Appling and Gary Harris, as well as one of the most versatile frontcourt players in the country in 6-foot-10 Adreian Payne. This is a foundation for another run at a Big Ten title and a return to the Final Four. Izzo will have one of his better offensive teams in recent memory. He has a deep, talented backcourt with Appling, Harris and Travis Trice. Appling, a senior, will be expected to bring leadership, poise and purpose to the Spartans.