Commentary

Big hopes for the Big Ten

Updated: October 26, 2009, 5:22 PM ET
By Dick Vitale

When I look at the Big Ten this season, I see a conference which is loaded. Do you think commissioner Jim Delany will be jumping with joy? Some fans feel the Big Ten can make a case as the best league in America. Let me tell you, they may have an argument.

Let's start at the top of the conference. There aren't going to be many leagues that will put teams on the floor that are better than Michigan State and Purdue. These two teams are flat-out loaded and have great coaching and motivation. The Boilermakers see this year's Final Four is in Indianapolis, a stone's throw from West Lafayette. That was the kind of motivation that helped the Spartans go to the title game in Ford Field. North Carolina ended the dream for Tom Izzo's club, but this year's team is a legit contender in its own right.

When you see Michigan State's roster, it features All-Solid Gold guard Kalin Lucas, a speedster with great basketball IQ, Raymar Morgan and a rising name to watch in Delvin Roe. This will be a dynamic team with lots of winning experience. They are hungry after last year's postseason run.

This could be one of the best Purdue teams in school history. 6-10 JaJuan Johnson could be one of the premier big players in America. When talking about the perimeter, there is Keaton Grant and E'Twaun Moore. Chris Kramer is an outstanding defender and these kids know how to win after capturing 27 games a season ago. Remember, their star of stars, Robbie Hummel, was hampered by back trouble last season. Now he is pain free and healthy as can be, spelling trouble for the competition.

Lewis Jackson is a solid guard with penetration ability, though he will miss the start of the season due to a suspension. You can see why Matt Painter feels he has a great unit ready to challenge in the conference. The fans should be ecstatic as both the Spartans and Boilermakers are in my preseason Top 5.

Don't forget about Michigan as John Beilein has the Maize and Blue fans talking enthusiastically. The return of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims gives the Wolverines a dynamic duo. Last season Michigan made the big dance for the first time since 1998. The expectation level continues to grow in Ann Arbor.

There is optimism at Illinois. Bruce Weber has a super recruiting class coming in and a lot of returning talent. Thad Matta always gets the most out of his talent and Evan Turner is the top forward in the conference. Penn State has guard Talor Battle returning and more confidence after a great run in the NIT. Tubby Smith has done a nice job at Minnesota and the Golden Gophers will make some noise after a 22-win season and NCAA berth.

Wisconsin will always play terrific defense and compete in games because of coach Bo Ryan. He has an experienced backcourt returning, which means pressure on the ball and Badgers fan rejoicing with another good season.

Keep an eye on Indiana as Tom Crean's team will be vastly improved. Jeremiah Rivers is eligible and ready to contribute for the Hoosiers.

This is going to be one special edition in the Big Ten. It is a very deep and talented league, one which will be among the elite conferences in America.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.