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2016-17 Indiana basketball opponent preview: Big Ten sleepers edition

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Ohio State is somehow ranked 13th on KenPom, and can Northwestern finally reach the promised land?

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Michigan vs Northwestern Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

As we get closer to the start of basketball season, we’ll continue to preview Indiana’s opponents. This week, we’ll go through Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa, and Northwestern - four teams that likely won’t win the Big Ten title, but still could make some noise as the season goes on.

OHIO STATE

Indiana at Ohio State, March 4, Noon, ESPN2

Key Newcomers: Derek Funderburk (what a name)

Key Departures: No one, basically

Last season, Ohio State was very, very young and, as a result, missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008.However, aside from a handful of transfers by four freshman (more like Creaning, am I right?), the Buckeyes return everyone from last year’s team and add a recruiting class led by four-star big man Derek Funderburk.

Highly-rated recruit Jaquan Lyle had an up-and-down season for Thad Matta last season, finishing with an 11.7 point per game average while grabbing 4.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists. The Buckeyes also bring back senior Marc Loving, who is admirably filling in Aaron Craft’s role as the Buckeye who feels like he’s been on the team for 10 years. Jae’Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop not only have crazy names, but also were second and third on the team in scoring last year. Sixth man Kam Williams brings some much-needed outside shooting to a Buckeyes team that shot just 33.4% from the arc last season.

The Buckeyes lost all of their freshman sans Lyle from last season to transfers, but no player averaged more than 4.4 points and none leave irreplaceable holes. With their top six players back and Thad Matta still one of the top coaches in the conference, the Buckeyes should return to the NCAA Tournament this season.

KenPom agrees, as they rate the Buckeyes 13th overall, ahead of every team in the conference aside from Wisconsin.

- Jacob Rude

MICHIGAN

Indiana at Michigan, January 26, 9pm, ESPN2

Michigan at Indiana, February 12, 1pm, CBS

Key Newcomers: Xavier Simpson

Key Departures: Caris LeVert, Spike Albrecht

After traveling….err, beating the Hoosiers in the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan gave Notre Dame a scare in the NCAA Tournament before bowing out. The Wolverines lost a host of talent, albeit it inconsistent talent at times. Caris LeVert is the big name. LeVert was one of the top players in the conference when healthy, but that rarely happened.

Spike Albrecht missed the majority of last season before transferring to Purdue while Stoke City center back Ricky Doyle graduated. Aubrey Dawkins and Kameron Chatman (who definitely traveled) leave holes on the wings that will need to be filled. However, the Wolverines do bring back Zak Irvin, who averaged 11.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists last season and steps into the senior leader role this season.

Derrick Walton Jr., Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (again, what a name) all should likely start for the Wolverines while Mark Donnal will attempt to fill in the role in the back line for Stoke City this season. Prized recruit Xavier Simpson is the likely point guard waiting in the wings for John Beilein and could break into the starting line-up but with Walton back, there’s no rush on moving him into the line-up.

The Wolverines have some questions to be answered after losing so much from last season, but their players got experience during those injuries that hampered them and that could prove to be a big help this season.

No word, however, on if they’ll be able to handle another 25-0 run by the Hoosiers with Jim Harbaugh in attendance.

- Jacob Rude

IOWA

Indiana at Iowa, February 18, 9pm, ESPN

Key Newcomers: Tyler Cook, Jordan Bohannon

Key Departures: Jarrod Uthoff, Mike Gesell, Anthony Clemmons, Adam Woodbury

On February 18, Indiana returns to the site where they clinched an outright Big Ten title last season. When they get there, they’ll face a much different Iowa team than the one they beat twice last year. Jarrod Uthoff, the all-B1G first team forward, has now graduated, and fellow former starters Mike Gesell, Anthony Clemmons, and Adam Woodbury are no longer in Iowa City either.

The only returning starter on this rebuilding team is swingman Peter Jok, who had an excellent end to the season, even as his team only won three of its final 10 games. Fran McCaffreY will also have to rely more on Dom Uhl and Nicholas Baer, who both logged significant bench minutes last year. As for the newcomers, Tyler Cook could fill the Uthoff role, as the 8th-ranked power forward in his class. In addition, new point guard recruit Jordan Bohannon is a Hawkeye State native and definitely has fan favorite potential written all over him.

This will be a young Iowa team, and its success this season will depend on the development of its freshmen, and if Jok becomes one of the stars of the conference in the same way that Uthoff did. If not, we could be seeing a lot of FRANCON 1.

- Ben Raphel

NORTHWESTERN

Indiana at Northwestern, January 29, 6:30pm, BTN

Northwestern at Indiana, February 25/26, TBA

Key Newcomer: Barret Benson

Key Departures: Tre Demps, Alex Olah

Northwestern basketball has, for most of its existence, been an answer to an unfortunate trivia question.

The Wildcats still are the only team in the six major conferences to never make an NCAA Tournament.

Under head coach Chris Collins, the Wildcats seem poised to finally make it there - eventually. If they want to get there this year, they’ll need point guard Bryant McIntosh to make the leap. The Greensburg native has been starting for the Wildcats since his freshman year and already is logging serious minutes for Northwestern. His stat lines, however, have been inconsistent. Northwestern will also have to make up for the losses of Tre Demps and Alex Olah. Freshman Barret Benson will fill the role that Olah played at center, and Vic Law also returns for the Wildcats.

Indiana ran this Northwestern team out of the gym last season in Bloomington, winning 89-57 in their only meeting. But the Wildcats have always given Tom Crean a fight (he has a losing record against them as IU head coach), and Northwestern will have two chances against the Hoosiers this season. A win in at least one of these games could help Northwestern go a long way towards no longer being a piece of trivia.

- Ben Raphel

Next week: Wisconsin, Michigan State, Maryland, Purdue