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Big Ten poised to rebound in '04-05


It has already been a busy offseason in the Big Ten.

Kris Humphries
Minnesota freshman Kris Humphries has declared for the NBA draft. Is he a slam dunk as a first-rounder?
Freshman Kris Humphries has declared for the NBA draft, saying goodbye to Minnesota after just one season.

He led the Big Ten in rebounding and scoring as a diaper dandy -- quite an achievement. Humphries was the No. 1 guy with the Golden Gophers, which may be why he didn't go to Duke.

While it was one-and-done for Humphries, Minnesota coach Dan Monson is already trying to rebuild following a disappointing season. He has signed a few quality juco players. Humphries has to go out and learn how to win.

I have a crazy feeling that Minnesota might be a better team next season without Humphries, just as Georgia Tech was better this season -- reaching the national championship game -- after standout freshman Chris Bosh took his talent to the NBA in the 2003 draft.

Something tells me Minnesota will benefit from a similar scenario.

With Humphries this season, the other Golden Gophers often stood around and took pictures and watched him do his thing, making them easier to defend.

Take it to the bank, Michigan State will be big-time next season. Remember the name Drew Neitzel, a 6-foot guard from Grand Rapids, Mich. He's just what the doctor ordered for coach Tom Izzo. Neitzel will be a big-time plus at the point-guard slot, where the Spartans struggled this past season.

Howard Garfinkel of Five-Star Camp fame, who has been on target evaluating talent in the past, told me Neitzel will be one of the most influential diaper dandies next season.

With Kelvin Torbert, Chris Hill, Alan Anderson and Paul Davis expected back, it should be a big year for the Spartans. I see Michigan State as a legitimate top-10 team.

At Purdue, coach Gene Keady decided to stay and finish his tenure with one more season at the helm for the Boilermakers. Then Matt Painter will take over after leaving Southern Illinois recently to become Purdue's associate head coach for next season.

Keady showed his loyalty to Purdue by finishing there next season. He could have easily taken a multi-year deal at San Francisco, the city where Tony Bennett sang about his heart!

Keady decided to stay at a school that has been good to him for almost a quarter of a century, He wanted to make sure he had a role in the selection of his replacement at Purdue, and that happened with the hiring of Painter.

The beat will go on for the Boilermakers.

The Big Ten will be improved immeasurably -- as will Wisconsin -- with the Badgers' additions of Brian Butch (who redshirted last season), transfer Sharif Chambliss from Penn State and 6-11 recruit Greg Stiemsma. Plus, Alando Tucker will be back from his foot injury.

We'll have to see what happens with Devin Harris, who will test the NBA draft waters but could pull out and return to college.

  • Illinois will be loaded with the return of Dee Brown and Deron Williams in the backcourt, plus James Augustine and Roger Powell up front. The Illini also netted 6-9 Shaun Pruitt in recruiting. Coach Bruce Weber's team will make big noise.

  • Michigan will gain momentum after the school's NIT championship. Guard Daniel Horton should lead a talented returning nucleus.

  • Iowa should make strides next season after losing so many close games this past season.

  • Indiana has to be better even though part of its recruiting class (Josh Smith, for one) won't make it to Bloomington, jumping to the NBA early instead.

    Yes, the Big Ten will be heating up again. Things go in cycles, and this past season was a bit down for the Big Ten. But commissioner Jim Delany and Co. will be smiling more during the 2004-05 season.

    Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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