The 2012-13 men’s college basketball season tipped off this past weekend as the race to this year’s conference title in the BCS conferences and mid-majors is officially underway. One of the most powerful conferences in the country this season is expected to be the Big Ten, with four teams in Bovada’s Top 15 teams in terms of odds to win this year’s national title. The following is a look at the favorites, contenders and longshot according to the most recent odds to win this season’s Big Ten regular season title.
Big Ten Favorites
The No.1-ranked Indiana Hoosiers are clearly the cream of the crop in the Big Ten this season and second-favorites at 13/2 to win it all. They are +180 favorite to win the conference title, and for good reason. The Hoosiers return all five starters from last season’s team that finished 27-9 after falling to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Cody Zeller should once again lead the way as the team’s top scorer, and Christian Watford is poised to be a force under the boards. Indiana will also have some additional depth this season with the return of Maurice Cheek, who missed all of last season due to injury, and newcomer Kevin Ferrell. Overall, this team is the real deal and should be battling for a No.1 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
There is some mixed feelings as to which team in the next best in the conference, but we are going with the No.5-ranked Michigan Wolverines. They have been opened at 20/1 to win a national title and at +500 to win the Big Ten title. Led by all-Big Ten players Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., the Wolverines return three of their five starters from last year’s team that earned a share of the regular season conference title. Depending on how fast Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III can work their way into head coach John Beilein’s system, Michigan could be a force to reckon with once conference play begins after the first of the year.
Big Ten Contenders
Our top contender to the Big Ten throne this season is Michigan State at +300. The Spartans have also been opened at 20/1 to win a national title and are currently ranked 21st in the nation after an opening day loss to No.23 Connecticut. They will be tested right out of the gate with an early game against No.7 Kansas, but this team is built for the long haul with the excellent recruiting efforts of head coach Tom Izzo. In the early going, he will look to Keith Appling and Branden Dawson as his two best players from last season, but keep an eye on the continued development of guard Travis Trice, who is known for his ability to score from beyond the arc.
Right behind these first three schools is the Ohio State Buckeyes, who are ranked No.4 in the current AP Poll. They are the third Big Ten team at 20/1 to win a National Championship and listed at +500 to win the conference title. The biggest void to fill was the loss of Jared Sullinger, who moved onto the NBA, but the Buckeyes are counting on the three starters it does have back from last season’s Final Four squad. Starting with Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas, who both earned All-Big Ten honors last season, head coach Thad Matta will look to expand the role of Lenzelle Smith and Evan Ravennel as the season progresses. The one glaring weakness on this team is ability to score from three-point range with a shooting average of just 33.4 percent last season.
Big Ten Longshot
Our team to watch in the Big Ten this season is the Wisconsin Badgers. They are 60/1 longshots to win a national title but right in the mix at +500 to win the conference title. The No.22-ranked Badgers have earned a reputation of being one of the best defensive teams in the country under the guidance of head coach Bo Ryan. This team is never going to beat you in a shootout, but it is more than capable at grinding it out in an defensive battle that it will usually win. Back from last season’s Sweet 16 team are Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren to provide the necessary leadership on the court. Look for Josh Gasser and Ben Brust to provide the outside shooting for this team, while one of Wisconsin’s top recruits, Sam Dekker works himself into the mix. Also look for the return Mike Bruesewitz, who will miss the first few weeks of the season after sustaining a severe gash to his right leg in preseason practice.
Odds to win the Big Ten for the rest of the teams in the conference include Illinois and Minnesota at +1200, Purdue at +1500, Iowa at +2000, Northwestern and Penn State at +3000 and Nebraska at +5000.