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Linking Laconically can't help being a contrarian

[Warning: I'm apparently unable to write anything remotely positive about football links any more.  Skip down for (relatively) happier basketball links.]

Bonus nonlaconical basketball prediction related to that last link: One of Mr. Gasaway's All-American picks is Evan Turner.  Implicit in that selection is that Turner will outperform Kalin Lucas, who is both the defending and preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, this season.  Given that (1) I just recently took some issue with Gasawayian comments regarding Lucas and (2) I was picking Kalin Lucas to be Big Ten Player of the Year way before it was cool to pick Kalin Lucas to be Big Ten Player of the Year, it may come as some surprise that I agree with the Turner pick.

Last season, Lucas and Turner basically finished in a dead heat for the conference player-of-the-year honor.  Lucas likely got the edge with most voters due to MSU's team success.  This year, I see several reasons that Turner may move a notch higher than Lucas on the prodcutivity scale:

  • David Lighty will be back to ease Turner's defensive responsbilities.
  • Turner's been practicing at point guard over the offseason, which may help cut down on his turnovers (and boost his assists).
  • Turner shot 44.0% on 3-pointers last season but only took 25 shots from beyond the arc.  If he can maintain a percentage near/above 40% and take a few more 3-pointers, that would boost his scoring numbers significantly.

Lucas, meanwhile, could see a reduction in his scoring numbers:

  • With Travis Walton gone, he'll need to expend more energy on the defensive end of the court.
  • Walton's departure also means there will be more scoring options on the floor with Lucas, as Chris Allen, Durrell Summers, and Korie Lucious (and hopefully Delvon Roe and Raymar Morgan) see increased playing time.  That should result in less need for Lucas to manufacture scoring opportunities late in the shot clock.  (Upside could be more assists, particularly in conference play.)

Plus it's no fun if you just go along with the official party line, right?  On that note, I'd make one change to the official preseason All-Big Ten team.  Lucas, Turner, Manny Harris, and Robbie Hummel are locks.  But I'd go with JaJuan Johnson over Talor Battle (still all juniors!).

Battle certainly had some spectacular moments last season--the most spectacular occurring in East Lansing--but his conference shooting numbers were pretty mediocre (.444/.300/.688) and he may have an even harder time getting off good shots this year following the graduations of Jamelle Cornley and Stanley Pringle.

Johnson, meanwhile, was pretty clearly the most effective big man in the league last season, averaging 13.4 points (on 53.8% FG shooting), 5.6 points, and 2.1 rebounds per game in conference play.  With a healthy Robbie Hummel around to prevent defenses from collapsing on Johnson, he could be even more productive this season.

Battle gets a slot on my second team, with Demetri McCamey, Raymar Morgan, Kevin Coble, and DeShawn Sims.

More previewy stuff tomorrow.