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Posted: Wednesday November 03, 1999 01:48 PM

Points taken

Star guards pace Spartans, Buckeyes, rest of Big Ten

By Mark Ambrogi, Special to CNN/SI

Scoonie Penn The transfer's arrival last season helped spark Ohio State's run to the Final Four.Allsport
Order of Finish
1. Ohio State
2. Michigan State
3. Purdue
4. Illinois
5. Indiana
6. Wisconsin
7. Michigan
8. Iowa
9. Penn State
10. Northwestern
11. Minnesota

Top storylines
Several teams open with a cloud over their programs. Purdue is awaiting an appeal of harsher-than-expected recruiting penalties, which forced assistant Frank Kendrick to be reassigned, while Minnesota is waiting to see how the NCAA views its self-imposed penalties from the academic fraud scandal. Michigan waits to see if the NCAA will investigate alleged payments to players by a booster. On the court, Michigan State is the clear favorite but must see how it can function without Mateen Cleaves, who is expected to miss the non-conference season with a stress fracture in his foot.

How they will spend Selection Sunday
Relaxing Sweating Fishing
Ohio State
Michigan State
Purdue
Illinois
Indiana
Wisconsin
Michigan
Iowa
Penn State
Minnesota
Northwestern

Players to Watch
Top Three Frontcourt Players
Brian Cardinal, Purdue
• Best known for diving on the floor for loose balls or mixing it up in the lane but can also shoot the "3."
Morris Peterson, Michigan State
• Became the first non-starter in Big Ten history to earn first-team, all-conference honors.
Joel Przybilla, Minnesota
• The 7-1 Przybila sophomore made his presence felt as a frosh by blocking 84 shots.
Top Three Backcourt Players
Scoonie Penn, Ohio State
• The 5-10 point guard is one of the leaguer's top shooters and has the knack for hitting clutch shot.
Michael Redd, Ohio State
• Explosive scorer -- when his outside shot is on, he is nearly unstoppable. .
Mateen Cleaves, Michigan State
• Two-time Big Ten Player of the Year expected to miss the entire nonconference season with a stress fracture in his right foot.
Top Three Newcomers
Marcus Griffith, Illinois
• The former McDonald's All-American center was named Junior College Division II Player of the Year. .
LaVell Blanchard, Michigan
• Fans are expecting big things from the smooth, hometown 6-7 swingman.
Frank Williams, Illinois
• Partial academic qualifier expected to step right in as the starting point guard.

Coaches
Hot Coach
Jim O'Brien, Ohio State
• Turned a foundering Ohio State program (8-22 his first year) into a Final Four team in his second season.
Coach on the Hot Seat
Jerry Dunn, Penn State, and Bobby Knight, Indiana
• Dunn might be done if he can't get Lions into the postseason. Knight is under some fire as well -- and it's not coming from his own hunting rifle.

Schedules
Toughest Schedule
Michigan State
• The Spartans have games with North Carolina (away), Kansas (home) and Arizona (away) before Big Ten begins and host Connecticut Feb. 5.
Quickest-Way-to-20-Wins Schedule
Ohio State
• Buckeyes play in Preseason NIT and at Kansas, but also have Vermont, Florida A&M, Coastal Carolina, Oakland, Eastern Kentucky and American.

Mark Your Calendar
Nov. 30, Illinois vs. Duke
• Perhaps the best ACC-Big Ten Challenge duel.
Dec. 16, Ohio State at Kansas
• Easily the Buckeyes' toughest nonconference game.
Dec. 21, Indiana vs. North Carolina
• Firsr meeting between the two schools since Nov. 25, 1988.
Dec. 30, Purdue at UCLA
• Steve Lavin, a former Purdue assistant, coaches the Bruins.
Jan. 20, Michigan State at Ohio State
• The first of two meetings. Will Cleaves be back in form?

Mark Ambrogi covers the Big Ten for The Indianapolis Star. Look for his CNN/SI conference insiders during the season.

 
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