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2012 Big Ten Conference Preview




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*2011 automatic qualifier. 2011 NCAA regional participants in bold (2011 records listed; 2012 national rankings in parentheses)
BIG TEN CONFERENCE
HOW THEY'LL FINISH

Conf. Overall

W L W L
Purdue 14 10 37 20
Michigan State 15 9 36 21
Minnesota 13 11 25 24
Nebraska (Big 12)
30 25
*Illinois 15 9 30 27
Michigan 7 16 17 37
Penn State 12 12 32 22
Ohio State 13 11 26 27
Indiana 11 13 30 25
Northwestern 10 13 20 29
Iowa 9 15 20 32
Projected NCAA Teams (1): Purdue.
Conference Schedule: 24 games, begins March 23.
Conference Tournament: Six teams, May 23-26 at Columbus, Ohio (Huntington Park).
Player of the Year: Kevin Plawecki, c, Purdue.
Pitcher of the Year: Tony Buccifero, rhp, Michigan State.
 
TOP PROSPECTS, 2012-13 DRAFTS
1. Josh Dezse, rhp/1b, Ohio State (2013)
2. Kevin Plawecki, c, Purdue
3. Tom Windle, lhp, Minnesota (2013)
4. Cameron Perkins, 3b, Purdue
5. Micah Johnson, 2b, Indiana
6. David Garner, rhp, Michigan State (2013)
7. T.J. Oakes, rhp, Minnesota
8. Nick Wittgren, rhp, Purdue
9. Ryan Jones, 2b, Michigan State
10. Torsten Boss, of, Michigan State
 
TOP NEWCOMERS
1. Brian King, lhp, Ohio State (Tr.—Paradise Valley, Ariz., CC)
2. Matt Ogden, rhp, Michigan (HS—Aurora, Colo.)
3. Sam Travis, 3b, Indiana (HS—New Lenox, Ill.)
4. Brandon Magallones, rhp, Northwestern (HS—New Lenox, Ill.)
5. Rich Saguinetti, of, Nebraska (Texarkana, Texas, JC)
 
QUICK HITS

Kevin Plawecki
• Purdue never has won the Big Ten tournament, which started in 1981, and hasn't won the league championship since 1909. The Boilermakers have the talent to end those droughts, starting with the two best position players in the Big Ten in Jr. C Kevin Plawecki (.341/.429/.436, 14 2B) and Jr. 3B Cameron Perkins (.349/.419/.552, 15 2B, 13 SB). Plawecki, a standout defender who was a Cape Cod League all-star, and Perkins are part of a lineup that could feature nine juniors or seniors. The pitching staff is experienced as well, led by Sr. RHP Joe Haase (6-4, 3.39, 82 IP/55 SO) and hard-throwing Jr. RHP Nick Wittgren (2-3, 3.18, 51 IP/55 SO, 12 SV). Purdue would be even stronger if Jr. RHP Brad Schreiber (4-0, 3.80, 47 IP/50 SO) weren't going to miss the entire season following Tommy John surgery.

• Michigan State shared the Big Ten regular-season championship with Illinois in 2011, the first league title for the Spartans since 1979. They'll contend again, led by Jr. OF Torsten Boss (.370/.436/.589, 17 2B), who moves from third base to center; Sr. RHP Tony Bucciferro (8-3, 3.38, 101 IP/66 SO) and Jr. 2B Ryan Jones (.344/.442/.450, 18 2B, 12 SB). Michigan State must replace three all-Big Ten performers—OF Brandon Eckerle, 1B Jeff Holm and RHP Kurt Wunderlich signed after their senior seasons—but has a talented freshman class that could produce instant starters in 3B Kevin Goergen, 1B Ryan Krill, OF Jimmy Pickens and RHP Mick Van Vossen.

• Pro teams will have to wait until 2013 to get their hands on the Big Ten's best prospect. Ohio State So. RHP/1B Josh Dezse was the league's 2011 freshman of the year. Though his numbers were gaudier as a hitter (.332/.427/.472, 11 2B) than as a pitcher (4-2, 5.53, 28 IP/32 SO, 6 SV), he's more of a prospect on the mound. He packs impressive righthanded power potential in his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame, but his fastball reaches the upper 90s and is more intriguing.

• Former Nebraska star and No. 1 overall draft pick Darin Erstad takes over as head coach for the Cornhuskers, who move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten. He spent 2011 as a volunteer assistant under former Nebraska coach Mike Anderson, who went 337-196 in nine seasons. Anderson's teams won two Big 12 regular-season titles and made five regionals (including the program's lone College World Series victory in 2005), but failed to qualify for the Big 12 tournament in each of the last three seasons. The Cornhuskers should contend in the Big Ten, especially with Jr. RHP Tom Lemke (2-0, 5.29, 34 IP/27 SO) back at full strength after battling a blood clot in his throwing shoulder last year.