College Preview

2013 Big Ten Conference Preview




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BIG TEN CONFERENCE
HOW THEY'LL FINISH
  Conference Overall
Team W L W L
Indiana 16 8 32 28
Nebraska 14 10 35 23
Michigan State 13 11 37 23
Minnesota 11 13 23 27
Ohio State 11 13 33 27
Michigan 8 16 22 34
Illinois 11 13 29 27
*Purdue 17 7 45 14
Iowa 10 14 23 27
Penn State 15 9 29 27
Northwestern 6 18 18 36
*2012 champion
Teams are listed by predicted order of finish with 2012 records listed.
2012 NCAA tournament teams in bold
Projected NCAA Teams (1): Indiana.
Conference Schedule: 24 games, begins March 22.
Conference Tournament: Six teams, May 22-25 at Minneapolis (Target Field).
Player of the Year: Michael O'Neill, of, Michigan.
Pitcher of the Year: Tom Windle, lhp, Minnesota.
TOP PROSPECTS, 2013-14 DRAFTS
1. Tom Windle, lhp, Minnesota
2. Michael O'Neill, of, Michigan
3. David Garner, rhp, Michigan State
4. Josh Dezse, rhp, Ohio State
5. Kyle Schwarber, c/of, Indiana (2014)
6. D.J. Snelten, lhp, Minnesota
7. Sam Travis, of, Indiana (2014)
8. Austin Darby, of, Nebraska (2014)
9. Mick Van Vossen, rhp, Michigan State (2014)
10. Brad Schreiber, rhp, Purdue
TOP NEWCOMERS
1. Evan Hill, lhp, Michigan (HS—Mount Pleasant, Mich.)
2. Justin Alleman, rhp, Michigan State (HS—Holt, Mich.)
3. Will Coursen-Carr, lhp, Indiana (HS—Fort Wayne, Ind.)
4. Jason Goldstein, c, Illinois (HS—Highland Park, Ill.)
5. Tanner Lubach, c, Nebraska (Tr.—Hutchinson, Kan., CC)

QUICK HITS

Indiana has the talent to make the third NCAA tournament appearance in school history (and first since 2009). The Hoosiers are led by the Big Ten's two best 2014 draft prospects, So. C/OF Kyle Schwarber (.300/.390/.513, 8 HR) and So. OF Sam Travis (.319/.397/.509, 9 HR), the latter of whom was the league's 2012 freshman of the year. Both starred in the Cape Cod League last summer, where Schwarber's Wareham team beat Travis' Yarmouth-Dennis club for the league title. Indiana's No. 1 starter, polished Jr. LHP Joey DeNato (7-3, 3.22, 92 IP/76 SO), also performed well on the Cape. Projectable Fr. LHP Will Coursen-Carr, whose fastball already reaches the low 90s, should be one of the league's top freshmen.

Nebraska returns seven of nine position-player starters and its three best starting pitchers from a club that won 35 games and finished in fourth place in its first season in the Big Ten. Sr. OF Chad Christensen (.311/.373/.500, 10 HR), Jr. DH Michael Pritchard (.387/.447/.434) and Sr. OF Rich Sanguinetti (.323/.371/.419) were all-Big Ten first-teamers a year ago, with Pritchard winning the league batting title. The Cornhuskers' best prospect is So. OF Austin Darby (.324/.389/.432), a polished hitter with solid power potential and plus speed. Their top pitcher also won't be draft-eligible until 2014. So. LHP Kyle Kubat (5-1, 2.63, 51 IP/31 SO) stands out with his command and secondary pitches more than his 87-90 mph fastball.

• The Big Ten's top two prospects also have very talented sidekicks. Minnesota Jr. LHP Tom Windle (3-5, 3.27, 41 IP/37 SO) is a 6-foot-4, 202-pounder with the makings of three solid-or-better pitches in his 88-94 mph fastball, slider and changeup. The No. 2 starter in the Golden Gophers rotation is Jr. LHP D.J. Snelten (4-4, 3.24, 86 IP/55 SO), who's even taller at 6-foot-7 and runs his fastball from 91-95. Michigan Jr. OF Michael O'Neill (.327/.381/.525, 19 SB), whose uncle Paul was a five-time all-star with the Reds and Yankees, was the fastest player in the Cape Cod League last summer (6.36 seconds in the 60-yard dash). He also has bat speed, power potential and center-field skills. O'Neill plays right field for the Wolverines in deference to Sr. OF Patrick Biondi (.303/.408/.407), a smaller speedster who led the Big Ten with 32 steals last spring and the Cape with a .388 batting average last summer.

• The lone coaching change in the Big Ten this spring comes at Michigan, where former Maryland head coach and top Vanderbilt assistant Eric Bakich takes over for Rich Maloney. Maloney went 341-224 in 10 seasons with the Wolverines, including three regular-season championships and two tournament titles, but his contract wasn't renewed after losing seasons the last two years. In 2012, his third season with the Terrapins, Bakich won 32 games—the second-highest total in school history. Speaking of Maryland, it and Rutgers will join the Big Ten for the 2014-15 academic season.