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Preseason Projected Order of Finish: Part 1

The exhibition games have already begun and the Carrier Classic is fast approaching. It is now time to gaze into the crystal ball and see what we think will happen in the upcoming season. No one can accurately predict the future, so we decided to give reasons why our predictions might not happen. Our bottom half of the conference follows in descending order.

12. Penn State

Why they will finish 12th: The Nittany Lions lost 80% of their starting lineup to graduation. Point guard Tim Frazier returns, but only two other returning players averaged ten minutes per game last season.

Why they will finish higher: Incoming freshman Trey Lewis and Ross Travis can make an immediate impact and some of the players that didn't get on the floor last year might step up and become solid contributors.

11. Nebraska

Why they will finish 11th: The move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten might be a tough one for the Huskers. Since we don't have a good idea of how Nebraska will handle the change, we'll put them here until they prove us wrong.

Why they will finish higher: Nebraska had a mediocre 7-9 record in the Big 12 last year, but they played tough at home. Nebraska was 17-2 at home last year, which included an upset win over then third-ranked Texas. 

Why they will finish lower: Somebody has to finish last, and if they have a spate of injuries or other bad luck, it could be Nebraska.

10. Iowa

Why they will finish 10th: Fran McCafferey's system is in place, and he is starting to get some good players to come to Iowa. The problem is that his touted recruits won't come to Iowa City until 2012.

Why they will finish higher: The guards and wings will have to improve on their performance from last year if Iowa is going to move up in the standings.

Why they will finish lower: Big man Melsahn Basabe might have trouble without Jarryd Cole, who graduated last year. Iowa could easily finish in 11th if Nebraska plays to their potential.

9. Northwestern

Why they will finish 9th: Northwestern made some strides last year, but still only managed to finish 9th. It will be hard to lose team leader Juice Thompson and improve on last season's record.

Why they will finish higher: John Shurna was having a great season last year until a mid-season injury slowed him down. If he can recapture the magic he had then, the Wildcats can make a strong run towards a .500 record in the conference.

Why they will finish lower: Juice Thompson will be too hard to replace, and Shurna will have a lot of trouble without Thompson to help shoulder the offensive load.

8. Minnesota

Why they will finish 8th: Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III will make a soild frontcourt, but poor guard play can negate their inside advantage. The homecourt advantage that The Barn provides should be enough to keep them out of the basement.

Why they will finish higher: If either JC transfer Julian Welch or freshman Andre Hollins (Tennessee's Mr. Basketball) prove to be an above average point guard, Minnesota could be dangerous. Minnesota beat some quality teams last year before Al Nolen was injured.

Why they will finish lower: If the guard play does not improve from the second half of last season, Minnesota can lose a lot of games. An injury to Mbakwe would also be hard to overcome.

7. Indiana

Why they will finish 7th: McDonald's All-American Cody Zeller was a spectacular high school player. His size and talent give Tom Crean weapons that he hasn't yet had at Indiana. IU brings almost everyone back, and their experience should help them in close games.

Why they will finish higher: If Zeller is even better than advertised, and returning players such as Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey have improved a lot over the summer, IU could end up in the top half of the conference.

Why they will finish lower: Adjusting to the college game might take some time for Zeller, and the returning players will have to make a big leap to move from three conference wins last year to a near .500 record. IU should take a leap forward this season, but it might not be that big of a leap.