Sunday should be an exciting one for Big Ten fans as they will get a first look at three different teams in action as they host scrimmages. Illinois will host a scrimmage at 2PM, Minnesota will host a scrimmage at 4PM, and Wisconsin will host a scrimmage at 1PM. All times are local.
Can Illinois get back to the NCAA Tournament under John Groce? Can Minnesota use an exciting backcourt to take the next step following an NIT title? Can Wisconsin live up to the hype? As the Illinois Fighting Illini, Minnesota Golden Gophers, and Wisconsin Badgers take the court, here are some things to watch.
1. Who Plays The Point?
This looked like a strength coming into the season, but with Tracy Abrams going down, there is now a huge question about who will man the point guard position. Ahmad Starks appears to be the person who will likely factor in here now, but it's going to be a position with some question marks until we see some production. He is a newcoming transfer, but was relatively productive at Oregon State. Illinois will need him to be productive if they are going to take the next step forward this season.
2. Who Can Shoot?
One of the biggest concerns for Illinois last season was shooting and frankly, offensive production in general. Can Illinois address those concerns this season? One important player here could be Kendrick Nunn who was one of the more efficient shooters for Illinois' team last season. Can we continue to build off those numbers in his sophomore season? Watching the impact of some of the newcomers will be important here as well. Can anybody be productive at shooting the ball?
3. How Does The Frontcourt Rotation Look?
As of now, it looks like Nnanna Egwu and Malcolm Hill will be the starters for this season upfront, but keeping an eye on the rotation will be important as well. Defensively, this should be a good unit, but it will be interesting to see if others can rotate in here and get minutes. The key piece to watch could be newcomer Leron Black, who is widely regarded as Illinois' best incoming recruit and a major difference maker.
1. Who Will Play On The Wing?
With the loss of Austin Hollins, the Golden Gophers will be looking to rotate in some new pieces here. Some of the key pieces here will be newcomer Carlos Morris and Joey King. Both could easily start this season on the wing and both have some solid potential going forward. If Minnesota can find some competent options here, they could shape up to be a pretty good team.
2. The Newcomers
Obviously, anytime a team takes the court for the first time, the newcomers will be a thing to watch. This season, the Gophers will be bringing in 4 new recruits and 1 transfer. The recruits are Gaston Diedhiou, Bakary Konate, Josh Martin, and Nate Mason. The notable thing here is that Diedhiou and Konate are both international recruits and are pretty big unknowns this season. Can they be productive? If either of these players can make an impact in year one, a lot of things could change for Minnesota.
3. Can McNeil Take The Step Forward?
One player that had a bit of a quiet first season last year was Daquein McNeil. Although his minutes and contributions were relatively limited, McNeil still has some potential and could really help some of those wing concerns. Has he taken a step forward and if so, where can he fit in this season? McNeil did see some solid minutes late in Big Ten play and will look to build off that this season.
1. How Does Nigel Hayes Look?
One of the best freshmen in the conference last season was Nigel Hayes and for good reason. Hayes was a destructive force off the bench and is widely predicted to slide into a starting role for the Badgers this season. There are other players that could make some noise, but Hayes is a player with a very high ceiling that could really turn into a special one for Wisconsin. Did he take steps forward in the offseason? This could be important in whether Wisconsinc an live up to the hype this year.
2. Can Anyone Replace Brust?
The main contenders to jump into the starting lineup to replace Ben Crust are Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, but who will replace Brust's contributions and particularly, his perimeter shot? The Badgers have plenty of weapons on an extremely talented roster, but losing a key starter is always a question mark. Perhaps Hayes and Koenig can replace some of these lost contributions. Despite the team's strong frontcourt, Wisconsin will also need to shoot the ball to really be a dynamic offense, so this could be something to watch.
Look, Wisconsin is going to be a loaded team this season. There should be a capable starter at every position, but the one area where there could be at least some concerns is on the depth chart. Who can rise up and fill some of those valuable bench minutes? Koenig obviously looks like a factor, but the team will need other backups as well. Perhaps newcomer Ethan Happ can make an impact this season.
[Edit: An earlier version of the article mistakenly cited Josh Gasser instead of Ben Brust.]