Recently, FTB thought it would be fun to preview the season by connecting with our fellow Big Ten bloggers to get their thoughts on various topics, both Big Ten-related and not.  This is the third in a series of five preview discussions that include input from 10 of the 11 Big Ten teams.  Northwestern was unavailable for comment – presumably because they were too busy reserving tickets for the Rose Bowl.

Question: Who are you expecting to finish atop the Big Ten at the end of the regular season?

I think Michigan State is the most talented team and with Hummel out and the Spartans have to be the favorite (provided Kalin Lucas is his old self again). I like Illinois as a darkhorse, but I still sense a meltdown could come at any time due to lack of leadership.

— Phil Mitten, Bucky’s 5th Quarter (Wisconsin)

I don’t think they’ll go undefeated in Big Ten play, but it’s really hard to see Purdue not winning the Big Ten. Wisconsin will be plugging some holes, Michigan State will be tough, but they usually slip up at somepoint. Purdue is the most complete team off the bat, so I think you have to give them a nod. They have one of the few defenses in the league that makes you throw up your hands.  Then again, I’m a Penn State fan.

— Ben Jones, Victory Bell Rings (Penn State)

I think Purdue, even without Hummel, will end up being the class of the league due to having Moore and Johnson as the most potent 1-2 punch in the league. Michigan State and Ohio State will be right behind the Boilermakers and all three schools have a chance to win the conference as long as they stay injury free.

— Chad Nims, Planned Sick Days (Iowa)

Before Hummel got hurt I thought it was Purdue’s title to lose. They smoked Michigan State in East Lansing last year when fully healthy and Ohio State’s youth couldn’t compete with Purdue’s experience. Now I think Purdue will be up there, but Michigan State has the edge on them.

— T-Mill, Hammer & Rails (Purdue)

Like everyone else this year, I predict it to be some combination of Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue.  Even though Ohio State lost Evan Turner, Jared Sullinger should be able to reasonably approximate his success, and a Hummel-less Purdue team is still dangerous.  However, at risk of sounding like a homer, I think it’s going to be Michigan State by one game.  I think Purdue’s lack of depth will cost it at least one game it should win when JaJuan Johnson gets in foul trouble, and Ohio State’s lack of a true experienced point guard will cause it troubles.

— Pete Rossman, The Only Colors (Michigan State)

Michigan State has the clear advantage — Kalin Lucas is back and Izzo just always seems to get things together by the end of February. Purdue was next on my list but without Hummel they have to drop, and for me I think the Illini and Ohio State, at least standings-wise will be very competitive for second. To be honest any one of those four teams could win it this year, as good as the conference is, I don’t see anyone really running away with it.

— Joe Kutsunis, Hail to the Orange (Illinois)

Pre-Hummel injury I would have said Purdue but now I’ll take Michigan State.

— Dylan Burkhardt, UM Hoops (Michigan)

Let’s go with the Buckeyes on this one, why not?  The Big Ten has talented teams top to bottom, and no game will be an easy win.  With our increased bench depth and returning experience, we could certainly post the best record in the conference.

— Jay, The Buckeye Battle Cry (Ohio State)

Now that Robbie Hummel is out for the year, I think Michigan State is the obvious favorite.  Ohio State should be very good, and I wouldn’t count out Purdue in the regular season.

— John M., Crimson Quarry (Indiana)

From the Barn’s take:

Purdue would have been the popular pick before the Hummel injury, and even though they still have Moore and Johnson running the show, it’s hard to pick against the Spartans as a pre-season favorite.  As we saw last season, Purdue, while still a very scary squad, isn’t close to the team they are with Hummel.  Throw in the loss of their defensive leader Chris Kramer and the Boilers miss a huge chunk of what got them so far last season.

The Spartans lose Raymar Morgan, which definitely hurts, but return Lucas and Durrell Summers and promote Draymond Green to the starting lineup.  The Spartans bring back almost all of a squad that made a run to the Final Four and should be considered the team to beat in the Big Ten this season.