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Spartans favored in Big Ten

The Associated Press

ROSEMONT, Ill. — The ruptured Achilles tendon sustained by Michigan State guard Kalin Lucas last spring may prove to be a blessing in disguise.

Watching from the bench as his Michigan State basketball team reached the NCAA Final Four and seven months of rehabilitation that followed have helped Lucas become more patient while broadening his game.

“I think he was humbled by the injury and how hard he had to work for five months of not even touching a basketball,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo at Thursday’s Big Ten basketball media day in suburban Chicago. “I think Kalin is ready for a great year — if he can get all those things back.”

Lucas, who averaged 14.8 points per game last season and was Big Ten player of the year, also earned this year’s league top preseason honors. The Spartans, meanwhile, were tabbed as the men’s conference favorite by a panel of conference media.

Lucas was cleared to play in September and doctors said he recovery is proceeding quickly.

“It was a good thing for me to lead my team from the bench,” said Lucas, a 6-foot, 1-inch senior. “When you’re on the bench you see things a lot differently.

“I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent, but I feel good,” he said. “My shot’s a lot better. I’ve been doing 500 shots a day and my mid-range is a lot better. I also watched a lot film.”

The Spartans return three starters and nine letter winners from a team that went 28-9, shared the 2009-10 Big Ten regular season title with Ohio State and Purdue and reached their second straight NCAA Final Four.

The Buckeyes and Boilermakers were second and third, respectively, in preseason rankings.

Joining Lucas on the preseason All-Big Ten team were Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, Illinois’ Demetri McCamey and Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer.

Ohio State returns four starters and six letter winners from last year’s conference tournament champions. The Buckeyes went 29-6 and reached the Sweet 16.

Johnson and Moore are the only returning starters and among 10 letter winners back for the Boilermakers.

, who were 29-6 and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year.

Ohio State’s women, winners of six straight Big Ten championships, are favored for another title while Buckeye senior Jantel Lavender was unanimously named preseason player of the year.

“It’s my senior year and you want to try to be a national championship contender,” she said. “You can’t do anything but work harder.”

A three-time Big Ten Player of the year, Lavender averaged 21.4 points and 10.3 rebounds last season. The Buckeyes went 31-5 on the way to regular season and Big Ten tournament championships in 2009-10.

Five starters return for Ohio State, including junior Samantha Prahalis, a unanimous preseason All-Big Ten pick by the media.

Iowa guard Kachine Alexander was another unanimous pick and her Hawkeyes were a consensus No. 2 preseason pick. Michigan State was third.

Also on the preseason coaches team is Michigan State forward Kalisha Keane, Northwestern senior Amy Jaeschke and Prahalis.