Big Ten Conference Preview
The Big Ten comes into this year with a different outlook than they had last year, as the league appears to be extremely deep with 12 teams having a legitimate chance to make the NCAA Tournament. That being said, there isn’t that top-tier team that you legitimately could call a Final Four team at this point in the season. Michigan State is going to be the conference favorite, which is the case because they have a solid group of returning players that fit well in the Izzo system. Indiana, Michigan, and Purdue all will have chances to win the Big Ten this season, those three presenting the best challengers to the Spartans at the top. Elsewhere both Wisconsin and Nebraska look like tournament teams, while a couple of other teams could come out of the 7-12 pack in the standings and make the NCAA Tournament.
Power Rankings along with team Breakdowns
1.Michigan State Spartans: The Spartans lost some quality players from last seasons team that won the Big Ten regular-season title but they are the still the Big Ten favorites this season, as they have a great junior class that consists of Cassius Winston, Nick Ward, and Josh Langford. Those three should help lead the Spartans this season, while players like Matt McQuaid and Xavier Tilmon will help fill out the roster. Look for this team to win the Big Ten by going around 15-5 or 14-6 in conference play, while they do have a chance to make a deep NCAA Tournament run.
2.Indiana Hoosiers: After missing the NCAA Tournament last year, the Hoosiers appear to be heading back to the Top-25, as they bring in the top recruit in the state in Romeo Langford. Langford will look to light it up this season, as will Juwan Morgan, while players like Justin Smith, Devonte Green, and De’Ron Davis will be good pieces around them. Look for this team to be the main challenger to Michigan State, as they look to go around 13-7 in Big Ten play.
3.Michigan Wolverines: The Wolverines are coming off a season where they made it to the National Championship game but this will be somewhat of a rebuilding season, as they have a lot of new faces. Charles Matthews should be one of the better players in the conference, him being mixed with some good young talent that includes Zavier Simpson, Jordan Poole, and Isaiah Livers, while the players should step up too. Look for this team to be one of the lead challengers to Michigan State atop the Big Ten standings, as they look to go 13-7 in conference play.
4.Purdue Boilermakers: The Boilermakers are coming off a season where they finished second in the Big Ten and they made it to the Sweet 16 but they now lose a lot of big pieces from last years team, leaving Carsen Edwards as the star. Edwards is my preseason National Player of the year, as he should put up great numbers but players like Nojel Eastern, Matt Haarms, and Ryan Cline should help him out. Look for this team to challenge Michigan State atop the Big Ten standings by going around 12-8 in Big Ten play.
5.Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers suffered a lot of injuries last season, which contributed to the Badgers missing the NCAA Tournament. Ethan Happ should be one of the best bigs in the conference once again, while Brad Davidson will be a really great piece alongside Happ, while the Badgers have a deep team around them. Look for the Badgers to make the NCAA Tournament once again, while they will likely go around 11-9 in Big Ten play.
6.Nebraska Cornhuskers: The Cornhuskers went 13-5 in Big Ten play last season but that still wasn’t good enough for them to make the NCAA Tournament, which was disappointing but they do return four starters from last years team. James Palmer Jr. should continue to be an All-Big Ten level player, while Isaiah Roby, Glynn Watson Jr, and Isaac Copeland all should be key contributors. Look for this team to be a little bit better this season, as they look to go around 11-9 in Big Ten play, which should be good enough to help them make the NCAA Tournament.
7.Ohio State Buckeyes: The Buckeyes are coming off a season where they surprised everyone by finishing second in the Big Ten while making the NCAA Tournament as a five seed. That being said they will have a roster overhaul but they still have some great pieces in place with Keyshawn Woods, CJ Jackson, and both Kaleb and Andre Wesson. Look for this team to go around .500 in league play, which could help them make the NCAA Tournament once again.
8.Minnesota Golden Gophers: The Golden Gophers had a great start the season but it quickly went downhill, as they missed the NCAA Tournament once again. They do have a few good pieces headlined by Jordan Murphy, he will be joined by Dupree McBrayer, Isaiah Washington, Brock Stull, and Amir Coffey. Look for the Golden Gophers to be near .500 in Big Ten play this season, which will allow them to be near the bubble on Selection Sunday.
9.Maryland Terrapins: The Terrapins are coming off a disappointing season, where they missed the NCAA Tournament, they do look poised for a bounce-back season though, as they do return point guard Anthony Cowan. Cowan will be joined by good young pieces in Daryl Morsell, Bruno Fernando, Jalen Smith, and Aaron Wiggins. This team has the talent to be a top-tier Big Ten team but it is much more likely they end up around .500 in league play.
10.Northwestern Wildcats: The Wildcats enter into this season looking to regain some of their magic from two years ago in route to making the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats bring in grad transfer Ryan Taylor, who should mix in nicely with a core of Vic Law and Derek Pardon. Look for this team to be competitive in the Big Ten this season, likely finishing just below .500 in Big Ten play.
11.Penn State Nittany Lions: The Nittany Lions won the NIT last season, which was a great accomplishment, however, following the season they lost Tony Carr to the NBA Draft, which was horrible news for a team looking to build off last season. They still have some good pieces with Mike Watkins, Lamar Stevens, and Josh Reaves but it would be surprising if they made it to the NCAA Tournament with them leading the way. Look for this team to go around 8-12 in league play, which would still be a solid year for Penn State.
12.Iowa Hawkeyes: The Hawkeyes looked poised to make the NCAA Tournament last year but they massively underachieved, which was in large part due to their lack of defense. They return almost everyone including Tyler Cook, Jordan Bohannon, Luke Garza, and Isaiah Moss but they still don’t look like they will be any better on that end of the court. Look for a slight improvement from last season, as they should go around 7-13 in league play, maybe if they do figure out how to play defense they could make the NCAA Tournament.
13.Illinois Fighting Illini: The Fighting Illini come into this season with an almost brand new team, as they bring in nine newcomers, six of whom are freshmen. This young class will join Trent Frazier in trying to help get Illinois back to relevancy in the Big Ten. Look for this team to win a few games in Big Ten play, as they look to go 6-14 in league play.
14.Rutgers Scarlet Knights: Rutgers has turned their culture around it appears but they still are far behind other Big Ten teams in terms of talent, which is a problem. Geo Baker, Issa Thiam, and Eugene Omoruyi should help form a good mixture of players to lead the Scarlet Knights to a few wins this season but you would be crazy to think that this team won’t finish last in the Big Ten. Look for them to maybe go around 4-16 in Big Ten play this season, which actually isn’t that bad considering where the program has been in years past.
Carsen Edwards – Purdue (Big Ten Player of the year)
Cassius Winston – Michigan State
Romeo Langford – Indiana
Charles Matthews – Michigan
Ethan Happ – Wisconsin
Anthony Cowan – Maryland
James Palmer Jr. – Nebraska
Josh Langford – Michigan State
Juwan Morgan – Indiana
Jordan Murphy – Minnesota
Brad Davidson – Wisconsin
Ryan Taylor – Northwestern
Keyshawn Woods – Ohio State
Tyler Cook – Iowa
Nick Ward – Michigan State
Five Best Freshmen
Romeo Langford – Indiana
Jalen Smith – Maryland
Aaron Wiggins – Maryland
Ignas Brazdeikis – Michigan
Luther Muhammad – Ohio State
Five Best Newcomers
Ryan Taylor – Northwestern
Keyshawn Woods – Ohio State
Evan Boudreaux – Purdue
Evan Fitzner – Indiana
Brock Stull – Minnesota
Five Breakout Players
Jordan Poole – Michigan
CJ Jackson – Ohio State
Nojel Eastern – Purdue
Justin Smith – Indiana
Isaiah Roby – Nebraska