Big Ten deep-dive for the 2020-21 season.

1.Illinois Fighting Illini
PG: Trent Frazier
SG: Ayo Dosunmu
SF: Adam Miller
PF: Da’Monte Williams
C: Kofi Cockburn

Bench: Andre Curbelo, Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Austin Hutcherson, Jacob Grandison

The day before the deadline for early entrants to return to College Basketball led to bottles popping in Champaign when Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn decided to return to town. Dosunmu, now entering his Junior Season comes off a fantastic season where he averaged 16.6 points per game while shooting 48% from-the-field. One thing to improve on for Ayo is his deep-range shooting. Kofi being back is substantial also, a 7-footer who weighs 290 pounds, a physical monster. If Cockburn can be a more consistent defender, things are looking way up for the Big Man. We can’t forget Trent Frazier, a long-time member of the Illini dropped heavily in production this season scoring-wise. Frazier went from shooting 40% from three, all the way down to 32% last season. Da’Monte Williams is one of the premier glue-guys in the country, doesn’t offer much in terms of offensive ability, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many players with the kind of versatility that Williams poses. Four huge additions are Austin Hutcherson (D-3 Transfer), Jacob Grandison (Holy Cross), Adam Miller, Andre Curbelo. Hutcherson led all of D-3 Hoops in scoring in 2018-19 before opting to transfer to the Big Ten and sat last season. Grandison is similar, a Guard/Wing hybrid who can also shoot at a relatively high-clip. Adam Miller is one of the better scorers in the 2020 class, will have a much smaller role than he would’ve had if Ayo didn’t return, in this case, he will likely serve as a consistent wing shooter. The Fighting Illini have a real chance to cut down the nets in Indianapolis in 2021.

2.Wisconsin Badgers
PG: Brad Davison
SG: D’Mitrik Trice
SF: Aleem Ford
PF: Nate Reuvers
C: Micah Potter
Bench: Tyler Wahl, Lorne Bowman, Jordan Davis, Steven Crowl, Jonathan Davis
Additions: Lorne Bowman, Jordan Davis, Steven Crowl, Jonathan Davis
Departures: Brevin Pritzl

Things in Madison started rocky last season, losing early season games to New Mexico and Richmond, things started looking bleak for Greg Gard in the post-Ethan Happ era. Then early in conference play, Kobe King decided to leave the program and they turned it on from there-on-out. I’m unsure if there’s much of a correlation between King leaving the program, and Wisconsin succeeding but it did happen in that fashion. The biggest thing that changed was the emergence of Micah Potter. Potter supplanted his name as one of the better bigs in College Basketball down-the-stretch, and he was fantastic. Potter, a transfer from Ohio State missed part of the season last year and he started picking up minutes in February and beyond. This starting five is unique, it’s five Senior players who have played quite a bit for Wisconsin. In Greg Gard’s system guards don’t often stand out, but please let D’Mitrik Trice shoot more. Along with Trice in the back-court, they also return Brad Davison for his Senior season, a steady player as he has been his entire career. Nate Reuvers didn’t quite fill the shoes of Ethan Happ the way people had imagined. Reuvers wasn’t bad by any means but didn’t take that next step. Reuvers’ biggest issue is his lack of rebounding, He averaged 4.5 rebounds per game for a 6’11 big-man needs to improve. The bench leaves a lot to be desired, Wahl has high potential but for now, will continue to be a great defender off-the-bench. Lorne Bowman could be the biggest key off-the-bench as a freshman guard. The Badgers look to live up to this season’s hype and can win a B1G Title.

3.Michigan State Spartans
PG: Rocket Watts
SG: Josh Langford
SF: Aaron Henry
PF: Joey Hauser (Marquette)
C: Marcus Bingham Jr
Bench: Gabe Brown, A.J. Hoggard, Mady Sissoko, Malik Hall, Thomas Kithier, Foster Loyer, Julius Marble
Additions: A.J. Hoggard, Mady Sissoko
Departures: Cassius Winston, Xavier Tillman, Kyle Ahrens

There’s no replacing Cassius Winston, an All-Time Michigan State and College Hoops great, and was an absolute pleasure to watch. Xavier Tillman was the Big Ten DPOTY this past season and will also be missed. The man charged with the insurmountably large task of taking over for Winston is Rocket Watts. Watts stats look pretty rough last season, but he has a silky smooth jumper that will go down more often this season, it’s a tough adjustment to go from being a primary ball-handler to being a shooting guard behind Cassius Winston. There’s also a huge question mark on what Josh Langford is at this point, he hasn’t played much of the past two seasons due to a debilitating foot injury. Once an elite scorer, but we’ll have to see how he is nowadays. Aaron Henry is a top-tier wing in today’s game. The 6’6 lefty is a super athlete with great defense, but we’d like to see his 3 point-shooting improve this season and take on a larger role. They also add Marquette transfer, Joey Hauser. He’s a more talented player than his brother, Sam who’s now at Virginia could be a consistent three-level scorer at some point in his career. The biggest question for this season’s Spartans team lays with the big-men in charge of replacing Xavier Tillman. The guys charged with that task are Marcus Bingham Jr, Freshman Mady Sissoko. If pieces like Watts and Bingham progress, the Spartans can contend for a title

4.Iowa Hawkeyes
PG: Connor McCaffrey
SG: Jordan Bohannon
SF: C.J. Fredrick
PF: Joe Wieskamp
C: Luka Garza
Bench: Joe Touissant, Patrick McCaffery, Jack Nunge, Tony Perkins, Keegan Murray, Kris Murray, Patrick Ogundele
Additions: Tony Perkins, Kris Murray, Keegan Murray, Patrick Ogundele
Departures: Bakari Evelyn, Cordell Pemsl (Virginia Tech), Ryan Kreiner

Returning the runner-up in last season’s NPOTY race in Luka Garza, things look up for the Hawkeyes. Garza had averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game last season for the Hawkeyes and looks to add upon that this season. Jordan Bohannon missed much of last season due to a tough hip injury when he did play he wasn’t his true self. Returning to full health he will try to be back to what he was earlier in his career. C.J. Fredrick is one of the best shooters in the country, was hampered by a bummed foot last season, but still managed to shoot 46% from three. Wieskamp took a small step back last season but a steady force who is one of the better defenders on the team. That’s the big issue for the Hawkeyes, though they return some extremely talented players the defense is lackluster, to say the least. Each player other than Wieskamp and Connor McCaffrey sported negative Defensive BPM last season, something that will be a huge issue. Can the Hawkeyes relinquish some of last season’s success?

5.Indiana Hoosiers
PG: Khristian Lander
SG: Rob Phinisee
SF: Race Thompson
PF: Trayce Jackson-Davis
C: Joey Brunk
Bench: Al Durham, Jerome Hunter, Armaan Franklin, Anthony Leal, Jordan Geronimo
Additions: Anthony Leal, Jordan Geronimo
Departures: Devonte Green, Dazmezi Anderson (Loyola Chicago), De’Ron Davis, Justin Smith (Arkansas)

The Archie Miller era has been an utter let down to this point, having a guy like Romeo Langford and not being able to even sniff a tournament bid is an epitome of what the Miller tenure has been. This season the Hoosiers’ return a potential All-American, Trayce Jackson-Davis a supremely efficient lefty big with above-average defense, he could be a First-Team All-Big Ten candidate. Khristian Lander decided to re-class to 2020 a few months back, he’s a super-fast lefty all-around point guard. The bigger question is what the play on the wing’s with defensive ace, Race Thompson along with Armaan Franklin, and Al Durham. If one of those three can step-up that would be huge. They are all different kinds of players they don’t replicate each other too much. Rob Phinisee struggled with injuries in parts of both his Freshman and Sophomore seasons, Phinisee hasn’t shown the ability to be a consistent or reliable scorer at any point but, I think there’s something to work with. The Hoosiers’ are in prime position to notch an NCAA Tournament bid, if not Coach Miller could be packing his bags

6.Michigan Wolverines
PG: Eli Brooks
SG: Zeb Jackson
SF: Franz Wagner
PF: Isaiah Livers
C: Hunter Dickinson
Bench: Brandon Johns Jr, Chaundee Brown (Wake Forest, needs waiver), Mike Smith (Columbia), Jace Howard, Austin Davis, Terrance Williams, Adrien Nunez
Additions: Chaundee Brown (Wake Forest), Mike Smith (Columbia), Jace Howard, Terrance Williams, Zeb Jackson, Hunter Dickinson
Departures: Xavier Simpson, Jon Teske, Cole Bajema (Washington), David DeJulius (Cincinnati), Collin Castleton (Florida)

Losing long-time Point Guard, Zavier Simpson is something that Michigan has to have prepared for but it doesn’t make it any easier. Juwan Howard and company will try to supplant the departure of Simpson with Eli Brooks, and Columbia transfer Mike Smith. Brooks was known as more of a defensive first player before this season, but the guard made significant strides in terms of offensive ability this season. He shot 36% from three this season if that’s the real thing and it continues he’ll be a driving force for this team. The other, Mike Smith was a top ten scorer in the country this past season, he shot 43% from-the-field ane 33% from three this past season while being the only consistent scorer on a very subpar Columbia team. Franz Wagner returning is big, one of the better pure scorers in the nation to me. Wagner missed the early part of the season due to a wrist injury, but ended the season on a roll ended up with 12 points per game, with 45% from-the-field, 31% from deep. That three-point percentage isn’t indicative of how good of a shooter Wagner truly is. A magnificent stroke and could easily near 40% from three. Isaiah Livers also is back, Livers dealt with an on-and-off groin injury that hampered his and Michigan’s season. Livers when on the floor was very good, he averaged 12.9 points per game, while shooting 40% from three. Then the Freshman, Hunter Dickinson and Zeb Jackson both as starters. Dickinson a lengthy 7’2 who will be an imposing presence against any team. The Wolverines will get a tournament bid for the first time under Juwan Howard

7.Rutgers Scarlet Knights:
PG: Geo Baker
SG: Montez Mathis
SF: Ron Harper Jr
PF: Cliff Omoruyi
C: Myles Johnson
Bench: Jacob Young, Paul Mulcahy, Oskar Palmquist, Mawot Mag, Dean Reiber
Additions: Cliff Omoruyi, Oskar Palmquist, Mawot Mag, Dean Reiber
Departures: Akwasi Yeboah, Shaq Carter, Peter Kiss (Bryant), Caleb McConnell (RS)

One season after Coach Pikiell had Rutgers on the precipice of making the Big Dance for the first time in 29 years, COVID-19 hit and ended any chance of that occurring. The two stars of the team are back, Geo Baker, and Ron Harper Jr. The versatility of Harper being able to play 2-4 while being able to shoot, use his physicality to get to the basket, and play superb defense, potential first-team Big Ten guy. When looking at Geo Baker’s stat-line to many it may not be eye-popping by any stretch, Baker dealt with injuries and took a nose-dive in his shooting percentages, I could attribute some of that to his injury and I think he’ll revert to the previous form. Myles Johnson is an elite defender and gets the job done at the basket, but is horrendous from the foul-line shooting less than 50% from the line. Cliff Omoruyi is the number one recruit in Rutgers program history, the New Jersey native decided to stay home and play for the Scarlet Knights. A top-notch athlete who will make his biggest impact on the defensive end, but has high upside as a scorer later in his career in Piscataway. The bench guard duo of Jacob Young and Paul Mulcahy will be vital to the success of this season’s Rutgers’ squad, Mulcahy is a great ball-handler and can be a consistent shooter this season also. The Scarlet Knights are poised to notch their first NCAA Tournament berth in which by the time of the tournament will be 30 years.

8.Ohio State Buckeyes
PG: C.J. Walker
SG: Duane Washington Jr
SF: Justice Sueing (Cal)
PF: E.J. Liddell
C: Kyle Young
Bench: Seth Towns (Harvard), Zed Key, Justin Ahrens, Musa Jallow, Abel Porter (Utah State), Eugene Brown III, Ibrahima Diallo
Additions: Justice Sueing (Cal), Seth Towns (Harvard), Zed Key, Abel Porter (Utah State), Eugene Brown III
Departures: D.J. Carton (Marquette), Kaleb Wesson, Andre Wesson, Luther Muhammad (Arizona State), Alonzo Gaffney

There are a ton of questions regarding the Buckeyes his season, they lose the Wesson’s, Luther Muhammad, D.J. Carton. Those are all big losses this season and they’ve tried to submerge some of the losses with transfers and recruits, but we’re yet to see what’s going to happen there. They add 2017-18 Ivy League POTY in Seth Towns, he was fantastic for the Crimson, but there are concerns. Towns haven’t played in two-full seasons and still has yet to be cleared for contact and may miss the beginning of the season. Duane Washington Jr is one of the premier shooters in the entire Big Ten, shooting a fantastic 39% from three last season. The former Florida State Seminole, C.J. Walker played his first season for the Buckeyes last season, an elite defender and an above-average facilitator, but leaves a bit to be desired in terms of efficiency. The starting bigs duo of E.J. Liddell and Glue-Guy Kyle Young will prove to be the strength of this team, Lidell is another guy who’s a top-tier defender but on offense, some kinks need that is need to be fixed. Young shot 58% from-the-field last season while being a great defender and will be given a much more significant role for this season’s Buckeyes team with the departure of Kaleb Wesson. Chris Holtmann should have a tournament team on his hands once more this season, but Seth Towns’ health status will need to start trending in the right direction for that to come to fruition.

9.Penn State Nittany Lions
PG: Jamari Wheeler
SG: Myreon Jones
SF: Myles Dread
PF: Seth Lundy
C: John Harrar
Bench: Izaiah Brockington, D.J. Gordon, Caleb Dorsey, Abdou Tsimbila, Dallion Johnson
Additions: D.J. Gordon, Caleb Dorsey. Abdou Tsimbila
Departures: Lamar Stevens, Mike Watkins, Curtis Jones Jr

Last season ended devastatingly for Patrick Chambers squad with the news of the NCAA Tournament being canceled, it would’ve marked the Nittany Lions’ first NCAA Tournament birth in the Pat Chambers era. This season, losing Lamar Stevens the star of the team the past two seasons will weigh heavily on the team this season. The strength this season will be the guards. Myreon Jones is one of the more underrated players in the entire country, if I would’ve asked you reading this how many points Jones had per-game last season, what would you guess? I’d bet it isn’t 13.3 pointed, in which was his average in 2019-20 while he shot a staggering 40% from three in his breakout sophomore season. Myles Dread took a backward step as a sophomore dropping four percentage points from three, 35% to 31%. The biggest question mark lies with what can occur down-low, John Harrar will need to take a massive step this season with the departures of Stevens and Watkins. Lundy is more of a natural wing than four-man, but he’ll likely play big minutes at the four this season, as a stretch-four he could create matchup nightmares for defenders, but we need to see what he does on defense against bigger players. Coach Chambers could very well have a tournament team on hands but will be firmly on the bubble.

10.Purdue Boilermakers
PG: Eric Hunter Jr
SG: Ethan Morton
SF: Sasha Stefanovich
PF: Aaron Wheeler
C: Trevion Williams
Bench: Isaiah Thompson, Emmanuel Dowouna, Brandon Newman, Zach Edey, Mason Gillis
Additions: Ethan Morton, Zach Edey
Departures: Nojel Eastern (Howard), Matt Haarms (BYU), Jahaad Proctor, Evan Boudreux

I’m lower on the Boilermakers than many but there’s a reason for me to believe that. They lose significant defensive pieces in Haarms and Eastern. While Eastern was a liability in terms of scoring, he was still a mismatch on due to his passing ability and size at the guard spot. Haarms is one of the more confusing players in the country to me, he’s a very good defender but at the same time on offense, he didn’t use his 7’3 frame as much as he should have. Eric Hunter Jr had a fantastic season in 2019-20 in a very much under-the-radar fashion. The lefty guard averaged 10 points per game while shooting a very solid 35% from deep, with solid defense, and should move up the pecking order in terms of the scoring tree this season. Trevion Williams is the current version of Caleb Swanigan, while Williams isn’t to the level Swanigan was in his final season, Williams has that potential. The 6’9,” 270-pound frame of Williams makes it nearly impossible to get in a comfortable defensive position from 8-feet or less. With Haarms out of the fold, Williams will be given a huge workload. Freshman, Ethan Morton is a guy they could end up running a lot of the offense through with his elite-level passing, being widely regarded as one of the better passers in the 2020 class. The shooting will come from Sasha Stefanovich who shoots the deep ball with unlimited range and ease, he shot 39% from three last season for Stefanovic with above-average defense and versatility to guard multiple positions make him an extremely valuable entity for Matt Painter. After a disappointing 2019-20 season, the Boilermakers look to rebound in 2020-21.

11.Minnesota Golden Gophers
PG: Marcus Carr
SG: Gabe Kalscheur
SF: Both Gach (Utah)
PF: Isaiah Ihnen
C: Liam Robbins (Drake)
Bench: Martice Mitchell, Jamal Mashburn Jr, Brandon Johnson Jr (Western Michigan), Tre’ Williams, David Mutaf, Jarvis Omersa, Eric Curry
Additions: Both Gach (Utah), Liam Robbins (Drake), Brandon Johnson Jr (Western Michigan), David Mutaf
Departures: Daniel Oturu, Michael Hurt, Payton Willis (Charleston), Bryan Greenlee (San Diego)

Only two seasons removed from making the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament before getting blown out by Michigan State. Last season was a disappointment for Coach Pitino and his team, Daniel Oturu became a star and Marcus Carr also showed the potential to be one of the better players in the Big Ten. Gabe Kalschuer took a rather surprisingly had a worse season than he did in his Freshman season. Dropping from 41% from three to 34% is worrisome, but due to the talent of the player, I tend to lean with it being a non-issue. The two big-name transfers entering the program are Both Gach, and Liam Robbins. Gach had a brutal season for the Utes this past season, but without a doubt, there’s a talent but he had to hone it all in and focus on his craft. Robbins, a big 7-Footer will look to be a more consistent defender as that’s the glaring issue for the Junior big. The offense is very good and has a soft touch down-low resulting in easy baskets. A player I love as a breakout is Isaiah Ihnen. While Ihnen didn’t see a ton of burn last season the talent is immense. Ihnen shot 37% from three only 45 attempts, but has a smooth stroke and is an elite defender as a 6’9 guy who can play 3-5. The versatility of being a wing, or stretch-big man makes him such a valuable player for this season’s Golden Gophers team. Could the Gophers be a tournament team? It’s unlikely, but if a few things go the right way it’s possible.

12.Maryland Terrapins
PG: Eric Ayala
SG: Aaron Wiggins
SF: Daryl Morsell
PF: Donta Scott
C: Galin Smith (Alabama)

Bench: Hakim Hart, Chol Marial, Marcus Dockery, Aquan Smart

Additions: Galin Smith (Alabama), Aquan Smart, Marcus Dockery

Departures: Jalen Smith, Anthony Cowan Jr, Serrell Smith (East Tennessee State), Joshua Tomaic (San Diego State), Ricky Lindo Jr (George Washington)

Last year looked to be a potential magical season in College Park, the team won the Big Ten regular-season title and had high hopes going into March. Now entering this season without the two best players, Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith. The role of replacing Anthony Cowan Jr will be Eric Ayala, the junior guard who took a massive drop in production last season. Once seen as a possible elite shooter dropped to a well-below average, 26% from three last season, now given the reigns of the offense, he will carry a massive load. Very similar situation with Aaron Wiggins, a guy who shot 40% from three as a Freshman, all the way down to 31% last season, there’s no real rhyme or reason for the big drops in shooting between Ayala and Wiggins, but I have confidence they’ll figure it out. There’s a big issue with the production from big’s on the team this season. Donta Scott is a good player, mostly due to his defensive ability, but he’s no slouch on offense by any means. The big issue is at the center spot. They add Galin Smith from Alabama, but that’s not much of an addition, he isn’t particularly good at anything and didn’t play all that much for Alabama but due to how long he’s been in College I expect him to garner big minutes early in the season. The main way the Center spot can be a strength is if Chol Marial can not only stay healthy but prove he can be a consistent piece. Marial is 7’2 and when you have a guy that size, it’s something you cannot teach. The defense will be a big plus for the Sophomore, but I’d like to see his ability to stay consistent on offense. There are some serious glaring issues on this team and I don’t see a tournament bid in the Terps future this season.

13.Nebraska Cornhuskers
PG: Kobe Western (Western Illinois)
SG: Trey McGowens (Pittsburgh)
SF: Teddy Allen
PF: Lat Mayen
C: Yvan Oudraogo
Bench: Shamiel Stevenson (Nevada), Thorir Thorbjarnarson, Dalano Banton, Eduardo Andre, Akol Arop

Additions: Kobe Webster (Western Illinois), Trey McGowens (Pittsburgh), Shamiel Stevenson (Nevada), Lat Mayen, Dalano Banton, Eduardo Andre

Departures: Cam Mack (Prairie View A&M), Kevin Cross (Tulane), Haanif Cheatham, Jervay Green (Pacific)

There was a significant issue with last season’s Cornhuskers squad right from the jump. Losing two buy-games early to UC Riverside, and against Southern Utah. The Huskers were without a doubt the worst Power Five conference team in College Hoops last season, it was a brutal showing. Between lack of effort from some players no longer with the program, to suspensions, there was just never a moment where this team clicked other than beating an overrated Iowa team. With the distractions out this team can start fresh. Webster put up big numbers, averaging 17.1 points per game last season for a very bad Western Illinois team, Webster’s efficiency numbers aren’t very good either, and now playing at this level I’m not sure what the output will be. Trey McGowens decided to leave Pittsburgh following the season and decided to join Fred Hoiberg’s squad for this season. McGowens is a good defender, but on offense, there’s a lot to be desired with his 36% from-the-field, 31% from three. Teddy Allen has had a quite tumultuous College Career, starting at West Virginia, before transferring to Wichita State and later was dismissed from the program following an arrest. At JUCO this season, Allen had 31.1 points per game, while shooting 51% from-the-field, and 37% from three. While JUCO and the Big Ten are significantly different games, that just shows the potential Allen has and could lead the Huskers in scoring this season. Lat Mayen is a stretch-four who should play a pivotal role if this team will have any success this season. In Fred Hoiberg’s 2nd season, things seem to be looking up but we’ll have to see after a disastrous first season of Hoiberg’s tenure in Lincoln, Nebraska.

14.Northwestern Wildcats
PG: Boo Buie
SG: Chase Audige
SF: Miller Kopp
PF: Pete Nance
C: Ryan Young

Bench: Robbie Beran, Anthony Gaines, Ryan Greer, Dylan Sandhu

Additions: Dylan Sandhu

Departures: Pat Spencer, A.J. Turner

Additions: Dylan Sandhu, Chase Audige

After a brutally bad season in 2019-20, this season won’t be much better. Boo Buie looks to be a future star so that’s a promising sign, but he’s another player who needs to be significantly more efficient to live up to his talent level. For my money, Miller Kopp is the best player on the team, an elite 6’7 shooter, Kopp was one of the lone bright spots last season for Chris Collins. Ryan Young is a steady piece down-low, solid defender, and can score down low at a somewhat consistent rate. Another rough season is due to the Wildcats in Evanston.

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