CBB Preview: The Big Ten
In the 2019-20 season, the Big Ten was the elite conference in college basketball. If COVID had not happened, the conference would likely have seen as many as 11 teams make it in to March Madness, and the conference tournament would have been absolute madness.
Although the conference may not be as strong this year, there are at least 10 teams in the Big Ten that should compete for spots in the Big Dance. Stars like Luka Garza, Ayo Dosumnu and Kofi Cockburn are back and ready to take over this season. So, who's taking the Big Ten title home in the end? Find out where your favorite team stands below.
After finishing fourth in the Big Ten record with a conference record of 13-7, the Illini find themselves in competition for the driver's seat of the conference. Stars Ayo Dosumnu and Kofi Cockburn return to the team along with the majority of their other contributors from last season. Additionally, the Illini brought in freshman Adam Miller, who has appeared to be a great third option on the team. Sitting at 3-1 and only having loss to the second overall Baylor Bears, the current Illini team, who sits at fifth overall in the nation, looks like the team to beat. If all goes well, it is possible that they make a run in both the Big Ten and March Madness tournaments.
So far this season, the Hoosiers have been inconsistent. They are 3-1, with solid wins against teams like Providence and Stanford. But, an ugly 22 point loss to Texas made them look like garbage, and the team only put up 44 points. Statistically, they're a one man team with Trayce Jackson-Davis practically carrying the team on his back. Although players like Race Thompson and Al Durham have been viable so far, they have yet to proven it in the long run. This makes Indiana a hot and cold team. If Jackson-Davis can heat up at the right time, or if somebody else plays consistently good, the Hoosiers will be the dark horse in the Big Ten.
The Hawkeyes have the potential to be seriously dangerous. Having likely player of the year Luka Garza, Iowa will be able to exploit and destroy any team with weak forwards. The supporting cast is great too, and players such as Joe Wieskamp and Patrick McCaffery will relieve Garza of some pressure and thrive if any team focuses too much on their star. A run into the NCAA Tournament is almost expected from the Hawkeyes this year, and any loss before the sweet sixteen would be an extreme disappointment.
The Terrapins lost their top two players from last year (Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith). Yet, they return a team that has all the pieces of a tournament team. Although there is no clear star four games in, the Terrapins currently have four players averaging double digit points and have looked like a formidable unit. Interestingly enough, the Terrapins have had four separate starting lineups in four games; it seems like Head Coach Mark Turgeon is still trying to figure out who and what he has. In the long term, it appears as if the Terrapins are the seven or eight seed in the Big Ten, and a nine or ten seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan is a hard team to understand. They have won three games so far against bad opponents, but they haven't looked impressive in any of them. Unfortunately for them, Franz Wagner has been good, but has not become the player they hoped he would become. Luckily, transfer Chaundee Brown and freshman Hunter Dickinson have thrived in their first year at Ann Arbor. Isaiah Livers is undoubtedly the captain of this squad, and he has shined this season. This is good for the Wolverines, as it looks like his ability to match up with the other great forwards in the Big Ten will be a X-factor in many games.
As with most years, Michigan State sits atop the Big Ten, looking like the team to beat. Even though they lost a lot of talent to the NBA, they replenished it with Marquette transfer Joey Hauser as well as freshmen Mady Sissoko and A.J. Hoggard. Additionally, expect players like Rocket Watts and Foster Loyer to step up this season as they replace the holes. Although this Spartan team is not as good as most of recent years, they are likely still high seeds in both the Big Ten tournament and March Madness. If there's one thing that fans have learned about Coach Tom Izzo over the years it's that he is simply a winner.
There isn't a lot that can be said about the Golden Gophers at the moment. They've played four games against four bad teams and won four times. Marcus Carr is the star now that Daniel Oturu left for the NBA. The team also has a solid supporting cast in Gabe Kalscheur, Both Gach and Liam Robbins. But, they lack the talent in the cast and largely rely on the chemistry between players. Any success they have in the Big Ten will largely be on close wins and gritty games, which is where they shine. But, it looks like the Gophers are just a solid team for now and will be better next season with a certain top recruit named Chet Holmgren possibly on the squad.
The Huskers haven't been good in a few years, and this year is no different. Currently, they have three unimpressive wins and a close loss to Nevada. Fortunately, Nebraska will have a great chance to test themselves with three tough games against Georgia Tech, ninth overall Creighton and fourth overall Wisconsin. If they are unable to win any of these games then there is not much evidence that the Huskers will have any success against the Big Ten. Guards Teddy Allen and Dalano Banton look like the leaders of the team at the moment, but this roster could surprise us. Although they're not much to watch, the Big Ten is always competitive and the Huskers might be able to pull off an upset or two.
Since they've only played one game so far, there is not much to say about Northwestern. After a terrible 2019-20 season, the team is currently looking to rebound. In their lone game, they blew our Arkansas- Pine Bluff and looked good. Miller Kopp is probably the best player on the Wildcats, but they truthfully have about 3-4 players that are on a similar level. What plagues this team is it's youth, and they have a lot of players to develop before they can become a force in the Big Ten. Make no mistake, Northwestern could keep it competitive with other teams in the conference, but it will certainly be an uphill battle.
Like most Big Ten teams, Ohio State has yet to be challenged. They have taken every opportunity they've had and sit at 3-0. But, lots of challenges lie ahead with Notre Dame, Purdue, and North Carolina as their next three games. Winning two out of those three would solidify Ohio State as the dark horse they are. This Buckeye team has a lot of talent and will be a consistent force in the Big Ten. Watch for E.J. Liddell to break out and lead the Buckeyes to solid seeds in both the Big Ten tournament and March Madness.
With the controversy surrounding Pat Chambers, the small era where Penn State was good has come to an end. The Nittany Lions have looked really unimpressive so far, and they would be 1-1 without a buzzer beater from Myles Dread. It also doesn't help that Lamar Stevens is no longer in College Station, and the team will have to look for a new leader. forward Seth Lundy has appeared to be that guy, but he will need to stay consistent in order to truly claim that title. All in all, this is just not the Nittany Lions' year.
As per usual, the Boilermakers find themselves as a middle of the pack team in the Big Ten. Their loss to Clemson was surprising, but they have won every other game by a solid margin. Their next matchup against Miami should give some more insight as to how much of a competitor Purdue is. A player to watch is definitely Zach Edey, a 7'4" tall freshman who towers over all of his opponents. In terms of their best player, that is unclear at the moment. But, Trevion Williams should be a consistent double double maker for the Boilermakers and will be a tough defender. Overall, the Boilermakers are a bubble team this year, and it could truly go either way.
This is the best Rutgers team we've seen in years. Ron Harper Jr. returns as the star of the show, and the supporting cast is better than it ever has been. Bringing in four star recruit Cliff Omoruyi will help, and guards Montez Mathis and Jacob Young are solid leaders on the court. There are big expectations on the Scarlett Knights this season, and anything other than a high seed in March Madness would be shocking. Ron Harper Jr. is also a dark horse for Big Ten player of the year should Rutgers surprise and place in the top two of the Big Ten.
The final front runner in the Big Ten, Wisconsin returns the majority of their key players from last season including forwards Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers. As I write, the Badgers have just dropped a heated matchup with rival Marquette. Anyways, the Badgers look better than ever this winter, and have a shot at repeating as regular season champs. In any given night, Wisconsin has four guys that could put up 20 or more points. This makes them dangerous and able to exploit any mismatch a team gives them. Down the road, a Final Four appearance is not unimaginable for the Badgers, but it certainly will require more consistency.
Big Ten Tournament: Note: Seeds 1-4 have a double bye, 5-8 have a single bye
Seedings: 1. Michigan State, 2. Iowa, 3. Wisconsin, 4. Illinois, 5. Rutgers, 6. Ohio State, 7. Indiana, 8. Maryland, 9. Michigan, 10. Purdue, 11. Minnesota, 12. Penn State, 13. Nebraska, 14. Northwestern
R1: 11. Minnesota over 14. Northwestern 13. Nebraska over 12. Penn St.
R2: 8. Maryland over 9. Michigan 5. Rutgers over 13. Nebraska
7. Indiana over 10. Purdue 11. Minnesota over 6. Ohio St.
R3: 1. Michigan State over 8. Maryland 4. Illinois over 5. Rutgers
2. Iowa over 7. Indiana 3. Wisconsin over 11. Minnesota
R4: 4. Illinois over 1. Michigan State 2. Iowa over Wisconsin
R5: 2. Iowa over 4. Illinois
Who's In: Iowa (1 Seed), Michigan State (2 Seed), Illinois (3 Seed), Wisconsin (3 Seed), Rutgers (5 Seed), Indiana (7 Seed), Michigan (8 Seed), Maryland (9 Seed), Ohio State (9 Seed), Purdue (11 Seed)
How Far Will They Go?:
Round of 64: Rutgers, Maryland, Ohio St. and Purdue
Round of 32: Rutgers and Michigan
Sweet Sixteen: Iowa, Illinois and Indiana
Elite Eight: Michigan State
Final Four: Wisconsin
So, that's it! Did I underrate or overrate any teams? Have any thoughts or comments? Drop them below!