Just as we were getting fully engulfed in the chaos that is college football this year, the college basketball season peeked its head around the corner and just like that, we’re on to basketball. One of the best conferences in all of college sports seems to be Big Ten basketball.
Out of the eight one and two seeds in the NCAA Tournament last year, the Big Ten claimed four of those spots. Illinois and Michigan were number one seeds, while Ohio State and Iowa were two seeds. Overall, the conference sent nine teams to March Madness. However, it was a major disappointment, as only Michigan made it beyond the Sweet 16. Ohio State lost to 15-seed Oral Roberts in the first round, and Iowa and Illinois fell in the second round. Michigan was finally toppled in the Elite 8 by UCLA.
Even though last year was a bit of a disappointment in the end, it was still a very exciting Big Ten basketball season. With that being said, I have no doubt this season will be just as exciting in Big Ten country. If you want to read other articles about different conferences, teams or players, click here.
Big Ten Basketball Standings Prediction
- Ohio State
- Michigan State
- Penn State
Big Ten Basketball Preview | The Contenders
Michigan had the deepest run in the tournament for a Big Ten team. The losses of Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner will be tough, but head coach Juwan Howard brought in a great recruiting class. The gem of that class is Caleb Houstan, a wing who played his prep hoops at Montverde in Florida. He will be an immediate contributor. Hunter Dickinson is back for the Wolverines. If Howard can successfully pair Dickinson with another incoming freshman, 6-10 Moussa Diabate, then the offense should continue humming while the paint stays locked down.
Matt Painter always finds a way to have a competitive team year in and year out in the Big Ten. This year is no different, andit could even be a special team for Painter. They are led by guard Jaden Ivey, who oozes star potential. The smooth sophomore averaged over 11 points per game (ppg) last year and can get hot at any moment. Center Zach Edey isn’t the best player on the team, but he certainly is the biggest. The 7-4 rim protector has developed more of an offensive game and looks good passing out of the post. Finally, Trevion Williams is back for another year, and Big Ten opponents can’t be happy. He’s an animal on the glass and even poured in over 15 ppg last season. If Michigan even so much as slips, Matt Painter and co. will be right there to pounce.
The Fighting Illini are not ready to just go back to mediocrity after a great 2021 campaign. The big news out of Champaign, Illinois is that big man Kofi Cockburn decided to return to Illinois. However, it wasn’t easy to get him back. After declaring he would play another year of college, he entered the transfer portal. However, after taking long hard looks at Kentucky and Florida State, head coach Brad Underwood was able to convince the All-American to stay in the Land of Lincoln. He will welcome in four new starters. Guards Trent Frazier, Andrew Curbelo and Alfonso Plummer will form a nice back court for Underwood. However, in all reality, the Illini can go as far as Cockburn can take them. Personally, I don’t think he can win a national championship alone, but you never know.
Chris Holtmann has done a great job since he took over in Columbus. Last year’s first round loss to Oral Roberts in the NCAA Tournament was embarrassing, but the Buckeyes have a chance to be even better this year. E.J. Liddell, Kyle Young and Justice Sueing are all returning this year to lead a more veteran laden group. However, the big question is who will replace the Duane Washington as the floor general? My money is on Cedric Russell, a transfer from Louisiana who averaged over 17 ppg last year. Also, be on the look out for Malaki Branham. The true freshman from St. Vincent St. Mary’s in Akron is a gifted scorer, who will also put in the work on the defensive end. He could be a dark horse for Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
Big Ten Basketball Preview | The Challengers
This will be the first time since 2012 that a Tom Izzo-coached Michigan State squad was left unranked by the AP Poll. It’s not that surprising, considering the Spartans barely made the tournament last year, falling in the play-in game to eventual runner-up UCLA. Izzo went out and got Northeastern guard Tyson Walker from the transfer portal. He should provide a leadership quality that the Spartans lacked last year. Michigan State does bring in five-star Max Christie, who was the Illinois Prep Player of the Year last season.
The Terps and head coach Mark Turgeon always seem like they are on the cusp of being a real national title contender. However, this offseason, Turgeon used the transfer portal to improve his squad. Maryland brought in guard Fatts Russell from Rhode Island and forward Qudus Wahab from Georgetown. All the pressure, however, will be on guard Eric Ayala, who will have to fill the shoes of the recently departed Aaron Wiggins.
Rutgers should be a perennial contender in the Big Ten considering the amount of great high school talent in the area. However, head coach Steve Pikiell seems to be steering the program in the right direction. He’s built a tough team that plays good defense. On top of that, guard Geo Baker and forward Ron Harper Jr. are returning to New Jersey. Both Harper Jr. and Baker will have to have good games night in and night out to get Rutgers over the top, but these Scarlet Knights area team you won’t want to see come March.
Let’s just be honest with ourselves. How the hell is Brad Davison still playing college basketball? I swear he was on the Wisconsin team that almost beat Duke in the 2015 National Championship. Well, either way, get ready for another boring season from the Badgers. Now, I’m not saying it will be a bad one, but it will be boring. Simply because the Wisconsin style of basketball is just, well… boring.
However, there might be a little drama this season in Madison. Earlier this summer, a recording was leaked of a meeting between head coach Greg Gard and some of the seniors on the team, after their loss to Iowa. They were complaining about the culture at Wisconsin and said they didn’t know if they would persuade future recruits to attend Wisconsin. The meeting ended with, “not one dry eye in the room.” However, it seems as if things have gotten better between coach and players. On the court, Wisconsin will have to ride wing Jonathan Davis as long as they can. But hey, at least you read this, because this might be the most exciting thing you read about Wisconsin basketball for the next five years.
And so begins the post-Luka Garza era in Iowa City. Head coach Fran McCaffrey will find a way to keep this Hawkeye team afloat, because he has done that his entire career. Garza will surely be missed, but the bigger losses might be Joe Wieskamp and CJ Frederick. Wieskamp took his talents to the NBA and Frederick transferred to Kentucky. However, just like Davison at Wisconsin, Jordan Bohannon is a man who will never leave Iowa City. The redshirt senior will be the floor general, best player and emotional leader for the Hawkeyes this year. A lot will be asked of him, maybe even more than was asked of Garza. However, Bohannon is a consistent player that should only thrive under pressure. Either way though, it will be an interesting season for the Hawkeyes.
What an offseason for the Indiana basketball program. After parting ways with Archie Miller, who had a record of 67-58 at the school over four years, the search was on for the next great Indiana coach. Many jumped the gun and assumed new Celtics General Manager Brad Stevens would come back and save Indiana. However, that was not the case, and they had to settle for former NBA assistant Mike Woodson. With that being said, Hoosier fans got a huge boost when Trayce Jackson-Davis decided to return to school. The x-factor for this Indiana team will be former five star guard Tamar Bates. If he can handle the pressure, and Jackson-Davis can continue to play well, Indiana might quickly move up this list.
Big Ten Basketball Preview | Better Luck Next Year!
Yes, the Huskers shouldn’t be the cellar dwellers of Big Ten basketball this year. Last year’s leading scorer Teddy Allen has moved on to New Mexico State, but three other starters return. Trey McGowens, Lat Mayen and Kobe Webster were all starters last year and are back for another year. However, the x-factor for Nebraska, and possibly even the entire Big Ten, is five-star point guard Bryce McGowens. The floor general from South Carolina will be one of the best guards in the entire Big Ten this year.
Let’s all go back to 2017 and re-live Northwestern’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, that might be the only thing keeping Wildcat fans happy this season. Since that huge break through in 2017, the Wildcats have fallen 29 games under .500. Chris Collins is a good coach, in a situation that most good coaches would not succeed. However, if they want to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the stands at another Northwestern tournament game, they need to get a lot better between now and March.
Penn State is due for a down year after losing the back-court duo of Myreon Jones and Izaiah Brockington to the transfer portal. New head coach Micah Shrewsberry has his work cut out for him, but he has the resume to succeed. He came to State College by way of West Lafayette, and even worked with Brad Stevens in Boston. It’s going to be a tough year for the Nittany Lions, but it seems they got a good one in Shrewsberry.
Well, the post Richard Pitino era begins in Minneapolis. The loss of Marcus Carr to Texas was expected, but it doesn’t make the job any easier for the Gophers. New head coach Ben Johnson has to basically start from scratch. Along with Carr, the other top four scorers on the team last year are all playing at different places this year. It’s going to be a very long year for Gopher fans, but hopefully they come out better on the other side.