The Big Ten is the best conference in basketball, and home to the best returning player in the country in Luka Garza of Iowa. The Big Ten goes 10-11 teams deep, all of which who could be tournament teams in March. Ayo Dosunmu, Marcus Carr, and Trayce Jackson-Davis highlight the names of other stars in this conference too. Below are my 2020-21 preseason Big Ten rankings, and an explanation to go with them.
The Badgers won the Big Ten last season, and return nearly everyone from the team last year, losing only Brevin Pritzl. D’Mitrik Trice, Nate Reuvers, and Micah Potter could be All-B1G players, and have Wisconsin near the top of this conference again. The Potter-Reuvers frontcourt has the capability to be one of the best in the country, and help Wisconsin gear up for a run at the National Championship.
Possibly the best duo in college basketball resides in Champaign, with junior guard Ayo Dosunmu and sophomore center Kofi Cockburn. Brad Underwood has proved his team can compete, and after a 4th place finish last season, they’re ready to challenge for 1st.
3. Michigan State
Tom Izzo always has his team ready to play, and this year should be no different. The Big Ten will be a gauntlet once again, but with Joshua Langford back from injury and the young duo of Aaron Henry and Rocket Watts also in the backcourt, Michigan State should be able to turn some heads.
Most people have Iowa 1st or even 2nd in the B1G, but I don’t think this team has what it takes on the defensive side of the ball to make it through the gauntlet. Preseason POTY Luka Garza will still win them games, but I think they’ll slide into 4th.
Indiana begins the second “tier” of teams, teams that aren’t quite on the level of competing nationally like MSU. Indiana has rising sophomore Trayce Jackson-Davis and 5 star freshman Khristian Lander, enough fire power to edge Michigan and Ohio State for me.
Franz Wagner has the potential to be the breakout star of the Big Ten this year, and pair him with Isaiah Livers for a solid set of forwards. They don’t quite have the surrounding firepower of other teams, but they’ll be right around Indiana and OSU this year. Those head to head battles will be crucial when it comes to seeding in the Big Ten tournament.
7. Ohio State
The Buckeyes don’t have the star power of the other teams at the top of the Big Ten, but will have an all around good squad of competitors. Duane Washington should be the man, but EJ Liddell and Kyle Young could have breakout seasons. OSU should be hovering around the top 25 all season long.
Rutgers had a fantastic season last year, but wasn’t consistent enough to win away from home. The RAC was a huge boost to their success, but what will happen when there’s little to no fans inside? Geo Baker and Ron Harper will still ball out, but they need Myles Johnson and Montez Mathis to step up if they’re going anywhere.
The Gophers struggled to a 15-16 last season and lost Daniel Oturu to go along with that. Marcus Carr will be back, and is the leading returning assister in all of college basketball. Fellow junior Gabe Kalscheur will need to step up, as will the three transfers they bring in- headlined by
Drake big man Liam Robbins.
Matt Painter and Purdue had a down year last season, but return a good core of players headlined by Trevion Williams. Williams was a double-double machine last year, and his numbers should only improve this season. Purdue will contend for a tournament spot once again.
The last of this conference’s teams with a true chance to make the big dance, and that’s thanks to a promising cast of returning players; including Aaron Wiggins, Darryl Morsell and Eric Ayala. Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith are gone, and that explains the drop off from last year’s spectacular season.
Fred Hoiberg has brought in an impressive amount of transfers this season, but the question behind that is if this team will be on the same page. There’s not really one name you can pick out in particular, but this team will have a spread out amount of scoring. Next year, Huskers fans, next year.
13. Penn State
The Nittany Lions offseason has been a free-fall off a cliff (much like their football team). Pat Chambers resigned, Lamar Stevens graduated, and this team will likely be back to the cellar of the conference. Myreon Jones will have a lot on his plate, but this team won’t be going anywhere.
Northwestern goes through the pain of playing in the best conference, and being the team with the least amount of talent inside of it. I like Pete Nance to have a breakout year, but there isn’t many bright points to the grueling season ahead of the Wildcats.
Check out my Instagram @collegehoopsoutlet for the B1G Awards and All-Conference teams!
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Becker / USA Today