Here's the low-down on each Big Ten team as the men's basketball season tips off. Who will stay home and who will go dancin' come March? Check out these previews and make your own predictions. And stay tuned.
Big Ten basketball glance: MICHIGAN STATE
Last season: 30-5, 16-2 (first in Big Ten)
Who’s gone: Miles Bridges, Jaren Jackson, Tum Tum Nairn, Gavin Schilling, Ben Carter
Who’s back: Cassius Winston, 6-0, jr.; Nick Ward, 6-8, jr.; Joshua Langford, 6-5, jr.; Matt McQuaid, 6-4, sr.; Kenny Goins, 6-7, sr.; Xavier Tillman, 6-8, so.; Kyle Ahrens, 6-6, sr.
Who’s new: Marcus Bingham Jr., 6-11, fr.; Foster Loyer, 6-0, fr.; Aaron Henry, 6-6, fr.; Gabe Brown, 6-7, fr.; Thomas Kithier, 6-8, fr.; Braden Burke, 6-11, jr. (transfer from Robert Morris)
Overview: The Spartans lost two first-round NBA draft choices in Jackson and Bridges, but Winston, Ward and Langford should step into starring roles and there is plenty of other talent on the roster. Winston, in particular, could blossom this season as a floor general who is almost certain to lead the Big Ten in assists. McQuaid, Goins and Tillman have made significant contributions off the bench and Bingham and Loyer are top-100 recruits who should provide immediate help. This may not be a Final Four quality team but it should be good enough to give the Spartans another Big Ten title.
Coach Tom Izzo says: “I'm excited every year, but I guess a little more excited this year just because I've got what I think is a pretty good team. I think we've got something that we haven't had in the last couple years. We've got more experience, maybe not quite as much talent, losing the two lottery picks we lost … I think I’ve got three guys that have been through the wars, have started most of their careers. I think they give us a chance to be good on both ends of the court.’’
Don Doxsie's pick: First place
Big Ten basketball glance: PURDUE
Last season: 30-7, 15-3 (tied for second in Big Ten)
Who’s gone: Vincent Edwards, Dakota Matthias, Isaac Haas, P.J. Thompson, Jacquil Taylor
Who’s back: Carsen Edwards, 6-1, jr.; Ryan Cline, 6-6, sr.; Matt Haarms, 7-3, so.; Nojel Eastern, 6-6, so.; Grady Eifert, 6-6, sr.
Who’s new: Sasha Stefanovic, 6-4, fr. (RS); Aaron Wheeler, 6-9, fr. (RS); Evan Boudreaux, 6-8, jr. (transfer from Dartmouth); Eric Hunter Jr., 6-3, fr.; Emmanuel Dowuona, 6-10, fr.; Kyle King, 6-6, fr.; Trevion Williams, 6-9, fr.
Overview: When a team loses four seniors who were multi-year starters, it’s reasonable to expect a big dropoff. But when the one returning starter is one of the best guards in the country, the drop may not be that significant. Edwards is the most dynamic scorer in the league and an almost unanimous preseason All-American, and he should improve on the 18.5 points he averaged a year ago. But won’t be the whole team. Cline and Haarms are star quality talents who have played reserve roles in the past and Eastern should step comfortably into the starting lineup. The Boilermakers just need to get a little bit of help from their newcomers, including Boudreaux, who averaged 17.6 points and 9.5 rebounds in two years in the Ivy League.
Coach Matt Painter says: “We have a more inexperienced team. Carsen Edwards obviously as a second-team All-American last year comes back. Any time you can start a game and you feel like you have the best player on the floor, it's a good start. We have some guys that came off the bench for us last year in Ryan Cline, who I've always considered like a starter for us, but we've been pretty deep in our backcourt. Matt Haarms and Nojel Eastern, they're going to have to have bigger roles for this team.’’
Don Doxsie's pick: Second place
Big Ten basketball glance: WISCONSIN
Last season: 15-18, 7-11 (ninth in Big Ten)
Who’s gone: T.J. Schlundt, Andy Van Vliet, Aaron Moesch
Who’s back: Ethan Happ, 6-10, sr.; Brad Davison, 6-3, so.; Khalil Iverson, 6-5, sr.; D’Mitrik Trice, 6-0, so.; Brevin Pritzl, 6-3, jr.; Nate Reuvers, 6-11, so.; Aleem Ford, 6-8, so.; Charles Thomas IV, 6-8, sr.; Alex Illikainen, 6-9, sr.
Who’s new: Kobe King, 6-4, fr. (RS); Tai Strickland, 6-2, fr.; Joe Hedstrom, 7-0, fr.; Taylor Currie, 6-8, fr.; Carter Higginbottom, 6-0, fr.; Trevor Anderson, 6-2, so. (transfer from Green Bay)
Overview: Like Iowa, Wisconsin returns 94.5 percent of its scoring from last season and will be helped by having Trice and King healthy again. Happ is a fifth-year senior, preseason All-American and by far the best post player in the Big Ten, and he’s determined to get the Badgers back to the NCAA tournament after they missed it for the first time in 20 years last season. If he has developed a perimeter shot and improved his foul shooting, as rumored, he’ll be one of the best players in the country. Davison emerged as an excellent player even while playing hurt as a freshman, Iverson provides athleticism, Pritzl is an excellent shooter and Reuvers is a promising young big man. This is a team with a big upside.
Coach Greg Gard says: “This group has done a terrific job of kind of harnessing what we went through last year, learning from it, how they were able to play down the stretch, play pretty well. How do you take all those experiences and utilize those through the off-season, but also getting back here this fall, getting into drills, official practices? … There's an experience level that they went through last year that's created an edge to them, created a competitive drive internally.’’
Don Doxsie's pick: Third place
Big Ten basketball glance: INDIANA
Last season: 16-15, 9-9 (tied for sixth in Big Ten)
Who’s gone: Robert Johnson, Josh Newkirk, Collin Hartman, Freddie McSwain, Curtis Jones
Who’s back: Juwan Morgan, 6-8, sr.; Justin Smith, 6-7, so.; Devonte Green, 6-3, jr.; Aljami Durham, 6-4, so.; Zach McRoberts, 6-6, sr.; De’Ron Davis, 6-10, jr.; Clifton Moore, 6-10, so.
Who’s new: Romeo Langford, 6-6, fr.; Jerome Hunter, 6-7, fr.; Rob Phinisee, 6-1, fr.; Jake Forrester, 6-8, fr.; Race Thompson, 6-8, fr. (RS); Damezi Anderson, 6-7, fr.; Evan Fitzner, 6-10, sr. (transfer from St. Mary’s)
Overview: This is one of the toughest teams in the Big Ten to gauge. It lost several quality players from a middle-of-the pack team, but the addition of one of the best recruits in the country could change everything. Langford was named to the preseason All-Big Ten team despite being a freshman and if he’s as good as advertised, the Hoosiers could be a contender. Morgan, who opted to come back to school after testing the NBA draft waters, also made the preseason All-Big Ten team and Smith, Green and Durham showed flashes last season. It will help if Davis can be close to full strength after a severe Achilles injury suffered in the middle of the last season.
Coach Archie Miller says: “We have a long way to go obviously to become a competitive Big Ten team right now. We got a lot of growing up to do. Our returners have done a really nice job of really accepting responsibility as they've gone through our system here a year. You can really see some growth just in terms of how much further along we are than we were a year ago, just being more comfortable with one another.’’
Don Doxsie's pick: Fourth place
Big Ten basketball glance: NEBRASKA
Last season: 22-11, 13-5 (tied for fourth in Big Ten)
Who’s gone: Anton Gill, Evan Taylor, Jordy Tshimanga, Jack McVeigh, Duby Okeke
Who’s back: James Palmer Jr., 6-6, sr.; Glynn Watson Jr., 6-0, sr.; Isaac Copeland Jr., 6-9, sr.; Isaiah Roby, 6-8, jr.; Thomas Allen, 6-1, so.; Tanner Borchardt, 6-8, sr.
Who’s new: Dedoch Chan, 6-8, so.; Brady Heiman, 6-11, fr.; Amir Harris, 6-6, fr.; Karrington Davis, 6-6, fr.; Justin Costello, 6-1, fr. (RS)
Overview: Palmer and Copeland put their names into the NBA draft pool last spring, but decided to come back. That means the Cornhuskers return most of their firepower from last season. Those two combine with Watson and Roby to form an impressive nucleus. Roby is a developing talent who should be an even bigger factor in his third season at the college level. Chan, a junior college transfer, will provide some depth in the front court but Watson may need to play mega minutes at the point.
Coach Tim Miles says: “This is a good group, a group that has I think a high ceiling. When you look at James Palmer Jr., Isaac Copeland playing better than I have ever seen. Glynn Watson, I think he realizes where he fits in with this group, after having to carry a big load for a couple years as a younger player, then fitting in later in life. Isaiah Roby is getting better and better, too.’’
Don Doxsie's pick: Fifth place
Big Ten basketball glance: MICHIGAN
Last season: 33-8, 13-5 (tied for fourth in Big Ten), second in NCAA tournament
Who’s gone: Mo Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkmann, Duncan Robinson, Jaaron Simmons, Ibi Watson
Who’s back: Charles Matthews, 6-6, sr.; Zavier Simpson, 6-0, jr.; Jon Teske, 7-1, jr.; Isaiah Livers, 6-7, so.; Jordan Poole, 6-5, so.; Austin Davis, 6-10, jr.; Eli Brooks, 6-1, so.
Who’s new: Ignas Brazdeikis, 6-7, fr.; Brandon Johns Jr., 6-8, fr.; David DeJulius, 6-0, fr.; Adrien Nuñez, 6-6, fr.; Colin Castleton, 6-11, fr.
Overview: The Wolverines lost three key players from a team that made it to the national championship game last season. They still will be solid defensively, but they need Matthews to step up as the go-to guy, Simpson to slide into Abdur-Rahkmann’s role as the floor leader and Teske to take hold as the starting center. Livers, Poole and Brooks all started at some point last season and the addition of two forwards who are top-100 recruits (Brazdeikis and Johns) helps. Some have Michigan pegged to finish as high as second, but it’s more likely to be few notches lower than that despite John Beilein’s considerable coaching skills.
Coach John Beilein says: “The style that we're going to have to play, we have to adapt again. He we had to adapt last year, midway, to some things … I think we have a chance to be a good defensive team again, but I think offensively we're a work in progress.’’
Don Doxsie's pick: Sixth place
Big Ten basketball glance: IOWA
Last season: 14-19, 4-14 (tied for 11th in Big Ten)
Who’s gone: Dom Uhl, Brady Ellingson, Ahmad Wagner
Who’s back: Tyler Cook, 6-9, jr.; Jordan Bohannon, 6-1, jr.; Luka Garza, 6-11, so.; Isaiah Moss, 6-5, jr.; Nicholas Baer, 6-7, sr.; Cordell Pemsl, 6-8, jr.; Ryan Kriener, 6-9, jr.; Maishe Dailey, 6-7, jr.; Jack Nunge, 6-11, so.
Who’s new: Joe Wieskamp, 6-6, fr.; Connor McCaffery, 6-5, fr. (RS); CJ Fredrick, 6-3, fr.
Overview: After missing the postseason for the first time since 2011, the Hawkeyes seem to be poised for a bounce-back season. They return 94.5 percent of their scoring from a year ago and add one of the highest ranked recruits in their history in Wieskamp. Cook is among the most physically talented forwards in the league, Bohannon is a 3-point machine and Garza emerged as one of the best big men in the conference in the latter stages of last season. If they can just upgrade what was one of the most porous defenses among all power-five conference teams, there is no reason they can’t make a giant leap upward in the standings, even higher than what we have predicted here.
Coach Fran McCaffery says: “The critical thing is to take ownership of (what happened last season) and recognize that change has to be made to a man. That's coaches, players, everybody, starters, subs. We all have to be in it together and recognize that every day, we've got to be better. We can't have complacency for any possessions on either side of the ball on a daily basis. That's a mindset that has to be developed. It wasn't there last year, and it's got to be there this year.’’
Don Doxsie's pick: Seventh place
Big Ten basketball glance: MARYLAND
Last season: 19-13, 8-10 (eighth in the Big Ten)
Who’s gone: Kevin Huerter, Justin Jackson, Jared Nickens, Michal Cekovsky, Dion Wiley, Sean Obi
Who’s back: Anthony Cowan, 6-0, jr.; Bruno Fernando, 6-10, so.; Darryl Morsell, 6-5, so.; Ivan Bender, 6-9, sr.; Joshua Tomaic, 6-9, so.
Who’s new: Jalen Smith, 6-10, fr.; Aaron Wiggins, 6-6, fr.; Eric Ayala, 6-5, fr.; Serrel Smith, 6-4, fr.; Ricky Lindo, 6-8, fr.; Trace Ramsey, 6-7, fr.
Overview: The Terrapins lost two sophomores who were selected in the NBA draft (Huerter and Jackson) but they still have the third star player from their 2016 recruiting class, Cowan, who is among the top point guards in the Big Ten. They also return Fernando and Morsell, who started most games as freshmen last season, and there is more talent on the way. Jalen Smith is ranked as the 16th best incoming recruit by 247Sports and Wiggins and Ayala also are top-100 recruits.
Coach Mark Turgeon says: “I like my team. I think it's a team that our fan base is going to love … We're young, but my young guys are good. We have six freshmen. We have three sophomores, one junior, one senior. We might be the youngest team I've ever had. But we're talented, fun to coach, they're working hard ... Should be a really a fun team to watch because of their skill set and their length, their ability to play together.’’
Don Doxsie's pick: Eighth place
Big Ten basketball glance: OHIO STATE
Last season: 25-9, 15-3 (tied for second in Big Ten)
Who’s gone: Keita Bates-Diop, Ja’Sean Tate, Kam Williams, Andrew Dakich
Who’s back: C.J. Jackson, 6-1, jr.; Kaleb Wesson, 6-9, so.; Andre Wesson, 6-6, jr.; Micah Potter 6-9, jr.; Musa Jallow, 6-5, so.; Kyle Young, 6-8, so.
Who’s new: Keyshawn Woods, 6-3, sr. (transfer from Wake Forest); Luther Muhammad, 6-3, fr.; Jaedon LeDee, 6-9, fr.; Duane Washington Jr., 6-3, fr.; Justin Ahrens, 6-5, fr.; Danny Hummer, 6-0, jr. (transfer from Air Force)
Overview: Bates-Diop and Tate were among the best players in the Big Ten last season and they will be extremely difficult to replace. Jackson was the Buckeyes’ No. 2 scorer and assist leader and Kaleb Wesson had a very good freshman season but the rest of the starting lineup will be new. Woods, a graduate transfer who averaged 11.9 points per game primarily as a reserve at Wake Forest last season, should provide some scoring punch and Muhammad, a top-100 recruit, will help. Returnees like Andre Wesson, Jallow and Potter need to take a big step up. The Buckeyes’ 2019 recruiting class currently is ranked No. 5 in the country but the program may take a step back while waiting for all that talent to arrive.
Coach Chris Holtmann says: “I think we've got some questions that need to be answered. We're in the process of trying to do that. We have a relatively new team with six new players. We're excited about working with this group. We understand we do have some questions that we have to answer as a group here. Like I said, we're in the midst of trying to do that.’’
Don Doxsie's pick: Ninth place
Big Ten basketball glance: MINNESOTA
Last season: 15-17, 4-14 (tied for 11th in Big Ten)
Who’s gone: Nate Mason, Reggie Lynch, Jamir Harris, Davonte Fitzgerald, Bakary Konate, Gaston Diedhiou
Who’s back: Jordan Murphy, 6-6, sr.; Amir Coffey, 6-8, jr.; Dupree McBrayer, 6-5, sr.; Isaiah Washington, 6-1, so.; Eric Curry, 6-9, so.; Michael Hurt, 6-7, jr.
Who’s new: Brock Stull, 6-4, sr. (transfer from Wisconsin-Milwaukee); Matz Stockman, 7-0, sr. (transfer from Louisville); Daniel Oturu, 6-10, fr.; Jarvis Omersa, 6-6, fr.; Gabe Kalscheur, 6-4, fr.
Overview: Minnesota’s season took a downward turn last year when Lynch, a superior shot-blocker, was suspended and the Golden Gophers may miss Mason’s leadership at the point even more. The return to health of Coffey and Curry will provide a big lift, however, and the addition of a couple of quality graduate transfers also will help. Murphy is as tough and reliable a frontcourt player as there is in the Big Ten and Oturu, a top-100 recruit, also might help ease the loss of Lynch. If McBrayer and/or Washington can take on the role of floor general that Mason held the past few years, the Gophers have a shot at having a very good year.
Coach Richard Pitino says: “I think that at the end of the day when you're building a program, to get stability, it takes some time. I thought we were there last year. I thought that my fourth year, being two years ago, was an important year for us to show progress. Obviously we did that. I thought last year was going to allow us to really, really build some great momentum with the new facility, with two really good seasons in a row, hopefully theoretical. We can't allow last year to derail that momentum.’’
Don Doxsie's pick: 10th place
Big Ten basketball glance: NORTHWESTERN
Last season: 15-17, 6-12 (10th in Big Ten)
Who’s gone: Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey, Gavin Skelly, Isiah Brown
Who’s back: Vic Law, 6-7, sr.; Dererk Pardon, 6-8, sr.; Anthony Gaines, 6-4, so.; Aaron Falzon, 6-8, jr.; Jordan Ash, 6-3, sr.; Barret Benson, 6-10, jr.
Who’s new: Ryan Taylor, 6-6, sr. (transfer from Evansville); A.J. Turner, 6-7, jr. (transfer from Boston College); Pete Nance, 6-10, fr.; Ryan Young, 6-10, fr.; Ryan Greer, 6-2, fr.; Miller Kopp, 6-7 fr.
Overview: The perimeter abilities of McIntosh and Lindsey helped Northwestern earn its first NCAA tournament berth ever in 2017 and it’s hard to see how they will be replaced. Law and Pardon are very solid Big Ten players and the Wildcats will get a big boost from Taylor, a graduate transfer who led the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring at 21.2 points per game last season. Nance is a top-100 recruit who should provide some immediate help but the big question is who will replace McIntosh as the team’s floor general. It’s likely to be a committee of Gaines, Ash and Greer. The Wildcats should at least benefit from getting back into their newly refurbished arena after being forced to play off-campus last season.
Coach Chris Collins says: “We're still in the process of figuring out kind of how our pieces fit, who we're going to be as a team. I think we have good players. I think we have a good mindset. Obviously we're opening a brand-new arena this year, which is going to give us a nice jolt of energy getting back home, back on campus. Really excited about what that's going to bring for our team.’’
Don Doxsie's pick: 11th place
Big Ten basketball glance: PENN STATE
Last season: 26-13, 9-9 (tied for sixth in Big Ten)
Who’s gone: Tony Carr, Shep Garner, Nazeer Bostick, Julian Moore
Who’s back: Lamar Stevens, 6-8, jr.; Mike Watkins, 6-9, jr.; Josh Reaves, 6-5, sr.; John Harrar, 6-9, so.; Jamari Wheeler, 6-1, so.; Satchel Pierce, 7-0, sr.; Deivis Zemgulis, 6-6, sr.
Who’s new: Myreon Jones, 6-3, fr.; Myles Dread, 6-4, fr.; Daniil Kasatkin, 6-7, fr.; Kyle McCloskey, 6-5, fr.; Rasir Bolton, 6-2, fr.
Overview: The Nittany Lions only lost a couple of players from a team that won the NIT, but those losses were massive. Carr emerged as the top point guard in the league last season and Garner set a Big Ten record for most 3-point field goals in a season. They’re gone. The front court is as strong as any team in the league. Reaves is an elite defender, Stevens is an underrated talent and Watkins, when motivated, is a monster. But there’s no way either Wheeler or Bolton is going to come close to filling Carr’s shoes and there doesn’t appear to be a shooter of Garner’s ability on the roster. It looks like a return to the bottm four of the standings for this program.
Coach Pat Chambers says: “I think if we get more consistency from our frontline and our veterans, I think the younger guys are going to follow suit. One advantage we have is when Lamar (Stevens), Tony (Carr), that great group came in, I don't know if we had the leadership. This year we have the leadership. That should pull us through, especially in tough times.’’
Don Doxsie's pick: 12th place
Big Ten basketball glance: ILLINOIS
Last season: 14-18, 4-14 (tied for 11th in Big Ten)
Who’s gone: Leron Black, Michael Finke, Te’Jon Lucas, Mark Alstork, Mark Smith, Greg Eboigbodin
Who’s back: Trent Frazier, 6-1, so.; Kipper Nichols, 6-6, jr.; Da’Monte Williams, 6-3, so.; Aaron Jordan; 6-5, sr.
Who’s new: Ayo Dosunmu, 6-5, fr.; Adonis De La Rosa, 7-0, sr. (transfer from Kent State); Giorgi Bezhanishvili, 6-9, fr.; Samba Kane, 7-0, fr.; Tevian Jones, 6-7, fr.; Alan Griffin, 6-5, fr.; Andres Feliz, 6-2, jr.; Anthony Higgs, 6-8, fr.
Overview: The Illini have plenty of dynamic talent on the perimeter. Frazier had an outstanding freshman season and should be even better when he learns how to go to his right. Dosunmu is a top-50 recruit, Williams and Jordan are solid players and Nichols is a capable wing player. The problem is going to be under the basket, where De La Rosa and some green freshmen will be asked to get the job done. Second-year coach Brad Underwood has been pleased with De La Rosa’s leadership and quick grasp of the Illini system, but the Kent State transfer is still recovering from an ACL injury suffered at the end of last season and likely will not be ready for full-time duty until December.
Coach Brad Underwood says: “This is the youngest team that I've been a part of since I was a junior college coach and had a team every year of all freshmen. That's exciting. It's brought a youthful exuberance to our practices. It's a group of guys that is helping lay a foundation.’’
Don Doxsie's pick: 13th place
Big Ten basketball glance: RUTGERS
Last season: 15-19, 3-15 (14th in Big Ten)
Who’s gone: Corey Sanders, DeShawn Freeman, Mike Williams, Candido Sa, Jake Dadika, Souf Mensah
Who’s back: Geo Baker, 6-4, so.; Issa Thiam, 6-10, jr.; Shaquille Doorson, 7-0, sr.; Eugene Omoruyi, 6-7, jr.; Mamadou Doucoure, 6-9, so.
Who’s new: Shaq Carter, 6-9, jr.; Myles Johnson, 6-10, fr.; Caleb McConnell, 6-6, fr.; Montez Mathis, 6-4, fr.; Ron Harper Jr., 6-6, fr.; Peter Kiss, 6-5, so. (transfer from Quinnipiac)
Overview: Rutgers has finished last every year it has been in the Big Ten and while Pikiell clearly is a good coach, you can expect to see this team at or near the bottom again. The Scarlet Knights are big and physical and surprisingly solid defensively but they probably again will struggle to score. The departure of Sanders to the pro ranks following his junior season was a major blow to the offense. Baker takes over as the point guard and is a tough, solid player but this team will need an unexpected jolt of firepower from its freshman perimeter players to climb out of 14th place.
Coach Steve Pikiell says: “What I'm most excited about, has been the pattern since I took over the program, the improvement of our guys from year to year. I think you saw a little bit of that with Eugene (Omoruyi) last year, Issa Thiam. You'll see an improvement with Geo Baker, his body. Now he's going to be an exclusive point guard. With the ball in his hands, he really knows how to play. He's got a little swagger about him. He's showing great signs of being a good leader.’’
Don Doxsie's pick: 14th place