Big Ten Power Rankings: Offseason edition

  • 05/20/2015 1:29 pm in

It’s May and more than five months separate us from the opening of the 2015-2016 season, but it’s never a bad time to check in on the Big Ten landscape.

Here’s our first stab at forecasting next season’s conference standings with last season’s records in parenthesis:

14. Rutgers (10-22, 2-16)
· Arriving: Corey Sanders (247Composite top 100), Deshawn Freeman, Jonathan Laurent, Justin Goode, Kejuan Johnson
· Departing: Junior Etou (transfer), Kadeem Jack (graduation), Kerwin Okoro (transfer), Malick Kone (graduation), Myles Mack (graduation)

Outlook: Eddie Jordan knew it would be a long process to build Rutgers into a respectable program when he took the job and as he enters year three at the helm, there’s still plenty of work to be done. The Scarlet Knights did manage to sign a top 100 recruit in point guard Corey Sanders. But in a loaded Big Ten, any optimism for a move up the league standings in Piscataway should be guarded.

13. Minnesota (18-15, 6-12)
· Arriving: Dupree McBrayer, Jarvis Johnson, J.R. Gilbert, Jordan Murphy, Kevin Dorsey
· Departing: Andre Hollins (graduation), Deandre Mathieu (graduation), Elliott Eliason (graduation), Maurice Walker (graduation)

Outlook: Count me as a skeptic of Gophers coach Richard Pitino, who enters his third season in Minneapolis and was mentioned for several jobs across the country despite never reaching the NCAA tournament in three seasons as a head coach. Minnesota underachieved last season, lost its three best players and this is one of the league’s weakest rosters in terms of talent.

12. Penn State (18-16, 4-14)
· Arriving: Josh Reaves (247Composite top 100), Mike Watkins (247Composite top 100), Deividas Zemgulis
· Departing: D.J. Newbill (graduation), Ross Travis (graduation), John Johnson (dismissed/graduation)

Outlook: Newbill, who many believed was deserving of All-Big Ten first team honors last season, is gone, but the Nittany Lions return two solid guards in Shep Garner and Geno Thorpe and add Reaves, who had significant high major interest. Jordan Dickerson and Brandon Taylor are also back in the frontcourt and Watkins, the No. 95 prospect in the 247Composite, should provide some inside scoring and rebounding help at 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds.

11. Nebraska (13-18, 5-13)
· Arriving: Andrew White (Kansas transfer), Barkari Evelyn, Ed Morrow, Glynn Watson (247Composite top 100), Jack McVeigh, Michael Jacobson
· Departing: David Rivers (graduation), Tarin Smith (transfer), Leslee Smith (graduation), Moses Abraham (graduation), Terran Petteway (early entry), Walter Pitchford (early entry)

Outlook: The Huskers were a trendy preseason top 25 pick last season, but failed to meet expectations and lost several key contributors, including Petteway. However, the pickup of Watson is significant for a program that rarely lands top 100 talent. Pairing him with White, a former top 60 recruit, should give Miles a nice backcourt combo. Shavon Shields also returns for his senior season and Morrow, a Chicago Simeon product, could step in immediately at the four.

10. Northwestern (13-18, 5-13)
· Arriving: Aaron Falzon, Dererk Pardon, Joey van Zegeren (Graduate transfer from Virginia Tech), Jordan Ash
· Departing: Dave Sobolewski (graduation), Jeremiah Kreisberg (graduation), Jershon Cobb (graduation), Johnnie Vassar (transfer)

Outlook: This is where things get interesting in attempting to rank the league. The Wildcats have Bryant McIntosh, Alex Olah, Scottie Lindsey, Vic Law and Tre Demps back and also added a solid recruiting class. The ceiling for Northwestern will likely be determined by how much it can improve its defense, which was the worst in Big Ten play at 1.12 points per possession allowed.

9. Iowa (22-12, 12-6)
· Arriving: Ahmad Wagner, Andrew Fleming, Brandon Hutton, Christian Williams, Dale Jones, Isaiah Moss
· Departing: Aaron White (graduation), Gabriel Olaseni (graduation), Josh Oglesby (graduation), Trey Dickerson (transfer)

Outlook: The Hawkeyes return four starters. Knowing that, placing them ninth may seem like a snub. But the losses of White and Olaseni are hard to overlook. White was one of the league’s best all-around players and Olaseni was Iowa’s best offensive rebounder. There’s no replacement for either player on the roster. There’s still plenty of experience with Adam Woodbury, Anthony Clemmons, Peter Jok, Jarrod Uthoff and Mike Gesell all returning, but losing two very good frontcourt players is a lot to overcome.

8. Illinois (19-14, 9-9)
· Arriving: Aaron Jordan, Darius Paul, D.J. Williams (247Composite top 100), Jalen Coleman (247Composite top 100), Mike Thorne (Graduate transfer from Charlotte)
· Departing: Aaron Cosby (transfer), Ahmad Starks (graduation), Austin Colbert (transfer), Nnanna Egwu (graduation), Rayvonte Rice (graduation)

Outlook: John Groce enters season four in Champaign with pressure to win. While a No. 8 spot in these rankings may not be flattering to Illini fans, this is a team with potential to reach the NCAA tournament. Illinois returns plenty of capable pieces (Tracy Abrams, Kendrick Nunn, Malcolm Hill, Leron Black), added a potential upgrade for Egwu in Thorne and also welcomes a trio of coveted recruits, including Coleman, a Jordan Brand All-Star. If the Illini can improve offensively (45.5 eFG% in Big Ten games last season), a finish in the top half of the league is possible.

7. Ohio State (24-11, 11-7)
· Arriving: A.J. Harris (247Composite top 100), Austin Grandstaff (247Composite top 100), Daniel Giddens (247Composite top 100), JaQuan Lyle (247Composite top 100), Mickey Mitchell, Trevor Thompson (transfer from Virginia Tech)
· Departing: Amir Williams (graduation), Anthony Lee (graduation), D’Angelo Russell (early entry), Sam Thompson (graduation), Shannon Scott (graduation), Trey McDonald (graduation)

Outlook: The Buckeyes lost the league’s most talented player in Russell and two experienced veterans in Thompson and Scott, but Thad Matta reloaded in a big way with this recruiting class, which ranks as the Big Ten’s best. Four top 100 recruits and Thompson will join Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams, Marc Loving and Keita Bates-Diop to give the Buckeyes the pieces necessary for another trip to the NCAA tournament.

6. Michigan (16-16, 8-10)
· Arriving: Duncan Robinson (Williams College transfer), Moritz Wagner
· Departing: Max Bielfeldt (transfer)

Outlook: The Wolverines were competitive a season ago despite not having Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton available for large portions of the season. Both are expected to be healthy next fall. Their absences allowed guys like Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad Ali-Abdur Rahkman to gain experience and with solid depth and shooters across the roster (Zak Irvin also returns), Michigan looks like a top 25 team. The one question mark here is the interior as Ricky Doyle, D.J. Wilson and Mark Donnal are going to have to hold their own against a gauntlet of legit bigs in the Big Ten.

5. Wisconsin (36-4, 16-2)
· Arriving: Alex Illikainen, Brevin Pritzl (247Composite top 100), Charlie Thomas, Khalil Iverson, Andy Van Vliet
· Departing: Duje Dujan (graduation), Frank Kaminsky (graduation), Josh Gasser (graduation), Sam Dekker (early entry), Traevon Jackson (graduation)

Outlook: Is this the year the Badgers finally finish outside of the top four in the Big Ten under Bo Ryan? Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig are back, but the national player of the year (Kaminsky), likely lottery pick (Dekker) and savvy veterans (Gasser and Jackson) are not, which means there are significant holes to plug. Wisconsin won’t be able to duplicate the offense that nearly carried it to a national championship last month, so there’s going to be dropoff. The only question is, how far down the standings will the Badgers fall?

4. Purdue (21-13, 12-6)
· Arriving: Caleb Swanigan (247Composite top 100), Grant Weatherford, Johnny Hill (UT-Arlington graduate transfer), Ryan Cline
· Departing: Bryson Scott (transfer), Jon Octeus (graduation)

Outlook: Good luck guarding Purdue in the post next season. A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas are back and will be teamed with Swanigan, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball, to form a difficult to stop frontcourt. Questions linger at point guard with Hill and P.J. Thompson as the two options to fill the spot. Neither appears capable of replacing Octeus. Purdue was a poor 3-pointing shooting team last season, but if a bounce back season from Kendall Stephens occurs along with the presence of Dakota Mathias and Cline, that problem could be rectified.

3. Michigan State (27-12, 12-6)
· Arriving: Deyonta Davis (247Composite top 100), Eron Harris (West Virginia transfer), Kyle Ahrens, Matthew McQuaid (247Composite top 100)
· Departing: Branden Dawson (graduation), Travis Trice (graduation)

Outlook: The Spartans return a significant chunk from a roster that made an improbable run to the Final Four and add a McDonald’s All-American talent in Davis, who should help replace some of the production vacated by Dawson. This roster is incredibly balanced and deep as Tom Izzo will have a legitimate chance to go ten deep on most nights. If Harris is as good as advertised, he should allow Denzel Valentine, a legitimate player of the year candidate in the league, to not take on too heavy of a scoring load.

2. Indiana (20-14, 9-9)
· Arriving: Juwan Morgan, O.G. Anunoby, Thomas Bryant (247Composite top 100)
· Departing: Devin Davis (dismissed/transfer), Jeremiah April (transfer), Hanner Mosquera-Perea (dismissed/transfer), Max Hoetzel (transfer), Stanford Robinson (transfer)

Outlook: The Hoosiers return four starters and more importantly, add a McDonald’s All-American big man to address a major void in the post. There’s a very good chance Indiana will have the Big Ten’s best offense with its stockpile of shooters (Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson, Nick Zeisloft and Collin Hartman) and a dynamic driver in Troy Williams. The defense, of course, still has plenty of room for improvement and depth took a hit with the dismissal of Mosquera-Perea, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism in Bloomington.

1. Maryland (28-7, 14-4)
· Arriving: Diamond Stone (247Composite top 100), Jaylen Brantley, Rasheed Suliamon (Duke graduate transfer), Robert Carter (Georgia Tech transfer)
· Departing: Dez Wells (graduation), Evan Smotrycz (graduation), Jon Graham (graduation), Richaud Pack (graduation)

Outlook: The Terps won’t be as big of a favorite to win the league as Wisconsin was last season, but this is the league’s best roster on paper. Melo Trimble, Jake Layman, Jared Nickens and Dion Wiley are all back and will be joined by Stone, Suliamon and Carter to form a core that can match up with anyone in the country. Maryland didn’t have a consistent inside presence last season. Stone and Carter will address that. Combine those two with the leadership and playmaking ability of Trimble, the scoring ability of Layman, a former McDonald’s All-American in Suliamon and the shooting prowess of Nickens and Wiley and it’s easy to project Maryland as the favorite.

Filed to:


    I might be wrong, and hope that I am, but I think Sulaimon is going to turn out to be a big get for them. I think he realizes just what he was missing out on after the fact and knows that this is his last go around and last chance to make a big enough impression to be able to make some money playing bball, somewhere, after this upcoming season. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him pretty much step right into Wells’ spot after just a few games if not right from the start of the season.


    If Turgeon was able to incorporate Wells and the baggage that he brought with him without any problems, I don’t see him having many, if any problems, getting Solaimon to buy in and in a way that is very beneficial in a team way.

  • Thanks for the stats. Yeah, that puts things pretty starkly. I’d say even 2012’s 84th AdjD along with our offense would have given us a few more wins. Not what we want next season (I like that 2013 performance!), of course, and top 50 defense would make us hard to beat.


    Yep !


    ” They probably have some freshman or sophomore who sat the bench all year last year and will turn out to be a solid player for them this year. ” Couldn’t agree more, in fact I’ll be more surprised if they don’t have someone like that than if they do. Bucky has a solid record of having exactly what you, and I, say takes place.


    Could not agree more. Defensive improvement is THE biggest question mark with this team. Sure we can, and should, get noticeably better as team defensively but just how MUCH better will we be ? It’s a helluva big hill to climb to go from where we were at when the season ended and where we need to be, as a team defensively, to be able to accomplish a lot of the things that a lot of IU fans say we will do next year. Accomplishing some of those things would be hard enough if we had been an average to slightly above average team defensively last year and got noticeably better from that point.

  • SilentBob

    I wouldn’t say despite. I don’t think Bo has ever dealt with this kind of talent depletion before. And I don’t think any coach currently in the big ten has lost the quality of talent Crean did in 2013. Maybe Matta when he lost Oden and Conley. Fun fact next year he missed the NCAA tourney and the next he didn’t get passed the round of 64. But even at that we still had huge loses in Hulls, Watfod, a good bench player in Elston, and good Ol’ Uncle MO. Wisconsin may come close to that this year. However at this point I’d still take Hayes and Koeing at this point in their careers over Sheehey and freshmen Yogi.

    However you’re right we haven’t seen this from Crean yet. But I think we may start too. Even though I’m not sure if that’s a good reason to put Ryan above us this year as we aren’t dealing with a talent loss. Crean at 48 is still a relatively young coach who was in a great position to carry out continued success when we swooped him up. We all know the stories of what he went through and the hit our recruiting base took. People have grown tired of this story, but it’s still taking a toll. The fact is Crean’s base wasn’t fully rebuilt until after we started yielding results from Cody Zeller. Crean was starting to take heat before that season and realizing such and the importance of sustained success takes a huge gamble on the infamous “the movement” class. The bust of that gamble is still being felt today.

    After seeing Hanner and Peter weren’t going to amount to much until at least their junior years, witnessing possible character issues from Hollowell, and the dismissal of Paterson…. He again takes a huge gamble on another three high ceiling players after having a solid class in place already. Noah worked out a little too well. And Troy might have kept Creans job for him this year….. However in any stable program him and Stan would have been 8th and 9th off the bench as freshmen much like Pinson at UNC and many others. Of course Fisch breaks his hand and seems uncomfortable and leaves. T
    He Creaned Crean.

    But now, after our recruiting classes in 2014 and 2015 I’m seeing far less gambles. He has players in place. He isn’t just addressing needs, but recruiting high skilled players with a larger recruiting base. And players like OG who are a little more on the raw side…. They won’t be called on to produce as freshmen like Stan and Troy were.

  • dwdkc

    I believe you are setting yourself up to be pleasantly surprised, as others of us may be expecting too much. Probably wise

  • dwdkc

    Last year he used the best players available. Historically Crean has liked the 3 guard approach but that is largely because of how his teams were constructed and the best available players. I think there was an argument for Holt to get some of Hanner’s minutes, but then Hanner was felt to be a more disruptive player (if erratic) with his size and athleticism defensively. Even this coming year, the 3 guards starting would probably provide the most offensively explosive team. However most of us are hoping the rotation uses a bigger player in place of the 3rd G most of the time for better defensive matchups, rebounding, and available depth.

  • dwdkc

    Mark C made such a really good point about how last year was such an aberration, that I don’t think top 50 is out of the question. They were ridiculously undersized when you recall how often Hanner and Collin were slowed by injuries and not fully available, and of the remaining players 3 key pieces were freshmen with a lot to learn and stamina issues (JBJ and RJ due to heavy minutes). The team wasn’t strong enough to go as hard as they needed to at both ends, and I think we saw more of the dropoff on D given their identity. There were games where the shots weren’t dropping where we saw them put in good defensive efforts–OSU at home comes to mind. Another year of maturity and strength building should work wonders for all 3 sophs particularly on D, plus more depth should address any stamina problems. Adding 2 big freshmen (and hopefully a grad transfer) with better Bball IQ than the one big we lose makes the team look very different. On top of all that, Crean chose to emphasize learning the offense given that 60% of the minutes were going to essentially new players or very inexperienced ones, and this year there is less of that needed and the stated focus is on D. The ability should be there to defend at a decent level, even a high level. We’ll see if they execute on it.

  • dwdkc

    Most of us think Maryland is likely to make as big of a leap as IU, however we hope not! They gained more than we did and lost more (Wells a BIG loss and some solid rotation contributors) while we lose basically nothing of significance. Purdue goes from strength to bigger strength down low, adds a nice potential marksman in Cline, but takes a big step back at PG–which is a huge issue. I see us ahead of Purdue but both will likely be very good.

  • TomJameson

    That was very well stated, good job. I agree with all you said. Most people have trouble remembering the problems IU had last year, and just remember the results “bad defense”. One reason I’d be happy with a 90-100 range defense is that I seem to remember somebody mentioning CTCs “normal” range for his teams defense being around 100. Admittedly I didn’t do my own research, but I think a top 100 defense might get the job done this year. Like I said though, I like gravy! LOL

  • TomJameson

    No Mike, keep me honest, I appreciate it. I’ve been married for over 36 years, I can handle being told I’m wrong. LOL

    I reckon I’m expecting more than average then, but I’m looking at ranging around 100 (a little more or less). I didn’t do the research, but I do remember somebody saying CTC’s teams are normally in that range. But I think a jump to 100 by the beginning of the season would be easily attainable. A lot of that would be just by putting in the effort. Add a little skill, practice, and dedication in the offseason, coupled with a MUCH better center and added length/athleticism … I think it’s an obtainable goal.

    I might just have to see if I can find what CTCs “normal” defenses have been ranked. I’ll get back to this.

  • RMK

    That’s a big assumption to make for a guy who is the only player to ever be kicked out of a program by Coach K. Not saying you’re wrong, but the guy seems to have some major issues.