A closer look at Big Ten predictions for the 2015-2016 season

  • 10/27/2015 10:37 am in

Exhibition games will begin soon; Big Ten media day is in the rearview; and we’re less than three weeks away from the season opener. It all means it’s time for a closer look at expectations for the conference at-large.

Over the last two months, we’ve given you a run down of projections from all of the major preseason magazines, including Athlon Sports, Blue Ribbon, Lindy’s Sports and The Sporting News.

As we’ve done for several years now to provide a more comprehensive look at how the Big Ten is being viewed from a national perspective, we’ve combined the conference picks from those four magazines with a couple of other projections.

This year, we’ve added KenPom.com’s model as long as Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports. (Note: Both KenPom and SI used computer models to come up with their projections.)

Here’s a look at all seven sets of picks along with an eighth column that includes the order of finish if you average them out (click on the image to expand):


As you’d expect, Maryland is the nearly a unanimous pick to win the Big Ten. Pomeroy’s model isn’t as high on the Terps, but much of that has to do with the fact that Maryland won a ton of close games last season. Maryland has been in nearly every preseason top five nationally that we’ve seen and is a strong favorite to win the league despite a difficult league schedule.

The next tier of teams includes Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Michigan and Wisconsin. The Hoosiers were a pretty comfortable pick for No. 2 in the composite rankings after being picked to finish second in five of the seven projections and no lower than fourth.

After IU, the next four spots were all very close with Michigan State, Purdue, Michigan and then Wisconsin. Is this the year the Badgers finally finish outside of the top four? SI (and Dan Hanner) sees it as a real possibility, picking the Badgers to finish seventh:

Bo Ryan has guided the Badgers to a top-four finish in the conference for 14 seasons in a row, but pushing that streal to 15 may prove elusive. Nigel Hayes will bring the fun—and talent—back from last season, while Bronson Koenig will be asked to score as often as he dishes. Ethan Happ, who sparred with Frank Kaminsky in practice last season, should help Wisconsin stay competitive down low. And as always, expect Wisconsin to have a previously unknown player enjoy a breakout season—Zak Showalter and Vitto Brown are the early favorites.

The third tier is the teams who are likely to end up on the NCAA tournament bubble and each of them has questions:

· Ohio State is young, lost a ton of experience and scoring and is going to need some sophomores to take major leaps in production.
· Iowa returns four starters, but lost its two best frontcourt players in Aaron White and Gabriel Olaseni.
· Illinois has major injury issues with Tracy Abrams out for the season and Leron Black, Jaylon Tate and Kendrick Nunn currently recovering from various injuries. Freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands has also missed valuable preseason time.
· Northwestern is a program on the rise, but are they ready to make a move into the top half of the league?

If things break the right way for a couple of these teams, the Big Ten could be in line for seven or eight NCAA tournament bids come March.

Beyond the third tier, there’s another drop to the final four teams: Minnesota, Penn State, Nebraska and Rutgers, the consensus pick to finish in the cellar.

Overall, the Big Ten appears to be stronger in the middle than it was a season ago, but lacks a dominant team at the top like we saw with Wisconsin a season ago. The conference did produce a pair of Final Four teams last season, but is still looking to rid itself of a national title drought of 15 years.

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  • Ole Man

    Amen to the nth degree!

  • TomJameson

    So, have to ask since you made such a strong negative comment about the current IU defense … What game did you see this year where you saw the IU defense? Or even a real practice?

    Don’t even say Hoosier Hysteria because that was all about having fun, even CTC said that we wouldn’t see their defense at HH.

    Just curious as to what you saw recently to make you say that.

  • straight no chaser

    The voice of Fantasy.

  • straight no chaser

    The voice of Reason.

  • TomJameson

    Hey Fred, Michigan has been getting a lot of love on this IU forum, no need to be calling anybody names just because you, a Michigan homie trolling this forum, gets upset because someone doesn’t think you have a lot of depth.

    It’s all opinions at this point, and if you want somebody to respect yours, don’t call others stupid.

  • TomJameson

    I agree that Purdue could be tough this year, depends on how all the pieces gel together, but since we only play them once, and at Assembly Hall, I think we beat them head-to-head. Not to say they still won’t finish in the top 4 of the B1G.

    Another thing I’ll add here because it’s convenient (not picking on you Oleman). But I’ve heard some talk about how the PU point guard doesn’t play defense, and can’t score, just has to facilitate. I really don’t know, but if that’s true, wouldn’t that be a liability because our super-quick guards could score past him pretty easily and make them pay?

    Thinking of a last year JBJ style of defense … the one where he took TONS of flak for allowing the other team to score more than what he did.

  • TomJameson

    I don’t necessarily agree with that. There are so many weapons in the IU arsenal that can negate that size. The obvious one is our perimeter shooting and quick guards. Spreading the floor like we should be able to do will force those big boys to come out and play. I can see their size drawing a lot of fouls against our quick guards … and did I mention the IU perimeter shooting burning their collective big behinds? Troy will probably burn them for 8-10 fouls on his own! LOL

    They can’t run with us and I think we’ll literally run them into the ground. All we have to do is remain calm, control the ball, and go at IUs speed. They may have the size in the middle, but it’s our speed and shooting that will put them down!

    That’s the way I visualize the game anyway. We’ll all have to wait for a while to see how it really plays out.

  • John D Murphy

    Did you ask other people about the IU offense who said we were going to be good. I make assumptions based on past performance of personnel I expect to play. I am assuming Yogi, Nick, JBJ, and RJ will play the guard spots. We could have improved…sure. But last year we couldn’t keep a cow out of the lane. In short, I assume shooters don’t lose their shot and people / coaches who haven’t applied pressure perimeter D still won’t. I did see Kendrick Perkins make quality inside moves last night though so nothing is impossible to change.

  • CreamandCrimson

    No need to say anything about being stupid, especially when you misspell multiple names on the same post. Anyway, the “countless shooters that shoot above 40% from three”…great thing about numbers, you can actually count them (therefore they aren’t “countless”). Michigan has two shooters that were over 40% from three last season (Dawkins and LeVert). It’s possible Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin get to 40% from 3 but Irvin was barely above 40% (40.2%) from the field last season so it takes a real leap to expect it. Michigan is going to be good but I don’t think anyone is stupid for thinking they will finish 6th.

  • Hoosier Hall

    In 2 games against Purdue last season we were 9 / 35 from 3 point range (about 26%). They are very good at defending the perimeter and the paint. We have to find ways to score in transition and keep them off the offensive glass. The other key is drawing fouls and knocking down the free throws. They are a team that has defensive game plans geared toward the opponents offense. Our Hoosiers have to be ready to try something different. I don’t think I can stand to watch us lose to them again.

  • TomJameson

    Last years and this years teams are much different just because of TB in the middle. Last year teams could lay off the middle and focus on the perimeter, but this year they won’t be able to do that. That’s where the big guy helps us on offense … just opens up the floor. Plus the shooters will have gotten a bit better, and Troy will have to be reckoned with.

    Teams that focus on IUs perimeter this year will get burned.

  • TomJameson

    No, I didn’t question folks who say the IU offense will be good. I don’t really ever say something is stupid … but …

    Making assumptions is always dangerous. Now making a projection based on past performance is great, just opinions after all, but if you don’t factor in all the work done in the offseason at the program level and the level of the players involved, that is a mistake.

    You seem to have cut your projection short right after the last game. Both of your comments seem to imply that IU will start exactly where they left off, like it was a week later. LOL That’s a ridiculous thought of course, but that is what you are implying by what you’ve written.

    My opinion is that you judge IU improvements (or lack of them) too harshly. Games played is the only thing to show what is going on with the team. Can’t wait for that.

  • MK

    Michigan had two players that shot 40% and above from 3 last year lol

  • Ole Man

    Rarely am I called that! LOL.

  • Ole Man

    It would, Tom, if that dadgum backline of theirs wasn’t so good at D. Let’s hope you’re right about their guards not playing D.

  • dwdkc

    Absolutely true, but what’s the fun in that?

  • dwdkc

    I agree, except I think they really will miss Octeus. The play of their PG is a real question mark, the difference between a bubble-type season and contending for the Big 10 and a high seed.

  • straight no chaser

    Enjoy it while you can!

  • cooper

    No I agree it’s fun to consider. I just can’t get real worked up about it. I’m ready for games, no more projections and less recruiting talk.

  • straight no chaser

    Yep, this is my projection: let’s beat the next team, with maybe a recruit or two in the house. LOL.

  • SilentBob

    Maybe mental miles on the tires, but there are also plenty of great coaches who don’t schedule overly bearing non confrence schedules. And honestly it’s not even so much the level of competition so much the frequency of it. Thomas has already suffered from a sore arch, and as we know freshmen conditioning, especially for big men, is rarely at its peak. We face Creighton, who will probably play us better than a lot of people think. They also have a top big man this year which may cause Thomas to log hefty minutes. Then just a few days off until we face three straight days of competition. Even in the professional ranks they try to avoid three straight days of competition. Add to that, the teams we will most likely be facing will be stacked down low… Then we get 4 days rest luckily before we play a cupcake, but then we get just a day off before Thomas has to battle with Jeter and Jefferson at Duke.

    Now if we get out of non confrence play physically unscathed then I will start looking at the positives. Until then, consider me concerned for the health of our team. But yea I’m one of those guys who isn’t a fan of confrence tournaments.