The start of the fall semester is just around the corner and it is time for an updated version of our offseason Big Ten power rankings.
(Note: Version one was published back in April and is available here.)
With less than three months to go until the start of the college basketball season, here’s our current forecast for the Big Ten:
14. Northwestern – If you’re going to give Chris Collins credit for guiding Northwestern to its first ever NCAA tournament appearance back in 2017, then you also have to question what he’s done in the two seasons since.
The Wildcats are 10-28 in the Big Ten over the last two seasons and must replace Vic Law, Ryan Taylor and Dererk Pardon this season. We’re not optimistic about the future of the Northwestern program under Collins and neither was Joe Bamisile, a top 65 recruit nationally who flipped his commitment from Northwestern to Virginia Tech recently.
13. Nebraska – Fred Hoiberg has basically turned the entire roster over in Lincoln and while he’s likely to have long term success, it could be a rough first season.
The Big Ten is unforgiving, particularly on the road, and returning essentially zero experience is not a recipe for winning games. Pinnacle Bank Arena does provide one of the league’s better home court advantages, but you should expect to see Nebraska on Wednesday in the 2020 Big Ten tournament.
12. Rutgers – Steve Pikiell is doing stellar work in Piscataway, but was dealt a major blow when Eugene Omoruyi transferred to Oregon.
The Scarlet Knights still have several solid pieces in Geo Baker, Ron Harper Jr. and Montez Mathis, but the loss of Omoruyi could prove difficult to overcome.
11. Minnesota – Minnesota’s ceiling was drastically lowered when Amir Coffey opted to stay in the NBA draft. Coffey is now a member of the Los Angeles Clippers via a two-way contract and Richard Pitino must figure out a way to replace him, Jordan Murphy and Dupree McBrayer.
The sophomore duo of Gabe Kalscheur and Daniel Oturu will be formidable, but it will be a rebuilding season at the Barn after an NCAA tournament appearance last spring.
10. Iowa – The Hawkeyes were seventh in our initial offseason power rankings, but we’ve dropped them due to Jordan Bohannon’s injury.
Joe Wieskamp has major breakout potential and Luka Garza continues to improve in the post, but if Bohannon can’t play, we’re not optimistic about Iowa’s chances to return to the NCAA tournament. Fran McCaffery also lost Tyler Cook to the NBA and Isaiah Moss to Kansas as a graduate transfer.
9. Penn State – Lamar Stevens is coming back to State College for his senior season and is one of the league’s best players.
The issue, however, is that Pat Chambers lost the two best pieces surrounding Stevens: Josh Reaves (graduation) and Rasir Bolton (transfer to Iowa State).
We expect another typical Chambers season which means Penn State will be good enough to be dangerous but will once again miss the NCAA tournament.
8. Indiana – There’s no disputing that Indiana was a disappointment last season. The Hoosiers squandered their chance to sneak in the NCAA tournament by laying an egg against Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament and then lost Romeo Langford to the NBA draft and Juwan Morgan to graduation.
Archie Miller must show progress in year three to keep the fanbase enthusiastic about the future and the pieces exist on the roster to do just that. Joey Brunk and Trayce Jackson-Davis should help in the frontcourt and sophomore Rob Phinisee could be poised to breakout.
7. Wisconsin – Exhale, Big Ten fans. Ethan Happ is no longer on Wisconsin’s roster.
The Badgers are likely to take a step back this season, but Greg Gard still has a solid nucleus to count on in D’Mitrik Trice, Nate Reuvers and Brad Davison.
6. Illinois – We’re not totally sold on the Illini – they finished 12-21 last season – but we do acknowledge the potential for a major step forward.
The trio of Ayo Dosunmu, Trent Frazier and Giorgi Bezhanishvili is formidable, but Illinois must fix its horrendous defense to meet some of the lofty preseason expectations. Also worth remembering: Illinois went 2-6 over its last eight games a season ago with the two wins coming against Northwestern.
5. Michigan – The Wolverines were No. 2 in our initial rankings, which was a sign of respect for John Beilein.
Beilein is now the head coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Juwan Howard, who has never been a head coach, is running the show in Ann Arbor. Michigan also lost Ignas Brazdeikis, Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole to the NBA draft, so it will be a transition year for the program.
Fortunately for Howard, he returns two of the league’s best upperclassmen in Xavier Simpson and Jon Teske. Howard also made a smart call adding former St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli to his staff as he navigates growing into his new role.
4. Purdue – Matt Painter advanced to the Elite Eight last season as the Boilermakers peaked at the right time and Carsen Edwards showed why he was one of the nation’s best players.
Edwards is now a member of the Boston Celtics, but Purdue returns several key contributors from last season including Matt Haarms, Nojel Eastern, Trevion Williams, Aaron Wheeler and Eric Hunter.
3. Maryland – The Terps have the talent to compete for a Big Ten title with Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith forming one of the league’s best duos.
However, Maryland has consistently underperformed relative to its talent under Mark Turgeon. Until that changes, we’ll continue to tread cautiously when it comes to the Terps reaching their potential.
2. Ohio State – Chris Holtmann has knocked it out of the park in his first two seasons in Columbus with a pair of NCAA tournament appearances.
This season, Holtmann welcomes the league’s best recruiting class and also returns Kaleb Wesson, Andre Wesson and Luther Muhammad.
1. Michigan State – The Spartans are the easy choice here as Tom Izzo returns Cassius Winston, who will be the preseason national player of the year pick for many, to East Lansing.
Xavier Tillman and Aaron Henry are also likely to take major steps forward with increased roles and Joshua Langford is expected to return from an injury that forced him to miss most of last season.
Filed to: 2019-2020 Big Ten preview