Winners and losers thus far in a wild offseason for Big Ten basketball

  • 05/07/2021 8:47 am in

Three coaching positions have been filled, multiple players have transferred within the conference, assistant coaches have been poached and the transfer portal remains active.

Here’s a look at our winners and losers thus far this offseason in the Big Ten:

Winner: Purdue

The Boilermakers, barring an unforeseen departure from Trevion Williams, will enter next season as one of the Big Ten favorites. Freshman Jadey Ivey, who could have tested the NBA draft waters, is returning to West Lafayette. And rotation regulars Eric Hunter, Sasha Stefanovic, Brandon Newman, Zach Edey, Mason Gillis and Isaiah Thompson are all back, too. The frontcourt, which is expected to be led by Williams, will add a pair of top 75 players in Trey Kaufman and Caleb Furst. Purdue did lose assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry, who accepted the head coaching position at Penn State, but filled his spot with Ohio State assistant Terry Johnson.

Loser: Iowa

Losing Luka Garza was expected, but the Hawkeyes lost two key players to the transfer portal in Jack Nunge and CJ Fredrick. Nunge landed at Xavier while Fredrick is headed to Lexington to play for Kentucky. If Joe Wieskamp opts to stay in the NBA draft – and Fran McCaffery recently said he believes Wieskamp will get selected if he stays in – the best returning Hawkeye will be Jordan Bohannon. Keegan Murray has breakout potential, but there’s no getting around the fact that Iowa blew its opportunity at a deep NCAA tournament run this year when it had arguably its best roster of the McCaffery era.

Winner: Penn State

Next season could be painful in State College from a wins and losses perspective, but the long-term outlook has improved significantly with the hiring of Shrewsberry. Penn State had to navigate the awkward departure of Pat Chambers last fall and actually had a respectable season under Jim Ferry with a top 40 finish in the KenPom ratings. But it was clear that Ferry was not the solution and Penn State was able to hire a coach that has a ton of experience in both the Big Ten and the NBA. The Nittany Lions have lost several key pieces to transfer, but that wasn’t totally unexpected given the regime change.

Loser: Illinois

The loss to Loyola Chicago in the second round of the NCAA tournament was bad, but the offseason has been even worse for Brad Underwood. Adam Miller quickly entered the transfer portal after the season and will play at LSU next season. Ayo Dosunmu is staying in the NBA draft. Kofi Cockburn is testing the NBA draft waters. Giorgi Bezhanishvili left to pursue a professional career. And just this week, assistant coaches Orlando Antigua and Ronald “Chin” Coleman departed to join John Calipari’s staff at Kentucky.

Winner: Indiana 

Athletic Director Scott Dolson quickly moved on from Archie Miller at the conclusion of a dismal 12-15 season and it’s been (mostly) a stream of good news since in Bloomington. The hiring of Mike Woodson was met with some skepticism from the national media, but he’s already proven himself a capable recruiter. Trayce Jackson-Davis is returning to Indiana and could be the preseason Big Ten player of the year. The Hoosiers have also added a pair of transfers in Xavier Johnson (Pittsburgh) and Miller Kopp (Northwestern) as well as top 30 recruit Tamar Bates. Indiana did lose Armaan Franklin to Virginia, but this is a roster capable of making a significant improvement next winter.

Loser: Rutgers

The Scarlet Knights made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1991 last season, but have been hit hard by the transfer portal. Montez Mathis, a starter for a good portion of his career in Piscataway, left for St. John’s. Myles Johnson, one of the league’s best post defenders, transferred to UCLA. And microwave scorer Jacob Young is in the portal. Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker have both declared for the NBA draft, but have left open the possibility of returning. Even if both players opt to return, it’s hard to see Rutgers showing improvement after losing Johnson and Young.

Winner: Nebraska 

No, we’re not predicting a jump to relevance in the Big Ten for Fred Hoiberg and the Huskers. However, the departure of Teddy Allen is addition by subtraction and Hoiberg will now be able to pair returning guard Trey McGowens with his brother Bryce, a five-star freshman guard. In addition, versatile guard Dalano Banton is also expected to return and Hoiberg added another top 100 player in Wilhelm Breidenbach. Transfers C.J. Wilcher (Xavier) and Keon Edwards (DePaul) should also be able to provide some help. Year three for Hoiberg in Lincoln should be an improvement on his first two campaigns.

Loser: Northwestern

This is a program stuck in neutral entering season nine of the Chris Collins era. The Wildcats have made the postseason once under Collins and that was back in 2017. Over the last four seasons, Northwestern has finished 85th, 74th, 132nd and 79th in KenPom. Wing scoring threat Miller Kopp transferred to Indiana, which leaves Collins without one of his most experienced players. With a new athletic director now in the fold, it’s fair to start wondering if Collins will soon find himself on hot seat lists.

Winner: Michigan 

Michigan lost Franz Wagner, Isaiah Livers, Chaundee Brown and Mike Smith to the professional ranks, but none of those departures were unexpected. The return of Eli Brooks for a fifth season was a major win for Juwan Howard and it appears that Hunter Dickinson will be back for his sophomore season. But the real reason to list the Wolverines as a winner is the recruiting haul Howard has assembled. Caleb Houston and Moussa Diabate are both five-star players, Kobe Bufkin is a top 50 players and Frankie Collins is top 100. Michigan also just landed Coastal Carolina transfer DeVante’ Jones, who averaged 19.3 points per game last season for the Chanticleers.

Winner: Michigan State

Last season was a “down” season for Tom Izzo and the Spartans and they still managed to make the NCAA tournament. The loss of Aaron Henry certainly hurts, but there’s a reason for optimism with Joey Hauser and several other key rotation pieces back in the fold. The Spartans will also welcome three top 100 recruits in Max Christie, a five-star player, Jalen Akins and Pierre Brooks as well as Northeastern transfer Tyson Walker.

Jury is still out: Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin

– It’s hard to judge Maryland at this point given the uncertainty with Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins and Darryl Morsell. Ayala and Wiggins are testing the NBA draft and Morsell is in the NBA draft pool as well as the transfer portal. Mark Turgeon has added three transfers in Fatts Russell (Rhode Island), Qudus Wahab (Georgetown), Ian Martinez (Utah) and also signed a pair of top 100 high school players. Donta Scott is also expected to return, which solidifies the frontcourt. But given the importance of guard play, Maryland’s ceiling will ultimately be shaped by the decisions of Ayala, Wiggins and Morsell.

– Minnesota made a coaching move from Richard Pitino to Ben Johnson and as a result, lost a ton of players to the transfer portal. Johnson has added several transfers, but none of them are from the high major level and as of today, he’s only returning two players with Big Ten experience in Isaiah Ihnen and Both Gach. If several of Minnesota’s transfers aren’t impact pieces, it could be a rough first season for Johnson in the Big Ten.

– Until EJ Liddell makes his NBA decision, it’s hard to get a firm grasp on Ohio State’s outlook. Liddell could be in the discussion for Big Ten player of the year if he returns and Chris Holtmann did add a pair of transfers in Jamari Wheeler (Penn State) and Joey Brunk (Indiana). The Buckeyes are also dealing with the loss of assistant coach Terry Johnson, who departed for Purdue.

– Wisconsin lost all of its seniors besides Brad Davison, who is coming back for a fifth season. The outlook for the Badgers will largely be determined by the development of Jonathan Davis, Tyler Wahl and Ben Carlson, who will all have to take on bigger roles. Wisconsin is going to take a step back, but given the fact that Greg Gard has only finished in the bottom half of the Big Ten once in six seasons, the jury is out for now.

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