Although the AP top 25 poll has not yet been released, many preseason-projected polls have the Indiana Hoosiers ranked Number 1 in the nation. With that being said, they rightfully deserve to be the top ranked team in the Big Ten. The Indiana Hoosiers will return all five of its top scorers including top ranked players Cody Zeller and Christian Watford. The Hoosiers will also have three ESPN top 100 recruits playing for their team this season. Their top recruit, Yogi Ferrell, looks to be a big contributing factor his freshman season. Indiana finished fifth in the Big Ten last season with an 11-7 conference record. Although they were not the best team in the Big Ten, they were the only team to beat the National Champion Kentucky Wildcats in the regular season. Now that they are a lot more experienced and have added talent to their roster, they should be more consistent this season. If they continue to win the big games, they could be a serious national championship contender.
Thad Matta’s team has had no trouble winning in the Big Ten in the past and they should be able to continue their success this season. The Buckeyes were co-Big Ten regular season champions last season and made it farther than any other team in the NCAA Tournament last season, losing to Kansas in the Final Four. Their expectations will be just as high this season, despite losing two key players William Buford and Jared Sullinger. There is no question that the Buckeyes will be stout on defense as Aaron Craft is considered by most to be the best on-ball defender in the country. Also, sophomore Amir Williams will be a definite defensive threat defending in close to the basket. He was a highly recruited center out of Detroit Country Day High School, but didn’t play much last season playing behind Jared Sullinger. The main concern for the Buckeyes this season is their offense. DeShaun Thomas is a huge offensive threat, however, other teams will look to stop him. Other players will need to step up in order for Ohio State to have success.
3. Michigan State
Michigan State is another team that has had no problem winning in the Big Ten in the past. Last Season, They were the co-Big Ten regular season champions and went on to win the Big Ten tournament. They will have the same expectations this season despite losing All American Draymond Green. Michigan State has yet another difficult non-conference schedule so when they get into Big Ten play, they will be prepared, and used to competitive games. One thing that makes Michigan State so special is their versatility. They have someone at every position on the court that could have a big year. Whether it will be Appling at point guard, Dawson at forward, or Payne/Nix down low, all will have the opportunity be successful. If they all play well together and develop team chemistry they will be extremely hard to beat. Although Draymond Green’s basketball talent will be missed, his leadership role is what someone else will need to adopt. Who will step up and lead this the Spartans is the concern.
The return of Trey Burke makes Michigan a definite contender in the Big Ten. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. have the ability to be the best guard combination in the Big Ten, and possibly in the nation. They will both need to step up and develop leadership roles due to the loss of Zack Novak and Stu Douglass to graduation. The Michigan Wolverines are the third team to tie as the regular season Big Ten Champions as they finished off the regular season with a 13-5 conference record. Unfortunately for the team and fans, they were upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season by the Ohio Bobcats. They will look to rebound from their short tournament run this season. Additions to their team this season are incoming Freshmen Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. Michigan somewhat struggled from scoring down in the post last season and these two incoming freshmen should definitely help them improve there.
Wisconsin had the fourth best record in the Big Ten last season and it is expected that they will be about the same this year. The one word to describe the Wisconsin Badgers basketball program is consistent. They consistently have a winning season and they consistently replace good players with new ones. They should have no problem remaining consistent this season as they hope to continue to challenge the elite teams in the Big Ten. They are projected to start three seniors, a junior, and a freshman this season, so the majority of their starting lineup will be experienced. The only freshman anticipated to start is Sam Dekker, and he is expected to start for a reason. He was the most decorated high school basketball player in the state of Wisconsin last season. He is a 6-7 forward that can score from all areas of the court and has no problem scoring points in bunches. If Wisconsin can remain consistent and pull of a few upsets, they will have a great season.
It is not certain how good Minnesota will be this season, but they do have a lot of potential. With the return of Trevor Mbakwe after his ACL injury last season, Minnesota will definitely look to utilize his talents. He also carries a big defensive presence down low with his ability to block and alter shots. The Minnesota Golden Gophers have a fairly easy non-conference schedule so they will need to use those games as practice for the Big Ten Schedule. They finished 6-12 last season but had a run of bad games in the end of the season due to the loss of Mbakwe. They did however make it all the way to the final game of the NIT tournament where they lost to Stanford. Minnesota could surprise a lot of people this year with the return of Mbakwe as their roster is underrated.
The Iowa Hawkeyes finished eighth in the Big Ten last season and it is right to assume that they may only improve slightly, if at all. They are favored to win most of their nonconference games. However, the Big Ten Schedule will be a definite struggle for them. They can be an exciting team to watch at times and have the ability to upset good teams. Aaron White and Roy Devyn Marble will need to be the biggest contributors for the team and continue to make a big impact offensively. Former leading scorer Matt Gatens, who graduated last season, will be missed along with his ability to shoot three-pointers. Players will need to step up for Iowa this season.
This will be a transition year for the Boilermakers due to the departures of Robbie Hummel and Lewis Jackson. These two players were the team leaders last season and combined to score 26.6 points per game last season. The Boilermakers will need players to step up to replace these two. They will also need someone to have an impact for them down low in the post this year. Due to the fact that Purdue is a young team, it is hard to predict their success this season. The freshmen are capable of making things happen this year but they are going to run into some obstacles along the way. If the freshmen play well, the Boilermakers could hang around the middle of the conference, but if they struggle the Boilermakers could end up near the bottom.
Northwestern will be led by their senior guard Drew Crawford as he looks to continue his success. He was the fifth best scorer in the Big Ten last season, and the leading scorer of the Big Ten last year (John Shurna) also played for Northwestern. This year, Drew Crawford will be the go to guy for the Wildcats since John Shurna is no longer in Evanston. JerShon Cobb, another key starter for the Wildcats, will also not be playing this season due to a violation of team rules. Northwestern is not a deep team, so with the loss of Cobb, they will struggle this season. Drew Crawford wont be able to do it all for the Wildcats.
It is uncertain how good Illinois will be this season with John Groce as their new coach. John Groce coached the Ohio Bobcats last season and they had great success making it all the way to the sweet 16. However, Illinois only went 6-12 last season in the Big Ten and was the third worst team in the conference. If senior guard Brandon Paul can have a breakout year and Groce can develop a consistent reliable frontcourt, the fighting Illini could have some success. It does not seem likely that this will happen and it looks to be a building year for the Illini, as Groce has done a decent job of recruiting so far.
11. Penn State
Last season, Tim Frazier had to do way too much for the Nittany Lions as Penn State struggled against Big Ten opponents. Tim Frazier is back this year and is expected to be very good, but if Penn States hopes to find any success as a team they need to have other players get involved. Jermaine Marshall averaged 10.4 points per game last season and needs to continue to improve. Overall, Penn State lacks depth and experience, especially in the frontcourt. They do not have the talent to compete in and out of the Big Ten this season, so it will be another rough year for the Nittany Lions.
The Big Ten is considered by many to be the best basketball conference in the country, and the Nebraska Cornhuskers just do not have the talent to compete. They only had four conference wins last season and it is expected they will do about the same this year. Senior forward Brandon Ubel is their only returning starter from last season and therefore they really lack experience. They also have to replace five of their top scorers, so it will be a definite struggle for Nebraska this season. It is hard to predict much excitement out of the Cornhuskers but anything can happen.