2020-21 Big Ten basketball preview

Big Ten basketball has been the best of the best the last couple of years. Long gone are days of the conference getting just four teams in the NCAA Tournament. There have been times late in the last two seasons where all 14 teams have been in the NET and KenPom top-100. Michigan State was supposed to run away with the conference last season, but it ended up in a tie with Maryland and Wisconsin. We had a feeling the Terrapins were going to be fighting for the top spot, but the Badgers were a nice surprise. Ohio State was supposed to be great but dipped a bit in Big Ten play and then came back to the top-five. Illinois, Penn State and Rutgers turned some heads. Iowa produced an All-American. Michigan was in line to make the NCAA Tournament. Indiana and Purdue were hard to predict, but weren’t completely out of it. Minnesota was not as good as its eight Big Ten wins suggested. Northwestern and Nebraska were not good at all.

Wisconsin has everyone besides Brevin Pritzl returning. Usually that would make it the odds-on favorite, but the Hawkeyes return their All-American, and Illinois had two big draft prospects come back to school. And Tom Izzo is still with Michigan State. Going back to the Badgers, they have D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison coming back in their backcourt. Nate Reuvers and the huge surprise Micah Potters return. Aleem Ford is turning into a typical Wisconsin glue guy. I really like the potential Tyler Wahl has, and Trevor Anderson is solid guard depth. Then there’s one of their best recruiting classes. It’s headlined by four-star, 6-foot-9 forward in Ben Carlson. Johnny Davis can help the backcourt.

The Hawkeyes get all five starters back. Joe Wieskamp, CJ Frederick, Joe Touissant and Connor McCaffery are part of the best supporting cast an All-American can ask for. Jordan Bohannon is back again after battling injuries for the last couple years. Jack Nunge, Austin Ash and Pat McCaffery are very solid role players. Iowa also has a whole slew of three-star recruits coming in.

Illinois is in the same boat. Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn were shooting up NBA Draft big boards last season, tested the waters but chose to come back. Trent Frazier would be a star guard anywhere else and same with Giorgi Bezhanishvili as a big man. Da’Monte Williams has been there forever, but everyone is excited for top-50 recruit Adam Miller. Jacob Grandison transferred from Holy Cross where he averaged almost 14 points per game.

There’s really no reason to count out Michigan State. Gabe Brown and Aaron Henry have a lot of experience. Rocket Watts and Malik Hall were high recruits last season and showed potential of being stars. Marcus Bingham is a very solid big man, and Foster Loyer is a serviceable point guard. The Spartans like Thomas Kithier and Julius Marble. Oh and they have Joey Hauser coming in with his 10 points per game, over five rebounds, two assists and 45 3-pointers at 6-foot-9. We really have no clue if Joshua Langford is going to play. He’s been battling injuries for over two years, but if he does play, Michigan State could compete for the title. But we’re not sure if and how much he will play.

Rutgers is reminding us all in the offseason the Scarlett Knights will be a top-five Big Ten team this season. They have all five guys coming back along with their great sixth man in Jacob Young. Ohio State will still be right up there with Duane Washington, CJ Walker, EJ Liddell and Kyle Young. If transfers Seth Towns and Abel Porter stick around and stay healthy, they’ll make a great impact. Penn State has three great returning starters, but rebounding will be an issue.

People like Michigan. Eli Brooks, Franz Wagner and Isaiah Livers are really good, but depth will be an issue. Indiana has four really good starters returning including Trayce Jackson-Davis, who was a top-30 recruit last season. For some reason people like Purdue, but it is going to struggle to find a consistent scorer. Minnesota does have Gabe Kalscheur and Marcus Carr, but that’s about it. Northwestern and Nebraska return some nice starters, but it’s going to be a trek to do anything in this loaded conference.

Preseason predictions

1 Iowa
2 Wisconsin
3 Illinois
4 Michigan State
5 Ohio State
6 Rutgers
7 Indiana
8 Maryland
9 Michigan
10 Penn State
11 Purdue
12 Nebraska
13 Minnesota
14 Northwestern

First team

G Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois
G Marcus Carr, Minnesota
F Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana
F Luka Garza, Iowa
F Kofi Cockburn, Illinois

Second team

G Joe Wieskamp, Iowa
G D’Mitrik Trice, Wisconsin
F Isaiah Livers, Michigan
F Joey Hauser, Michigan State
F Nate Reuvers, Wisconsin

Third team

G Geo Baker, Rutgers
G Myreon Jones, Penn State
F Franz Wagner, Michigan
F Micah Potter, Wisconsin
F Seth Towns, Ohio State

Photo courtesy of IUHoosiers.com

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