The Big Ten men’s basketball season tips off at 11 a.m. CST today (Wednesday) on Big Ten Network and there will be college basketball on your TVs until almost midnight, as there are games on BTN literally all day. The Badgers don’t tip-off until 9 p.m CST tonight, but here are our predictions for how the Big Ten season will play out courtesy of Tyler, Belz, Bremen and Drew.
Who makes the Big Ten first-team? Please add a sixth man as well.
Belz: Ayo Dosunmu, Luka Garza, Geo Baker, Nate Reuvers, Aaron Henry or Joe Wieskamp. Those six players would round out the top-6.
Tyler: Ayo Dosunmu and Garza are shoo-ins for me. I think Micah Potter will be the Badger in there that makes first team. I would also expect Trayce Jackson-Davis of Indiana to take a step up which gives you four without the likes of Geo Baker who is likely going to be in there as well. Michigan and Michigan State will have someone like Franz Wagner for the Wolverines and Rocket Watts for the Spartans. There is so much top talent in the conference this year.
Bremen: Ayo Dosunmu, Luke Garza, Geo Baker are locks. Depending on which Wisconsin big plays better between Reuvers and Potter, one of them makes the first team. The other option could be Franz Wagner. I think he has huge upside and will be more of a focus for Michigan this season. I’ll just hope the sixth man is former quarterback Brad Davison because I’d have a field day with that news.
Drew: Dosunmu and Garza are obviously on the first-team. They are also both all-America candidates, with Garza being a favorite for National Player of the Year. I think Trayce Jackson-Davis from Indiana makes the team and Marcus Carr from Minnesota does too. For the last spot, I agree with Bremen that the statistically better of Reuvers/Potter should make it or, annoyingly, MSU forward Joey Hauser.
Who wins Big Ten Player of the Year?
Belz: Luka Garza is going to put up way too big of statistics for anyone else, outside of maybe Dosunmu if he goes crazy, to have a chance to challenge for this award in my opinion.
Tyler: I can’t stand Luka Garza so I will say Ayo Dosunmu and hope the others are wrong.
Bremen: The Big Hacienda himself, Luke Garza will be unreal once again. I can’t seem him suddenly regressing, and he was a first team all Big-Ten last year.
Drew: Garza is the popular, obvious and correct choice for this award.
Who are the top-four teams at the end of the year?
Belz: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, and Wisconsin in alphabetical order, not in order of finish.
Tyler: I think Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan State will be in the top four and there is no doubt Michigan will be in that conversation as well.
Bremen: I gotta agree with Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin, but I think the Michigan school in the mix will be the Wolverines. Franz Wagner is likely to blossom even more this season, and they signed a HUGE freshman center to replace Jon Teske. I think the maize and blue will prove their basketball school status.
Drew: I mean, this is kind of boring but...Illinois, Iowa, MSU and Wisconsin should be the top-four teams at the end of the season in some order. I think Ohio State will be knocking on the door for a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, however.
How many Big Ten teams make the NCAA Tournament and which teams are they?
Belz: I will guess eight. I think the top four I listed in the previous question are shoe-ins unless things go completely sideways for one of the teams. Then I believe Michigan, OSU, Indiana, and Rutgers. I could easily see this number getting up to nine though if Purdue, or even Maryland/Minnesota can steal a couple wins from the favorites to bolster their resume.
Tyler: Last year the Big Ten had anywhere from 6-10 teams in Bracketology releases. I would say the middle of eight there is probably correct right now. You’ve got the five in Iowa, Illinois, MSU, Michigan and Wisconsin. Then I think Rutgers, Ohio State and Indiana are all teams that could get in. Maryland is in a big rebuild but well coached, Purdue is Purdue. I’ll say eight but this could go over that mark.
Bremen: With the depth of the conference, I’d guess unless some big teams have huge disappointing stinkers of a season — and, if all the games go as scheduled — eight seems like a likely number. Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, MSU, Michigan, Indiana, and Rutgers are for sure poking around, just need a couple more teams to get in and that’s eight (and they say journalists can’t do math).
Drew: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Rutgers, Michigan, Indiana should all be in and Purdue, despite some big personnel losses, will be on the bubble.
Which team will be the biggest surprise this season and why?
Belz: I think Rutgers will continue to play. Over 80% of their production from a year ago returns, and I have always liked what Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. can do as wing players. Add in a big time center/forward in true freshman Cliff Omoruyi and I think the Scarlet Knights could make the NCAA Tournament.
Tyler: I would say Rutgers but for the sake of being different I will go with Michigan. Juwan Howard was a hire that I wasn’t sure about, we’ve seen how alumni coming back to Michigan have done in other sports...thankfully for the maize and blue Howard has not been Jim Harbaugh yet, and he’s recruiting very well so far. He’s got some guys in his incoming class and a vet key vets in Franz Wagner and Isaiah Livers.
Bremen: Geo Baker is a star and Rutgers is not a national name normally. They have been doing real well at home the past couple seasons, and while they won’t have the crowd backing them, winning becomes a habit. If they can get to like 500 on their travels, they’ll have an even better record than last year’s campaign.
Drew: Despite losing Kaleb Wesson, Andre Wesson, D.J. Carton and Luther Muhammad from last year’s team, I am high on Ohio State this year. The two new transfers they’re bringing in (Seth Towns from Harvard and Justice Sueing from Cal) are both long shooters that will make the Buckeyes offense more versatile and if they’re able to hold up on defense, OSU will challenge for a top-four spot in the conference.
Which team will be the biggest disappointment and why?
Belz: I think it will be Penn State. After a really good season a year ago, I fully expect them to fall back considerably after a rough off-season that included the resignation of Pat Chambers. Purdue could easily fit in this category as well given the number of defections they had in the transfer portal.
Tyler: I would say Maryland will be given the expectations they have. They just lost so much in Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith. They we’re a really fun team to watch last year but I expect them to be down this year.
Bremen: Purdue and Matt Painter lost a ton of players from a team that last year kind of sputtered in Big Ten play. If he doesn’t get it right this year, Purdue can really slip from their normally high spot in the standings.
Drew: I know this post has turned into a very pro-Rutgers one, but I think they’ll be the biggest disappointment (compared to preseason projections). The Scarlet Knights went 18-1 at home last season, feeding off of a rowdy RAC to lead them to victory after victory. With no fans in attendance this year that home record is sure to fall to a more realistic level. While their 2-10 road record will probably improve, that is the more likely record to stay closer to last year’s than their preposterous home performance.
Any coach on the hot seat already?
Belz: I think if Chris Collins has another really dreadful season like a year ago Northwestern could look to make a change. Outside of a nice run from 2015 to 2017, he has been under .500 every year. With the pandemic going on maybe this isn’t the year for him to be on the chopping block, but who knows.
Tyler: I thought Pat Chambers would be the name on the hot seat and then that whole thing happened and he’s already gone. I’d say Richard Pitino. He’s lived off name the first few years but they haven’t made strides you’d expect with the way he has recruited.
Bremen: I’d think that Minnesota’s Richard Pitino could find his seat a little warm if the Gophers have a slow start. Despite recruiting well and producing some talent, Pitino’s Gophers have been up and down and only danced twice under Pitino, where they crashed out before the second weekend, and have gone 48-82 in Big Ten play. It’s his seventh season in Minneapolis. Can he turn the promise into program momentum?
Drew: It seems like Maryland’s Mark Turgeon has been on the hot seat with Terps fans who are demanding a return to the Final Four and, despite winning a share of the Big Ten last year, I can see a rough season for Maryland leading to renewed calls for Turgeon’s job. But, as Belz notes, I don’t think any coaching changes are made this year due to “these uncertain times” and athletic departments unwilling/unable to pay buyouts.
Which freshman are you most excited to see on the court?
Belz: I am going to go a completely homer route here and say I am most excited to see Steven Crowl, Ben Carlson, and Jonathan Davis. I think all three freshmen should play minutes for the Badgers, and if they can add something to the veteran core Wisconsin should be a really fun team. Outside of Madison, I think Kristian Lander at Indiana should give the Hoosiers a fun one-two combo to pair with Trayce Jackson-Davis.
Tyler: I would agree with Drew, Adam Miller at Illinois is going to be a problem at Illinois. Dosunmubas gives you the ability to attack the basket and kick it out, or they can play through big man Kofi Cockburn and when defenders crash they can kick to Miller who is a lights out shooter. He should get good looks from deep.
Bremen: While I also would prefer to see our own freshman compete and star, the biggest name is definitely IU’s Khristian Lander. An Indiana native playing for the Hoosiers is always a fun story with a lot of pressure. Hopefully the diaper dandy lives up to the hype.
Drew: Adam Miller at Illinois has range for days and should slide into the Illini rotation as a valuable deep threat off the bench, and maybe start some games for them too. He was Mr. Basketball in Illinois which will make his success all the more sweet for Illini fans.