For the fifth straight year, Brendan Quinn of The Athletic and Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch have compiled the Official Unofficial Big Ten Preseason Media Poll for men’s hoops ($). If you don’t have a subscription to The Athletic, here is a non-paywalled version of the results and, well, I’ll be discussing them below!
There are 28 voters from outlets all across the conference including Badgers beat writers Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Abby Schnable of the Wisconsin State Journal. The “official unofficial” poll exists because the conference’s official media poll doesn’t release a full 1-through-14 ranking of teams.
Alright, first off, here is how the voters see the conference shaking out (first place votes in parantheses):
1. Michigan, 373 (13)
2. Purdue, 373 (12)
3. Illinois, 320 (3)
4. Ohio State, 316
5. Maryland, 269
6. Michigan State, 262
7. Indiana, 219
8. Rutgers, 208
9. Iowa, 150
10. Wisconsin, 149
11. Nebraska, 105
T-12. Northwestern, 81
T-12. Penn State, 81
14. Minnesota, 34
Basically all that can be agreed upon is that Michigan and Purdue are the two best teams in the conference and Minnesota is the worst. Illinois sneaked three first place votes (two of which came from Illini beat writers), but this season should be a battle between the Wolverines and Boilermakers for B1G supremacy.
The Badgers sitting at No. 10 is a rough spot to be. The Big Ten has never sent more than nine teams to the NCAA Tournament and only the Big East in 2011 has ever sent more than nine. While UW sits a mere one point behind Iowa in this poll, only the most optimistic Wisconsin fan will be predicting them higher than No. 9 in the conference this year.
The media members also picked some awards and an all-conference team. Illinois center Kofi Cockburn was picked as preseason player of the year with 11 votes. Purdue’s Jaden Ivey came in second with five votes and Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell had four votes to fill out the medal stand. Michigan freshman Caleb Houstan was picked as freshman of the year with 20 votes while Michigan State’s Max Christie racked up seven votes and Nebraska’s Bryce McGowens got the remaining vote.
The all-conference team is chock full of excellent big men:
Kofi Cockburn, Illinois (27)
E.J. Liddell, Ohio State (26)
Hunter Dickinson, Michigan (25)
Jaden Ivey, Purdue (21)
Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana (20)
Also receiving votes: Trevion Williams, Purdue (10); Eric Ayala, Maryland (4); Andre Curbelo, Illinois, and DeVante’ Jones, Michigan (2); Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr., Rutgers, and Caleb Houstan, Michigan (1)
As this poll shows, it could be a learning experience of a season for the Badgers. I’m excited to see the young players on Wisconsin learn about the rigors of a Big Ten schedule in real time and I’m excited to go into a season with limited expectations. It’ll make every good game a pleasant surprise.