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Sunday, October 01, 2023

Basketball Preview: Tiers of the Big Ten

The Favorite


What else is there to say? Wisconsin is going to be good at basketball this year. They were picked unanimously by 27 media members to win the conference, ESPN and CBS think they have two of the Top 6 players in the country and they are as devoid of real question marks as any team in college basketball. This season could get really fun.

The Challengers


Ohio State


Michigan State

Any of these four could be picked to place second or fifth in the conference and no one would bat an eye. Personally, the one I like most is Michigan, simply because head coach John Beilein has taught us to never underestimate his ability to develop replacements for graduated stars.

The Wolverines don’t have a single big man who has registered any major minutes, but when you’re this good at player development, you get the benefit of the doubt, especially with Caris Levert poised to easily make the All-Big Ten team.

Ohio State welcomes D’Angelo Russell, a 247Sports composite five-star recruit, and Anthony Lee, a star transfer out of Temple, to their team and will rely more upon newcomers than any team in the conference. I was always in the “Aaron Craft is overrated” camp, so I like their chances to move on with arguably the two best newcomers in the Big Ten.

Nebraska returns the big names from their breakout team last year and could continue to be frisky, while Michigan State is going to have to reload after losing Gary Harris, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling.

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All of these teams have their strengths and weaknesses, to try to order them is a fool’s errand.

The Long Shots





Each of these teams should be good for at least one upset of a team above them but simply don’t have the firepower to be reasonably thought of as a contender.

Minnesota and Iowa will both play fast and be fun to watch (unlike their football teams). However, Iowa lacks the defense and outside scorers to be a true Big Ten contender, while Richard Pitino and the Gophers are still in a building phase for the program.

Illinois was bad last year, but they were also young and came on really strong later in the season. They should be much better this season.

Maryland is an enigma after entering a new conference and losing five scholarship players. Yet, they do have contenders for Player and Freshman of the Year with Dez Wells and Melo Trimble.

The Fillers




Penn State

Yeah, yeah Indiana’s on here. Do I really need to explain why Tom Crean’s shortcomings as a game coach or the load of suspensions hitting the Hoosiers mean the team is headed for another below .500 year in the conference? No? Okay, let’s move on.

Northwestern’s Chris Collins was one of the few coaches to figure out how to beat the Badgers with an inferior team last year, so who knows, maybe he coaches the Wildcats up. They still don’t have anywhere near the talent to consistently compete with the big boys.

Purdue’s 7-footer A.J. Hammons is the archetypal Giant Guy Who’s Not That Good At Basketball (I’m 6’7”, I can relate) and will likely remain a bigger body than a threat. He has no reliable post moves on offense and might have peaked defensively last year.

Penn State’s D.J. Newbill is pretty good, that’s all there really is to say about the Nittany Lions.

The Laughingstock


The world’s still trying to figure out why Jim Delany added these guys.

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