clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Preseason Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings: Everyone is chasing Michigan State

New, 4 comments

How does the conference stack up heading into the 2017-18 season?

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Tournament-Michigan State vs Minnesota Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As we enter the 2017-18 college basketball season, the Big Ten looks a bit different than usual. Many traditional powers are either breaking in new coaches (Indiana, Ohio State) or looking to replace a ton of talent (Wisconsin, Michigan), which means unfamiliar names like Minnesota and, yes, Northwestern have an opportunity to settle into the top tier. Three of our writers break down the conference 1 through 14 as things stand right now.

1. Michigan State

Will Ragatz Martin Oppegaard Caleb Friedman Average
Will Ragatz Martin Oppegaard Caleb Friedman Average
1 1 1 1

The Spartans are the clear frontrunners in the conference. Miles Bridges is the best returning player in America, and five-star freshman Jaren Jackson adds incredible length to an already huge Michigan State frontcourt. Nick Ward, Jeremy Langford and Cassius Winston should also improve as sophomores and a lot of Sparty’s veteran role players are back. With a blend of experience, youth and talent, Tom Izzo has the team to beat in the Big Ten. — CF

2. Minnesota

WR MO CF Avg
WR MO CF Avg
2 4 2 2.67

The Gophers made a massive leap in Richard Pitino’s fourth season, going from two Big Ten wins in 2015-16 to 11 last season. With virtually its entire core coming back, Minnesota is a near-lock to improve upon that number again. Nate Mason might be the best point guard in the conference. Jordan Murphy and Reggie Lynch make up a dominant-yet-underrated frontcourt. Look for a breakout campaign from wing Amir Coffey, who averaged 12, 3 and 3 as a true freshman. This team has depth, too. Watch out. — WR

3. Purdue

WR MO CF Avg
WR MO CF Avg
4 2 3 3

I’m hot on Purdue even with the loss of Caleb Swanigan. Matt Painter’s group won the Big Ten regular season crown last season and they will be Michigan State’s best competition this year. The Boilermakers return incredible depth in the backcourt — Dakota Mathias and P.J. Thompson are both seniors, as is talented wing Vince Edwards. Carsen Edwards burst onto the scene last year as a freshman and a similar rookie campaign could be in the works from four-star guard and Evanston native Nojel Eastern. 7-foot-2 behemoth Isaac Haas anchors Purdue in the paint; one of these years he’s going to channel his untapped potential and become the dominant rebounder and defensive presence he is capable of being. Purdue’s too balanced and experienced to significantly decline without Swanigan. They’ll be among the conference’s best once again. — MO

4. Northwestern

WR MO CF Avg
WR MO CF Avg
3 3 6 4

It all comes back to experience for the Wildcats. With four starters back, Chris Collins' team has a ton of hype heading into the season. Playing at Allstate Arena could be tricky, however, and there are some questions marks on the offensive end. The efficiency of Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law Jr. will be an important storyline throughout the season. Even with the weird off-court circumstances, this NU team is poised to be the best in school history. — CF

5. Wisconsin

WR MO CF Avg
WR MO CF Avg
6 5 5 5.33

Wisconsin’s streak of eight consecutive seasons with 12 or more Big Ten wins is in serious jeopardy this year after losing Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter, Vitto Brown and Nigel Hayes to graduation. The biggest reason they’re still in our top five? Ethan. Happ. The preseason All-Big Ten First Team big is one of the best players in the conference and a matchup nightmare. Players like D’Mitrik Trice and Khalil Iverson will need to step up, and the Badgers are counting on improvements from several highly-regarded freshmen, but recent history shows you can never count out Wisconsin. — WR

6. Maryland

WR MO CF Avg
WR MO CF Avg
5 6 7 6

It’s a similar story to Purdue. The Terrapins lose leading scorer Melo Trimble, who probably should have stayed for his senior season. On that note, his former teammate Diamond Stone should probably still be in College Park as well. Reloading without Trimble shouldn’t be too difficult for Mark Turgeon. As true freshmen, Anthony Cowan, Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter all averaged over 27 minutes per game. Together, they finished second through fourth on the team in scoring. Great guard play can singlehandedly win you games and ensures you can play with anybody. In an unforgiving Big Ten, the Terrapins’ talented backcourt with Jackson’s versatility and Turgeon’s steady hand will be able to guide them to a fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. — MO

7. Michigan

WR MO CF Avg
WR MO CF Avg
8 7 4 6.33

Michigan lost a lot this offseason — Derrick Walton Jr., Zak Irvin and DJ Wilson — but those losses are a bit deceptive. Walton is admittedly a huge loss, but Wilson and Irvin were inconsistent for a lot of 2016-2017; Wilson's play spiked at the end of the season when more people were paying attention. Mo Wagner has All-Big Ten written all over him, and transfers Charles Matthew (Kentucky) and Jaaron Simmons (Ohio) will play big roles. With Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman on the wings, Michigan has a lot of firepower again. Oh yeah, and John Beilein is one of the best coaches in the country. — CF

8. Iowa

WR MO CF Avg
WR MO CF Avg
7 8 8 7.67

Iowa sits just outside of our top half but could easily earn a Tournament berth if several young players make major strides. Every meaningful contributor other than Peter Jok (and his 20 points per game) returns for the Hawkeyes, including talented sophomores Jordan Bohannon, Tyler Cook and Cordell Pemsl. The question for Iowa is if it has anyone who can create their own shot effectively. — WR

9. Penn State

WR MO CF Avg
WR MO CF Avg
9 10 9 9.33

Seven years after taking a thankless job in Happy Valley, the pieces are finally beginning to come together for Pat Chambers. What once looked like deathbed for basketball has become a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender. Returning five of your six leading scorers doesn’t hurt. Neither does having one of the most explosive guards in the conference in Tony Carr. Chambers stayed within the state to reel in Carr and fellow sophomore Lamar Stevens, easily the Nittany Lions’ two best players. This team is probably one more year and perhaps one more four-star from Pennsylvania from being in the upper tier of the conference. Don’t sleep on Penn State. — MO

10. Indiana

WR MO CF Avg
WR MO CF Avg
10 9 10 9.67

Tom Crean is gone, and Archie Miller is in. It'll take at least a season for Miller to turn over the roster enough to make a splash, in all likelihood, so the Hoosiers might be in for another disappointing season. The four freshmen on the roster have a lot of talent, but it's tough to see them pushing Miller's team into the Tournament conversation just yet. IU will miss Thomas Bryant and James Blackmon Jr. in 2017-2018. — CF

11. Illinois

WR MO CF Avg
WR MO CF Avg
11 11 12 11.33

It seemed like it would never happen, but Malcolm Hill and Tracy Abrams are no longer on the Illinois roster. New coach Brad Underwood will look to start the rebuilding process for an Illini team that returns just one of its top five scorers from a year ago. Holdovers like Leron Black and Michael Finke will play big roles, but the most interesting thing to watch will be the development of freshmen guards Mark Smith and Trent Frazier. The addition of grad transfer Mark Alstork will help this team win some games, but Illinois and Underwood are at least a year away from Tournament contention. — WR

12. Ohio State

WR MO CF Avg
WR MO CF Avg
12 12 11 11.67

A year removed from the unprecedented transfer of four players, Ohio State lost one more this offseason. JaQuan Lyle, the Buckeyes’ third-leading scorer last season, quit the team back in May. Oh, and Thad Matta won’t be on the sideline after 13 years in Columbus. Enter Chris Holtmann, who won at Gardner-Webb and then won some more at Butler. The Big Ten is different and Ohio State is in a treacherous state. Holtmann was able to piece together the conference’s top recruiting class led by in-state product Kaleb Wesson, former Butler commit Kyle Young and 2018 reclassification Musa Jallow. All three will have to play big minutes immediately. This team, led by seniors Jae’Sean Tate and Kam Williams, won’t be an easy out, but this is most certainly a rebuilding year. — MO

13. Nebraska

WR MO CF Avg
WR MO CF Avg
14 13 13 13.33

Nebraska doesn't have a whole lot going for it right now. The Huskers struggled in the Big Ten a year ago after a decent start, but Tim Miles doesn't have Tai Webster to handle the scoring load this season. Glynn Watson Jr. is a talented guard, but he won't have a ton of help this season. — CF

14. Rutgers

WR MO CF Avg
WR MO CF Avg
13 14 14 13.67

Ah, Rutgers. Steve Pikiell is a good coach, but I just don’t think he’ll have enough talent outside of Corey Sanders and Deshawn Freeman to win more than 3 or 4 conference games. For what it’s worth, I think the Scarlet Knights will be better than Nebraska and wouldn’t be all that surprised if they finished ahead of one of the Indiana/Illinois/Ohio State trio too, just based on Pikiell’s coaching ability. — WR