With less than a month to go until college basketball returns, it’s time to start looking at how the Big Ten stacks up. 2017 was an interesting season for the conference, and the 2018 season shapes up to be one filled with intrigue and unknowns. Let’s look at where the 14 teams are standing heading into the year, in power ranking form.
Here’s part one, rankings teams 8-14:
2017 Review: Minnesota had a blazing start to the year, starting 13-3 and climbing as high as 12 in the AP poll. It was all downhill from there, as the Gophers proceeded to lose 14 of their next 16 contests. They even lost to Rutgers in their final game of the season. Who loses to Rutgers, right? Sorry.
Where they are heading into 2018: So much production returns for Minnesota, but there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding which Minnesota team will show up this season. Jordan Murphy will be back after averaging a double-double last season, as will Amir Coffey, a diversely talented scorer. Richard Pitino even picked up a capable point guard via transfer in Marcus Carr. There’s no doubt Minnesota has the talent to succeed, but they could also fall to the same fate as last year. Minnesota is genuinely a team that could contend for the conference, but is also one that could be a bottom-dweller.
9. Ohio State
2017 Review: After taking over the program from Thad Matta, Chris Holtmann came into Columbus and instantly changed the fortunes of the program. On the back of B1G player of the year Keita Bates-Diop, OSU soared to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2015, narrowly falling to Gonzaga in the second round. Multiple players made leaps for the Buckeyes, such as veterans C.J. Jackson and Kam Williams. They also notched a win against the then top team in the country, Michigan State.
Where they are heading into 2018: OSU has plenty of reason to be excited for the upcoming season, even though the outlook is not as bright as it was last year. Keita Bates-Diop left for the NBA, and Jae’sean Tate graduated, but Holtmann added a solid recruiting class in addition to Wake Forest transfer Keyshawn Woods. If C.J. Jackson and Kaleb Wesson can guide the team well, they have a chance to crack the tournament again. If not, it could be more of a rebuilding season for Holtmann.
2017 Review: It was supposed to be a big season for the WIldcats. Coming into the season ranked in the preseason AP poll was unique for NU, and they weren’t able to capitalize on the momentum of the previous season. Nearly every player underperformed in comparison to expectations, as NU compounded its woes by dropping its final seven games of the season, including a truly brutal loss to Rutgers. It was definitely a season to forget for Cats’ fans.
Where they are heading into 2018: Northwestern will be a mix of old and young in 2018. Three seniors left the team, but the hope is that the best recruiting class in the history of the program will reinvigorate the squad. Pete Nance and Miller Kopp join the program, and Derek Pardon returns with Vic Law to lead the team in their final year. The NCAA tournament will be hard to reach for the team this year, but a return to any postseason play would be a success.
2017 Review: Iowa’s 2017 was stagnant from the start. After dropping early games to Louisiana and South Dakota State, the season went downhill. A 5-15 B1G slate highlighted the nature of the season. A huge issue arose in terms of depth, as no players outside of the starting five were able to average more than 6 points per game. Jordan Bohannon did have an awesome moment to remember, however.
Where they are heading into 2018: All of the top nine scorers from the previous season return to the Iowa team. Tyler Cook will be the main force on the team, and Bohannon will continue to be one of the premier three point threats in the conference. Iowa will be a fun team to watch, as they should be capable of lighting up the offensive side of the floor. Postseason play is firmly in reach for Iowa if the surrounding depth players can contribute at a greater level.
12. Penn State
2017 Review: Depending on your view of the NIT, Penn State turned in a successful season, though the Tournament was elusive yet again. After just missing out on March Madness , PSU ran the table at the NIT, thoroughly dominating all of their competition. If the NIT doesn’t do it for you, the Nittany Lions had Ohio State’s number all season, for some reason, beating OSU in all three of their matchups.
Where they are heading into 2018: Unfortunately for PSU, they lost their best player in Tony Carr and another productive starter in Shep Garner. Fortunately, Lamar Stevens will be back running the show. PSU added a deep-but-not-star-studded recruiting class, so a lot of the season’s success will rely on the development of the younger players. Expect a step back this year for the Nittany Lions.
2017 Review: Illinois had a tame year after dropping its first two B1G games in heartbreaking fashion. Trent Frazier and Leron Black established an efficient pairing, but it didn’t materialize into wins for the Illini. They finished second-to-last in the B1G and weren’t anywhere near contention for postseason play.
Where they are heading into 2018: Illinois added a mammoth recruiting class that included Ayo Dosunmu, who has the potential to be a premier scorer. Because of this, Illinois will be one of the youngest teams in the conference, so this year will act as a transition year for the new class of freshmen. Unless the class is able to produce something special, they won’t be contending for postseason play, but they will be in years to follow.
2017 Review: Rutgers had yet another brutal year in the B1G, but they certainly put up a fight. After dropping sven conference games in a row, they were able to stun Northwestern at the RAC, with their first lead of the game coming in the second half. They proceeded to win two games in the B1G tournament, before losing a close one to Purdue.
Where they are heading into 2018: It’s very unlikely that Rutgers makes any sort of meaningful jump this year. Despite adding a fairly solid recruiting class that is highlighted by Montez Mathis, the team just isn’t build to contend in the B1G. It’ll be a while until Steve Pikiell’s team is able to establish itself in the league.