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Big Ten men’s basketball power rankings, part 2

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In a conference full of unknowns, one typical stalwart of the league looks like the best.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round- Michigan State Spartans vs Syracuse Orange Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

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. The first part of these rankings can be found here.

1. Michigan State

2017 Review: Michigan State’s 2017 team was stacked from top to bottom. Miles Bridges was the star of the show, but the supporting cast could have been built better around him. Cassius Winston and Nick Ward highlighted the rest of the starting lineup, but the bench was also efficient and reliable. The Spartans even pulled off a 27 point comeback against a team that shall not be named. After a 27-3 regular season, the wheels started to come off for MSU. They were handled easily by Michigan in the B1G tournament, before falling to Syracuse in the second round of the tournament. It was an extremely disappointing postseason for a team that was pegged to compete for a title.

Where they are heading into 2018: Despite all of the trials and tribulations of the previous season, they’ll have a great chance to redeem themselves this year. Cassius Winston and Nick Ward return, primed for big seasons as upperclassmen, and Izzo added a solid recruiting class with four four-star recruits this year. The depth is still there, with Kenny Goins, Joshua Langford, and Matt McQuaid all back for another season. With the most talented roster in the B1G, MSU will be aiming for a deep run in the tournament.

2. Nebraska

2017 Review: Despite posting a solid 13-5 B1G record, Nebraska narrowly missed out on a NCAA tournament bid, instead settling for the NIT. A third round B1G tournament exit was a fatal blow to Nebraska, who got shellacked by Michigan following a double bye. Overall, the season represented a trend in the right direction for Tim Miles’ team, and they look even better heading into 2018.

Where they are heading into 2018: Nebraska returns nearly all of their production from last year, and it just might be the best roster in the league. James Palmer, Isaiah Copeland, and Glynn Watson Jr. bring experience and skill to the starting five, and the depth behind them is very solid. Not only can Nebraska challenge for the B1G this year, but they have the potential to make a run in the NCAA tournament.

3. Purdue

2017 Review: Purdue was another team that had a thoroughly talented team last year. Four players averaged double-digit points for the squad, and the roster was filled with NBA caliber skill. Isaac Haas, who is dealing with knee issues while playing for the Jazz, had the most unfortunate NCAA tournament, fracturing his elbow in Purdue’s second round win against Butler. The injury ultimately derailed Purdue’s hopes, as the team was defeated in the following round by Texas Tech. Purdue, and Haas, deserved better, but sports are cruel sometimes.

Where they are heading into 2018: Carsen Edwards returns as the headliner of the team this year, and with good reason. The guard is one of the most effective scorers in the country, and has a chance at the National Player of The Year when it’s all said and done — he’s the conference’s clearcut preseason player of the year. However, losing Dakota Mathias, Isaac Haas, P.J. Thompson, and Vincent Edwards will be tough on the Boilermakers, who aren’t fully equipped to replace them. Nojel Eastern, who went to Evanston Township, figures to play a big role in the team this year, but there isn’t much in the way of established talent for Purdue. It’ll be an interesting season.

4. Wisconsin

2017 Review: Wisconsin endured one of its worst seasons in a long time. The Badgers won 15 games, its lowest total since 1997. Outside of big man Ethan Happ, the team lacked talent and depth, failing to reach postseason play. The aforementioned Happ was one of the sole bright spots on the team. He led the team in points, rebounds, blocks, and steals, and earned a spot on the All-B1G second team.

Where they are heading into 2018: This team is built to come back strong after a down year. Happ returns for his senior season as arguably the best big man in the league, Brad Davison will be back from surgery, and the team will add experience down the board. D’mitrik Trice is a player to watch out for this year. After playing 31 minutes a game as a freshman, he’ll have a chance to run a much more experienced and healthy offense. Wisconsin will be in a good position to get themselves back in the tournament.

5. Indiana

2017 Review: Another historically solid program that had a down year. In Archie Miller’s first year on the job, Indiana posted its lowest win total since 2010, and also missed out on postseason play. Juwan Morgan and Robert Johnson led the team well, but outside of them, there wasn’t much success. On the other hand, they lost to Ohio State in one of the most fun games of the year, so at least there’s that.

Where they are heading into 2018: Miller added a bona fide stud in the 2018 recruiting class with Romeo Langford, and Juwan Morgan returns, giving Indiana one of the best guard/forward combos in the league. The only player that Indiana lost was Robert Johnson, so many role players of last year will have the chance to step up into bigger roles this year. If the supporting cast can do its part around Morgan and Langford, Indiana could make a jump into being one of the two best teams in the conference.

6. Michigan

2017 Review: What a year it was for Michigan. After a relatively tame start to the season, the Wolverines rattled off 14 straight wins, earning them a B1G tournament title and a place in the NCAA championship, before succumbing to an ever-so-talented Villanova team. One of those wins was a thrilling OT win over Iowa, another a miraculous buzzer-beater from Jordan Poole in the round of 32. It didn’t end the way they wanted it to, but it was a fun season for Michigan.

Where they are heading into 2018: Michigan lost a lot of talent from the previous season, including Mo Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and Duncan Robinson. A lot of talent still returns for Michigan, though. Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole return, looking to guide Michigan on another run. It’ll likely be another up and down year for Michigan, but if there’s any coach that can get the most out of the team, it’s John Beilein.

7. Maryland

2017 Review: Maryland had a disappointing season. With a squad full of talent at every single position, the team couldn’t find a way to gel together. On paper, a starting five of Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter, Bruno Fernando, Justin Jackson, and Darryl Morsell should’ve been able to compete with any team in the B1G, but it just didn’t work out. Maryland missed out on postseason play after dropping their opening B1G tournament game to Wisconsin.

Where they are heading into 2018: The losses of Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson will hurt Maryland severely in the scoring and rebounding departments, but there’s some hope for the team in the form of Anthony Cowan and Bruno Fernando. As a freshman, Fernando averaged 10 points and 6 rebounds, and Cowan put up 16 points to go with 5 assists. The duo represent a tantalizing guard/forward combo that is just shy in terms of ability in comparison to the Langford/Morgan combo in Bloomington. The season has the potential of going in multiple directions for Mark Turgeon.