While no one knows just how this pandemic season will play out, one thing that looks to hold is the Big Ten will be a force to be reckoned with. From Luka Garza to Trayce Jackson-Davis to Ayo Dosunmu, the amount of talent in the league is staggering. Here’s how the teams stack up after the first couple weeks of play
1. Iowa (3-0)
Luka Garza and the Hawkeyes have quickly established themselves as one of the most talented teams in the country. Garza’s agility in the post coupled with his 62.5% mark from beyond the arc has made him virtually un-guardable. Junior Joe Weiskamp and Redshirt Freshman Patrick McCaffery have both been consistent offensive threats for Iowa as well.
2. Michigan State (5-0)
Following an impressive road win against Duke, Tom Izzo’s squad eked out a win over Detroit Mercy. The Spartans looked much more confident in their next game against Western Michigan. Marquette transfer Joey Hauser has made an immediate impact, as has the return of Joshua Langford. If Rocket Watts can continue his development into a high-caliber point guard, MSU looks to be in a good position heading into conference play.
3. Illinois (3-1)
Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn continue to be dynamic playmakers for the Illini. True freshman Adam Miller is turning heads, having already earned Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week honors. Despite a tough loss to No. 2 Baylor and a dramatic effort needed to beat Ohio, there is still plenty of reason to believe this team can be a national title contender.
4. Wisconsin (3-1)
The Badgers’ starting five consists exclusively of seniors, including the highly regarded D’Mitrik Trice, Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter. Sophomore Tyler Wahl has been consistent in the frontcourt and seems to be emerging as a future star. After beating up on three inferior opponents, the Badgers fell to in state foe Marquette and looked uncharacteristically foul-prone.
5. Rutgers (3-0)
After emerging as the conference’s dark horse last season, the Scarlet Knights are back in impressive fashion. Rutgers’ efficient, physical style of defense has been complemented well by high scoring efforts from Ron Harper Jr. and Jacob Young. Despite the loss of star Geo Baker to an ankle injury, Steve Pikiell’s experienced team looks to pick up where it left off in March.
6. Ohio State (3-0)
Though efficiency stats are somewhat skewed early in the year, it’s worth noting that OSU ranks in the top 20 nationally on both sides of the ball. Cal transfer Justice Sueing leads the team in scoring, while other notable contributors include returners Duane Washington, Jr., and E.J. Liddell.
7. Indiana (3-1)
After a rough showing against a talented Texas squad in the Maui (but Asheville) Classic, Trayce Jackson-Davis and the Hoosiers redeemed themselves against Ziaire Williams and Stanford. Jackson-Davis and the experienced IU backcourt will have to continue to prove themselves as they head to Tallahassee to face 20th-ranked Florida State on Wednesday.
8. Michigan (4-0)
The absence of Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske is evident on this young Michigan team. But the Wolverines will look to build around talented returners Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner. Seven-footer freshman Hunter Dickinson has helped in the front court, notably bailing the Wolverines out against a winless Oakland team in overtime. It hasn’t been pretty, but there’s plenty to like from Michigan early.
9. Maryland (4-0)
Despite the departure of Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith, the Terps have a solid core in Darryl Morsell, Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins. Ayala will be an integral part of Mark Turgeon’s offense, as he has scored in the double figures in all four games. Maryland faces Clemson this week in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in what looks to be its first true challenge.
10. Purdue (3-1)
Purdue’s newest 7-foot-4 center, freshman Zach Edey, has made a great first impression, already earning Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week honors. Trevion Williams has remained solid in the paint and Sasha Stefanovic has been reliably draining threes. While their only loss came against a talented Clemson team, the Boilermakers did go down to the wire against Valpo. Give this team some time to click and they’ll be tricky once again.
11. Northwestern (2-0)
This might be the only time it’s feasible for the ‘Cats to be here, so just bear with me. In all seriousness, this NU team looks much improved from last year, especially with newcomers Ty Berry and Chase Audige. Miller Kopp and the Wildcats will need to build on the momentum they’ve gathered from their two blowout wins as they head into their only non-B1G, Power Five test against Pittsburgh.
12. Minnesota (4-0)
With a game winning three against Loyola Marymount and a strong performance against North Dakota, Marcus Carr has lead the way so far for the Golden Gophers. As great as he’s been, though, others will need to step up in order for Minnesota to string together some Big Ten wins.
13. Penn State (2-1)
Sunday’s loss to Seton Hall, a game in which they led by as many as 19 points, could’ve been a big early season win for PSU against a team many think can make the tournament. The undersized Nittany Lions will likely struggle in the half court against bigger teams, but their guard play remains a bright spot.
14. Nebraska (3-1)
As we saw during his tenure at Iowa State, Fred Hoiberg builds his teams around transfers. While this year’s haul looks somewhat promising, it’s unclear whether that will be enough for the Huskers. Teddy Allen, a junior college transfer, has emerged as an explosive scorer. In their lone game this week, the Huskers beat South Dakota by seven.