How will they finish? Tom Dienhart offers his Big Ten men's hoops predictions
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The Big Ten officially kicked off the 2016-17 basketball season with media day in Washington, D.C., today. Talent like Denzel Valentine, Caris LeVert, A.J. Hammons, Yogi Ferrell and Jarrod Uthoff is gone. Still, there is a lot to like about the conference.
Here is my look at the Big Ten and how I see each of the 14 squads finishing.
1. Wisconsin. No team ever is better coached than the Badgers, as Greg Gard has seamlessly picked up the torch from Bo Ryan and kept Wisconsin among the nation’s elite. Led by the likes of Nigel Hayes, Ethan Happ and Bronson Koenig, this looks like a Final Four team.
2. Indiana. The Hoosiers will miss all-time great Yogi Ferrell along with Troy Williams. But big man Thomas Bryant is back to dominate. Is Pitt transfer Josh Newkirk or Robert Johnson the answer at the point? They need to be for this to be a special season. James Blackmon is back from injury, while OG Anunoby looks primed for big things.
3. Michigan State. The Spartans have perhaps the best collection of incoming talent in the nation led by Miles Bridges and Josh Langford. And no doubt that Michigan State will be motivated after last year’s unceremonious first-round NCAA ouster by Middle Tennessee State. Look for Eron Harris to be a star.
4. Purdue. The Boilermakers could make a push for the title with burgeoning star Caleb Swanigan, Frankenstein-esque Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards anchoring a rugged front line. But the key will be guard play, always a worry in West Lafayette.
5. Michigan. There is a lot to like in Ann Arbor, beginning with Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin, two of the best in the Big Ten. A big key: lithe wing man Duncan Robinson taking the proverbial next step in his development. This team has talent and experience. And it’s always well-coached under John Beilein.
6. Illinois. The program has been hurt by turnover and injuries in recent years. But anchored by Tracy Abrams, Jalen Coleman-Lands and Malcolm Hill, the Fighting Illini have talent and depth and should end an NCAA tourney drought that dates to 2013 in what shapes up as a critical season for John Groce.
7. Ohio State. This is an interesting team. Yes, several players transferred. But the Buckeyes may be better for it. Thad Matta is a top coach who will build around Marc Loving, Jae’Sean Tate, JaQuan Lyle and Keita Bates-Diop. Look for a bounce-back season after missing the Big Dance in 2016.
8. Maryland. The Terps are in a major retooling mode with four starters gone. But Maryland does have Melo Trimble, an elite backcourt player. Guys like Damonte Dodd, Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens need to step up, along with a talented freshman class led by Kevin Huerter.
9. Iowa. The Hawkeyes are rebuilding around Peter Jok, an athletic wing man who can do a bit of everything. Freshmen like Tyler Cook and Jordan Bohannon need to impact.
10. Penn State. This is a program on the rise under Pat Chambers. The anchors? Payton Banks and Shep Garner. And the incoming freshmen arrive with fat scrapbooks. Keep an eye on UConn transfer Terrence Samuel.
11. Northwestern. Chris Collins seemingly has this program on the precipice of a breakout. Stealthy point man Bryant McIntosh is surrounded by talent in Vic Law, Aaron Falzon and Dererk Pardon. Is this the year the NCAA tourney drought ends?
12. Minnesota. This is a big season for Richard Pitino, whose Golden Gophers went 2-16 in the Big Ten last year. Off-court issues have cropped up, and attrition has hurt. The result: an unstable roster and program with a lot to prove. Fans are stoked about the arrival of Gopher legacy Amir Coffey, a real gem.
13. Nebraska. Tim Miles needs to pump some air into “Nebrasketball” in what shapes up as a key season in Lincoln. The abrupt departure of Andrew White doesn’t help matters. At least Tai Webster is back.
14. Rutgers. A new coach (Steve Pikiell) and new hope for the woebegone Scarlet Knights, who can build around guards Corey Sanders and Mike Williams. Things have to be better, right?
MY ALL-BIG TEN
- G Melo Trimble, Maryland
- F Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin
- C Thomas Bryant, Indiana
- G Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin
- G Malcolm Hill, Illinois
- F Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
- G Derrick Walton, Michigan
- F Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
- G Peter Jok, Iowa
- G Eron Harris, Michigan State
- F Miles Bridges, Michigan State
- G OG Anunoby, Indiana
- G Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern
- F Vince Edwards, Purdue
- G James Blackmon, Indiana