Power Rankings: Spartans and Boilers go 1-2 in Jon Crispin's debut hoops poll
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It’s great to be back for another season of Big Ten basketball!
Last season we enjoyed a conference full of parity and young talent. That parity and youth created a competitive environment which made being correct on my weekly Power Rankings nearly impossible.
There’s no escaping the fact that one team appears to be ahead of the rest at the moment, but I expect this season to be filled with just as much parity as last year and with potentially even more consistency from top to bottom. A lot of young teams gained significant experience last year and many other teams began to raise their expectations which is the first step towards becoming a steady competitor in one of the best conferences in the country.
Here’s what I’ve got for my first Big Ten Power Rankings of the season, presented by ArcelorMittal, as we gear up for the beginning of regular season play.
1. Michigan State: There’s no question the Spartans have the potential and the personnel to be one of the best teams in the country. Miles Bridges will be fantastic and the frontcourt may be one of the best in the country, but guard play and perimeter shooting may determine their fate.
2. Purdue: The Boilers should be better than they were last year. Yes, even after losing Caleb Swanigan to the NBA. This may be one of the most balanced teams in the conference and I expect Matt Painter to manipulate his lineup well to dominate certain matchups.
3. Minnesota: The loss of Eric Curry to injury for the season is a huge issue for the Gophers, as depth was already a concern. That being said, Nate Mason, Amir Coffey and Reggie Lynch can win games on their own. The key will be in their collective ability to stay out of foul trouble, particularly Lynch.
4. Northwestern: Not having Welsh-Ryan Arena this season due to construction will be a great challenge for Chris Collins and the Wildcats. It has become a terrific environment. Collins has a potential lineup of Bryant McIntosh, Aaron Falzon, Scottie Lindsey, Vic Law and Dererk Pardon that is guard heavy, but still lengthy and dynamic. I expect this team to make a run in March.
5. Iowa: As exciting as this team will be, there are still some questions to answer. Much like Purdue, the Hawkeyes have great balance and personnel, but Fran McCaffery will have to find the right rotation that maximizes the potential of their talent. Consistency could make them a Top 3 team in conference.
6. Maryland: One of my favorite things about Maryland is Anthony Cowan and his ability to disrupt an opponent’s backcourt. If the Terps consistently defend well, the guard play of Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson will be tough to matchup against on the offensive side of the ball.
7. Penn State: Although the bulk of the core for the Nittany Lions are only sophomores, this seems to be the year for head coach Pat Chambers and his bunch to take a huge step forward. Creating easier scoring opportunities will help this team get set up and improve on the defensive end as transition defense and positioning was an issue for last year’s young squad.
8. Michigan: John Beilein is a terrific basketball mind and teacher, but he will have his hands full with a very inexperienced group. The potential is there with Moe Wagner leading the way, and this team will likely evolve throughout the season. Good size that allows Wagner to play the four may help keep them in early games.
9. Wisconsin: It’s hard to think of Wisconsin finishing outside of the Top 4 in the Big Ten, as they have done just that for 16 years straight. But when you lose four of your five starters from the previous year, the streak may come to an end. Ethan Happ will fill the stat sheet and be fantastic but this will likely be a developmental year for the Badgers.
10. Indiana: New head coach Archie Miller is a competitor and a proven winner. He will get this team to compete or he will find individuals who will. Part of the process for Miller will be establishing expectations, holding players accountable and building a winning culture. In that process, the Hoosiers will find some success but this is a foundation building year with much more to come in the future.
11. Ohio State: New head coach Chris Holtmann has shown an ability to win at any level, against the best teams in the country with perceivably less talent. This sounds a lot like the recipe for success that Bo Ryan and Greg Gard have benefited from for the past 16 years at Wisconsin. I predict he’ll find consistent success at Ohio State, but it will take time to build a well-balanced roster.
12. Illinois: New head coach Brad Underwood is going to bring a lot of intensity and pressure defense to the Illini this season. He’s got key weapons in Michael Finke, Leron Black and Te’Jon Lucas. Lucas showed significant signs of improvement last season which should pay dividends for the Illini this year.
13. Nebraska: Although the program lost (to transfer) Michael Jacobson, Jeriah Horne and Ed Morrow, there are still pieces to build upon. Glynn Watson is one of the most elusive perimeter players in the conference and it will be interesting to see if Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland will be able to make an impact.
14. Rutgers: Steve Pikiell has done a terrific job with this team. There is excitement around the league about the potential of this program in the near future. Pikiell is teaching the Scarlet Knights how to execute and how to compete. The maturation of Corey Sanders and leadership of Mike Williams and Deshawn Freeman will make Rutgers a serious competitor.