After not having a team in the Final Four last season, the Big Ten looks to get back on top. However, the only shot appears to lie in Ohio State who returns last season’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Jared Sullinger.
After that, the rest of the conference is pretty much up for grabs. As always, teams like Michigan State and Wisconsin will be near the top. Even though Michigan loses Darius Morris, they will likely also finish in the top third.
As far as the rest of the conference goes, here are my predictions:
Big Ten Player of the Year: Jared Sullinger
Big Ten Freshman of the Year: Cody Zeller
Big Ten Coach of the Year: Thad Matta
1. Ohio State- They return most of their core from last year and have added a few McDonald’s All-Americans to help out off the bench. They shouldn’t have any problem taking the regular season title.
2. Wisconsin- It’s always hard to count out a Bo Ryan led team when it comes to being in the upper tier of the Big Ten. It makes it even more difficult when he has a guy like Jordan Taylor.
3. Michigan- They lose their best player from last year’s team but return just about everybody else including senior Zack Novak and Tim Hardaway, Jr. Trey Burke will have to do his best to fill in for Darius Morris.
4. Michigan State- If this were any other year, I wouldn’t see the Spartans in the top half of the conference. However, it is a little weaker. They return Draymond Green and transfer Brandon Wood should come in and make an impact.
5. Illinois- I think this will be a good, clean start for the Illini. Although they lose Demetri McCamey, they were also fortunate that Jereme Richmond left early. He seemed too hurt more than help. They also bring in a transfer, Sam Maniscalco(Bradley), that will get significant minutes.
6. Indiana- The Hoosiers are one of the most experienced teams in the Big Ten. They also bring in a top-15 recruit in Cody Zeller who should help the team overall in terms of inside and outside play. Look for Will Sheehey to make a huge jump from last season.
7. Purdue- Although they return Robbie Hummel, that’s pretty much all they have in terms of scoring. They don’t return any double-digit scorers from last year and it’s hard to tell how much of an impact Hummel will actually have.
8. Minnesota- They could end up higher than this but they fell off at the end of last season only winning one of their last eleven. Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III could lead this team, but they are going to need some support.
9. Northwestern- John Shurna is an All-Big Ten player, but after he and Drew Crawford the Wildcats don’t have much at all. If they want any chance of postseason play they need at least two others two step up and make a big impact.
10. Iowa- They return their top three scorers from last year, but those guys didn’t help lead Iowa anywhere. Fran McCaffery will have his hands full with this team but they should be able to get a few wins.
11. Nebraska- It’ll be very interesting to see how the Cornhuskers adjust to the Big Ten. They struggled in the Big 12 and for the time being I imagine they struggle in this conference.
12. Penn State- Talor Battle was Penn State basketball for the past four years. Now, he is gone and they don’t have a replacement. With a new coach and new faces, the Nittany Lions will be in the basement of the Big Ten this year. It’s really tough to even tell when they will move out of it.
Check out the EJSIC for a weekly updated on what to watch out for and what’s going on in the Big Ten each week throughout the season.