Welcome to the first of many pseudo-regular Big Ten basketball power rankings where we watch every second of every game of every team in the Big Ten. Even the “secret” scrimmages!
The conference was wildly top-heavy last year and even the top wasn’t that heavy until it was with the Michigan Wolverines running up to the NBA D-League’s Villanova Wildcats. Seriously, Nova was tremendous and the National Player of the Year (Jalen Brunson) was like the 4th best player on that team.
We’ll count down these rankings because that’s how I’m feeling at this precise moment. Do we really need suspense to find out that Rutgers is lowly ranked?
14. Illinois Fighting Illini
HA! You thought I was gonna put Rutgers 14th. Well you’d be wrong. Anyways, Illinois was so bad they gave up a home loss to Iowa despite getting up by like 40 points. Then they lost to Iowa AGAIN in the conference tournament. I low-key enjoy those 11-14 and 12-13 matchups. Brad Underwood said his team didn’t know how to WIN. That’s a red flag, imo, in a game where the object is to win.
Key Departures: Mark Alstork, Leron Black, Michael Finke, Te’Jon Lucas, Mark Smith
Key Arrivals (top 150 recruits (per 247) + grad transfers): Ayo Dosunmu (32), Tevian Jones (119), Adonis De La Rosa (Kent State)
13. Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Gophers were bad last year after Reggie Lynch left the program but they return Amir Coffey from injury and Jordan Murphy to grab every rebound in sight. Can they find someone to fill in for senior guard Nate Mason? They could really climb up these rankings if Coffey takes over like he’s capable of and Lil’ Ricky Pitino doesn’t spend too much time producing his dad’s podcast.
Key Departures: Nate Mason, Reggie Lynch
Key Arrivals: Daniel Oturu (50), Brock Stull (Milwaukee)
12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Rutgers plays defense and defense travels. They struggle at offense unless they’re playing Iowa. They beat Minnesota and Indiana in the conference tournament at their new home court, Madison Square Garden. I’m told it was the best basketball Knicks fans have seen since Willis Reed came out of the tunnel! Geo Baker can ball.
Key Departures: Deshawn Freeman, Mike Williams
Key Arrivals: Montez Mathis (135)
11. Iowa Hawkeyes
I cannot in good faith put the Hawks any higher until I see them play defense. Since they didn’t do that against Missouri in their closed scrimmage, here’s where they’ll be. I honestly thought about putting Rutgers ahead of them.
Key Departures: None, somehow
Key Arrivals: Joe Wieskamp (60)
10. Northwestern Wildcats
In a rare turn of events, Northwestern decided to cancel their 2017-18 basketball season in celebration of their first NCAA Tournament appearance and victory. Oh wait, they just played their season in Rosemont as a result of renovations to Welsh-Ryan Arena. They could find themselves in another rebuilding year as they lost a lot from their senior class.
Key Departures: Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey, Gavin Skelly
Key Arrivals: Pete Nance (88), Miller Kopp (116), Ryan Taylor (Evansville),
Bryant McIntosh (Northwestern)
9. Penn State Nittany Lions
Pat Chambers’ ballyhooed 2016 class are juniors now and they’re pretty good. Nine might be low because it overestimates the loss of Tony Carr, who left early for the draft. They’re coming off an NIT Tournament win - hang that banner! - which could portend to greatness or just demonstrate how good Carr was. He was great!
Key Departures: Tony Carr, Ship Garner, Julian Moore
Key Arrivals: None that qualify
8. Ohio State Buckeyes
Another team who lost their biggest piece of the puzzle in Keita Bates-Diop. That’s really all I got.
Somehow Iowa hired the worst coach from Butler in like the last 20 years.
Key Departures: Keita Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams, Andrew “Even I think my father is insufferable” Dakich
Key Arrivals: Luther Muhammad (79), Jaedon LeDee (103), Keyshawn Woods (Wake Forest)
7. Wisconsin Badgers
One word: Injuries
Two words: Buzzcut Brad
Three words: Ethan Freakin’ Happ
Key Departures: None of note
Key Arrivals: None that qualify
6. Maryland Terrapins
They had the #7 recruiting class in the nation which makes me believe Mark Turgeon
has a great bag man can really connect with the modern day high schooler. Anthony Cowan was a good guard for them and he’ll be back playing 40 minutes a night. Bruno Fernando was pretty good, too. Can Turgeon make it work? Hard to say, but they’ve got a great home court advantage especially considering the Under Armour basketball.
Key Departures: Kevin Huerter, Justin Jackson, Jared Nickens, Michal Cekovsky, Dion Wiley
Key Arrivals: Jalen Smith (16), Aaron Wiggins (42), Eric Ayala (78)
5. Indiana Hoosiers
Archie Miller over performed in year one and they return a good amount of talent with Juwan Morgan, Devonte Green, and Zach McRoberts. Romeo Langford made the state of Indiana, save West Lafayette, shake with joy when he selected them as his pit stop on the way to the NBA. They’ll be young but might have the most talent of anyone in the conference.
Key Departures: Robert Johnson, Josh Newkirk, Freddie McSwain, Collin Hartman
Key Arrivals: Romeo Langford (7), Jerome Hunter (59), Damezi Anderson (125), Robert Phinisee (136), Jake Forrester (148)
4. Nebraska Cornhuskers
I honestly kinda forgot about them and feel like they’re a team who could plummet after taking advantage of a very down year in the conference to [checks notes] lose in the first round of the NIT. Will James Palmer regret not going pro?
Key Departures: Evan Taylor, Anton Gill
Key Arrivals: None that qualify
3. Purdue Boilermakers
They have the best player in the conference with Carsen Edwards returning and the best hair in the conference returning with Matt Haarms manning center. Their senior class brought them a lot of glory and they looked primed for a run in the tournament before Isaac Haas went down. They’ll always play defense but will need Ryan Cline and Nojel Eastern to step into even bigger roles. This could be the correct spot or too high but Matt Painter deserves your respect as does Mackey Arena. For my money, it’s the toughest place to play in the conference.
Key Departures: Vince Edwards, Dakota Mathias, Isaac Haas, P.J. Thompson, Jacquil Taylor
Key Arrivals: Evan Boudreaux (Dartmouth)
2. Michigan State Spartans
Tom Izzo spent all of last year playing Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson out of position so it’ll be the Winston and Ward show with a bunch of wings doing wing things. Don’t let their November swoon fool you because it’s definitely happening and we can only hope Iowa takes advantage of it.
Key Departures: Miles Bridges, Jaren Jackson, Gavin Schilling
Key Arrivals: Marcus Bingham, Jr. (66), Foster Loyer (how did Northwestern not get this guy?) (96), Gabe Brown (101), Aaron Henry (141)
1. Michigan Wolverines
Should March be the deciding factor in how I set my power rankings? Probably not but I respect the hell out of John Beilein. He’s not afraid to ride a tight rotation and they have everything you need to succeed in the college game. The big question is whether guys - Jordan Poole, Jon Teske, Isaiah Livers - can slide into larger roles after losing three players who felt like they were playing basketball at Michigan for ages. Brendan Quinn on Zavier Simpson is required reading. Sneaky great recruiting class, too.
Key Departures: Muhammed-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Duncan Robinson, Moritz Wagner
Key Arrivals: Ignas Brazdeikis (40), Brandon Johns (70), David DeJulius (107), Colin Castleton (129)
What say you?