With the draft decisions behind us, the Big Ten now has a better picture of what next year looks like based on who is coming in and who is leaving. The 2021-2022 basketball season will be determined by which teams can replace lost firepower and utilize new players across their high school recruits and transfers. Here is how the Big Ten stacks up as we head deep in to the middle of the offseason.
July 18, 2021 Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings
No. 14 Minnesota
Minnesota will have an almost entirely different team this fall. Marcus Carr is gone, as are Liam Robbins, Gabe Kalscheur, Jamal Mashburn Jr., and Brandon Johnson. Richard Pitino was fired, and new coach Ben Johnson is rebuilding the program. It seems quite possible that the Gophers finish in the basement of the B1G.
No. 13 Penn State
There’s a new coach in Happy Valley this year, as Micah Shrewsberry comes over from his assistant role at Purdue. He has some pieces to work with, like Sam Sessoms, Myles Dread, and John Harrar, but losing Myreon Jones and Jamari Wheeler to the transfer portal will sting. Non-conference matchups against LSU and Miami will show where exactly Penn State is at the start of this new era, but a bottom-four finish in the Big Ten seems likely.
No. 12 Iowa
Arguably no team in the league lost more juice this past offseason than the Iowa Hawkeyes. Obviously, Luka Garza is off to the pros, but an additional setback is Joe Wieskamp taking the leap to the NBA as well. Adding salt to the wound are the transfers of Jack Nunge (to Xavier), CJ Fredrick (to Kentucky), and Michael Baer (to Siena). With no highly-touted newcomers joining the program, Iowa could slip into the bottom four next season.
No. 11 Northwestern
Northwestern returns plenty of familiar faces from last season, but there are plenty of legitimate questions about how high the ceiling is for this team. Coach Chris Collins will try to offset the loss of Miller Kopp with three incoming freshman wings, including Lafayette Jeff’s Brooks Barnhizer, but will that be enough to get the Wildcats above .500? A soft non-conference schedule will help their cause.
No. 10 Nebraska
This coming season, Nebraska will feature its best team of the Fred Hoiberg era. Much of that optimism is thanks to incoming five-star SG Bryce McGowens, who spearheads a top-20 recruiting class, per 247Sports. Four-star center Wilhelm Breidenbach adds some size to the team next year, and Arizona St. transfer Alonzo Verge will cause problems in the backcourt after averaging 14.3 PPG in Tempe. Nebraska’s non-conference neutral site tilt against Auburn on Dec. 11 will say a lot about where the Huskers are going into Big Ten play.
No. 9 Wisconsin
The Badgers will look different this upcoming season. D’Mitrik Trice, Nate Reuvers, Aleem Ford, and Micah Potter all moved on after Wisconsin’s underwhelming 2020-21 campaign. Brad Davison returns, but Greg Gard will need one or two other players to step up into the void left by the four aforementioned departures. Look for guard Jonathan Davis to be one of the breakout players in the Big Ten this year.
No. 8 Rutgers
Rutgers got great news recently, as stars Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. announced they will return to Piscataway, turning away the NBA for the moment. Even though the Scarlet Knights lost Jacob Young (Oregon), Montez Mathis (St. John’s), and Myles Johnson (UCLA), they should firmly be in the mix for back-to-back NCAA Tournament bids.
No. 7 Indiana
There are few, if any, college basketball programs that have been talked about more than Indiana since the NCAA Tournament ended. FOX Sports/BTN college basketball analyst Andy Katz says this in his recent college basketball rankings: “Trayce Jackson-Davis should flourish under Mike Woodson. IU is my sleeper pick for a deep run.”
No. 6 Maryland
The 2021-22 Maryland Terrapins will look very different than the past year’s version. Guard Fatts Russell, who was once a college teammate of former Hoosier Stanford Robinson, transfers in from Rhode Island and will start in the backcourt. Center Qudus Wahab comes in from Georgetown and should start every game at the 5. Two four-star high school recruits come in as well. However, two key losses will plague Maryland. Darryl Morsell, the B1G Defensive Player of the Year, left for Marquette, while Aaron Wiggins declared for the NBA Draft. How will Mark Turgeon handle all the new pieces? Maryland is capable of winning the league or missing out on the NCAA Tournament altogether.
No. 5 Illinois
When we last met Illinois, their season ended with a humiliating defeat in the Round of 32 to Loyola Chicago. While superstar guard Ayo Dosunmu left the program, the Illini also unexpectedly saw heir apparent guard Adam Miller transfer to LSU. With Kofi Cockburn back in the mix in a tremendous decision to not transfer, the Illini have a chance to make another deep NCAA run if the guard play is sorted out.
No. 4 Michigan State
After an underwhelming season in East Lansing, Tom Izzo brings in a top-ten recruiting class nationally, per 247Sports, led by five-star phenom Max Christie. There are significant losses to discuss, though, starting with Indianapolis native Aaron Henry, who is off to the NBA. Josh Langford, Thomas Kithier, Foster Loyer, and Rocket Watts are out the door as well. A juicy non-conference slate, featuring Kansas, Louisville, Butler, and the Battle 4 Atlantis should help determine whether the Spartans are a Top 25 squad or a borderline NCAA Tournament team, like last year.
No. 3 Ohio State
Ohio State suffered a stunning upset in March Madness last season, but a quick look at their upcoming roster indicates they should be right back in the mix for a top-four seed in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Duane Washington Jr. leaves for the pros, but EJ Liddell returns, and the additions of Cedric Russell (Louisiana), Jamari Wheeler (PSU), Joey Brunk (Indiana), and four-star freshman Malaki Branham (St. Vincent-St. Mary’s aka LeBron James’ high school) should have the Buckeyes in the Top 25 all season. Non-conference slugfests against Xavier, Duke, and Kentucky will be formidable tests for Chris Holtmann’s crew in the early part of the schedule.
No. 2 Purdue
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Purdue currently is +1600 to win the NCAA Tournament, which is the sixth-best odds in the country and second-best in the Big Ten (after Michigan). They bring back everyone from their 18-10 season last year, except for Aaron Wheeler, who transferred to St. John’s. Joining Purdue this season will be the top two Indiana high school recruits in the Class of 2021, Trey Kaufman-Renn and Caleb Furst. Depth won’t be an issue in West Lafayette. Will they have enough firepower to secure their third Big Ten title in six years?
No. 1 Michigan
After a 23-5 season that took them to a Big Ten title and a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Michigan Wolverines bring in the top-ranked recruiting class in the country, per 247Sports, led by five-stars Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate. Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner are notable players who leave Ann Arbor, but Juwan Howard and company have more than enough to contend for a Big Ten and national title.
Featured Photo: IndianaHQ