2017-18 College Basketball Preview: Big 10
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be doing a preview of each of the seven major college basketball conferences (American, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac-12, SEC), leading up to the November 10th tip-off of the 2017-2018 College Basketball season. You can access previous previews by clicking on the conference name. Today, we’re going to dive into the Big 10.
Brief History: The oldest conference in the country, the Big 10’s history dates back to 1895. Despite its name, it currently has 14 member schools that all participate in basketball, and have a combined 11 NCAA Basketball Championships. The conference has been led by Commissioner Jim Delany since 1989.
Reigning Regular Season Champion: Purdue
Reigning Conference Tournament Champion: Michigan
2017 NCAA Tournament Teams (and Seed): Purdue (4), Minnesota (5), Maryland (6), Michigan (7), Northwestern (8), Wisconsin (8), Michigan State (9)
- Michigan State – The Spartans are miles ahead of everyone else in this conference. They’ve got NBA-level talent all over this roster, and they should run away with both the regular season and conference tournament titles. The real question is how deep this team can and will go in March. We could easily see them in the Final Four at the end of the madness.
- Northwestern – This team returns almost all of their players from the historic run that sent them dancing for the first time in school history last season. Bryant McIntosh is an electric outside shooter, and should lead these Wildcats to yet another postseason berth.
- Purdue – Caleb Swanigan is a player who is absolutely irreplaceable. His loss will definitely hurt the Boilermakers this year. Luckily, they’ve got Isaac Haas to help carry the team without him, and a group of guards who are deadly from beyond the arc. This team will live and die by the three pointer, and I think we’ll see them “live” plenty this year.
- Michigan – Last season, the Wolverines felt like a team of destiny, winning the conference title after their plane crashed right before the tournament. They rode that high into March, and made it deeper than anyone expected. I don’t expect similar results this season, as their defense is greatly lacking, but expect this offensively-powered team to perform well overall this season.
- Wisconsin – Unlike Michigan, the Badgers are a very strong defensive team. However, I still have my reservations about this offense. Much of their success will depend on the ability of Ethan Happ to continue to become a better scorer, with some help from D’Mitrik Price and Brevin Pritzl.
- Maryland – The Terps have a lot of young talent on this team, between Justin Jackson, Anthony Cowan, and Kevin Huerter. This issue is that this team likely won’t perform quite as well as last year in the first year of the post-Melo Trimble era. UMD’s solid on both sides of the ball, but they still don’t have the pieces to compete at the very top of this conference.
- Minnesota – This team is returning most of its key players from a team that was a 5-seed in the NCAA tournament last year, so many make an argument for them being in the top 4 of the conference this season. The issue is that they were overrated last year, and that won’t change much this season. They’ve got some solid talent, but this conference is simply too deep for the Gophers to be at the top.
- Penn State – This team should be strong defensively, but will likely struggle offensively. The Nittany Lions are still a young team, with only one senior that will see substantial minutes. This isn’t their season, but they’ve certainly got the pieces to potentially make some runs in the next season or two as they become more experienced.
- Iowa – The Hawkeyes run one of the fastest tempo offenses in the Big 10, with the help of a balanced front court and perimeter shooting dynamic. Unfortunately, this team lost an important player last year, Peter Jok, who led the conference in scoring per game last season, and they’ll likely struggle to replace the points he brought the team.
- Indiana – This team isn’t anything to write home about on offense, and definitely doesn’t impress on defense. The Hoosiers have a tough schedule this season, both in and out of conference play. They’re simply going to struggle to keep up.
- Ohio State – The one thing this team has going for it is experience, with three of their five starters likely to be seniors. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, experience doesn’t do much for you if those experienced players also lack star power. They’ve brought in a new coach to try to fix their disappointing results from last season, but I doubt they see too much difference.
- Nebraska – The Cornhuskers have a really solid point guard in Glynn Watson. Unfortunately, that’s about all they have. This offense is extremely forgettable. This team is going to struggle to score points in this conference all season.
- Illinois – New head coach Brad Underwood comes from a team who had great offensive power. He has to be disappointed with the offense he’s found at his new home in Illinois. There’s not much exciting about this team. This is the beginning of a long rebuilding era under Underwood.
- Rutgers – Bad offense. Bad defense. Slow tempo. There’s not much more to say. This is going to be a long year for the Scarlet Knights.
Bottom Line: The Big 10 is always an exciting conference. It seems to consistently produce quality teams, and throw a few surprise March ‘Cinderellas’ in the mix as well. The top of this conference is ready to compete for a national championship.