For the third straight season, and seemingly from here on out, Big Ten basketball is starting in December.
Indiana faces the ominous task on Saturday of opening conference play at a place where they haven’t won in more than 20 years — Wisconsin.
With league play set to get underway, we take a quick look at each team, and then set out our predicted order of finish for the 2019-20 conference standings.
ILLINOIS (6-2 / No. 45 KenPom)
Top producers: Kofi Cockburn (Fr., 16.2 ppg, 11.2 rpg), Ayo Dosunmu (15.8 ppg, 3.5 apg), Andres Feliz (14.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 4.3 apg)
KenPom Offensive Rating: No. 30
KenPom Defensive Rating: No. 73
Notes: The Illini are widely expected to be better this year with a lot of returning talent, but they have faced two high major opponents thus far and lost both contests, including a blowout loss to Arizona. With a strong starting five but questionable depth, a challenging December will tell us whether Illinois is ready to take the next step in year three under Brad Underwood.
INDIANA (8-0 / No. 20 KenPom)
Top producers: Devonte Green (15.8 ppg, 3.2 apg), Trayce Jackson-Davis (15.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg), Justin Smith (14.3 ppg and 5.1 rpg)
KenPom Offensive Rating: No. 24
KenPom Defensive Rating: No. 29
Notes: The Hoosiers quieted a lot of doubters with a convincing win over Florida State, their first high major opposition of the season. If Indiana can get a healthy Rob Phinisee back in the starting lineup the Hoosiers could be a sneaky pick for a top five finish.
IOWA (6-2 / No. 38 KenPom)
Top producers: Luka Garza (20 ppg, 10 rpg), Joe Wieskamp (11.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg), CJ Frederick (11.1 ppg, 3.3 apg)
KenPom Offensive Rating: No. 6
KenPom Defensive Rating: No. 105
Notes: Once again Iowa appears to be a team that is strong on the offensive end and suspect on defense. Impressive wins over Texas Tech and Syracuse are notable, and the wildcard for the Hawkeyes is the return of guard Jordan Bohannon, who is being eased back after a hip injury. Iowa has limited size and depth, especially after a season ending injury to Jack Nunge.
MARYLAND (9-0 / No. 7 KenPom / No. 4 Coaches Poll)
Top producers: Anthony Cowan (16.2 ppg, 4.2 apg), Jalen Smith (13.6 ppg, 9.8 rpg), Aaron Wiggins (10.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
KenPom Offensive Rating: No. 7
KenPom Defensive Rating: No. 14
Notes: Blowout wins against Marquette and Notre Dame have cemented the Terrapins as one of the early favorites in the league. Led by a veteran point guard in Cowan, is this the year for head coach Mark Turgeon? While Smith is an All-Big Ten caliber player, the question for Maryland will be whether they have enough size to hang in the Big Ten for 20 games.
MICHIGAN (7-1 / No. 12 KenPom / No. 5 Coaches Poll)
Top producers: Isaiah Livers (15.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Jon Teske (13.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg), Zavier Simpson (11.9 ppg, 4.3 apg)
KenPom Offensive Rating: No. 38
KenPom Defensive Rating: No. 9
Notes: Under first year head coach Juwan Howard, the Wolverines are easily the biggest upside surprise team in the league during non-conference play. Wins over Iowa State, North Carolina and Gonzaga leave no doubt that Michigan is legitimate, but there are also questions as to whether they have the depth and scoring punch to compete at the top of the Big Ten.
MICHIGAN STATE (5-3 / No. 4 KenPom / No. 12 Coaches Poll)
Top producers: Cassius Winston (17.1 ppg, 6.1 apg), Xavier Tillman (13.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg), Aaron Henry (10.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
KenPom Offensive Rating: No. 1
KenPom Defensive Rating: No. 26
Notes: The former preseason No. 1 team, no one should be too terribly surprised to see a Tom Izzo led squad start slow out of the gates. An injury to expected starter Josh Langford only compounded the early challenges for the Spartans. There is no doubt that Michigan State is a contender with Winston leading the way, but there are also serious questions whether MSU has the depth this year to live up to the hype.
MINNESOTA (4-4 / No. 66 KenPom)
Top producers: Daniel Oturu (17.5 ppg, 10.9 rpg), Marcus Carr (14.4, 6.6 apg, 5.8 rpg), Gabe Kalscheur (12.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
KenPom Offensive Rating: No. 70
KenPom Defensive Rating: No. 67
Notes: The Gophers have struggled early, losing against every high major opponent they have faced save for a Big Ten / ACC Challenge win over Clemson. Oturu is the real deal in the post, but questions abound elsewhere for a smaller squad that lacks depth. Richard Pitino could find himself on the way out unless the Gophers surprise on the upside.
NEBRASKA (4-4 / No. 147 KenPom)
Top producers: Haanif Cheatham (12.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Cam Mack (12.4 ppg, 6 apg, 4.5 rpg), Jervay Green (10.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.9 apg)
KenPom Offensive Rating: No. 168
KenPom Defensive Rating: No. 149
Notes: It was a complete roster overhaul for first year head coach Fred Hoiberg, and as expected the Huskers are struggling early. Nebraska is a small team with only two forwards that crack the rotation. With three losses already to teams outside of the KenPom top 100, Nebraska has the look of a team that will fight to stay out of the Big Ten cellar.
NORTHWESTERN (4-3 / No. 98 KenPom)
Top producers: Miller Kopp (12.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Pete Nance (11.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg), Pat Spencer (11 ppg, 4.4 apg, 4 rpg)
KenPom Offensive Rating: No. 137
KenPom Defensive Rating: No. 176
Notes: With a lot of key pieces graduated, Chris Collins seems to have lost the magic at Northwestern that saw his team make the 2017 NCAA Tournament. A win over Boston College shows promise, but home losses to Merrimack and Radford are concerning to say the least. The Wildcats need veterans A.J. Turner and Anthony Gaines to step up and play better or else this could be a miserable season in Evanston.
OHIO STATE (8-0 / No. 2 KenPom / No. 6 Coaches Poll)
Top producers: Kaleb Wesson (12.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg), DJ Carton ( 10.1 ppg, 3 apg, 2.9 rpg), Kyle Young (8.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
KenPom Offensive Rating: No. 16
KenPom Defensive Rating: No. 2
Notes: After handing North Carolina their worst home loss in the Roy Williams era, Ohio State has everyone’s attention. OSU also can claim a similar blowout win over Villanova. A balanced and deep roster is the story here, along with a tough-minded physical style. With 10 guys averaging 12 minutes a game, the Buckeyes will look to wear teams out.
PENN STATE (7-1 / No. 23 KenPom)
Top producers: Lamar Stevens (17.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg), Myreon Jones (13.6 ppg, 3.4 apg), Mike Watkins (11.3 ppg, 10 rpg)
KenPom Offensive Rating: No. 49
KenPom Defensive Rating: No. 12
Notes: A popular pick to sneak up the standings this year, there is no doubt that this is one of Pat Chambers’ better teams. But are they that good? We’ll find out right away as the Nittany Lions open Big Ten play in Columbus against Ohio State. Stevens is the clear leader, but the supporting cast is good and as is typically the case under Chambers, Penn State defends very well.
PURDUE (5-3 / No. 5 KenPom)
Top producers: Jahaad Proctor (14.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg), Matt Haarms (11.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.4 bpg), Eric Hunter (10.3 ppg, 3.8 apg)
KenPom Offensive Rating: No. 21
KenPom Defensive Rating: No. 6
Notes: Purdue seems to be following the same script as last year — struggling a bit out of the gate but with the potential to finish strong. There is no doubt the Boilermakers have one of the best defensive teams in the league, but the question remains, who will fill the massive scoring void left by Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline? Low scoring output in their three losses makes that still a legitimate question.
RUTGERS (6-2 / No. 77 KenPom)
Top producers: Ron Harper, Jr. (13.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Geo Baker (12.8 ppg, 4.3 apg), Myles Johnson (9 ppg, 8.3 rpg)
KenPom Offensive Rating: No. 102
KenPom Defensive Rating: No. 59
Notes: Another popular pick to sneak up the standings, the Scarlet Knights didn’t do much to quiet skeptics with a home loss to Saint Bonaventure. While Harper is an emerging star, the late transfer out of Eugene Omoruyi was a huge loss. While Rutgers might be better this year, that may not necessarily be reflected in the standings of a deep league.
WISCONSIN (4-4 / No. 60 KenPom)
Top producers: Nate Reuvers (14.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.6 bpg), Brad Davison (11 ppg, 4 rpg), D’Mitrik Trice (8.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.3 apg)
KenPom Offensive Rating: No. 112
KenPom Defensive Rating: No. 34
Notes: Wisconsin’s four losses include three to mid-majors, and thus far the Badgers are struggling on the offensive end. For the first time in a long time Wisconsin is without a dominant post presence to run their offense through as Reuvers plays more like a stretch four. The result has been a team that shoots a lot of three-pointers but is one of the worst in the country (29.7%) at converting from long range.
BIG TEN STANDINGS — A PREDICTION
Below is The Daily Hoosier’s prediction for the 2019-20 Big Ten standings:
- Ohio State 16-4
- Maryland 15-5
- Michigan State 14-6
- Purdue 12-8
- Michigan 12-8
- Indiana 11-9
- Illinois 11-9
- Penn State 11-9
- Iowa 8-12
- Wisconsin 8-12
- Rutgers 7-13
- Minnesota 6-14
- Northwestern 4-16
- Nebraska 3-17
You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier
Find us on Facebook: thedailyhoosier
The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”
Seven ways to support completely free IU coverage at no additional cost to you.