It might only be May. There are still plenty of guys who are still mulling the decision whether they will head to the NBA or come back to school. But it’s never too early to take an in-depth look at what each roster could look like.
Stick around for predictions too. Let's get right into it.
(We get to do this because the NCAA Tournament was canceled and we miss basketball).
Illinois (21-10, 13-7)
2019-20 recap: The Illini were on pace to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 until COVID-19 canceled the postseason. Brad Underwood’s rebuild of Illinois basketball was finally over. Ayo Dosunmu was a first-team All-Big Ten performer. Kofi Cockburn was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. But it was the defense that really spurred the Illini to a breakout season. Cockburn didn’t give up any easy buckets at the rim, and Illinois refused to give shooters any breathing room. They only allowed 119 3-pointers last season during conference play. That was No. 1 in the Big Ten. The Illini’s 13 conference wins were the most since 2004-05 when Illinois went to the National Title game.
Out with the old: Andres Feliz, Kipper Nichols, Alan Griffin (transferred to Syracuse), Tevian Jones (transfer portal).
Weighing NBA future: Kofi Cockburn (expected to return), Ayo Dosunmu (expected to go pro)
In with the new: Andre Curbelo, Adam Miller, Coleman Hawkins, Austin Hutcherson (Division-III Wesleyan transfer), Jacob Grandison (Holy Cross transfer)
Biggest addition: Adam Miller. The four-star Chicago shooting guard is the second-best recruit that Illinois has landed in the history of recruiting rankings. He’s No. 31 in the country according to 247Sports. The exciting thing for Illinois fans is that point guard Andre Curbelo might have a better collegiate career, but Miller should make a bigger impact in 2020-21.
Illinois was one of the worst shooting teams in the country last season. The Illini finished dead last in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting (29.3 percent) and to add insult to injury, their best 3-point shooter (Alan Griffin) transferred to Syracuse in the offseason. Miller will come right in with a chance to have the ball in his hands from Day One. There will be plenty of shots available, and his in-the-gym range should translate right away to the Big Ten.
The scoop: There are three teams with three very different ceilings that Illinois could trot out next year. Dosunmu was a stone-cold assassin, burying jumper after jumper late in games to steal victories. If he and Cockburn return, Illinois will be a top-15 team in the country and be one of the favorites in the Big Ten.
If Dosunmu stays in the draft, but Cockburn comes back, the Illini will still be very talented and will likely be on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Cockburn averaged 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game as a freshman. It’s not a stretch to believe Cockburn could average around 20 points and 10 rebounds like Jalen Smith (Maryland) and Daniel Oturu (Minnesota) did as sophomores.
But if Cockburn and Dosunmu both stay in the NBA Draft, Illinois will be tasked with replacing five of their top-7 scorers and their top-two rebounders. Illinois would have to be banking on bounce-back seasons from veterans Giorgi Bezhanishivili and Trent Frazier as well as breakout performances from Curbelo and Miller.
Stat you probably didn’t know: Illinois had a stretch between 2004 and 2006 where they went 66-4.
Projected starting lineup
G Trent Frazier
G Andre Curbelo
G Adam Miller
G Damonte Williams or G/F Jacob Grandison
C Kofi Cockburn
Indiana (20-12, 9-11)
2019-20 recap: The Hoosiers jumped out to a fast start, winning 11 of their first 12 games with impressive wins over Florida State, Notre Dame and UConn. They hit a rough patch during the dog days of the rugged Big Ten schedule, losing five of six games, but their resume was still good enough for an NCAA Tournament berth. They finished the season 20-12 overall and with five wins over top-25 teams. Trayce Jackson-Davis was the second-best freshman in the league, and the Hoosiers depth was ridiculous.
Out with the old: Adrian Chapman, De’Ron Davis, Devonte Green, Damezi Anderson (transferred to Loyola), Justin Smith (transfer portal)
In with the new: Jordan Geronimo, Anthony Leal, Trey Galloway, Khristian Lander
Biggest addition: Khristian Lander. The 5-star point guard was initially a part of the Class of 2021, but he reclassified to the Class of 2020 and will head to Bloomington this fall. The No. 24 prospect in the nation will give Archie Miller the game-changing point guard he desperately needed. Lander has outstanding size and elite athleticism to go along with a silky-smooth lefty jumper. He should be terrific in transition and set up the veteran Hoosiers for success. Veteran Rob Phinisee has underwhelmed throughout his career and Lander will have a chance to step right in and contribute from Day One.
The scoop: The Hoosiers have honestly had a nearly perfect offseason. Lander reclassifying to the Class of 2020 is a massive game-changer. But the biggest news is that Jackson-Davis passed on entering his name into the 2020 NBA Draft and is coming back for his sophomore season. Jackson-Davis is the alpha and he put up 13.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last season. He’ll be surrounded by a ton of depth. The only negative is that Justin Smith announced he was going to transfer. He's undoubtedly looking for a bigger role, and he wouldn't be the man as long as Jackson-Davis is around. Still, Smith's transfer isn't a huge blow because the Hoosiers are loaded with frontcourt depth.
Lander, Phinisee, Al Durham and Armaan Franklin form an intriguing backcourt. Joey Brunk, Jerome Hunter and rising sophomore Race Thompson will give Miller so many options to play with. Indiana will be long and athletic in 2020-21. It’ll just come down to if they have enough 3-point shooting to keep up with some of the high-powered offenses in the Big Ten –– looking at you, Iowa.
Stat you probably didn’t know: From 1979-2000, Indiana missed the tourney just one time. From 2000-2019, Indiana missed the tournament nine times.
Projected starting lineup
G Rob Phinisee
G Al Durham
G Khristian Lander
F Trayce Jackson-Davis
F Race Thompson or C Joey Brunk
Iowa (20-11, 11-9)
2019-20 recap: Iowa had the most prolific offense in the Big Ten last year. The Hawkeyes averaged 77.7 points per game, and Luka Garza was an All-American. The junior center averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds. Garza was named the Big Ten Player of the Year. The Hawkeyes dealt with a malady of injuries last year, but youngsters like CJ Fredrick and Joe Toussaint stepped up to help veterans like Garza, Joe Wiskamp, Connor McCaffery and Ryan Kriener. Iowa finished 20-11 and no one wanted to be matched up against Garza and the Fighting Fran McCaffery’s in the NCAA Tournament.
Out with the old: Bakari Evelyn, Ryan Kriener, Riley Till (transferred to Cal Poly), Cordell Pemsl (transferred to Virginia Tech)
Weighing NBA future: Luka Garza
In with the new: Aaron Lis, Tony Perkins, Kris Murray, Keegan Murray, Josh Ogundele
Biggest addition: Jordan Bohannon. The 6-foot point guard missed most of last season due to a hip injury. He decided to get surgery early in the season and pray for a medical redshirt year. He got the waiver so he’ll have one more year of eligibility. Bohannon is the best 3-point shooter in Iowa history. He’s splashed 284 career triples. If he knocks down 91 more, he’ll pass Ohio State’s Jon Diebler for the Big Ten record.
The scoop: If Garza returns, Iowa is absolutely loaded and a Final Four caliber team. The Iowa defense has never been all that good, but their offense has a chance to be ridiculous. Garza’s inside presence will be an absolute load and he’ll have a chip on his shoulder after Dayton’s Obi Toppin edged him out for most of the National Player of the Year awards. But the Hawkeyes’ depth will be outstanding. Fredrick, Wieskamp, and Bohannon are all sharpshooters. Toussaint is a little bully off the bench who plays with a tremendous motor. Connor McCaffery had a 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio last year, while Patrick McCaffery and Jack Nunge both have high ceilings. Fact of the matter is this. Iowa is loaded from top-to-bottom. As things stand right now, they are likely the Big Ten favorites.
Stat you probably didn’t know: Luka Garza was the only player in the country to tally 700+ points, 300+ rebounds, 50+ blocks and 35+ 3-pointers in the 2019-20 season.
Projected starting lineup
G Joe Wieskamp
G Jordan Bohannon
G CJ Fredrick
G/F Connor McCaffery
C Luka Garza
Maryland (24-7, 14-6)
2019-20 recap: Maryland clinched a share of the Big Ten Championship on the last day of the regular season. Jalen Smith and Anthony Cowan Jr. were absurd. The duo combined for 31.8 points, 14.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists per night. Smith and Cowan were both first-team All-Big Ten selections, and they were a big reason why the Terrapins finished 24-7 and 12th in the final AP poll.
Out with the old: Anthony Cowan Jr., Travis Valmon, Will Clark, Ricky Lindo Jr. (transferred to George Washington), Joshua Tomaic (transferred to San Diego State), Jalen Smith (staying in 2020 NBA Draft)
In with the new: Marcus Dockery, Aquan Smart, Galin Smith (Alabama transfer), Jairus Hamilton (Boston College transfer)
Biggest addition: Jairus Hamilton. The former four-star prospect was very productive in two years at Boston College. But he wanted to come home. So, Hamilton transferred to Maryland. It’s still up in the air if Hamilton will get a waiver, but if he does, he’ll give Mark Turgeon another versatile weapon. Hamilton averaged 9.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in 2019-20. He knocked down 78 percent of his free throws and made 25 3-pointers. If Hamilton is eligible, that’d go a long way in replacing Smith’s huge production.
The scoop: Smith and Cowan Jr. were both undoubtedly top-10 players in the Big Ten last year. They’ll be dearly missed. But Maryland had four talented role players last year who can finally take on a bigger role. Aaron Wiggins can do it all and was a former top prospect. He’s got an NBA body and an NBA game. Eric Ayala hit some big shots for Maryland down the stretch, and Darryl Morsell is one of the best defenders in the Big Ten. Maryland was better when Donta Scott got into the lineup, and he’ll have even more opportunities to showcase his wide array of skills in 2020-21. They might not be Big Ten favorites, but Maryland has what it takes to make the NCAA Tournament.
Stat you probably didn’t know: Maryland came back from a double-digit hole to win six games in 2019-20.
Projected starting lineup
G Eric Ayala
G Darryl Morsell
F Aaron Wiggins
F Donta Scott
F Jairus Hamilton (if he gets the waiver)
Michigan (19-12, 10-10)
2019-20 recap: Year One of the Juwan Howard experiment started out as well as one could imagine. The Wolverines jumped out to a 7-0 start and won the Battle 4 Atlantis thanks to wins over top-10 foes like North Carolina and Gonzaga. But after Ayo Dosunmu nailed a game-winning jumper on Jan. 25, Michigan had slipped to 11-6 and 2-6 in Big Ten play. Isaiah Livers’ injury was tough to overcome and a suspension of senior point guard Zavier Simpson didn’t help. The Wolverines eventually righted the ship and at one point, won 7 of 8 conference games. After the season, two role players transferred away. Thankfully, Howard can restock his roster with the No. 1 recruiting class in the Big Ten and a trio of transfers.
Out with the old: Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske, Cole Bajema (transferred to Washington), David DeJulius (transferred to Cincinnati), Colin Castleton (transferred to Florida)
Weighing NBA future: Isaiah Livers
In with the new: Hunter Dickinson, Zeb Jackson, Terrance Williams, Jace Howard, Nojel Eastern (Purdue transfer), Mike Smith (Columbia transfer), Chaundee Brown (Wake Forest transfer)
Biggest addition: Hunter Dickinson. Big men like Jalen Smith, Daniel Oturu and Kofi Cockburn have come right into the Big Ten and made big-time impacts as freshmen. Hunter Dickinson is the next top-50 center who could have a starring role right away. Michigan has a huge hole to fill at center after Jon Teske graduated. Dickinson can be that guy. He’s the headliner of Michigan’s recruiting class, and the 7-foot-2, 255-pounder will get right to work learning from Juwan Howard.
Here’s what Smith, Oturu and Cockburn did as freshmen.
Smith: 11.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.2 blocks.
Oturu: 10.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.3 blocks.
Cockburn: 13.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks.
There’s no reason why Dickinson can’t make that type of contribution for Michigan in 2020-21.
The scoop: Juwan Howard is going to have his work cut out for him in 2020-21. If Isaiah Livers stays in the NBA Draft, he could have the tall task of replacing his three leading scorers (Livers, Simpson, Teske), his leading rebounder (Teske) and his point guard (Simpson). So yeah. Not easy.
Michigan is still really talented on paper. The transfers of DeJulius and Castleton will be minimized if Columbia transfer Mike Smith can assimilate to the Big Ten right away and Hunter Dickinson plays like the top-50 recruit that he was. Right now, the Wolverines are loaded with wings. All-Big Ten Freshman Team selection Franz Wagner is back for his sophomore season. Even with an inconsistent 3-point jumper (31.1 percent), Wagner still managed to score 11.6 points per game to go along with 5.6 boards. He’ll undoubtedly have a chance to be The Man next year if Livers doesn’t return.
But if Livers comes back, Michigan would have a crowded situation on the wing. Livers and Wagner are playing regardless. Brandon Johns Jr., Purdue transfer Nojel Eastern (if the transfer goes through) and Wake Forest transfer Chaundee Brown (if he gets a waiver to play right away) will be duking it out for playing time. Brown can really hoop. Eastern was an All-Big Ten Defensive Team selection. But there’s time. Things will work itself out. But there’s a lot of moving pieces that Howard will have to work out. And that’s not an easy task.
Stat you probably didn’t know: Juwan Howard was the only member from Michigan’s “Fab Five” to win an NBA Title.
Projected starting lineup
G Mike Smith
G Eli Brooks
F Franz Wagner
F Isaiah Livers
C Hunter Dickinson
Michigan State (22-9, 14-6)
2019-20 recap: It was a heartbreaking year for the Michigan State program. Sure, they won 22 games and ended up earning a share of the Big Ten crown. Yeah, they finished ranked No. 9 in the country. But it came with a cost. The Spartans had to watch do-everything point guard Cassius Winston deal with an unimaginable loss after his brother, Zachary, stepped in front of a train and committed suicide. It weighed heavily on Winston throughout the season, and Tom Izzo’s heart broke for the guy who was the heart and soul of his program. The Michigan State community wrapped their arms around Winston and his family after the tragedy. It was only fitting that the Spartans beat No. 19 Ohio State on the last day of the regular season to clinch a share of the Big Ten crown on Winston’s Senior Night. He dropped 27 in memory of his brother.
Out with the old: Kyle Ahrens, Cassius Winston, Conner George
Weighing NBA future: Xavier Tillman Sr. (likely to depart), Aaron Henry (likely to return)
In with the new: Mady Sissoko, AJ Hoggard, Joey Hauser (Marquette transfer)
Biggest addition: Joey Hauser. The Marquette transfer was on the Big East All-Freshman Team after averaging 9.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists for Marquette in 2018-19. And that was when he was playing with Markus Howard, who averaged 17.6 shots per game. Hauser will give Izzo a deadeye shooter (42.5 percent from downtown) and some much-needed size. Winston and Xavier Tillman Sr. had done so much for Michigan State throughout their careers, but Hauser should step in and help fill that void.
The scoop: Imagining an MSU team without Winston is just impossible. But the Spartans are built for excellence. Rocket Watts is a budding star who started to find his groove towards the middle of the season last year. Big-bodied wing Aaron Henry should return to East Lansing for one more year, and he could form a two-headed monster in the backcourt with Watts.
Mady Sissoko is another top-40 player in the Class of 2020 that should have a big role. He’s a ferocious rebounder who will fit right into the MSU frontcourt. He’s so big and so nasty. His physicality will earn him playing time right away for Izzo. Then, a batch of talented youngsters will finally have their chance to break out. Gabe Brown, Malik Hall and Marcus Bingham Jr. have bided their time. They didn’t get upset with limited playing time last year. They didn’t transfer because they weren’t getting enough shots. Now that Winston and Tillman are likely gone, there’s a big opportunity for a few of them to really break out. Bingham Jr. could be one of the premier shot-blocking big men in the Big Ten, while Brown and Hall both have super high upsides.
Izzo will get this team competitive sooner rather than later, even if Winston isn’t on the squad anymore. And then there’s the ultimate X-Factor. Veteran Josh Langford was supposed to be Michigan State’s second-best player last year. But he’s dealt with a bunch of injuries. Langford told Tom Izzo that he wants to come back and play one more year. If he comes back and is anything close to what he used to be, watch out.
Stat you probably didn’t know: Tom Izzo hasn’t had a losing conference record in any of his 25 years at Michigan State.
Projected starting lineup
G Rocket Watts
G Aaron Henry
F Gabe Brown
F Joey Hauser
C Mady Sissoko
Minnesota (15-16, 8-12)
2019-20 recap: Daniel Oturu and Marcus Carr were brilliant but they didn’t have enough help. Think about this: Oturu or Carr led the Gophers in scoring in 26 of 31 games. Oturu or Carr led the Gophers in rebounding in 27 of 31 games. Carr led the Gophers in assists in all 31 games. Minnesota finished 15-16 and 8-12 in the Big Ten. Half of their Big Ten losses came by six or fewer points. Still, Oturu proved that big men can thrive in Minnesota, and his outstanding two years should help Richard Pitino in recruiting. But he better win now or the hot seat talk is going to really ramp up.
Out with the old: Alihan Demir, Michael Hurt, Brady Rudrud, Payton Willis (transferred to College of Charleston)
Weighing NBA future: Daniel Oturu (likely to depart), Marcus Carr (likely to return)
In with the new: Jamal Mashburn Jr., Martice Mitchell, David Mutaf, Brandon Johnson (Western Michigan graduate-transfer), Liam Robbins (Drake transfer)
Biggest addition: Minnesota has quietly had a really solid offseason both in the transfer portal and in prep recruiting. Mashburn, Mitchell and Mutaf are all high-upside additions. Landing both Brandon Johnson and Liam Robbins was huge. Robbins will need a waiver to play right away, but Johnson is a plug-and-play grad-transfer. The former Western Michigan star averaged over 15 points and eight rebounds for the Broncos. He could team up with Carr and form a really nice one-two punch. But the Gophers are still very active in the transfer portal, and if they land a wing like Utah’s Both Gach – who played high school ball in their backyard – that’d be a big sign that Pitino isn’t playing around. A combination of Gach, Johnson, Robbins and Carr would be a deadly trio.
The skinny: On paper, the loss of Oturu looks like a death wish for the Gophers’ 2020-21 hopes. But it’s not. Liam Robbins transferred from Drake to Minnesota to be with his uncle (Minnesota assistant Ed Conroy) and his cousin, Hunt Conroy, who is on the roster. That’s the start of a good case for immediate eligibility. If Carr returns and Robbins is immediately eligible, Pitino could be cooking with gas. Because Gabe Kalscheur is still one of the best 3-and-D guys in the Big Ten. Isaiah Ihnen is only going to get better too, while Mashburn and Johnson should both be big contributors right away. Minnesota’s depth isn’t great, but if they get lucky with Robbins’ eligibility and add one more impact transfer, Minnesota could be sneaky good.
Stat you probably didn’t know: Minnesota has never made the NCAA Tournament three times in a row.
Projected starting lineup
G Marcus Carr
G Gabe Kalscheur
F Isaiah Ihnen or future transfer wing
F Brandon Johnson
C Liam Robbins (pending appeal)
Nebraska (2-18, 7-25)
2019-20 recap: Fred Hoiberg’s first year at the helm of Nebraska Basketball was anything but smooth. The Huskers started off their season with a 19-point loss to California-Riverside and they ended it with a 25 point loss at home to Indiana. They finished 7-25 overall and 2-18 in Big Ten play. They lost 17 games in a row to finish the season.
Out with the old: Haanif Cheatham, Kevin Cross (transferred to Tulane), Jervay Green (transferred to Pacific), Cam Mack (transfer portal),
In with the new: Teddy Allen (JUCO transfer), Lat Mayen, Eduardo Andre, Trey McGowens (Pitt transfer), Kobe Webster (Western Illinois transfer), Kobe King (Wisconsin transfer), Trevor Lakes (Indianapolis transfer), Derrick Walker (Tennessee transfer), Shamiel Stevenson (Pitt transfer), Dalano Banton (Western Kentucky transfer)
Biggest addition: Kobe King is the headliner of them all. King transferred out of Wisconsin during the middle of the year despite being one of the Badgers’ top scorers. He’ll have the ball in his hands a LOT in 2020-21. His midrange jumper is deadly and he’ll be playing with a huge chip on his shoulder all season. He left Wisconsin because he didn’t think he was going to be developed into an NBA prospect. Can he do that at Nebraska? We’re about to find out.
The scoop: This probably could just be one word: transfers. It worked for Hoiberg at Iowa State and he’s going all-out again at Nebraska. The upside for the Huskers in 2020-21 is pretty low because they are ridiculously unproven. But King has proven that he can be a Big Ten starter, and Teddy Allen led all junior college scoring with 31.4 points per game. Trey McGowens is a big-time athlete from Pitt who will likely have to sit out a year before he’ll be eligible. Shamiel Stevenson (Wichita State) and Derrick Walker (Tennessee) are both itching to play right away. It’s going to be a mishmash of talent next year. But if anyone can make transfers mesh together well, it’s Fred Hoiberg.
Stat you probably didn’t know: In 1903-04, Nebraska played only 14 games. They still finished with two more wins than the 2019-20 squad who played 32 games.
Projected starting lineup
Literally impossible to construct a potential starting lineup with all these transfers. But let’s give it a shot.
G Kobe King
G Teddy Allen
G Shamiel Stevenson
F Derrick Walker
F Yvan Ouedraogo
Northwestern (8-23, 3-17)
2019-20 recap: Chris Collins’ squad was really young and it showed. The Wildcats finished 8-23 and 3-17 in Big Ten play. Five of their top-six players were freshmen or sophomores and that just didn’t fly in the loaded Big Ten. But they showed that they’re not going to be pushovers for too much longer. An 80-69 beatdown of No. 20 Penn State proved that their young bucks were growing up.
Out with the old: Pat Spencer, A.J. Turner, Jared Jones (transfer portal)
In with the new: Ty Berry, Matt Nicholson
Biggest addition: Their biggest addition isn’t any of the guys they added in the Class of 2020 but moreso that Jared Jones was the only guy who chose to transfer. Despite a trying season, Miller Kopp, Ryan Young, Boo Buie, Pete Nance and Robbie Beran are all sticking around.
The skinny: Northwestern hasn’t gone out and filled their roster with graduate-transfers. Why? Because they want their young core to grow together. It’s honestly a smart strategy. They showcased some real potential late in the season. Now, Young, Buie and Beran will all be sophomores. Kopp and Nance will finally be juniors. Instead of taking blows, they can start to dish some out. They’re still probably a year away but they’ll be feisty in 2020-21.
Stat you probably didn’t know: Northwestern had a nine-year stretch from 1984-1993 where they went 17-145 in Big Ten play.
Projected starting lineup
G Boo Buie
G Miller Kopp
G Anthony Gaines
F Pete Nance
C Ryan Young
Ohio State (21-10, 11-9)
2019-20 recap: Ohio State was riding high and was once ranked No. 2 in the country in late December, but they had a midseason swoon and lost six of seven games. But in typical Chris Holtmann fashion, he got his team back on track. Despite the fact that freshman point guard DJ Carton stepped away from the team during the middle of the season, the Buckeyes were able to right the ship and finished the regular season 9-3. Overall, OSU was 21-10 and 11-9 in conference play. Kaleb Wesson was a beast and finished as a second-team All-Big Ten choice.
Out with the old: Danny Hummer, Andre Wesson, Luther Muhammad (transferred to Arizona State), DJ Carton (transferred to Marquette),
Weighing NBA future: Alonzo Gaffney (likely to depart), CJ Walker (likely to return), Kaleb Wesson (likely to depart)
In with the new: Eugene Brown III, Zed Key, Abel Porter (Utah State transfer), Seth Towns (Harvard transfer)
Biggest addition: Seth Towns might have played at Harvard but he was one of the best players in the country. Now, he’s going to prove himself in the Big Ten. He picked Ohio State over Duke, and he’s got a chance to be one of the premier players for the Buckeyes in 2019-20. The 6-foot-7 forward is skilled enough to pull up off the dribble and he shot over 44 percent from 3-point range in 2017-18 at Harvard. He’ll be a starter right away for Holtmann.
The scoop: Ohio State’s Class of 2019 was heralded as one of the best in the country. DJ Carton, EJ Liddell and Alonzo Gaffney. Except, one year later, Liddell is the only one remaining. He’s in line for a big sophomore season. A breakout year from Liddell combined with the solid contributions from Towns, Kyle Young, Duane Washington Jr. and CJ Walker makes for a high-floor team. Ohio State’s ceiling could be determined by Kaleb Wesson’s decision. If he decides to spurn the NBA for one more year in Columbus, Ohio State could be a top-10 team in the country.
Stat you probably didn’t know: Last year, Ohio State had five top-100 recruits on their roster: Kaleb Wesson, Luther Muhammad, EJ Liddell, DJ Carton and Alonzo Gaffney. Heading into 2020-21, Liddell will likely be the only one remaining.
Projected starting lineup
G Duane Washington Jr.
G CJ Walker
F Seth Towns
F EJ Liddell
F Kyle Young
Penn State (21-10, 11-9)
2019-20 recap: A 1-5 stumble to finish the regular season can’t take away from what was one of the best seasons Penn State basketball has ever had. Pat Chambers’ crew finally clicked. At one point, they were 20-5 and 10-4 in the Big Ten. That included tough road wins at Michigan, at Michigan State and at Purdue. Penn State was one of the best offensive teams in the Big Ten averaging over 71 points per game. Lamar Stevens was a nightmare matchup, and when their role players got hot from 3, they were a massive problem. The NCAA Tournament got canceled which was devastating because Stevens was just seven points away from becoming Penn State’s all-time leading scorer.
Out with the old: Lamar Stevens, Mike Watkins, Curtis Jones Jr. Stephen Beattie, Grant Hazle
In with the new: DJ Gordon, Dallion Johnson, Valdir Manuel, Caleb Dorsey, Sam Sessoms (Binghamton transfer)
Biggest addition: DJ Gordon. Penn State beat out Minnesota, Iowa, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and numerous other Power 5 programs for Gordon. With so many veterans returning, Gordon might not be in the starting lineup, but he’ll get some playing time off the bench. He’s a tough win with tremendous length who can fill it up. The Pittsburgh native will fit right in with Pat Chambers’ hard-nosed crew.
The skinny: Lamar Stevens might go down as the best player in Penn State history, and Mike Watkins was one of the best defensive players too. But even though both of those anchors are gone, Penn State is built to compete. They have compiled a talented backcourt. They’ll play three or four guys who can really hit the 3. Sophomores Myles Dread, Myreon Jones and Izaiah Brockington are all legit. Freshman Seth Lundy really came on strong last year. John Harrar and Jamari Wheeler will both be tough, gritty seniors who will do whatever it takes to win. Penn State doesn’t have a ton of height – only one guy over 6-foot-9 – but their 3-point shooting will make them a matchup nightmare for some teams.
Stat you probably didn’t know: Penn State checked in at No. 9 in the Associated Press Top 10 poll in February. It was the first time in 24 years that Penn State was ranked that high.
Projected starting lineup
G Jamari Wheeler
G Myreon Jones
G Myles Dread
G Seth Lundy
C John Harrar
Purdue (16-15, 9-11)
2019-20 recap: There were high hopes for the Boilermakers after their Elite Eight run in 2018-19. Their preseason schedule was daunting but they picked up wins over ranked foes like No. 20 VCU and No. 5 Virginia. But a loss to a horrific Nebraska team sent tremors through the program, and then Illinois held them to an embarrassing 37 points on Jan. 5. Purdue was a really tough team to beat because of their defense, but they never got any serious momentum and finished the season 16-15 and 9-11 in Big Ten play. After the season, starters Matt Haarms and Nojel Eastern transferred to BYU and Michigan, respectively.
Matt Painter went on The Dan Dakich Show and didn’t hide his feelings about the transfers.
“I don’t mean to hurt anybody’s feelings, because I like the guys who have left my program,” Painter said. “I like both of them. But transfers don’t get drafted pretty much. It’s a very, very small percentage. … What I look at more than anything is embrace problems and embrace adversity and fight it. Don’t run from it. When you run from it and your work ethic isn’t at a high, high level like a Carsen Edwards or a Caleb Swanigan… that’s the one thing that’s not gonna change.”
“... You might’ve got your degree from Purdue, but you’re not a Boilermaker if you walk out the door at the end and say, ‘Hey, I want to make the league.’ Well, guys who make the league work hard like Carsen Edwards and Caleb Swanigan. I didn’t see that from him. Did he work hard in practice? Sure. Did he work hard in games? Sure. Was he a good player for us? Yes. But if you take him and rank him against those guys I just mentioned, where would you rank him? So Trevion Williams beat him out and if he wants to move on, then that’s his choice.”
Out with the old: Jahaad Proctor, Evan Boudreaux, Nojel Eastern (transferred to Michigan), Matt Haarms (transferred to BYU), Tommy Luce
In with the new: Jaden Ivey, Ethan Morton, Zach Edey
Biggest addition: Jaden Ivey. The four-star shooting guard will give Purdue the shot in the arm it needs. The Boilermakers were 12th in the Big Ten and 269th in the country in points per game last year. They shot just over 31 percent from behind the arc. Ivey can change that. Competition for minutes will be tough in the backcourt, but Ivey’s athleticism, playmaking and shotmaking abilities should get him on the floor.
The scoop: Matt Painter’s teams are always going to play defense. That’s a given. And honestly, the departures of Haarms and Eastern might hurt the depth of the program a little bit, but they’re not huge losses. Ivey and Morton are both top-100 recruits who are built to play early, and Trevion Williams is one of the toughest big men to guard in the Big Ten. He’ll be the man in 2019-20. Sasha Stefanovic will continue to be a sharpshooter and Eric Hunter is a playmaker who will have the ball in his hands even more. Hunter, Williams and Stefanovic will all be juniors and have to take monster roles. If Aaron Wheeler can ever tap into his potential, then Painter could have a team that could get into the NCAA Tournament. But there are so many unanswered questions with Purdue, so they could get exposed a little bit in the loaded Big Ten.
Stat you probably didn’t know: Incoming freshman Zach Edey is 7-foot-3. That means Purdue will have had someone who is taller than 7-0 on their roster for each of the last nine seasons. A.J. Hammons to Isaac Haas to Matt Haarms to Zach Edey. A tradition as old as time.
Projected starting lineup
G Eric Hunter
G Sasha Stefanovic
G Jaden Ivey
F Aaron Wheeler
F Trevion Williams
Rutgers (20-11, 11-9)
2019-20 recap: The RAC was the most dangerous place to play in college basketball. Rutgers was virtually unbeatable at home. They won a school-record 18 games at the RAC. Now, away from home, they were a different team (2-10 in true road games) but Steve Pikiell has breathed life into the Rutgers program. They’re tough. They’re great defensively. They never gave up, and Geo Baker was one of the best clutch players in the country. It was a shame that the NCAA Tournament got canceled because Rutgers was a lock. They played one of the toughest schedules in the country and finished 20-11 and 11-9 overall.
In with the new: Cliff Omoruyi, Mawot Mag, Dean Reiber, Oskar Palmquist
Biggest addition: Cliff Omoruyi. He’s a little raw offensively, but Omoruyi is a monster on the glass and defensively. He’s a heck of an athlete and he’s a chiseled freak at 6-foot-10 and 230 pounds. Omoruyi will team up with Shaq Carter and Myles Johnson to form an intimidating frontcourt that will not be afraid to lay the hammer on you. Omoruyi doesn’t have to be a star in 2020 for Rutgers to be great. But if he does his job, Rutgers is going to be so dangerous.
The scoop: If Rutgers fans thought 2019-20 was fun, it’s about to get even crazier in 2020-21. Rutgers is losing just Akwasi Yeboah who averaged 9.8 points and 4.8 rebounds last year. Cliff Omoruyi is a monster addition and everyone else is back. Leading scorer Ron Harper Jr. will return. Baker is back for his senior season. Jacob Young and Myles Johnson both did great things last year. Montez Mathis, Caleb McConnell, Paul Mulcahy and Shaq Carter make Rutgers one of the deepest teams in the league. They’ll beat people up next year on the glass. They’ve got a legitimate chance to win the Big Ten in 2020-21.
Stat you probably didn’t know: Cliff Omoruyi is the second-best recruit that Rutgers has landed in the history of recruiting rankings.
Projected starting lineup
G Ron Harper Jr.
G Geo Baker
G Montez Mathis
G/F Caleb McConnell
F Myles Johnson
Wisconsin (21-10, 14-6)
2019-20 recap: In a span of about a month, Greg Gard went from being on the hot seat to winning the Big Ten Coach of the Year. Wisconsin had to deal with a horrific tragedy to assistant coach Howard Moore and then emerging star Kobe King left the team in the middle of the season while alleging a racial epithet was directed at him by a Wisconsin staffer. But through it all, Gard continued to get his team ready to go. On Feb. 5, Wisconsin was 13-10 and 6-6 in the Big Ten. They didn’t lose again. Eight wins in a row helped the Badgers win a share of the Big Ten crown. Nate Reuvers, Micah Potter, Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice brought the Badgers back from the dead.
Out with the old: Brevin Pritzl
In with the new: Ben Carlson, Johnny Davis, Lorne Bowman, Steven Crowl, Jordan Davis
Biggest addition: Could Ben Carlson be the next Nate Reuvers? Wisconsin sure hopes so. The Badgers came into St. Paul and plucked Ben Carlson away from Minnesota. The four-star, 6-foot-9 forward is the premier player in Wisconsin’s Class of 2020. The Badgers have great frontcourt depth right now, so Carlson might not have a massive role as a true freshman, but he’s the next great big man that Wisconsin seemingly always has.
The scoop: The Big Four of Reuvers, Potter, Davison and Trice are all coming back for their senior seasons. Reuvers and Potter might form the best frontcourt in the Big Ten. The duo averaged 23 points and 10.7 rebounds per game together last year, and that number could rise in 2020-21 as they learn how to play with each other more. Aleem Ford, Tyler Wahl and a solid recruiting class will give Gard some great depth. Wisconsin is always competitive. But some years are different than others. If the momentum that Wisconsin had at the end of the season carries over into next year, Wisconsin has what it takes to win a Big Ten crown.
Stat you probably didn’t know: The Badgers finished ranked in 11 of Bo Ryan’s 14 full years at the helm.
Projected starting lineup
G D’Mitrik Trice
G Brad Davison
F Tyler Wahl or Aleem Ford
F Nate Reuvers
F Micah Potter
Big Ten Standings Predictions
|Isaac Trotter||Pat Ruff||Guy Limbeck|
|4.||Rutgers||Ohio State||Ohio State|
Preseason All-Big Ten Predictions
G Aaron Henry, Michigan State
F Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana
F Nate Reuvers, Wisconsin
C Kofi Cockburn, Illinois
C Luka Garza, Iowa
In the mix: Marcus Carr, Minnesota; Joe Wieskamp, Iowa; D’Mitrik Trice, Wisconsin; Micah Potter, Wisconsin; Ron Harper Jr., Rutgers; Geo Baker, Rutgers; Isaiah Livers, Michigan; Duane Washington Jr., Ohio State; Myreon Jones, Penn State; Franz Wagner, Michigan; Aaron Wiggins, Maryland
Preseason All-Big Ten Freshman Team Predictions
G Adam Miller, Illinois
G Andre Curbelo, Illinois
G Khristian Lander, Indiana
F Mady Sissoko, Michigan State
C Hunter Dickinson, Michigan