Big Ten basketball players are just starting to get back on their respective campuses and begin some offseason workouts. There are still some big names that are deciding whether or not they will be returning to school or heading off to the NBA. All eyes are on potential National Player of the Year Luka Garza. If he comes back to Iowa, the Hawkeyes will be a top-5 team in the country. Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu and Michigan’s Isaiah Livers are two others on the edge too.
But the newcomers are basically locked in and accounted for. The Class of 2020 is signed, sealed and delivered. The transfer portal has quieted down for the most part.
Plenty of big-name guys have left the Big Ten. But it's the newcomers turn to shine. Here are the top-10 additions to the Big Ten for the 2020-21 season.
1. Joey Hauser, Michigan State
Joey Hauser and Seth Towns are more like 1A and 1B at this point, but Hauser gets the nod because he’s had a whole year to learn Tom Izzo’s system.
There won’t be an adjustment period either. Hauser has played high-level ball in the Big East, and he’ll be ready to go.
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. Cassius 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.
Hauser won’t have to be the star. Michigan State has an excellent batch of rising up-and-comers. But Hauser is the co-favorite for Big Ten Newcomer of the Year.
2. Seth Towns, Ohio State
Seth Towns might have played at Harvard, but he was one of the best players in the country. He as the 2018 Ivy League Player of the Year. 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. Three of Ohio State’s top-four scorers have departed, so Towns will have every opportunity to step right in and take a major role.
Chris Holtmann is one of the best coaches in the Big Ten, so he’ll set up Towns for success. The supporting cast of Duane Washington Jr., EJ Liddell and CJ Walker should take the pressure off Towns too. He can just be himself. Now, the only downside is that Towns has missed each of the last two years with serious knee injuries. But when he’s healthy, he can dominate the game in multiple aspects.
3. Both Gach, Minnesota
Predicting the NCAA is like predicting what a toddler will do. You’re just never 100 percent sure. On paper, Utah transfer Both Gach has the perfect case to get his waiver for immediate eligibility approved. He’s transferring from Utah to be closer to his home in Austin. That’s the main reason, and if he doesn’t get the waiver for immediate eligibility, then Richard Pitino should (and would) go off on the NCAA.
“I feel really excited and blessed to be coming home and to be closer to family,” Gach told the Post Bulletin’s Pat Ruff. “During this difficult time (with the COVID-19 pandemic) it will be nice to have family nearby. Plus, I am really excited about having family close to me now. They haven’t seen me play live in a couple of years.”
If he gets the waiver, Gach will be one of the best newcomers in the Big Ten. He fits in the Minnesota backcourt seamlessly.
His balky knee was the reason he shot only 25 percent from downtown in 2019-20, but that number should rise. Gach’s athleticism and playmaking ability is absolutely what the Gophers needed.
Gach has a chance to be Minnesota’s next Amir Coffey. Superstar center Daniel Oturu left early for the NBA, so Minnesota has to replace his 20 points a night. That means the ball will be in Gach’s hands a lot and he’ll have the space to go to work.
Expect Gach to come in and make a monster impact right away for his home-state Gophers.
4. Adam Miller, Illinois
And here comes the first freshman.
Adam Miller 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, and the sharpshooting Chicago guard is going to fill a huge void for the Illini 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. Illinois star Ayo Dosunmu has stayed adamant that he is planning to play in the NBA next year. He’s not even returning to Champaign for offseason workouts. So that means 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 Miller’s in-the-gym range should translate right away to the Big Ten.
Illinois coach Brad Underwood has showcased what top-50 freshmen can do in his system.
Dosunmu in 2018-19: 13.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals. All-Big Ten Freshman Team.
Kofi Cockburn in 2019-20: 13.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
It’s Miller Time in Champaign. He gets the slight nod over Indiana's Khristian Lander just because the path to playing time is a little more wide open.
5. Khristian Lander, Indiana
Khristian Lander’s late flip to the Class of 2020 was a monster move. The athletic point guard will insert some life into an underwhelming Indiana backcourt.
The No. 24 prospect in the nation is the No. 1 freshman entering the Big Ten. He 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 pair well with sophomore stud Trayce Jackson-Davis.
Lander has some veteran guards that he’ll have to battle for playing time, but he didn’t come to Indiana to sit on the bench. He’ll play. Jackson-Davis and Lander has a chance to be one of the best duos in the Big Ten.
6. Hunter Dickinson, Michigan
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 in the middle after the departure of Jon Teske. Veteran Austin Davis did some nice things off the bench for the Wolverines last year, but Dickinson will be leaned on big-time as a freshman. He’s the headliner of Michigan’s top-ranked recruiting class, and the 7-foot-2, 255-pounder has a terrific post game and he knows how to use his monster frame. Dickinson’s defense might not be top-notch from Day One, but Dickinson’s touch around the basket –– combined with his midrange jumper –– will get him on the floor early and often.
7. Andre Curbelo, Illinois
The Illinois coaching staff thinks Andre Curbelo is going to be their Cassius Winston.
So yeah. Kind of a big deal.
Curbelo’s the best passing point guard in the Class of 2020, and there are two wide open starting spots in Illinois’ backcourt. You can bet on Curbelo filling them. His vision, passing and feel for the game is just tremendous.
Curbelo just makes people around him better. Big Ten Freshman of the Year Kofi Cockburn could be in store for a monster sophomore season if he comes back to play with Curbelo.
Curbelo’s handle is top-notch, and the Illini will hand him the keys early. If his 3-pointer and defense grow to match his savvy and passing, Curbelo will be Cassius Winston Jr.
Sierra Canyon brought the crowd and TV cameras, but Illinois commit Andre Curbelo was the best player on the floor tonight. Wizard with the ball, terrific passer and scored from everywhere, especially with his floater. Love his leadership, creativity and toughness. Total baller. pic.twitter.com/nHgwNv2QRJ— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) February 9, 2020
8. Mady Sissoko, Michigan State
Mady Sissoko is the perfect Michigan State big man. He owns everything Tom Izzo covets in big men. Sissoko’s 7-foot-4 wingspan will come in handy when he soars to block shots, and his chiseled 6-foot-9, 230-pound frame will instill fear in anyone who dares to challenge him at the rim. And he plays exceptionally hard.
Sissoko has every chance to walk right into East Lansing and get on the floor because of his defense, rebounding and athleticism. His offensive game isn’t quite there yet. He’s still really raw, but that’s OK because his upside is through the roof and Michigan State has enough frontcourt depth that they don’t need Sissoko to play like a lottery pick from the get-go.
But that’s also why he slips down this list a little bit. Marcus Bingham Jr., Joey Hauser, Malik Hall, Thomas Kithier and Julius Marble will all figure into the rotation. Sissoko will be a huge contributor, but he might not have a massive role at the very start as he gets adjusted to the college game.
9. Liam Robbins, Minnesota
Liam Robbins probably could be way higher on this list. His upside is through the roof for 2020-21. The only problem is that the NCAA has to let him play. Robbins needs a waiver to play right away, but he’s certainly got a solid case because he’s transferring to Minnesota to be with his uncle (Minnesota assistant Ed Conroy) and his cousin, Hunt Conroy, who is on the roster.
And if he can play, he’ll step right into Daniel Oturu’s role. The 7-foot, Drake transfer was one of the premier shot-blockers in the country last season. Robbins had a ridiculous 4.3 blocks per game last year –– oh, and 4.0 blocks the year before. Robbins is a big-time offensive weapon too. He averaged 20.9 points and 10.5 rebounds last season. He’s a really good free-throw shooter and he has a midrange jumper in his bag. If Robbins can play right away, he might be the best defender in the Big Ten, and he’ll instantly make Minnesota a Big Ten dark horse.
10. Mike Smith, Michigan
Zavier Simpson leaves a monster hole at point guard, so Michigan head coach Juwan Howard went to the transfer portal and landed Columbia star Mike Smith to fill Simpson's shoes for a year. Smith put up monster numbers in the Ivy League. The ball-dominant point guard put up over 22 points a game last season. He's only 5-foot-11, but Smith won't be scared of the big stage.
Smith will give the Michigan backcourt some much-needed veteran experience. He'll team up with Eli Brooks to form an intriguing pair of guards. But the presence of Franz Wagner, Hunter Dickinson and possibly Isaiah Livers lowers the potential ceiling for Smith in 2020-21. He'll undoubtedly contribute for the Wolverines, but he won't be tabbed to chuck up 19 shots a game like he did at Columbia.
Just missed the cut: Cliff Omoruyi, Rutgers; Justice Sueing, Ohio State; Brandon Johnson, Minnesota; Teddy Allen, Nebraska