LWOS’ coverage of the NCAA continues with the Big 10 basketball preview. The Big 10 was one of the most dominant conferences in 2019-20, with 5 teams being within the top 25 in AP rankings. This season the conference has that same dominance, as returning players and newcomers will be amplifying the majority of team rosters.
2020-21 Big 10 Basketball Conference Preview
14. Northwestern Wildcats
Returners: Boo Buie, Miller Kopp, Ryan Young, Anthony Gaines (injury)
Losses: Pat Spencer, A.J. Turner
With a young roster, the 2019-20 season was a challenging one. However, it was always going to be a year of rebuilding. Certainly, young talents such as Buie and Young are pieces to build around. However, Buie is the key to helping Northwestern shock people.
13. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Returners: Thorir Thorbjarnarson, Yvan Ouedraogo
Losses: Cam Mack, Dachon Burke, Jervay Green (transfer)
Newcomers: Dalano Banton (WKU), Trey McGowens (Pitt), Kobe Webster (Western Illinois), Shamiel Stevenson (Pitt)
Certainly, Fred Hoiberg’s first season in Nebraska was like a learning curve for the team. Unfortunately, Nebraska is no longer welcoming Kobe King. But, adding multiple recruits for the second year in a row is helpful. In short, that includes former West Virginia guard Teddy Allen and Pittsburgh’s Trey McGowens. Certainly, the Cornhuskers are more talented than last season, but will still have to work from the bottom on their way up.
12. Penn State Nittany Lions
Returners: Myreon Jones, Myles Dread, Jamari Wheeler, Izaiah Brockington
Losses: Lamar Stevens, Mike Watkins, Curtis Jones
Newcomers: Dallion Johnson, DJ Gordon, Caleb Dorsey
Certainly, the departure of Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins leaves a big void. However, the returning core will have to show that there is a lead guy or two on this team to make noise. Also, Jamari Wheeler is back in what should be another athletic and defensively stingy backcourt for Penn State. But, keep an eye on Myreon Jones. He is a junior guard who shot 40.3% from three last season and has breakthrough potential.
11. Maryland Terrapins
Returners: Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Darryl Morsell, Donta Scott
Losses: Jalen Smith, Anthony Cowan
Newcomers: Marcus Dockery, Aquan Smart, Galin Smith (Alabama)
The Terps will be heavily reliant on Darryl Morsell, Aaron Wiggins, Eric Ayala, and Donte Scott’s returning heart. However, depth in the frontcourt is a problem. Certainly, Ayala and incoming freshman, Aquan Smart will need to show that they can manage point guard duties over the long season. Nevertheless, if player growth breaks properly, Maryland will be led by veterans who know how to succeed.
10. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Returners: Marcus Carr, Gabe Kalscheur, Eric Curry (injury)
Losses: Daniel Oturu, Alihan Demir
Newcomers: Liam Robbins (Drake), Brandon Johnson (Western Michigan), Jamal Mashburn Jr.
Gach and Robbins are awaiting waiver decisions. Certainly, both will play a part in the hopes of contention for the Gophers. To clarify, Gach looks to be the most likely of the two to be given immediate eligibility. But, Daniel Oturu is a big loss. However, guards Marcus Carr and Gabe Kalscheur are established pieces. The challenge here is how strong the supporting cast can be.
9. Michigan Wolverines
Returners: Isaiah Livers, Franz Wagner, Eli Brooks
Losses: Zavier Simpson, David DeJulius (Cincinnatti)
Newcomers: Hunter Dickinson, Zeb Jackson, Terrance Williams
A roller-coaster offseason in Michigan saw a decent bit of team attrition and the departure of incoming five-star Isaiah Todd. However, a very promising nucleus is still here. Certainly, the return of Isaiah Livers was big. In short, the Wolverines were safe with him at their peak last season. Similarly, expect a big jump from Franz Wagner. Meanwhile, the arrivals of Columbia point guard Mike Smith, freshmen center Hunter Dickinson and Wake Forest wing Chaundee Brown all have the chance to make differences.
8. Purdue Boilermakers
Returners: Trevion Williams, Eric Hunter, Sasha Stefanovic
Losses: Matt Haarms, Nojel Eastern, Jahaad Proctor
Newcomers: Jaden Ivey, Ethan Morton, Brandon Newman
For the Boilermakers, who have Trevion Williams ready to anchor this team at center, the abrupt transfer of Matt Haarms was not the end of the world. After he also opted to move on, Nojel Eastern’s defense will be missed, but the Boilermakers have an intriguing core that next season could play out in several different ways. When Williams was on the bench last season, Purdue didn’t have a go-to guy on the floor and could greatly benefit from a jump by junior guard Eric Hunter Jr.
7. Ohio State Buckeyes
Returners: CJ Walker, Duane Washington, Kyle Young
Losses: Kaleb Wesson, Luther Muhammad, Andre Wesson
Newcomers: Seth Towns (Harvard), Justice Sueing (Cal), Eugene Brown III
Kaleb Wesson is gone. However, things should keep moving for the Buckeyes with a quartet of transfers. To clarify, Harvard transfer Seth Towns is a highly sought after former Ivy League Player of the Year. Certainly, injuries are a question. In addition, former Cal forward Justice Sueing will join Towns in the frontcourt after sitting out last season. Together with the return of Kyle Young and E.J. Liddell, the Buckeyes can make up for Kaleb Wesson’s departure.
6. Indiana Hoosiers
Returners: Trayce Jackson-Davis, Al Durham, Rob Phinisee
Losses: Devonte Green, De’Ron Davis, Justin Smith
Newcomers: Khristian Lander, Anthony Leal, Jordan Geronimo
There is high optimism in Indiana for the return of Trayce Jackson-Davis and the commitment. Likewise, with the reclassification of five-star guard Khristian Lander. The Hoosiers will have plenty of playmaking available with Lander, Phinisee, and Durham running the backcourt. Similarly, after showing flashes down the stretch last season, Thompson is an intriguing presence on the frontcourt.
5. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Returners: Ron Harper Jr., Geo Baker, Myles Johnson
Losses: Akwasi Yeboah, Shaq Carter, Peter Kiss
Newcomers: Cliff Omoruyi, Mawot Mag, Oskar Palmquist
The Scarlet Knights’ most successful season in years was cut heartbreakingly short by the pandemic. However, they are well-positioned to come back strong. To clarify, Baker, Harper, and more return. Certainly, Rutgers should be stout again defensively under Steve Pikiell. Likewise, the addition of top-50 center Cliff Omoruyi will help. However, if they challenge for the conference title they will need to improve on offense.
4. Wisconsin Badgers
Returners: D’Mitrik Trice, Nate Reuvers, Brad Davison
Losses: Brevin Pritzl
Newcomers: Ben Carlson, Johnny Davis, Lorne Bowman
The Badgers finished the 2019-20 season winning eight straight games. As a result, they shared the Big Ten title. Additionally, the Badgers nearly return their entire team. To clarify, the majority of the Badgers on this roster are seniors. In addition, they add Carlson, a talented big man. Certainly, Wisconsin is known for its success with forwards.
3. Michigan State Spartans
Returners: Aaron Henry, Rocket Watts, Gabe Brown, Josh Langford
Losses: Cassius Winston, Xavier Tillman
Newcomers: Joey Hauser (Marquette), Mady Sissoko, AJ Hoggard
Yes, Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman are massive losses, but at your own risk, underestimate the Spartans. Joey Hauser, now eligible, is a strong addition to the likes of Aaron Henry, Rocket Watts, and Gabe Brown, and MSU may finally see Joshua Langford return to court. Ultimately, the ceiling of this team will be determined by the leaps players Henry, Watts, Brown and Marcus Bingham make, which is usually a safe bet under Tom Izzo to be at least encouraging.
2. Iowa Hawkeyes
Returners: Luka Garza, Joe Wieskamp, Jordan Bohannon
Losses: Ryan Kriener, Bakari Evelyn
Newcomers: Ahron Ulis, Tony Perkins, Josh Ogundele
For the Hawkeyes, the return of Luka Garza cemented great expectations. Above all, he rejoins an experienced core that includes the now healthy Bohannon and Wieskamp. Certainly, Iowa should be right in the running for what could be its first Big Ten regular-season title since 1979.
1. Illinois Fighting Illini
Returners: Ayo Dosunmu, Kofi Cockburn, Trent Frazier
Losses: Andres Feliz, Alan Griffin, Kipper Nichols
Newcomers: Adam Miller, Andre Curbelo, Jacob Grandison
The return of Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn propelled the Illini all the way to favorite status. However, it is shaping up to be another tight Big Ten fight. Certainly, the transfer of Alan Griffin will hurt. In short, the Fighting Illini will need shooting from incoming four-star shooting guard Adam Miller.
Certainly, Dosunmu and Cockburn are one of the nation’s best inside-out duos. Additionally, Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Trent Frazier, and Da’Monte Williams’ offensive improvement may be equally critical to their hopes for the title.
2020-21 Big 12 Basketball Awards
Player of the Year: Luka Garza, Iowa
In the seven major college basketball conferences, Luka Garza is the top returning scorer among all players. He’s coming off a breakout junior season in which he averaged 23.9 points, 9.8 boards, and 1.8 blocks per game. Certainly, he is one of the best and most productive players in the country.
Rookie of the Year: Khristian Lander, Indiana
The former five-star recruit reclassified figures to make an instant impact as a rookie in Indiana. In his senior year of high school, he averaged 21 points and 6 boards per game while developing for days into a multi-faceted lead guard with sharp handles, a smooth stroke, and speed.
Coach of the Year: Brad Underwood, Illinois
In the offseason, no awards are won or lost, but let’s give Brad Underwood his credit: he attracted the Fighting Illini back to both Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn to run it back in 2020. Not an easy task considering that last season the Illini did not even win the league. Certainly, the return of Dosunmu and Cockburn makes this the best and most talented Illinois team in a while.
First Team All-Big 10: Marcus Carr (Minnesota), Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois), Trayce-Jackson Davis (Indiana), Trevion Williams (Purdue), Luka Garza (Iowa)
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