Another season of Big Ten basketball is upon us.
The conference sent nine teams to the NCAA Tournament a season ago, the most of any league in the country. The Big Ten once again expected to be deep this season, but no team has emerged in the preseason as a clear-cut favorite. It should be an exciting race as the teams battle it out on the court all season long.
Here’s a look at what to expect from all 14 of the Big Ten’s teams this season.
Indiana Hoosiers (Preseason AP No. 13)
2021-22 record: 21-14 (9-11 Big Ten, 9th place)
NCAA Tournament finish: Round of 64 (12 seed)
Head coach: Mike Woodson (2nd season)
Notable departures: Parker Stewart, Rob Phinisee
Notable returners: Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson, Miller Kopp, Xavier Johnson, Trey Galloway, Tamar Bates, Jordan Geronimo
Notable newcomers: Jalen Hood-Schifino, Malik Reneau, Kaleb Banks, CJ Gunn
Coming into the 2022-23 season, Indiana is a trendy pick to win the Big Ten as a classic example of a team that brings nearly everyone back from a season ago and is expected to make a jump. Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year Trayce Jackson-Davis should once again be a menace down low for opponents to deal with, and if his game can expand closer to the perimeter, he could become a legitimate candidate for national player of the year awards when the season comes to a close. Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson are expected to be among the conference’s best frontcourt duos and should team up well once again with Miller Kopp and Xavier Johnson in the starting lineup.
Woodson will also easily be able to plug in Jalen Hood-Schifino, a five-star prospect considered to be the runaway preseason favorite for the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award.
The question for Indiana is whether or not this collection of players will take the next step. Can the same team that needed a run in the Big Ten Tournament to qualify for the NCAA Tournament and lost by 29 points to Saint Mary’s in the Round of 64 make a jump this year? Who knows, but the pieces are certainly there in Bloomington to compete at the top of what looks to be a wide-open Big Ten.
Illinois Fighting Illini (Preseason AP No. 23)
2021-22 record: 23-10 (15-5 Big Ten, T-1st place)
NCAA Tournament finish: Round of 32 (4 seed)
Head coach: Brad Underwood (6th season)
Notable departures: Kofi Cockburn, Alfonso Plummer, Trent Frazier, Andre Curbelo, Jacob Grandison, Da’Monte Williams
Notable returners: Coleman Hawkins, RJ Melendez
Notable newcomers: Terrence Shannon Jr., Matthew Mayer, Dain Dainja, Skyy Clark, Ty Rodgers, Jayden Epps, Sencire Harris
Perhaps no team in the Big Ten experienced more roster turnover than the Illini. Their starting lineup from a year ago is essentially gone, with stars Kofi Cockburn, Alfonso Plummer and Trent Frazier all gone to the professional ranks. Andre Curbelo also transferred to St. John’s.
With roster spots open, Brad Underwood reloaded his roster and has a case for having the most talented one in the conference. Illinois snagged wings Matthew Mayer and Dain Dainja from Baylor and Terrence Shannon Jr. from Texas Tech. Many expect Shannon Jr., an All-Big 12 player with the Red Raiders, to be one of the most impactful transfers in the country and was the Illini’s sole preseason All-Big Ten selection.
Illinois also brought in a top-10 recruiting class, headlined by four-star guard Skyy Clark, a dark horse behind Hood-Schifino for being the conference’s best freshman. Alongside Clark, freshmen Ty Rodgers, Jayden Epps and Sencire Harris come to Urbana-Champaign with a chance to make an immediate impact.
The best returning player is definitely Coleman Hawkins, who has developed into one of the Big Ten’s best forwards and is a potential All-Big Ten-caliber player.
Underwood may have to develop chemistry with his team full of newcomers this season, but it could very well make a splash in the conference.
Michigan Wolverines (Preseason AP No. 22)
2021-22 record: 19-15 (11-9 Big Ten, T-7th place)
NCAA Tournament finish: Sweet 16 (11 seed)
Head coach: Juwan Howard (4th season)
Notable departures: Eli Brooks, DeVante Jones, Caleb Houstan, Moussa Diabate, Zeb Jackson, Brandon Johns Jr., Frankie Collins
Notable returners: Hunter Dickinson, Terrance Williams II, Kobe Bufkin
Notable newcomers: Jaelin Llewellyn, Joey Baker, Tarris Reed, Jett Howard, Dug McDaniel, Gregg Glenn
Last season was a disappointing one for Michigan for the most part, but a run to the Sweet 16 made sure it ended on a good note. The Wolverines entered the season with Big Ten and national championship aspirations but couldn’t find a groove in the regular season, finishing seventh in the conference and earning an 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Still, their postseason run showed the upside that still exists within the program.
Hunter Dickinson returns as the centerpiece of this year’s Michigan squad, garnering preseason buzz as a candidate for the title of best player in the Big Ten. He’ll have to be great for Michigan to compete with the league’s top teams, but every indication is that he’s fully equipped to continue to do so. Kobe Bufkin and Terrance Williams II also return after playing bench roles last year.
Michigan does bring in a solid class of newcomers after losing a lot of key pieces from last year’s team. Among those that will need to play big roles in their first seasons in Ann Arbor are Princeton transfer Jaelin Llewellyn — an All-Ivy League player last season — and Jett Howard, the son of head coach Juwan Howard that could be an impact wing right away as a freshman.
The Wolverines will need to prove that this year’s team has enough to replace the lost production from last year’s, but the upside is there for them to have a chance at a conference title.
Michigan State Spartans
2021-22 record: 23-13 (11-9 Big Ten, T-7th place)
NCAA Tournament finish: Round of 32 (7 seed)
Head coach: Tom Izzo (27th season)
Notable departures: Gabe Brown, Marcus Bingham Jr., Max Christie, Julius Marble II
Notable returners: Malik Hall, Tyson Walker, Joey Hauser, A.J. Hoggard, Jaden Akins
Notable newcomers: Jaxon Kohler, Tre Holloman
After a season that was OK but not up to the standard that Tom Izzo has set at Michigan State, the Spartans have an interesting team this year. Nobody stands out as an established star, but the team might be better than the sum of its parts.
Three starters are gone from last year’s team, but there is still plenty of continuity on this year’s squad. Guards A.J. Hoggard, Tyson Walker and Jaden Akins are back and have shown flashes of their abilities; they just need to put it together and become more consistent players capable of leading the team on the court. Joey Hauser is also back as a reliable wing.
Malik Hall is considered by most to be the best player on Michigan State after mostly coming off the bench last season. Considering his six-foot-eight frame, he shot a very high clip from three-point-range and was capable of getting to the rim too. He has the potential to be one of the best players in the conference if he reaches his full potential.
Michigan State has an incredibly hard nonconference schedule that includes games against the likes of Gonzaga, Kentucky, Alabama and Villanova, so it’ll be battle-tested once conference play rolls around.
2021-22 record: 29-8 (14-6 Big Ten, 3rd place)
NCAA Tournament finish: Sweet 16 (3 seed)
Head coach: Matt Painter (18th season)
Notable departures: Jaden Ivey, Trevion Williams, Sasha Stefanovic, Eric Hunter Jr., Isaiah Thompson
Notable returners: Zach Edey, Mason Gillis, Caleb Furst, Brandon Newman, Trey Kaufman-Renn
Notable newcomers: David Jenkins Jr., Fletcher Loyer, Camden Heide, Braden Smith
For as good as Purdue was a season ago, it came up short of its goals. The Boilermakers were briefly ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history, but narrowly missed getting a share of the Big Ten regular-season title. Then, they lost in the Big Ten Tournament championship game to Iowa, just missing another chance to bring home a trophy. Lastly, even with a week to prepare, Purdue’s season ended at the hands of Saint Peter’s in the Sweet 16, extinguishing any hopes of a Final Four run for a team that looked to be in decent position to make its first since 1980.
The frontcourt loses star Trevion Williams but should still be in good hands. If seven-foot-four Zach Edey can stay on the court longer — and he’ll have an opportunity with Williams gone — he is a legitimate All-American-type player. He is also surrounded by returnees in Mason Gillis and Caleb Furst that are looking to build off solid seasons a year ago and Trey Kaufman-Renn, who is coming off a redshirt year after being ranked as the top recruit in the state of Indiana coming out of high school.
The questions arise in the backcourt, which is now without the talents of All-American and now-Detroit Pistons guard Jaden Ivey and sharpshooter Sasha Stefanovic. Utah transfer David Jenkins Jr. should help with that and players like Brandon Newman, Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith could break out, but there are still uncertainties about the team on the perimeter.
Regardless of the roster turnover, it’s hard to count a Matt Painter-coached team out.
Ohio State Buckeyes
2021-22 record: 20-12 (12-8 Big Ten, T-4th place)
NCAA Tournament finish: Round of 32 (7 seed)
Head coach: Chris Holtmann (6th season)
Notable departures: E.J. Liddell, Malaki Branham, Jamari Wheeler, Kyle Young, Justin Ahrens, Cedric Russell, Meechie Johnson Jr.
Notable returners: Zed Key, Justice Sueing, Eugene Brown III
Notable newcomers: Tanner Holden, Sean McNeil, Isaac Likekele, Roddy Gayle Jr., Bruce Thornton, Felix Okpara, Brice Sensabaugh
Like Painter, Chris Holtmann rarely has a bad team. This year’s squad might not be a great one, but it still looks — on paper, at least — to be a solid NCAA Tournament team with the upside to finish in the top quarter of the league.
The losses from last season are numerous, as stars like E.J. Liddell and Malaki Branham left alongside other key contributors like Kyle Young and Jamari Wheeler. It will take a lot to replace them, but Holtmann may have done just enough to do so in the offseason.
Tanner Holden, Sean McNeil and Isaac Likekele come in as transfers and should provide an instant boost. Holden was an All-Horizon League player at Wright State, McNeil a good shooter from West Virginia and Likekele a tough guard from Oklahoma State. Additionally, the Buckeyes bring in four top-100 recruits that may still be a year or so away from fully blooming but can still provide valuable minutes.
Those additions will team up with top returners Zed Key and Justice Sueing, the latter of which is coming off a season cut short by an early injury.
A lot will be made clear about what this year’s rendition of the Buckeyes is capable of when they compete in this year’s loaded Maui Invitational against some of the nation’s best.
The middle of the pack
2021-22 record: 26-10 (12-8 Big Ten, T-4th place, Big Ten Tournament champion)
NCAA Tournament finish: Round of 64 (5 seed)
Head coach: Fran McCaffery (13th season)
Notable departures: Keegan Murray, Jordan Bohannon, Joe Toussaint, Austin Ash
Notable returners: Kris Murray, Patrick McCaffery, Tony Perkins, Filip Rebraca, Payton Sandfort, Ahron Ulis, Connor McCaffery
Notable newcomers: Dasonte Bowen, Josh Dix
Iowa was a good team all year in 2021-22 but peaked at what seemed to be the right time, going on a run to win the Big Ten Tournament. However, the team couldn’t carry the momentum into the NCAA Tournament, getting upset by 12th-seeded Richmond in the first round.
The Hawkeyes’ two best players — by a decent margin — left after the season, Jordan Bohannon running out of eligibility and Keegan Murray being selected No. 4 overall by the Sacramento Kings in the NBA Draft. Still, there’s enough left from last year’s team to make a run at a top-four-or-so finish in the conference.
Despite the glaring losses, Iowa still returns much of its roster from a season ago. Keegan’s brother, Kris, is a prime candidate for a breakout season after showing glimpses of greatness last year and could be next in line behind Luka Garza and his brother to become an all-conference player for Fran McCaffery. There should be no chemistry issues with the Hawkeyes, considering that most of the team is back and used to playing with each other. Whether that can make up for the loss of an All-American and a long-time point guard will be something to watch this season.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
2021-22 record: 18-14 (12-8 Big Ten, T-4th place)
NCAA Tournament finish: First Four (11 seed)
Head coach: Steve Pikiell (7th season)
Notable departures: Ron Harper Jr., Geo Baker, Jaden Jones, Ralph Gonzales-Agee
Notable returners: Clifford Omoruyi, Paul Mulcahy, Caleb McConnell, Aundre Hyatt, Dean Reiber, Mawot Mag
Notable newcomers: Cam Spencer, Derek Simpson, Antwone Woolfolk, Antonio Chol
Steve Pikiell had put together a solid core group of players that successfully brought Rutgers back to national relevancy, but now he’ll have to prove he can do it without Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker. Luckily, there are a few holdovers that should make the transition smoother.
Caleb McConnell and Paul Mulcahy are back to help sure up the backcourt, McConnell the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Clifford Omoruyi isn’t quite on the level of elite Big Ten centers like Jackson-Davis and Dickinson yet, but he’s just one rung down the ladder. He could be a serious difference-maker in his junior season.
Cam Spencer is a player to keep an eye on, transferring to Rutgers after earning First Team All-Patriot League honors with Loyola Maryland a season ago following a campaign in which he averaged 18.9 points per game.
Rutgers looks like a team more than capable of making the NCAA Tournament if things go to plan.
2021-22 record: 25-8 (15-5 Big Ten, T-1st place)
NCAA Tournament finish: Round of 32 (3 seed)
Head coach: Greg Gard (8th season)
Notable departures: Johnny Davis, Brad Davison, Chris Vogt, Lorne Bowman II, Ben Carlson
Notable returners: Tyler Wahl, Chucky Hepburn, Steven Crowl, Jahcobi Neath, Jordan Davis, Carter Gilmore, Chris Hodges, Markus Ilver
Notable newcomers: Max Klesmit, Kamari McGee, Connor Essegian
The Badgers outperformed most everyone’s expectations last season, playing their way to a share of the Big Ten regular-season title and a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A lot of that success could be attributed to the play of All-American guard Johnny Davis, who now plays for the Washington Wizards.
Now without Davis and long-time guard Brad Davison, Wisconsin is once again not expected to make a run at the top of the Big Ten. Still, the return of Chucky Hepburn should help alleviate some of the losses at the guard position.
Down low, the Badgers should be okay. Steven Crowl and Tyler Wahl come back as starters in the frontcourt, and many have pointed to Wahl as the team’s likely best player. He was an All-Big Ten honorable mention last season after averaging 11.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. With an increased role on offense this season, he could be poised for a big year.
It would be silly to count Wisconsin out after last year, but it would also be surprising to see them back in the conference title race. Greg Gard doesn’t quite need to rebuild his team, but unless someone — like Davis did a season ago — makes huge strides and breaks out as an unexpected star, Wisconsin will take a step back in 2022-23.
2021-22 record: 15-17 (7-13 Big Ten, T-10th place)
NCAA Tournament finish: Did not qualify
Head coach: Kevin Willard (1st season)
Notable departures: Eric Ayala, Fatts Russell, Qudus Wahab, Xavier Green, Marcus Dockery, Simon Wright
Notable returners: Donta Scott, Hakim Hart, Julian Reese, Ian Martinez, Ike Cornish, Arnaud Revaz, Pavlo Dziuba
Notable newcomers: Jahmir Young, Don Carey, Jahari Long, Noah Batchelor, Patrick Emilien, Caelum Swanton-Rodger
Year one of the Kevin Willard era comes with many unknowns in College Park. Questions can be asked about the apparent lack of depth and whether or not the transfer duo of Jahmir Young and Don Carey can replace the production of Eric Ayala and Fatts Russell. Additionally, there is no established post presence outside of relatively unproven six-foot-nine sophomore Julian Reese, who may find himself struggling down low against the likes of Dickinson, Edey and Jackson-Davis. He did show signs of promise last season and could make a jump this year, though.
If Maryland is going to have a good season, it will almost certainly need Donta Scott to have a good one too. The senior has at times looked like a legitimate NBA prospect throughout his career but is yet to put it together. If he does and can shoot at a higher clip than last season, he’ll be one of the best wings in the conference.
Hakim Hart also returns and will play a key role. He has steadily improved over his three years with the Terps and should be primed for his best one yet in year four.
An NCAA Tournament bid is by no means out of the question for Maryland, but it’ll likely need to pick up some resume-building wins in its tough nonconference schedule to make it happen.
Penn State Nittany Lions
2021-22 record: 14-17 (7-13 Big Ten, T-10th place)
NCAA Tournament finish: Did not qualify
Head coach: Micah Shrewberry (2nd season)
Notable departures: Sam Sessoms, John Harrar, Greg Lee, Jaheam Cornwall, Jalanni White
Notable returners: Jalen Pickett, Seth Lundy, Myles Dread, Dallion Johnson, Caleb Dorsey
Notable newcomers: Camren Wynter, Andrew Funk, Michael Henn, Kebba Njie, Jameel Brown, Kanye Clary, Evan Mahaffey, Demetrius Lilley
Micah Shrewsberry enters his second season as Penn State’s head coach after an all-right first. His team ended the year on a relatively positive note, winning two Big Ten Tournament games. This season, the Nittany Lions are looking to play that way the whole season, and it’ll start and finish with the backcourt.
Jalen Pickett and Seth Lundy could be one of the Big Ten’s best guard duos this season. They led the team in scoring last season and should do so again. Their veteran presences are going to be the key to this year’s Nittany Lions team, and if they get hot, Penn State can hang with anyone.
The frontcourt is lacking in proven talent with John Harrar — who averaged double-digit rebounds — gone, so somebody will have to step up to replace his production.
Shrewsberry has a decent core of players that should have expectations of outplaying its 10th-place finish from a season ago, potentially finding its way onto the bubble and possibly into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, although the Nittany Lions would’ve made it in 2020 had the tournament not been canceled.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
2021-22 record: 13-17 (4-16 Big Ten, T-13th place)
NCAA Tournament finish: Did not qualify
Head coach: Ben Johnson (2nd season)
Notable departures: Payton Willis, E.J. Stephens, Luke Loewe, Eric Curry, Sean Sutherlin, Charlie Daniels, Abdoulaye Thiam, Danny Ogele
Notable returners: Jamison Battle, Treyton Thompson, Will Ramberg
Notable newcomers: Taurus Samuels, Dawson Garcia, Ta’lon Cooper, Pharrel Payne, Jaden Henley, Joshua Ola-Joseph, Braeden Carrington
Considering the situation he inherited, Ben Johnson did a good job in his first year at Minnesota, winning his first eight games before conference play began. Still, the lack of talent and depth on his team eventually caught up with him, and the Golden Gophers ended up tied with Nebraska for last in the Big Ten with just four conference victories.
Returning wing Jamison Battle will once again need to carry the team if it’s going to have any success. He averaged 17.5 points per game and was an All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2021-22, so the blueprint is there for him to continue to score at a high level.
Dawson Garcia also comes over from North Carolina and could be a difference-maker for the Golden Gophers. He’ll team up with fellow transfer Taurus Samuels, a graduate point guard from Dartmouth. Given the state of the roster, they’ll both get plenty of opportunities early.
It’ll likely be another tough year for Johnson, but all indications are that he, at a minimum, has the program trending in the right direction.
2021-22 record: 15-16 (7-13 Big Ten, T-10th place)
NCAA Tournament finish: Did not qualify
Head coach: Chris Collins (10th season)
Notable departures: Pete Nance, Ryan Young, Ryan Greer, Elyjah Williams, Casey Simmons
Notable returners: Boo Buie, Chase Audige, Ty Berry, Robbie Beran, Julian Roper II, Matthew Nicholson, Brooks Barnhizer
Notable newcomers: Tydus Verhoeven, Luke Hunger, Nick Martinelli
Northwestern once again looks to be headed toward a bottom-tier finish in the Big Ten. The Wildcats have had five straight losing seasons and there is no reason to believe this year will be different.
The returns of Boo Buie, Chase Audige and Ty Berry could provide a spark in the backcourt, but Pete Nance’s departure to North Carolina looms over what is expected to once again be one of the worst teams in the Big Ten this season. Tydus Verhoeven comes to Evanston from UTEP and will try and recuperate as much of the lost production from Nance as he can, but it’ll be hard to fully do so.
Chris Collins will always be remembered as the first — and only to this point — men’s basketball coach in Northwestern history to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, but that can only buy him so much time now over five years later.
2021-22 record: 10-22 (4-16 Big Ten, T-13th place)
NCAA Tournament finish: Did not qualify
Head coach: Fred Hoiberg (4th season)
Notable departures: Bryce McGowens, Alonzo Verge Jr., Trey McGowens, Kobe Webster, Lat Mayen, Eduardo Andre, Trevor Lakes, Keon Edwards
Notable returners: Derrick Walker, C.J. Wilcher, Keisei Tominaga, Wilhelm Breidenbach, Oleg Kojenets
Notable newcomers: Emmanuel Bandoumel, Juwan Gary, Sam Griesel, Blaise Keita, Ramel Lloyd, Jamarques Lawrence, Denim Dawson
The Fred Hoiberg experiment looks to be destined to come to a close soon, as the Cornhuskers have been one of — if not the — worst teams in the Big Ten since he took over, going a combined 9-50 in conference games in his three seasons.
There’s no reason to believe Nebraska will buck that trend in 2022-23. If it’s going to happen, transfers are going to be the main reason, as Hoiberg hit the transfer portal to try and replace five of its top seven scorers from last season. Among those coming in are guards Emmanuel Bandoumel and Sam Griesel and forward Juwan Gary, all of whom will take on decently-sized roles early.
Derrick Walker and C.J. Wilcher are the team’s top returners on the offensive end. Walker was Nebraska’s third-leading scorer a season ago and Wilcher ranked fourth, shooting over 40% from beyond the arc. If they can take a step forward, it might be just enough to make the Cornhuskers respectable.