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Best in the B1G: Ranking basketball uniforms

Keeping in mind threads don’t win championships...

Indiana v Duke Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

The Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team got new threads ahead of the 2020-21 season. In fact, for the first time ever, both the men’s and women’s teams will don the same primary home and away uniforms (though there will be some throwbacks and yet to be determined alternates).

But where do the Buckeyes’ uniforms rank in the conference overall? Without further ado, let’s jump in…

14. Illinois

Iowa v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Illini’s Nike uniforms look vintage but not in a good way. The “Illinois” lettering across the chest looks outdated, and the blue neckline combined with the white side stripes (on the orange uniforms) or blue side stripes (on the white) is distracting.

In all, they give off the vibe of practice jerseys.

13. Minnesota

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 11 Big Ten Tournament - Northwestern vs Minnesota Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When your colors are that shade of maroon and gold, it’s hard to do a lot with those uniforms. But the Gophers’ Nike jerseys aren’t the worst. In fact, somehow even the all gold jerseys aren’t total eyesores. The big knock I’d put on them are the awkward stripes on the shorts which, for some reason, meet in the front of the shorts instead of heading down the sides.

12. Purdue

Indiana v Purdue

With colors like black and gold, you’d think the Boilermakers would pull off a solid and classic uniform. However, Purdue’s Nike basketball jerseys certainly leave something to be desired. The colorblock at the top of the shoulders and the stylized “Purdue” on the chest complicate what should be a smooth uniform. Boiler down on this look.

The Hammer Down Cancer alternates are baller, though, and they’re for a good cause.

11. Nebraska

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 11 Big Ten Tournament - Nebraska vs Indiana Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Huskers’ Adidas jerseys are new this season, with Nebraska eliminating the pinstripes from both their home and away uniforms. While the red away jersey is largely the same beyond said pinstripe removal, the white home jersey got the added word art treatment, with the program opting for a stylized “Huskers” in lieu of the traditional “Nebraska” emblazoned across the chest.

Overall, the pinstripes never really fit with the basketball motif (who do the Huskers think they are? The Yankees?) and it was a good move to ditch them. However, newly stylized wordmark on the chest is difficult to read, and perhaps the program should have stuck with its traditional block lettering.

10. Wisconsin

Northwestern v Wisconsin Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Badgers’ Under Armour uniforms manage to do a lot with what’s still a generally simple design, having been updated for the first time in nearly two decades ahead of last season. The stripes on the shorts, for example, start going horizontally down the leg before wrapping wholly around the thigh.

The neckline on the jersey is somewhat odd, with alternating color blocks from front to back, but the lettering across the chest is simple. Additionally, the numbers mirror those of the football jerseys, which is cool for the brand.

9. Rutgers

Rutgers v Purdue Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Scarlet Knights unveiled new uniforms ahead of last season. The red, black and white Adidas uniforms are simpler than their previous versions, eliminating detail on the shoulder straps. The Rutgers font on the uniforms is distinct, but the remaining elements of the uniform are pretty run-of-the-mill.

8. Northwestern

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 11 Big Ten Tournament - Northwestern vs Minnesota Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Wildcats’ Under Armour uniforms are so on point for their brand. I can’t imagine a better getup for a preppy private school on the north shore of Chicago. The purple is tasteful, the font collegiate, the neckline conservative.

However, we’ve got to talk about Northwestern’s alternates, because those gothic script uniforms might be the best alternates in the conference. If only college basketball could be played on Halloween. Or in a Medieval town in France.

7. Michigan State

Ohio State v Michigan State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

As simple and (okay, I’ll just say it) boring as the Spartans’ football uniforms are, the Nike basketball unis have taken a different turn. In fact, if one were to turn on a Michigan State basketball game in recent years, one might think they were watching the likes of Oregon or Baylor given the near fluorescence of some of the uniform combos.

When it comes to their usual home whites, though, Michigan State provided a classical update (as in, quite literally, a Hellenistic throwback), adding a meander border to the sides of its jerseys and shorts as a bold connection to the Spartan mascot’s Greek roots. It’s an interesting take on tying the brand together through culturally relevant symbolism. But this isn’t an art history class.

6. Iowa

Iowa v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

While the Hawkeyes’ football uniforms are literal carbon copies of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ uniforms, the Nike basketball getups are much cooler (my bias against the Steelers aside). Iowa’s basketball jerseys do a good job of toeing the line between flashy and classic. They’re clearly Iowa, distinct from other black and gold unis, but the jerseys are simple enough not to be distracting.

That being said, the black uniforms are clearly the best, while the gold fall a little too far on the “flashy” side of things. The exception is Iowa’s throwback jersey with the script Iowa.

5. Penn State

Penn State v Indiana Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

So simple. So classic. Like their football jerseys, but better. The Nittany Lions’ Nike basketball uniforms - both home and away - benefit from a lack of adornment. The simple blue jerseys have a white side stripe and a simple white wordmark across the chest. The whites are reversed. No fancy neckline. No weird iconography. No strange cuts.

The challenge, then, is that there is very little to distinguish Penn State’s jerseys, so it’s hard to put them too far up the list.

4. Ohio State

The Ohio State University

For fans of Ohio State athletics, the new Nike basketball uniforms are amazingly on-brand. The big change from the most recent uniforms is the addition of a token stripe along the side of the jerseys, continuing down the shorts. The “Ohio State” wordmark across the meshed chest is distinctive without being distracting. The new uniforms have managed to incorporate a lot of the branding elements that have come to distinguish the Buckeyes — like, in fact, the Buckeye decals on top of the waistline of the shorts.

3. Maryland

Michigan v Maryland Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The trim here is where it’s at — forget everything I said about simplicity being the way to go for basketball uniforms. While the University of Maryland deserves credit for boldly incorporating possibly the boldest state flag in the union into its uniforms, the Under Armour basketball jerseys manage to do what the football ones cannot: be tasteful. Add in the detail on the numbers and these jerseys are straight fire.

Plus, we must accept that these newcomers can back up their ridiculous patterns on the hardcourt in ways they have yet to show on the football field.

2. Michigan

Western Michigan v Michigan Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

You’ll never convince me that “blue and yellow” look good together, but there’s no denying that the Wolverines have pretty sick basketball jerseys. While the jump man hasn’t exactly been a good icon for the football team (it’s literally a basketball logo), the Nike brand subsidiary certainly has found a natural fit for the basketball jerseys.

The neckline is probably the best part of the whole getup, and hails back to the Tune Squad’s jerseys in Space Jam with the striped detail around the neck and the arms. Somehow, the uniform collectively - especially the maze version - takes me back to the 90s, especially when players like Jordan Poole opt for the shorty shorts.

1. Indiana

Indiana v Purdue

The Hoosiers’ Adidas uniforms are classic, timeless and perfect. Even though they were actually updated in recent years, they still look like the jerseys Ray Tolbert could have worn back in the day. Like Penn State’s football uniforms, Indiana’s jerseys harken back to a simpler time, like when Indiana dominated basketball in the Big Ten. The stripes around the waistband and the bottom of the shorts is whimsical without being overbearing, while toned down with a simple wordmark and clean neckline.

If there’s any fault in placing such a simple jersey at this point on the list, take the Hoosiers’ warmups as reason enough to put them higher. They set apart what could easily be the crimson and cream jerseys of Alabama, Oklahoma or Arkansas with something unique. They’re also like the pajama pants of my dreams.