With roughly six weeks until college basketball tips off, it’s time to dust off the stat sheets, rosters, and schedules so we can catch ourselves back up and be prepared when the season begins on Nov. 9. Not knowing who’s on what team, who’s good, who’s bad, and who’s supposed to win the Big Ten won’t be acceptable when you have the good folks of Land-Grant Holy Land at your disposal this season.
Today, we’re taking the temperature of each team in comparison to where they were when they ended the 2020-2021 season. Has their roster changed for the better or for worse? Have the teams around them improved more than they have? Are there any injuries that will impact said teams when the season starts?
This “stock report” is in no particular order. This is not a predicted standings piece, or a season preview. That comes later. This is simply an “up” or “down” compared to where they were last season, and why. This is just a snapshot in time and will certainly change when the balls start bouncing.
Michigan State: Up
The Spartans lost leading scorers Aaron Henry and Joshua Langford, but return several upperclassmen (Joey Hauser, Gabe Brown, Marcus Bingham) as well as 5-star recruit Max Christie, who could be an immediate star in East Lansing. I don’t think Michigan State will compete for a Big Ten title this season, but there were moments last season where things looked pretty bleak. I don’t think they’ll be nearly as bleak this year for Izzo and Co.
Archie Miller is out, Mike Woodson is in. More importantly, Trayce Jackson-Davis is still in, which was one of the most shocking developments of the off-season. TJD could have entered the draft, and then the coach who recruited him to IU was fired, too. With him back and Indiana adding Miller Kopp (Northwestern) and Xavier Johnson (Pittsburgh), this Indiana team should be solid. It would also help if former 5-star recruit Khristian Lander would contribute literally anything.
If this article has someone fallen into a Michigan fan’s hands (are you lost?), please calm down and stop throwing things. Compared to where this team was last season (1-seed in the NCAA Tournament, B1G Champs, etc.), I think this year’s team has a few question marks that need to be answered before we put them on the same level of last season’s B1G champs. The Wolverines lost several key contributors (Isaiah Livers, Franz Wagner, Mike Smith, etc.) and replace them with a transfer from Coastal Carolina (Devante Jones) and two five-star freshmen, Moussa Diabate and Caleb Houstan . The ceiling for this team may be higher than last year’s team, but they also could wind up being more of a 3 or 4-seed. Let’s wait and see.
Not only is Nebraska stock going up, they also get an exclamation point because they’re actually starting to look like a competent basketball team for the first time in awhile! Will they be good? No, probably not. But compared to the trainwreck we’ve seen the last few years in Lincoln, this Nebraska team shouldn’t be considered an easy or “gimme” win. 5-star recruit Bryce McGowens joins his brother Trey this season — who is a very solid player himself. Fred Hoiberg also added former PAC-12 Sixth Man of the Year Alonzo Verge via the transfer portal, giving Nebraska at least three legitimate scoring threats.
I’ll have a lot more on Purdue as we get closer to the season, because I think they’re one of — if not the — best teams in the country. They return their top eight scorers from last season, including Trevion Williams and Jaden Ivey. They’re essentially the same team from last season, just with an additional year of experience. So if you didn’t like your favorite team playing them last year (I certainly did not), expect much of the same in 2021-2022.
The Terrapins snuck into the NCAA Tournament as a 10-seed last season and won their first game before getting handily beat by Alabama in the second round. Truthfully, that’s much farther than many people thought they’d go after they started the season 1-5 in conference play. Maryland lost Darryl Morsell when he transferred to Marquette, and Aaron Wiggins was drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2021 NBA Draft. Maryland returns their other three starters, however, and also added Qudus Wahab (Georgetown) and Fatts Russell (great name, Rhode Island) in the transfer portal. With those transfers plus the experience returning, Maryland will be much improved.
Ohio State: Down
Put down the tomatoes, listen here. Similar to Michigan, I think Ohio State is going to be a very good basketball team again this year — I’m just not sure if the expectations are quite as high as last season. With both Duane Washington Jr. and E.J. Liddell, Ohio State was a trendy pick to win the national championship last season — before getting bounced in the first round by a 15-seed.
With Washington gone and steady point guard CJ Walker also moving on, this team will need to replace some production. The additions of Jamari Wheeler and Cedric Russell at the guard position will help with that, but I’m just not sure if this year’s Ohio State team is an NCAA Tournament 2-seed like last season.
Wisconsin probably lost more talent from last season’s team than any other Big Ten team. Micah Potter, Aleem Ford, D’Mitrik Trice, and Nate Reuvers combined to score nearly 50 points per game last year. All four of those players are gone. Wisconsin as a unit scored 69.6 points per game, which was 12th in the B1G. I’m not great at math, but that tells me that the Badgers return roughly 20 points per game of offense from last year’s team. Brad Davison is a good player, but he can’t be your go-to scorer if you want to win the Big Ten. Wisconsin may not have a choice.
When you lose 13 straight games and 14 of your final 17 to end the season, there’s really only one way to go — up. Miller Kopp transferred to Indiana (Jamari Wheeler wasn’t the only B1G-to-B1G transfer), but Northwestern returns pretty much every other piece from last year’s team. They also add 4-star guard Casey Simmons, who at 6-foot-5 should be able to step in and contribute right away for Chris Collins’ Wildcats. Northwestern may not be great this season, but certainly better than last year. Right?
Similar to Wisconsin, Iowa lost a ton of talent from last season’s team with Luka Garza (draft), Joe Wieskamp (draft), and CJ Frederick (transferred to Kentucky) all moving on. Those three players averaged over 45 points per game together, and Iowa simply does not have the talent on this roster to replicate that. Playing on the road at Carver-Hawkeye Arena is never easy, but this Iowa team is likely to take a big step back.
It’s really hard to think that any team is going to improve after losing a player like Ayo Dosunmu. Illinois’ All-American guard tormented the B1G for three seasons and is now with his hometown Chicago Bulls after being selected in the 2021 NBA Draft. Illinois returns more talent than people realize, as Trent Frazier, Kofi Cockburn, Damonte Williams, Jacob Grandison, and Andre Curbelo are all back. This “down” is due to the fact that — unlike at the end of last season — Illinois does not look like the best team in the conference.
Losing point guard Jacob Young and center Myles Johnson — one of the best defenders in the nation — by way of transfers will hurt Rutgers, but they still return Geo Baker, Ron Harper Jr., Cliff Omoruyi (whose minutes were limited due to Johnson being there), and Caleb McConnell. But the league in general should be better, and Rutgers lost some pieces from a team that just snuck into the NCAA Tournament as a 10-seed. They might not sneak in this season.
Penn State: Down
Penn State lost its two leading scorers from last season, Myreon Jones and Izaiah Brockington when they chose to transfer to Florida and Iowa State, respectively. Several other Nittany Lions entered the transfer portal when Pat Chambers was fired, but most chose to return. John Harrar is back, as is Myles Dread and Seth Lundy. The three of them form a respectable core for this Penn State team, but the talent surrounding them lags far behind. Losing Jones and Brockington is going to hurt this team quite a bit.
Minnesota: Very, very down
Richard Pitino is out, Ben Johnson is in. Nearly every key contributor from last year’s Minnesota team is also out following the change in regime. Just know that Minnesota is going to be one of the worst Big Ten teams we’ve seen in several years. If they win four conference games, it will be something to build on.