After months and months of prefacing every judgement and take on a college basketball team with “it’s way too early, but” it is no longer too early. The opening week of the college basketball season starts in three weeks, so it’s officially preview season. This week, we’re predicting how many of the Big Ten’s 14 teams will make it to the NCAA Tournament.
Last week, we made our picks for the Big Ten Player of the Year, and asked you to make your pick as well. Justin went with one of the heavy favorites in Trayce Jackson-Davis, while Connor picked former Texas Tech guard/forward Terrence Shannon Jr. Unfortunately for both of our basketball writers, the winner of last week’s poll was “someone else” which means neither Justin nor Connor get a win.
41% of you guys picked “someone else”, 32% picked Shannon, and the remaining 27% picked Jackson Davis.
After 70 weeks:
(There have been three ties)
Last season, nine Big Ten teams made the Tournament: Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Rutgers, Michigan, and Indiana. Will we see more than that in 2023?
Today’s question: How many Big Ten teams will make the NCAA Tournament?
Big picture: The Big Ten will have several teams who improve from last year thanks to returning a big chunk of their production. However, with so many star players exiting and heading to the NBA, I once again don’t see a single Final Four-caliber team in this group.
Indiana: The Hoosiers return over 80% of their minutes from last season after earning a 12-seed in last season’s NCAA Tournament. They’re the most popular pick to win the Big Ten for a reason. The question isn’t if the Hoosiers will make the tournament, it’s how high of a seed they get.
Illinois: Brad Underwood’s team lost 10 players off last year’s team: some to transfer and some to the NBA Draft. But they picked up a few top-tier transfers for themselves and welcome a five-star freshman in Skyy Clark. They were a 4-seed last season and have a decent chance at doing it again.
Michigan: The Wolverines have a super high ceiling as they add a trio of four-star freshmen, as well as returning center Hunter Dickinson. Michigan was an 11-seed last season, but if they can shoot the ball more consistently this year they’ll earn a better seed.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes earned a 7-seed last season, and that seems about right for this year, too. They don’t have one clear go-to scorer, and they’ve been absolutely putrid defensively the last two seasons. They’ll be a tournament team again, but things need to get better on the defensive end.
Iowa: The formula that’s made Iowa, Iowa the last few seasons will be put to the test this year. Luka Garza is long gone. Keegan Murray is gone, too. It’s the Kris Murray show, but will they be able to surround him with enough shooters to continue Iowa’s yearly offensive barrage? Another 5-seed might be tough.
Michigan State: Not trying to be a hater, but MSU is one of the most boring teams in the B1G this season. They’ve earned 7 and 11 seeds the last two seasons, and still have many holdovers from those squads. Their leading scorer that carried over from last season, Malik Hall, averaged 9 PPG. A 7-seed seems perfectly acceptable.
Purdue: There’s basically zero chance that the Boilermakers repeat their 3-seed from last season after losing such a big chunk of last year’s team, including Jaden Ivey and Trevion Williams. Zach Edey is still there, but the talent is just not the same as last season. They’re still safely in.
Rutgers: After making the NCAA Tournament six times in their first 84 years as a program, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are going to make it back to the dance for the third-straight season. Cliff Omoruyi is going to become a double-double machine, and is a dark horse candidate for Big Ten POY.
Wisconsin: The Badgers were picked towards the bottom of the Big Ten last season and then turned around and won the conference. They were picked towards the bottom again this season, despite having two All-Conference players in Chucky Hepburn and Tyler Wahl. They’re back in the tournament, easily.
Penn State: Upsetting Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament was just an introduction to the new and improved Nittany Lions, who will ride the hot shooting of Seth Lundy, Jalen Pickett, and Myles Dread to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 12 years.
So I could go through all of the teams and tell you everything Connor just did, or I could just tell you the one spot and team that I disagree with: Wisconsin.
This is a tough one for me because yes, in general Connor is absolutely right. Wisconsin was predicted to struggle last season and ended up winning the conference. And everyone would agree that was largely because Johnny Davis was superman at times.
Davis is now gone with Brad Davison, and the Badgers are searching for those offensive answers again. The two combined for 33.8 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. The only double-digit scorer for the Badgers that is returning is Tyler Wahl, and while he is a very talented player in his own right, there are still questions of whether or not he can be “the guy” on a team.
Steven Crowl, Jordan Davis and Chucky Hepburn return to help Wahl, and if they all take the leaps they are capable of taking, they can make the tournament. But there will be a lot of pressure on them to put the scoring weight on their shoulders, and I just don’t see a Johnny Davis in the group.
I think they will be a First Four out type team.
How many Big Ten teams will make the NCAA Tournament?
This poll is closed
Fewer than 9
More than 10