After taking a week off so Connor could go travel to the Great North (Canada), the Bucketheads are back.
Since it has been two weeks, here is a refresher on the last topic we debated.
In honor of the theme from two weeks ago, unpopular opinions, the guys debated their unpopular opinions of the NCAA tournament. Justin argued that upsets hurt the overall tournament from a viewing perspective and Connor argued that it is not as important as the fans make it out to be.
Justin won with 69% (nice) of the vote. This week, we are dipping our toes into the way-too-early predictions territory.
Here are the updated standings after 100-plus weeks of doing this:
After 103 weeks:
(There have been four ties)
Here is this week’s topic.
Today’s Question: Way-too-early picks for Big Ten men’s basketball champion
After winning the Big Ten by three whole games last year (they went 15-5, the next best team was 12-8) and returning the National Player of the Year, Purdue deserves the benefit of the doubt heading into the 2023-2024 season.
Yes, I know they lost to a 16-seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But this is not an argument about which Big Ten team is going to go the furthest in the dance, it’s about which Big Ten team is going to be the best in the conference. The minute Edey confirmed that he’d be returning, Purdue became the favorite. In fact, they’re not only the betting favorite to win the conference, they also have the second-best odds to win the national championship at +1200, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. ‘
There’s just no game plan that can be drawn up to stop Edey, especially over the course of a 20-game conference schedule. He’s 7-foot-4 and 290 pounds — nobody has a player who can stand up to him. Even if you are able to throw a defender at him that makes things even a little bit difficult, he also averaged 5.5 (!!) offensive rebounds per game — that was second in the country. So even if you somehow force a miss on one of Edey’s layups, there’s over a 33% chance he’s grabbing his own miss and you have to stop him a second time.
The players around Edey were solid but unspectacular. Braden Smith shot the ball at a high percentage but didn’t take many shots. Fletcher Loyer was the opposite, shooting even when it might be ill-advised at times. He averaged 11 PPG as a freshman, although that was on just 36% shooting. He needs to improve on his efficiency.
Guys like Caleb Furst and Trey Kaufmann-Renn should get a bit better, but to be honest they don’t need to get a whole lot better. The Boilermakers went 15-5 last season in the Big Ten with Edey and a bunch of supplementary players last season — if the younger guys improve even a little bit that only means Purdue’s trajectory would go higher than that 15-5.
I watched Edey gobble up the Buckeyes in person last year — twice. Now, he and his teammates have sat at home all summer long, listening/reading/watching people laugh at them for losing to a 16-seed. I’ll buy into the comeback plotline with this team, for sure.
Justin: Michigan State
Michigan State to me is very simple. They are bringing back three guards that can all be First Team All-Conference this upcoming season and they have one of the best recruiting classes in the country.
Let’s start with the guards. A.J. Hoggard, Tyson Walker, and Jaden Akins have all announced they will return to East Lansing for another season. Hoggard and Akins declared for the NBA draft but both decided to return to East Lansing. They were three of the four top scorers for the Spartans last season, with Walker leading the way at 14.8 points per game. Hoggard averaged 12.9 points per game and Akins averaged 9.8 points per game,
Akins will likely take one of the largest steps of anyone in the conference. He is incredibly talented on offense and with the loss of Joey Hauser, Akins will likely be looked at to take the next step.
As for the recruiting class, Xavier Booker is one of the best recruits in the entire class and can be a day-one starter at forward for Tom Izzo. Jeremy Fears will be able to learn behind three incredible guards for his first season and then be ready to take over the reins. Coen Carr is one of the freakiest athletes of the past decade to enter the conference and can also play defense at a high level. Gehrig Normand is a spot-up shooter that can score at all three levels as well.
The biggest question mark for the Spartans is at the center position, but with Mady Sissoko, Jaxon Kohler, and Carson Cooper all returning and Xavier Booker coming in, they should be able to take the next step in their development.
Michigan State will likely be a one or a two-seed in the NCAA tournament and this could be one of Izzo’s most talented teams since the Cassius Winston and Nick Ward era. And I think they are going to win the Big Ten.
You’re Nuts: Way-too-early picks for Big Ten men’s basketball champion
This poll is closed
Justin: Michigan State