Big Ten Conference Basketball Preview – Team by Team

Big Ten Conference Basketball Preview – Team by Team


Just days away from the start of conference play for all teams across NCAA, we takes a look at each team in the Big Ten and what to expect…


Mike Carter - Fox Sports

(Mike Carter/FoxSports)

#1 Michigan State

Record: 13-0
SOS Boosters: #4 Kansas, #18 Louisville
Key Losses: None
B1G Matchup(s) to Watch: #14 Purdue, Ohio State 2x

The Spartans are playing with a chip on their shoulders and something to prove moving into the 2016 and the Big Ten Conference play, ranked #1 in the country by the AP and Coaches Poll. The success comes in large part from Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Denzel Valentine (18.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 7.1 APG) who has essential carried Michigan State to the #1 rank registering just over 30 min per game. The one thing that stands out most about this team comes with the extremely impressive shooting which is just shy of 50% from the field. Michigan State most likely will not stay undefeated heading into Selection Sunday but certainly are the favorites to win the Big Ten Championship.


(G. Fiume/Getty Images)

(G. Fiume/Getty Images)

#4 Maryland

Record: 11-1
SOS Boosters: Georgetown
Key Losses: #7 North Carolina
B1G Matchup(s) to Watch: #1 Michigan State, #14 Purdue 2x

It’s hard to talk about the Maryland Terrapins without mentioning the likes of sophomore guard Melo Trimble. Arguably one of the best point guards in the country, Trimble can make you pay on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball which makes any team lethal. Trimble, averaging 14.8 points per game, can give the Terrapins the keys to succeed in the Big Ten and really test teams like Michigan State and Purdue for the Big Ten Title. This is exactly why playing Michigan State and Purdue (twice) can have a huge turning point for Maryland moving late into the season. The real test for Maryland will be what type of production they can get from other players not named Melo, such as junior forward Robert Carter. Carter, who has been impressive in his role as a starter for the Terrapins can help boost MU to a Big Ten Title. Other notable players include Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon, Diamond Stone, and Jake Layman. I see the Terrapins finishing in the Top 3 in the Big Ten and contending for the Big Ten Championship.


(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

#14 Purdue

Record: 12-1
SOS Boosters: Pittsburgh
Key Losses: #9 Butler
B1G Matchup(s) to Watch: #1 Michigan State, #4 Maryland 2x, Indiana

For a team who finished last year’s season 12-6 in the Big Ten and a record of 21-13 overall, the 2015-2016 has been a skyrocketing improvement for the Boilermakers who are now one of the best teams in the Big Ten. Complimented by three big men in the likes of AJ Hammons, Isaac Haas, & Caleb Swanigan allows for Purdue to be one of the best rebounding teams in the country. Hammons, Haas, and Swanigan are all posting over 10 points per game, which makes their team even more versatile. Purdue showed they were legitimate contenders early this year by beating Pittsburgh in the ACC/B1G challenge, which serves as their only loss of the season. The ability for Purdue to play down low and also shoot the three-ball makes them a force to be reckoned with. One player to watch heading into Big Ten play is senior guard Rapheal Davis who has posted the forth most points behind the “Big 3”. Even with the disappointing loss to state rival Butler, Purdue is still likely going to end up in the Top 4 teams to finish the Big Ten with the potential of being the best. I’m going to slot them at ending #2, with the potential to win the Big Ten Championship.


(Inside The Hall)

(Inside The Hall)


Record: 10-3
SOS Boosters: Notre Dame
Key Losses: Wake Forest, #15 Duke, UNLV
B1G Matchup(s) to Watch: Ohio State, #1 Michigan State, #14 Purdue

In the era of that many IU basketball fans consider the era of Tom Crean, Indiana has struggled to make sense of all the talent that Crean has been able to recruit over his tenure since 2008. Crean has been able to recruit NBA lottery picks such as Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, and Noah Vonleh. Pre-season ranked #15 in the country, Indiana fans thought this was the year for the team to regain glory since their #1 ranking back in 2012 where they eventually fell in the Sweet Sixteen. Indiana has already chalked up three losses to non-conference teams and this could serve as a huge blow for them when it comes time to make their case for a NCAA bid to the Tournament in March. A disappointing Maui trip resulted in two losses early, and a 20-point blow out at Cameron Indoor Stadium could serve as a turning point to this IU season. The early season dismissals of Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Devin Davis, and Emmitt Holt for off the court issues put Indiana in a bind without any true depth at the F/C position. One of the highly anticipated recruits of 2015, Freshman C Thomas Bryant, has struggled adapting the big stage play early. He has shown bright spots on the offensive side of the ball (12.2 PPG), but desperately needs help in developing his skills on defense (5.2 RPG). Indiana needs to prove to the rest of the country that this team is worthy of that pre-season Top 25 ranking. The biggest test for them is going to come late in the season where they will have to play potentially 4 games against Top 10 opponents. Indiana has one of the most explosive offenses in the country lead by senior guard Kevin ‘Yogi’ Ferrell (16.1 PPG), sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr. (15.8 PPG), and junior forward Troy Williams (13.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG). If Indiana wants to have any type of success in conference play, they will have to learn to play consistent defense and limit the turnovers. For argument sake, I am going to stick the Hoosiers at a #5 finish in the Big Ten, but don’t be surprised if they lose some critical “must-win” games.


(Dustin Johnston)

(Dustin Johnston)


Record: 10-3
SOS Boosters: Texas, NC State
Key Losses: #6 Xavier, #17 SMU
B1G Matchup(s) to Watch: #14 Purdue, #4 Maryland

The Wolverines have claimed conference champions 2 times in the last 5 years (2012, 2014) with the likes of NBA players such as Trey Burke, Mitch McGary, Glen Robinson III, and Nik Stauskas. Michigan is trying to reclaim their basketball presence this year in the Big Ten and will be tested early with ranked opponents Purdue and Maryland in the first couple of weeks of conference play. The obvious star of this team is senior guard Caris LeVert, who has made a name for himself posting nearly 18 points per game. If Michigan wants to continue their success like in years past, they will lean on LeVert to take them to the next level. Taking early losses to #6 Xavier by 16 and a then ranked #19 SMU by 24 looks poor for The Wolverines, but if they can potentially pick up a few key wins in the Big Ten Conference, they could find themselves back in the mix for a NCAA bid in March. Look for their tremendous upside on the offensive side of the ball to carry them into Big Ten Tournament (shooting 41.9% from 3-point range), where they could surprise many people. Their win against Texas who went on to be former ranked #3 North Carolina could be a strength of schedule booster late in the season.





Record: 12-1
SOS Boosters: Virginia Tech
Key Losses: #9 North Carolina
B1G Matchup(s) to Watch: #4 Maryland 2x, #14 Purdue, #1 Michigan State

Northwestern is on the come up of potentially making their first appearance ever in the NCAA Tournament. Under Chris Collins, the Wildcats have been successful in rebuilding a winning program in one of the toughest basketball conferences in the nation. It will be a true test for this team to see where how they fair against the likes for 3 ranked teams early on (Maryland, Purdue, MSU). Essentially, in order for a team to meet a standard of qualifying for a tournament appearance they would need to win 20+ games and have a few key wins over Big Ten opponents. I look for this NW team to make a splash in the Big Ten this year, with the possibility of making their first appearance in March ever. Northwestern needs to compete in every game they play, and also win the games against weaker teams in the Big Ten (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Rutgers). I’m slotting Northwestern in the 7th spot in the Big Ten, with the possibility of a tournament appearance.




Record: 9-3
SOS Boosters: Marquette
Key Losses: Dayton, Notre Dame
B1G Matchup(s) to Watch: First 2 Weeks

Iowa’s season could be determined in just the first two weeks of conference play. The Hawkeyes have to play #1 ranked Michigan State twice and #14 Purdue in a matter of 15 days. This could make or break the season for Iowa who struggled early in the season with back-to-back losses against Dayton and Notre Dame. If they end this brutal first two weeks of conference play with a 2 wins, they could still slide into the NCAA Tournament in March. If they lose 3/4 games early, their chances of post-season play will slip quickly.




Ohio State

Record: 8-5
SOS Boosters: #4 Kentucky
Key Losses: UT-Arlington, Louisiana Tech
B1G Matchup(s) to Watch: Indiana, #4 Maryland, #14 Purdue

Knocking off one of the top teams in the country could give Ohio State the resume boost they would need in order to make a push for the NCAA Tournament. This team has the potential to play against some of the country’s best, but the four consecutive losses early on in the season to some less than impressive opponents could be the kryptonite for the Buckeyes. Beat a few ranked Big Ten opponents, and they are right back in the mix.

Bo Ryan



Record: 8-5
SOS Boosters: Syracuse
Key Losses: Western Illinois, UW- Milwaukee

Losing the opening game of the year at home to Western Illinois and losing coaching legend Bo Ryan could be the riddle that is Wisconsin’s season. Even with two powerhouse players such as Nigel Hayes (16.2 PPG) and Bronson Koenig (14.4 PPG) the non-conference losses to below average opponents will be the downfall of this team.

(Mark Selders)

(Mark Selders)

Penn State

Record: 9-4
SOS Boosters: None
Key Losses: George Washington, Radford, Duequesne
B1G Matchup(s) to Watch: Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern

(David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)

(David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)


Record: 8-5
SOS Boosters: None
Key Losses: Chattanooga, North Florida
B1G Matchup(s) to Watch: Indiana, Ohio State

Other Big Ten Teams: Nebraska (8-5), Minnesota (6-6), Rutgers (6-7)


Written by Jordan Maly (@JMalyWIUX)

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