Memorial Day B1G Power Rankings - Wisconsin Badgers Claim #1

Bo Ryan brings back a talented squad for 2014-2015. - Jamie Squire

Check out BTP's first set of offseason Big Ten power rankings.

The college basketball offseason is in full swing and that means one thing: endless offseason prediction posts.  Well, we have a great one here today.  We got the entire BTP staff together and voted on how we believe the Big Ten will turn out in the 2014-2015 season.

Just as a recap for those who have not checked out BTP's power rankings before.  Every writer on the site gets to rank the teams from 1-14 (yup, 14 teams now).  We are proud of the diverse staff on BTP and this includes writers from all over the country, including either current or former students at the majority of Big Ten schools.  With that, here are the BTP Power Rankings:

Big Ten Memorial Day Power Rankings

#1 - Wisconsin (Average - 1.3)

This will probably come as one of the least surprising picks on this list.  The Badgers were not only the only Big Ten team to make the Final Four last season, but they also finished 2nd in the Big Ten title race, made the Big Ten Tournament semi-finals, and finished the non-conference season undefeated including a win over 2014 NCAA Tournament #1 overall seed Florida.  That's a pretty impressive resume and with 4 of the team's 5 starters back and freshman star Nigel Hayes returning, this should be one of the most loaded teams in the nation.  The question is not going to be whether this team will be good, but just how special the Badgers could end up being by the end of the season.

#2 - Ohio State (Average - 2.1)

The Buckeyes may not have lived up to early expectations last season, but they certainly were a good team.  The season may have ended on a pretty bitter note with back-to-back losses to Michigan and then a Round of 64 upset by Dayton, but don't overlook some of the great success the team did have over the season.  They do lose some key players in Aaron Craft, LaQuinton Ross, and Lenzelle Smith, Jr, but they also have what BTP rated as the #1 recruiting class in the Big Ten for 2014.  Essentially, if the recruits can produce as most expect, this team has the pieces to be very good.

#3 - Michigan (Average - 3.1)

Last year's Big Ten championship team dropped to #3 on this list.  Clearly, the losses of Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas are going to be some big hits for the Wolverines.  Still though, with key returners like Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, Jr., this team has the pieces to compete in the Big Ten.  Add in their impressive 24-3 home conference record over the last 3 seasons and it's hard not to see Michigan at least in the race.

#4 - Michigan State (Average - 4.8)

The Spartans were pretty much a unanimous #1 pick to win the Big Ten last season.  This year, they have dropped down to #4.  The losses of Keith Appling, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne will certainly be felt and there are some that believe the Spartans could end up as a bubble team.  BTP is a little more optimistic about the Spartans and considering Tom Izzo's track record, there is good reason to believe in MSU.

#5 - Nebraska (Average - 5.2)

The Cornhuskers were easily the biggest surprise in the Big Ten last season and this is the first year in a long time that the program actually has expectations.  The NCAA Tournament didn't work out well for Nebraska with a Round of 64 exit, but Nebraska brings back the core of their team and it's not hard to see them really making strides next season.  Also, like Michigan, Nebraska has performed very well on their home court.  Last year, Nebraska's lone home loss came at the hands of Big Ten champion Michigan by 1 point.  Next year could be another great one for the Cornhuskers.

#6 - Maryland (Average - 5.7)

At spot #6, we get our first newcomer to the Big Ten.  Historically, Maryland has been a good to great college basketball program.  In fact, as of July, they will be the most recent team from the Big Ten to win the national championship (2002).  Unfortunately, the Terps have not been performing quite as well recently.  The program's most recent NCAA Tournament appearance was in 2010 and coach Mark Turgeon has been unable to even make the postseason in 2 of his 3 years with the school.  However, the one thing that has been going well for Maryland is recruiting.  The program is bringing in top notch talent and many believe that this is the year that the talent and experience will come together enough to take Maryland to the next level.  A series of offseason transfers hasn't helped things, but most feel optimistic about Maryland's chances to be a top half Big Ten team.

#7 - Iowa (Average - 7.0)

The Hawkeyes made progress in 2013-2014, but were easily the most frustrating team in the conference.  In fact, you could make an argument that Iowa was the most underperforming team in the Big Ten.  Still, Iowa made the NCAA Tournament last season and bring back a nice nucleus for next season.  If they can get some of their recruits to fill key roles and hope for players like Adam Woodbury to progress further, Iowa should be a dangerous team yet again.

#8 - Indiana (Average - 7.8)

The Hoosiers could be the most intriguing team in the Big Ten next season.  Many are starting to view this as a "do or die" year for coach Tom Crean, as last season ended in bitter disappointment.  Indiana once again welcomes a talented recruiting class and should be right there with Michigan for the best backcourt in the Big Ten.  The big concern will be upfront due to the loss of Noah Vonleh.  If the Hoosiers can get some stable production out of their big men, they could be one of the best teams in the Big Ten.  However, if the frontcourt can't be decent, it could be another long year for Indiana.

#9 - Minnesota (Average - 8.7)

The Golden Gophers may be losing star Austin Hollins, but they have some big pieces coming back in players like Deandre Mathieu that could help improve their team.  Last year, Minnesota narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament, but ended up winning the NIT.  If Richard Pitino can keep them moving in the right direction, perhaps they have a shot at the upper half of the Big Ten.

#10 - Illinois (Average - 9.9)

The Illini come in at #10 on this list.  Illinois has been a pretty up and down team under John Groce, but in Year 3, maybe he finally has the pieces to really compete.  Kendrick Nunn and Rayvonte Rice should be bright spots in the lineup next season.  Illinois is probably the last team in the "have a chance to be pretty good" area.  Not saying other teams can't move up, but Illinois has the pieces to really make a run if things work out well.

#11 - Purdue (Average - 11.3)

The Boilermakers finished 12th in the Big Ten standings last season, but with the addition of 2 new teams, maybe Purdue can avoid finishing in last place this year.  Purdue is at an interesting place right now and they really need a year that can turn around things.  With some key recruits landing on campus including Vincent Edwards, maybe Purdue can get things together to see the postseason this year.

#12 - Northwestern (Average - 11.8)

The Wildcats appear to be on the rise as a program, but with some key offseason losses including Drew Crawford, this will likely be another transition year in Evanston.

#13 - Penn State (Average - 12.6)

This is a key year for the Penn State program and fans are looking to see some progress this time.  DJ Newbill should be a bright spot with Penn State, but it could be another uphill year.

#14 - Rutgers (Average - 13.9)

The Big Ten's second newcomer finds its place at #14 and why?  Because Rutgers is a really bad basketball team.  Seriously, Rutgers may go winless in the Big Ten next year.

Thoughts

Many are comparing Wisconsin's early offseason hype to the hype that Michigan State had coming into last season, but I disagree.  Michigan State had a lot of hype coming into last season, but I think you can make a pretty strong argument that this Wisconsin team is more proven, especially in the postseason.  Sure, Michigan State made the Sweet Sixteen two times, but Wisconsin just made the Final Four.  Along with this, Wisconsin probably won't have the hole in their lineup like MSU had this year with the growth of Nigel Hayes.  Wisconsin may or may not run away with the Big Ten title, but it's hard not to see them coming out on top by the end of the year.

The next segment of teams from 2-6 largely depends upon how you view the Big Ten's 2014 recruiting class.  Michigan and Michigan State have more proven players than Maryland and Ohio State, but the Terps and Buckeyes are adding higher rated recruits.  If you buy into the recruiting hype, Ohio State absolutely deserves to be #2, but if you're hesitant to buy in or maybe you feel like recruits like Kameron Chatman (Michigan) or Javon Bess (MSU) are underrated, you have to go with Michigan or MSU.  Nebraska is also loaded with proven players, but people still seem hesitant about really buying into Nebraska's program, whether it's right or wrong.  The only thing I would say about Nebraska is that improving from being a good team to a great team is a difficult thing to do.  Often, it requires some luck and some key offseason additions.  Maybe Nebraska can do it, but it's certainly going to be a challenge to take that next step.

The lower middle class of the Big Ten (7-10) is much like the discussion above.  Teams like Indiana and Illinois look like they have the talent and the pieces to get the job done, but it's hard to overlook proven pieces on teams like Iowa and Minnesota.  Just look at Iowa.  The Hawkeyes could very well build off what they did last year and move up into that top portion.  However, they could just as easily struggle to replace guys like Roy Devyn Marble and slide back.  Indiana is another team that is hard to place.  James Blackmon, Jr. looks like he is the real deal and could finally give Indiana that shooter they so desperately needed last year, but who knows how their frontcourt is going to look.  All of the teams in this section are hard to place because if one recruit can produce as a freshman, it could really change the entire team's dynamic.

At the bottom, it's pretty hard to argue with any of the placements.  Personally, I picked Northwestern over Purdue simply because I think a few of those recruits will be able to contribute early, but it's not hard to see Purdue being able to beat out Northwestern.  Lower, Rutgers is very deserving of #14 and until they can show that they can compete with quality teams, they should be dead last.  I was actually pretty surprised that one of BTP's staff did not vote Rutgers dead last (I threatened to kick them off the site if they did not vote Rutgers #14).

It's never an exact science when trying to estimate how teams will perform before seeing them on the court, but it should be another exciting and unpredictable year in the Big Ten next season.

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