With just a few days remaining until the tip-off of the 2014-15 college basketball season, we have our first set of Big Ten Power Rankings. The Big Ten is projected by many to be the nation's top conference this season and as such, there should be a lot of great battles to determine where the teams rank over the coming season.
The BTPowerhouse Preseason Big Ten Power Rankings consisted of 26 voters. A total of 17 voters came from the BTPowerhouse staff. The remaining 9 votes came from SBNation's Big Ten team sites. These sites included: Black Heart Gold Pants, Bucky's 5th Quarter, The Champaign Room, Corn Nation, Crimson Quarry, The Daily Gopher, Hammer & Rails, Maize & Brew, and Off Tackle Empire. With that, here are the BTPowerhouse Preseason Big Ten Power Rankings:
Big Ten Preseason Power Rankings
#1 - Wisconsin (Average - 1.0)
The selection of Wisconsin at #1 will come as a surprise to nobody. Seeing them as a unanimous pick for #1 was a tad surprising, but the hype for this team is pretty steadfast. The Badgers are not only being projected by just about everybody to win the Big Ten, but also have a serious shot at a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a return trip to the Final Four. Wisconsin returns 4 of 5 starters from last year's team and arguably its two best bench players as well. The Badgers made the Final Four, finished 2nd in the Big Ten regular standings, made the Big Ten Tournament semi-finals, and had a huge non-conference season including a win over 2014 NCAA Tournament #1 overall seed Florida. With so much firepower returning, this team should be very, very good.
#2 - Ohio State (Average - 2.9)
This year's Ohio State team will be an interesting one. They lose 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. There is a lot of turnover here from last year, but the pieces are there to be very good. Add in a big time offseason addition in transfer Anthony Lee and this could be shaping up as a very good year in Columbus. If the recruits can hit the ground running, this team could be very good.
#3 - Michigan (Average - 3.5)
The Michigan Wolverines won the Big Ten regular season champship by 3 games last season, but drop to #3 in these rankings. With the offseason losses of Jon Horford, Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, Glenn Robinson III, and Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas, fans are going to see a lot of new faces this year. Michigan returns some big players like Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin, and Derrick Walton, Jr., but replacing that many key pieces is not an easy task. Michigan is also bringing in some interesting talent including 4-star recruit Kameron Chatman and dynamic wing DJ Wilson. If John Beilein can get his frontcourt rolling, the Wolverines could end up at an elite level once again.
#4 - Michigan State (Average - 4.3)
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. However, with Tom Izzo's track record and offseason additions in Bryn Forbes and Lourawls Nairn Jr., the Spartans should be near the top of the conference again.
#5 - Nebraska (Average - 4.6)
The Cornhuskers and Tim Miles bring back the first real expectations for this program in quite some time. Nebraska was projected by many to sit at the bottom of the Big Ten last season, but they ended up finishing 4th in the conference and reaching the NCAA Tournament. Now, with the vast majority of the team returning, the Cornhuskers could be primed for an even bigger breakout. Terran Petteway headlines the group and is the only returning All-Big Ten player from last season. If he can get more help around him, this could be a good year for Nebraska.
#6 - Iowa (Average - 6.4)
This is where things really start to get interesting. The divide between the teams at the middle of the conference coming into the year is paper thin and will likely remain that way all year. The Hawkeyes are coming off their first NCAA Tournament appearance under Fran McCaffery and return some key pieces from last year's team. However, the loss of All-Big Ten player Devyn Marble will be a big one to overcome. He was easily the team's most productive offensive player and by far the most utilized. If Iowa can get some production from returners like Peter Jok and Adam Woodbury to help Aaron White, this team should again be in contention for the NCAA Tournament.
#7 - Illinois (Average - 6.9)
The Illini may be the Big Ten's most dangerous and most underrated "middle" team. Though Illinois failed to make the NCAA Tournament last season, they were very close to earning a bid and were a lot better than many believe. Now, with most of the team back and exciting new additions like Leron Black, the Illini are in position for a breakout year. This is a team with All-Big Ten talent in guys like Rayvonte Rice, talent at almost every position, and plenty of young and exciting options. This should be a dangerous team this year.
#8 - Minnesota (Average - 8.1)
The Gophers are coming off an NIT title last season. Though Minnesota could not quite crack into the top part of the conference and a big hunk of their biggest wins last season came in the NIT, the Gophers were still a good team and were competitive with many of the top teams from the Big Ten. Though they lose Austin Hollins, they bring back many key players including Andre Hollins and Deandre Mathieu. Richard Pitino may face more challenges in his second season, but this team has the pieces to make some noise.
#9 - Maryland (Average - 8.5)
The Terps will be newcomers to the Big Ten this season, but they bring back some interesting pieces from last year's team like Dez Wells. Though Maryland failed to make the NCAA Tournament, they were competitive in the vast majority of their games and finished at #40 on KenPom. Many believe that if they can get some frontcourt production and finish out close games, they could improve significantly.
#10 - Indiana (Average - 9.4)
The Hoosiers had one of the roughest offseasons of any Big Ten teams. After losing a boatload of players to departures - for a variety of reasons - Indiana followed that up with several off the court concerns that have raised concerns from many fans. Still, the Hoosiers bring back some big time players like Yogi Ferrell and add exciting new additions like James Blackmon, Jr. This team has a great backcourt and should be able to score, but they will have some challenges in stopping teams and playing consistently upfront.
#11 - Purdue (Average - 10.9)
The Boilermakers bring back AJ Hammons from last season, but face an uphill battle after losing Terone Johnson and Ronnie Johnson from last year's team.
#12 - Penn State (Average - 12.2)
The Nittany Lions will have some exciting players like DJ Newbill in the coming year, but they will have to do a lot to show they have the depth and consistency to compete with the top Big Ten teams.
#13 - Northwestern (Average - 12.5)
The Wildcats not only return most of last year's team, but also are bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in school history. Still, Northwestern loses its best player in Drew Crawford and will have to improve its game significantly to move up the rankings.
#14 - Rutgers (Average - 13.9)
The Big Ten's second newcomer finds its place at #14. The Scarlet Knights will have Kadeem Jack and Myles Mack this season, but not much else. They were not necessarily a good team last year and they will face even bigger challenges in their new conference.