With the Big Ten regular season tipping off later tonight, there is a lot of excitement in the air about the conference and each respective Big Ten team. Of course, that doesn't mean there isn't time to get in a few last predictions about the Big Ten heading into the season.
As such, BTPowerhouse put together a roundtable with a few staff writers to talk about their opinions on how things would play out for the conference this season. Topics include the top storylines for the year, championship predictions, and NCAA Tournament bids.
1. What is the biggest storyline in the Big Ten coming into the 2015-16 season?
Thomas Beindit: The storyline has to be whether this Maryland team can get the job done and not only win this year's Big Ten title, but also win the conference's first national title since 2000. There are a ton of interesting storylines across the league, but the Terps are projected to be the best team and as such, are going to demand the most attention. The roster looks stacked, but can Maryland get the job done?
Eric Laboissonniere: Is Maryland the real deal? Can they actually compete for not only a Big Ten, but a national championship, that is a huge storyline.
Jerome Scherwin Jr.: I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested in Maryland (along with the rest of the Big Ten universe), but to me, it's Indiana. The Hoosiers are a veteran team with the best backcourt in the Big Ten. The offense is one giant fire emoji. Yogi Ferrell is a canister of Nas. And there's always #CreanWatch lingering in the background like a silent but deadly fart. What's not to love here?
Josh Stern: WIll somebody give some love to Michigan, please? Maryland is projected to be the best team and Wisconsin is coming off back-to-back Final Fours, but this Michigan team returns everyone minus Max Bielfeldt and adds some really solid pieces. They might not win it all, but they're going to give everyone in the Big Ten a run for their money.
Bryan Steedman: Biggest storyline in the Big Ten this season? Can the conference finally win a national title. Year after year the Big Ten is said to be the strongest overall conference, but until the league finally wins a title it's going to be a hard to defend claim.
Andrew Holmes: The Big Ten race isn't going to be a foregone conclusion like last season. This year is going to be completely different, expect co-champions and it will be up in the air until the last day of the season. Nationally, the argument over the best team will be tight as well and I don't think there is any chance we will see three #1 seeds in the Final Four again.
Wola Odeniran: I think Maryland is the real deal, I think the only question about them is if they can stay consistent on the road compared to last year. Last season when things didn't go well, they could go 4-7 minutes in a half without scoring a basket. They were pretty much a perimeter team last year. With Diamond Stone and Robert Carter Jr., they will have a lot more balance which should make things difficult for opponents.
2. Who wins the Big Ten?
Beindit: Honestly, I think this year's Big Ten regular season race is going to have a lot more drama than most expect. After all, it's extremely rare for anybody to make it through conference play with fewer than two or three losses and I expect the same this year. I think the conference title will be in play in the final week of the season. Having said that, I'm going with Maryland. You can nitpick their team, but when all is said and done, nobody in the conference has a better roster than the Terps.
Stern: Maryland. Too much depth, and people are sleeping on Jake Layman. Boy, that kid can really play.
Scherwin Jr.: The Fighting Tom Izzo's.
Steedman: Michigan State. Everyone talks about the talent and hype with Maryland and that does make a lot of sense, but the Spartans were a Final Four team last year and are even better this season.
Holmes: The race is going to be a lot tighter this year. I'm expecting a tie in the regular season, after watching the preseason I'm going to say Maryland and Purdue with Michigan State taking the Big Ten Tournament.
Odeniran: I'll say Michigan State wins the regular season title and Maryland wins the Big Ten tournament. I think the Spartans will ride some of the momentum carried over from the NCAA tournament last season led by Denzel Valentine and Maryland gets better by as the year goes along. I think Maryland will have to get used to playing with one another early on but it shouldn't be a problem in the long run.
3. How many Big Ten teams make the NCAA Tournament and who are they?
Beindit: At this point, I think seven Big Ten teams make the field. To me, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Wisconsin are all safe bets to qualify for the big dance in some order. One of two of those teams might be a low seed, but I don't think there will be too much sweating in those fanbases on Selection Sunday. The final team I think will qualify is Iowa. However, I think the Hawkeyes could very well be a First Four team and have to fight on the bubble. Illinois and Ohio State might also contend for that last bid, but I would be surprised if the Big Ten didn't range between six and seven bids.
Laboissonniere: Maryland, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Wisconsin. 6 teams.
Stern: Seven. Maryland, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa.
Scherwin Jr.: I think it will be seven again. This conference is too deep not to get that. Slot me in Maryland, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa in some order with Ohio State sitting on the bubble as a potential 8th.
Steedman: We'll probably see around seven or eight teams. Michigan State, Maryland, Purdue, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan should be safe bets. I also think Ohio State and Iowa will get in while a few other teams could be on the bubble and end up in the NIT (Illinois).
Holmes: Seven: Maryland, Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Before the loss of Vic Law, I would have said Northwestern, but they were a fringe team with him and without him I can't see it.
Odeniran: Eight teams: Maryland, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa.
4. Which team outperforms expectations in this year's Big Ten?
Beindit: I'll go with Iowa here. I think the Hawkeyes are getting significantly underrated by a lot of people in the national media. This team has a ton of experience, a good bit of talent, and a potential star player in Jarrod Uthoff. I don't think the Hawkeyes are going to be fantastic, but it is a team that seems better than most are predicting.
Laboissonniere: Northwestern is going to have a great season, and they should be on the cusp of making the NCAA tournament.
Scherwin Jr.: I couldn't agree more with Eric until the Vic Law injury news hit. That hurts big time. While I still believe in the Wildcats, I'll avoid being an echo chamber and say that Ohio State is going surprise some folks with their very, VERY young but exciting team. JaQuan Lyle is the perfect fill in for D'Angelo Russell with his smooth offensive game and I fully expect my main man Jae'Sean Tate to take a few steps up the proverbial ladder. Throw in Thad Matta's offense and the Buckeyes should be sitting on the bubble as the season goes on.
Stern: Totally agree with Jerome and Eric. Northwestern has to have a few breaks go their way at some point. While I think 9th is probably the highest they'll finish, they continue to recruit extremely well. Their biggest issue is the horrendous non-conference schedule they put together which will ultimately put them on the wrong side of the bubble.
Steedman: Ohio State. The Buckeyes could go either way this season due to their youth and inexperience, but they've got a great recruiting class and Thad Matta is a tremendous coach. A lot of people think the Buckeyes won't make the Tournament and while Ohio State might not contend for a Big Ten title, I definitely think they'll be in the postseason once again this March.
Holmes: I know it is a bit of a stretch, but I'll say Nebraska. They won't make the big dance, but they'll be in the NIT. I think Tim Miles gets the most out of his guys and everything outside of the top seven in conference feels wide open.
Odeniran: I'm going to agree with Andrew Holmes with Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have a young team, but I wouldn't be surprised to them give any of the top dogs in the Big Ten problems over the course of the season. They have a lot of talent but not a lot of experience. While they may struggle this year, I think in the 2016-2017 season they will be a problem for everyone.
5. Which team underachieves in the Big Ten this season?
Beindit: This is a tough question. Generally, I've been a little lower on Purdue than many of the Big Ten and national writers, but I actually don't think the difference in where I see Purdue is as large as the difference in what I am expecting out of Wisconsin. The Badgers are getting the benefit of the doubt - and for good reason, given Bo Ryan's record in Madison - but at some point, we have to question how a team can be in the top 20 nationally and yet, only have two players who are proven to any significant degree. I think Wisconsin will be solid, but just not that good.
Laboissonniere: I am not sold on Wisconsin being at the top of the Big Ten this season, I think they will be in and out of the top 25 this season.
Scherwin Jr.: It's Purdue...only because I think it's going to take some time to mesh all of these big bodies into an offensive system that makes sense. There's real spacing issues here and I want to see someone open up the floor to keep opposing guards from cheating towards the basket on defense. I'm not doubting the talent whatsoever, I just dont see the jump from last years bubble to the elite of the conference as some people are predicting.
Stern: Wisconsin. Look, the Badgers lost essentially everyone and were ranked in the top-20 by some preseason polls. Bo Ryan is good, but he's not a magician.
Steedman: Michigan. They'll make the NCAA Tournament in March, but the idea of them contending for the Big Ten title this season? Nope.
Holmes: Indiana. They'll be an NCAA Tournament team, but they've underachieved a lot under Crean and I'm not sure adding Thomas Bryant turns them into a top 15 team.
Odeniran: Wisconsin. I think they will play hard for head coach Bo Ryan who is in his last year at the school, but I don't think they will achieve anything close to what they did during the 2014-2015 season. I still have them in the NCAA tournament, but the second round might be their peak.
You can check out all BTPowerhouse's season preview coverage located here.