Every year, BTPowerhouse puts together the most comprehensive set of Big Ten basketball power rankings on the Internet. It’s a poll created with the help of BTPowerhouse’s entire staff, 15 writers from SBNation’s other Big Ten related sites and 10 writers from other Big Ten sites.
It’s a lot of fun and usually gives readers an interesting look into how Big Ten writers perceive the conference. However, it also usually leads to some incorrect predictions, including some surprising picks in hindsight.
Although writers rarely like to admit when they’re wrong, let’s take a look at what went right and what went wrong last year. As such, here’s a look at BTPowerhouse’s preseason Big Ten power rankings from last fall. Additionally, a number has been added alongside each team to associate where they were seeded in the Big Ten Tournament in comparison to the preseason prediction.
2015-16 BTPowerhouse Preseason Big Ten Power Rankings:
- Maryland (-2)
- Michigan State (0)
- Indiana (+2)
- Purdue (0)
- Michigan (-3)
- Wisconsin (0)
- Ohio State (0)
- Iowa (+3)
- Northwestern (0)
- Illinois (-2)
- Minnesota (-2)
- Penn State (+2)
- Nebraska (+2)
- Rutgers (0)
Obviously, there are a lot of interesting things to take out of those rankings. Notably, this isn’t a perfect comparison because it looks at Big Ten Tournament seeding, but it gives a better idea on where teams were sitting since there were so many ties in the final regular season standings.
With that, here are the three biggest takeaways.
1. Maryland Didn’t Match The Hype.
There were four Big Ten teams that finished two spots lower than they were placed in the preseason rankings, but no drop felt bigger than Maryland’s, which probably had a lot to do with the team’s extensive preseason hype. The Terps were the Big Ten’s team of the summer and finishing No. 3 in the Big Ten Tournament was disappointing.
To put this drop in a bit of perspective, just consider that the gap from Maryland to Michigan State at No. 2 in the voting totals (37 points) was approximately the same as the gap from Michigan State at No. 2 to Purdue at No. 4. To be frank, that’s a pretty massive gap and Maryland couldn’t live up to that lofty ranking.
Hindsight Analysis: It’s always easy to say a team was overrated, but frankly, this is a team that was still talented enough to have won the Big Ten. The only things that probably should have stood out more would have been some potential lineup issues with Jake Layman moving over and the tough conference road schedule. After all, four of Maryland’s six conference losses came on the road against NCAA Tournament teams.
2. Iowa Exceeded Expectations.
Sometimes in college sports, it seems like teams that don’t build through elite recruiting are often doubted in the offseason. Iowa has consistently improved under Fran McCaffery, but doesn’t quite have the kind of recruiting that consistently warrants exceptional preseason attention.
According to BTPowerhouse’s preseason projections, the Hawkeyes were assumed to be a bubble team that would fight for a spot on Selection Sunday. Obviously, it didn’t quite turn out that way and Iowa comfortably made the field and at one point, looked like it might even be an NCAA title contender. And for what it’s worth, Iowa probably could have went further in March if it hadn’t gotten matched up with eventual national champion Villanova so early.
Hindsight Analysis: Projecting Iowa as a top 25 team and a legitimate threat to go deep in March probably would have been too much even for some Hawkeye optimists. However, underestimating the experience of Iowa’s starting lineup was a mistake made by BTPowerhouse’s voters.
3. Michigan Underwhelmed Significantly.
Preseason projections were a bit up and down on the Wolverines heading into last season, but most did think Michigan would be in the top 25 discussion and play a real role in the Big Ten race.
Unfortunately for Wolverine fans, neither of those things happened.
Michigan’s overall record (23-13) was pretty solid last year and the team avoided any bad losses, but it was the struggles against the top teams that made those 23 wins feels empty. After all, when 11 of a team’s 13 losses come by 10 points or more, it’s going to be frustrating.
Hindsight Analysis: Sitting here now, it’s easy to ask why people anticipated a Michigan team coming off a 16-16 season would contend for a spot in the top 25. Nonetheless, there’s one major caveat to that statement and it was the injury that sidelined Caris LeVert for most of the season. Without him, Michigan was a very different team and it showed up time and time again.