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Will The Big Ten Be Better Or Worse This Season? A Team-By-Team Analysis - Part II

For most teams in the league, there’s a plausible case for both

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Minnesota Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the second part of our three-part series where we make the case for each team in the league to be better than last year. And then turn right around and argue why they’ll be worse. Let’s look at teams six through 10 (alphabetically):

Michigan State Spartans

The Case For Better: Michigan State are fresh off a Big Ten title, and it’s difficult to see them dropping only two games again. No, for the Spartans, this season will be about getting back to the Final Four and proving that Tom Izzo is still among the nation’s elite coaches. And that’s completely plausible. For my money, Cassius Winston is the most overlooked player in the country coming into this season. He’s the kind of guy who can win you a tournament game all by himself.

The Case For Worse: Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson are gone, and the Spartans only lost two conference games last year. They’re going to take a step back. They still might win the league anyway.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

The Case For Better: Last year Minnesota was picked by most people to finish in the top three of the Big Ten. They finished in the bottom three. Off the court, there was the Reggie Lynch situation. Even if the Gophers are still in the dumpster this year, that’s better than last year’s dumpster fire. And they still have Jordan Murphy.

The Case For Worse: It would take the following: Eric Curry re-tears his ACL, the FBI begins investigating Jordan Murphy’s recruitment, and Richard Pitino’s randomly creating another scandal, but this time for Minnesota. Even then the Gophers probably win more than four Big Ten games.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

The Case For Better: All Nebrasketball has to do is make the NCAA Tournament, and they bring back James Palmer, Glynn Watson, Isaac Copeland, and Isaiah Roby. Roby is my dark horse pick for First Team All-Big Ten. The guy shot 40% from three last year and he has springs like DJ Wilson.

The Case For Worse: Last year Nebraska ran up 13 conference wins on the back of the weakest Big Ten schedule of all time. I was at the Big Ten tournament in Madison Square Garden, and no team looked more disinterested than the Huskers, who likely would have punched their ticket to the Big Dance with a win. The schedule won’t be so easy this year, and the Huskers don’t have anyone on the roster over 6’9” except a true freshman.

Northwestern Wildcats

The Case For Worse: Let’s start with the case for Northwestern being worse. It’s an easy case to make: their talent level drops off. They lose Bryant McIntosh, who is arguably the best player in school history. His classmates Gavin Skelly and Scottie Lindsey also graduated. Last year’s Wildcats were coming off the first NCAA appearance in school history and had the most loaded roster in school history. Clark Kellogg had them as preseason Final Four pick. While there’s still plenty of talent on the roster in Vic Law and Derek Pardon, their newcomers aren’t at McIntosh and Lindsay’s level.

The Case For Better: But why was a preseason Final Four team so mediocre last year? In a word: chemistry. The Cats didn’t share the ball, didn’t trust each other, and didn’t exude the same enthusiasm for their teammates as they did in 2016-17. I don’t know for sure if the problem was McIntosh, but he was a guy who always seemed like he felt he had to win games by himself. I expect Northwestern to play much better team ball this coming season.

Ohio State Buckeyes

The Case For Better: If I had to pick one coach who I think will win the most Big Ten games over the next six seasons, I’d pick Chris Holtmann. Beilein and Izzo are legends, but they’re both getting a little long in the tooth. Matt Painter is good on X’s and O’s, but he’s never been able to land elite talent. Archie Miller didn’t come in and win right away the way Holtmann did. From 2006 to 2013, Thad Matta had the Buckeyes as a top two seed in the NCAA tournament 6 of 8 years. That’s what a great coach can do in Columbus, and while I don’t think Holtmann is the best coach in the league, he’s good enough that the inherent advantages of Ohio State will make them the top program in the league once again.

The Case For Worse: Keita Bates-Diop was the best player in the Big Ten last year, and he is no longer on the roster. Even if you believe Ohio State is back on its way to nationally elite status, it’s not crazy to think the Buckeyes might take one step back this season on their way there.

Part 1 is available here. Part 3 will follow.


Seriously, Nebraska is going to have a worse Big Ten record but make the NCAA Tournament, right?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Seriously right!
    (11 votes)
  • 27%
    Seriously wrong!
    (15 votes)
  • 34%
    You got the worse record part right
    (19 votes)
  • 18%
    I am a Nebraska fan and for once I am looking past football season to basketball
    (10 votes)
55 votes total Vote Now