With the recent deadline passing for the 2018 NBA Draft, the BTPowerhouse staff got together for a roundtable discussion about the league, what to expect in the coming weeks, and for some great basketball talk.
See the full discussion below.
1. Well, the 2018 NBA Draft deadline passed recently. What were your biggest takeaways? Who benefited the most? Who got hit the hardest?
Thomas Beindit: Generally speaking, I think the Big Ten made out pretty well. Save for a few players, basically every “borderline” player is coming back for another year. Players like Miles Bridges, Jaren Jackson, and Moritz Wagner made the obvious decisions, but players like Carsen Edwards, Charles Matthews, and Juwan Morgan came back. That’s good news for the league.
I think Purdue made out the best at the deadline. The Boilermakers would have been in big trouble had Edwards stayed in the Draft. But he’s back and the team should have a chance to keep its NCAA Tournament streak going. On the other side, I think Penn State got hit the hardest. Having Tony Carr leave was a major blow.
Andrew Michael H: I’m not sure anybody in the Big Ten really benefited. There weren’t a lot of surprises along the lines of Miles Bridges coming back last year. The only real surprise in terms of people leaving was Kevin Huerter. I think Penn State got hit the hardest because Tony Carr will be the hardest player to replace. You could argue Corey Sanders, but I think Sanders leaving will change Rutgers stylistically for the better.
Eric Leisure: Maryland finds itself in an interesting situation, as entering the year I’m not sure many would have predicted that the Terp leaving College Park for the greener pastures of the NBA would be Kevin Huerter and not Bruno Fernando.
And while replacing Huerter, as well as the departing Justin Jackson, will be a tall order for Mark Turgeon, having Fernando back to pair with Anthony Cowan Jr. will undoubtedly soften the blow. Outside of crab cake country, the biggest benefitter of how things shook out is Purdue. Carsen Edwards returns to school as the clear-cut pre-season favorite for Big Ten Player of the Year and should be ready to shoulder the load as THE guy in West Lafayette.
Robert Bondy: My biggest takeaway from the NBA Draft decisions was that the league as a whole benefited and should be a lot deeper next season because of it. Almost every team got positive news as far as key players electing to return for another season at the college level. Huerter leaving his name in the draft will certainly hurt the Terps next year, but they still have other guys there to help soften the blow. Overall, the Big Ten is looking pretty deep next year, which is great news after this past season where it was so top heavy.
2. Now that we have a better idea on next year’s rosters, who do you think has the best shot to win the Big Ten next season?
Beindit: The league’s top three look like Michigan, Michigan State, and Maryland and I would probably put them in that order. While I think the Big Ten is going to be deeper next season than it was before, those look like the runaway leaders, to me. Perhaps Nebraska can make some noise with a pretty deep roster as well. We will have to wait and see.
AMH: This is the most wide open offseason I can remember. Most people will probably pick one of the two Michigan schools, but I’m not sure either is a slam dunk. I don’t know who I’d take ahead of them, though.
Leisure: The league will be wide-open next year, so picking a horse to ride with in June reads like a fools errand. That said, color me intrigued by the potential of Tim Miles’ 2018-’19 Cornhuskers team. With a trio of James Palmer Jr., Isaiah Roby, and Isaac Copeland Jr., Nebraska definitely has an opportunity to sneak up on anyone who hasn’t been paying close enough attention to college hoops in America’s Heartland, as the Huskers have a better-than-you-think chance of winning its first conference championship since 1950.
Bondy: Right now I’m leaning towards Michigan or Michigan State as the early favorites to win the Big Ten next year. But it’s extremely wide open and there’s probably five or six teams that could win the league in next season.
Teams like Wisconsin, Indiana and Nebraska will be much improved and could certainly contend at the top of the league. Then there’s also Ohio State and Purdue who lost a lot, but still return/welcome in some talent and will be in the mix. With the conference schedule expanding to 20 games, I could see it being a three-way tie for the regular season championship, with each of those teams having five or six losses.
3. What did you make of the recent Gavitt Games announcements?
Beindit: Personally, I thought this looked the best lineup so far in the short history of the event. Michigan and Villanova will grab the headlines, but Xavier vs Wisconsin and Georgetown vs Illinois should be fun as well. Also, don’t discount Marquette vs Indiana and Seton Hall vs Nebraska. There’s a lot to like in this year’s lineup.
AMH: It’s really hard to care about the Gavitt Games. It’s just not an event that feels like a big deal. Almost half the league doesn’t participate at all. It’s more a loosely-connected set of games than a challenge. I’ll watch as many games in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge as I can and pull for all 14 Big Ten schools. I’ll watch some of the Gavitt Games, but only because they’re likely to be the best games on that night.
Leisure: While it’s easy to take shots at the significance of the Gavitt Games when compared to the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, it’s hard to remain salty at an event that’ll hand us a National Championship rematch come mid-November.
And while they’ll lack the pizzazz of that Michigan-Villanova tilt, Seton Hall’s trip to Nebraska and Marquette’s visit to Bloomington should be fun games in their own right. Oh and don’t sleep on that St. John’s/Rutgers matchup as both programs are trending up and are not exactly the biggest fans of each other.
Bondy: I was pretty bummed to hear Michigan State was again left out of the Gavitt Games. I understand that scheduling plays a role in that, but another year where one of the league’s best programs isn’t competing definitely hurts this Big Ten-Big East challenge. On the flipside, a rematch of last year’s National Championship game should be very exciting to watch. Michigan should also have a much better chance at pulling out this one, with all that Villanova is losing off last year’s team.
4. What did you make of the recent Big Ten/ACC Challenge announcements?
Beindit: Look, there are a few ways to react to this year’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge lineup. Let’s start with the quick (and most important) reaction. There are a lot of great games here. Michigan will host North Carolina, Indiana is going to face Duke, and Michigan State will be going on the road to face Louisville. Those are all great games and there are plenty more beyond just those three as well.
The unfortunate part, though, about an event like this is we get a lot of repeat matchups. After all, the matchups I just described above have actually all happened in this event since 2015. There’s no denying that the repetitiveness removes some of the fun.
Maybe this is a hot take, but perhaps it’s time to start putting in a wild card or two? How about we take one or two of the top teams and put them on the road against an underwhelming opponent? Imagine the turnout at a place like Illinois or Iowa if they got to host Duke or North Carolina. And the same goes for the ACC as well.
AMH: Only three games strike me as having a heavy favorite: IU/Duke, Pitt/Iowa, and Miami/Rutgers. The rest are up for grabs, and by God the Big Ten better grab more than we did last year. Last year was an embarrassment.
The perception of the Big Ten and the computer numbers for the league were down, and a big part of that was our abysmal performance in the Challenge. With fewer non-conference games this year, the risk-reward from the Challenge is higher. Win most of the games, and all of a sudden there are a lot more quality wins (and forgivable losses) available during the 20-game conference slate. If we want to send 7 or 8 teams dancing, the path runs right through the ACC.
Leisure: If we’re grading the schedule makers on a scale of 1-10, I’d give them a 6. Romeo Langford playing at Cameron Indoor against the Blue Devils four incoming five-star freshmen will be must-see TV. Michigan State at Louisville will be fun, but only so enjoyable as I lament the missed opportunity of a Tom Izzo-Slick Rick Pitino matchup.
And when you add in UNC versus Michigan, Virginia at Maryland, and Purdue against Florida State the events marquee games provide plenty of intrigue. That said, for the Big Ten’s lesser teams (coughPennStateRutgescough) the challenge is starting to get a little stale as it seemingly rotates them through the same slate of ACC also-rans on a semi-annual basis.
Bondy: This year’s slate appears to have some solid matchups, especially at the top of each league. North Carolina-Michigan, Michigan State-Louisville, Virginia-Maryland, Indiana-Duke and Nebraska-Clemson standout as the most appealing games, in my opinion, and will be definitely worth tuning in for. A big positive about those games is that they are evenly spread out across the three days, so Big Ten fans shouldn’t have to worry about flipping between channels for those big-time matchups.
5. What will you be following the most this summer with regard to the Big Ten?
Beindit: Honestly, this summer is largely about recruiting for the Big Ten. Can the league finally start to get back in the game for the top 30 prospects? The last few cycles have been down for the Big Ten and it’s shown on the court. This is where coaches like Archie Miller need to make their money.
AMH: Football previews, to be honest. Basketball is in wait-and-see mode. There were no coaching changes this past year, and while there are a few teams taking overseas trips, there’s nothing like Purdue in the World University Games like we had last summer. There are lots of open questions, but I don’t think we can get answers until November. That said, who knows if and when the FBI investigation could flare up again. If that happens, and if a Big Ten coach is implicated, that instantly becomes the story of the offseason.
Leisure: Sifting through a sea of NBA mock drafts leading up to the June 21 event. While Michigan State’s Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. remain the conference’s only slam dunk first round selections, what becomes of Huerter, Moritz Wagner, Keita Bates-Diop, Tony Carr, Justin Jackson, and maybe even Isaac Haas will have me tuned in to the night’s festivities in Brooklyn. As far as actual basketball is concerned, I’m always weirdly invested in The Basketball Tournament and who among the Big Ten’s alumni play in the now annual literal cash grab. Team Scarlet & Grey has a fun squad of Buckeyes alum (plus former Nittany Lion and current turncoat Talor Battle) and is a contender to make a run in the title, or so my five minutes of hastily completed research tells me.
Bondy: There’s really not a lot to keep an eye-on in particular this off-season. The whole Jim Beilein to the Detroit Pistons was intriguing for about a week, but other than that it’s been pretty quiet and should be for the rest of the summer. One thing I particularly find interesting are the Vegas odds for winning next year’s National Championship. As of right now, Michigan and Michigan State have the best odds to cut down nets in April 2019 with 25-to-1 odds, according to Vegas Insider. Those aren’t super high or anything, but I always find it interesting seeing how those odds change throughout the off-season.