Joe Lunardi released his final preseason bracket projection on Monday night before the season openers on Tuesday night. Lunardi had the Big Ten with a nation-leading seven teams in the Big Dance, tied with the Big East and ACC. To no surprise, he also had the top four seeds as the current top four teams heading into the season - Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas.
NCAAM Bracketology - ESPN. Only 145 days until Selection Sunday! Enjoy the ride!! https://t.co/uL3N0o4hLF— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) November 5, 2019
It’s obviously still early in the season and the national landscape is going to look completely different in April as we learn whose preseason hype is real and whose isn’t. What these projections usually provide is just a baseline for what we should kind of expect from these teams heading into the season. If a team is projected as a five-seed and ends up on the outside looking in come Tournament time, expect that coach’s seat to get a little warm.
Michigan State unsurprisingly was the highest-projected seed from the Big Ten. The conference has proven to be one of the deepest conferences in the NCAA, after earning eight bids last season. This depth is shown, once again, this year with four teams being projected as top-five seeds in Michigan State, Maryland (2), Ohio State (3), and Purdue (5). Michigan (8), Wisconsin (10), and Illinois (10) also had their names appear on Lunardi’s final preseason projections.
It’s no surprise to see Purdue as a top-five seed with “Death, Taxes, Matt Painter” at the helm. He’s shown time and time again that he’s able to get the absolute most out of his roster, despite not always bringing in those elite recruits that some other Big Ten programs get. Nojel Eastern is a junior swingman for the Boilermakers and is widely-considered a candidate to take a huge leap this season. He started 35 games last season, averaging 7.5 ppg. Thus far in his career, he’s largely been the glue guy that every successful teams needs. With Carsen Edwards gone, along with his 19.5 shots per game, someone is going to have to step up for Painter’s crew. Eastern may never lead the team in points but he’s going to gain some recognition this season for the little things that help the team win.
Death. Taxes. Matt Painter.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 20, 2019
Ohio State is another team that could have a great season and finish in the top 15 in the country. They return the Wesson brothers while bringing in the best recruiting class in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes’ freshmen class is headlined by DJ Carton, a point guard out of Iowa. However, coach Holtmann is bringing in two more top 50 recruits, EJ Liddell and Alonzo Gaffney, along with a raw 7-footer, Ibrahima Diallo. Expect some big contributions from the newcomers for Ohio State which could propel them to a top 10 ranking late in the season.