Despite being one of the most consistent conferences in the country over the last decade the Big Ten has been in a prolonged National title drought. Despite having two teams reach the Final Four, Wisconsin and Michigan State and the Badgers reaching the title game, the conference has been without a title for 15 years.
This season another team will take aim at ending that drought. Maryland seems to be the consensus favorite to win the conference and be the team with the best title chances. The Terrapins won’t be without contenders in the Big Ten. The other Final Four team from last year Michigan State and Tom Crean’s Indiana Hoosiers should be the other top contenders. Teams like Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan should be solid again but are likely to take a step back while Purdue is looking to take a step into the upper echelon of the conference.
Despite losing the likes of Dez Wells, Evan Smotrycz and Richaud Pack to graduation from a team that won 28 games last season they do return big man Jake Layman and sophomore guard Melo Trimble. Joining Mark Turgeon’s squad is Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon, Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter and five-star recruit center Diamond Stone.
March always seems to be Tom Izzo time no matter what kind of talent he has on the roster. This season Denzel Valentine, Matt Costello, and Tum Tum Nairn return and are joined by a transfer Erron Harris from West Virginia and 6-10 freshman Deyonta Davis should add to the frontcourt options to go along with Costello.
It has been a few years since Indiana has been atop the Big Ten that could change this year. The team’s top four scorers return led by Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon, Jr. With the shot clock being reduced to 30 seconds Tom Crean has said he would like the team to play even more upbeat which is saying something for a team that averaged over 77 points per game. Thomas Bryant is an athletic big man who comes to Bloomington getting rave reviews for his athleticism and work ethic.
Wisconsin is like Michigan State. Bo Ryan always seems to be in the mix no matter his roster. The Badgers lost a ton off of its National runner-up team. Gone are Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson but back are Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig lead a roster that has seven freshmen on it including top recruit guard Brevin Pritzl.
Like Wisconsin, Ohio State lost a lot including lottery pick D’Angelo Russell, Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson. Marc Loving returns as the team’s lone junior but Thad Matta brings in five 4-star recruits including a trio of guards; 6-4 Austin Grandstaff, 6-5 Jaquan Lyle and 5-9 A.J. Harris joining them are 6-7 Mickey Mitchell and 6-10 Daniel Giddens.
After struggling through mediocrity last season the Michigan Wolverines are hoping a healthy Caris LaVert can help them rebound. Both LaVert and Derrick Walton, Jr. suffered season-ending injuries in January. The injuries allowed the likes of Aubrey Dawkins, Zak Irvin and Ricky Doyle to develop as players. Even though the Wolverines haven’t added much outside of center Moritz Wagner if LaVert and Walton are healthy Michigan should be much improved.
If there is a sleeper in the conference it is the Purdue Boilermakers. Matt Painter’s squad lost Jon Octeus to graduation but seniors A.J. Hammons and Raphael Davis return along with sophomore Vince Edwards from a team that won 21 games and finished third in the conference. Senior transfer Johnny Hill makes Purdue his third team in his college career after transferring from Texas-Arlington and highly-touted forward Caleb Swanigan should help replace Octeus and then some.
It might be Maryland’s turn at a National title but the conference should again be strong at the top perhaps with some different faces. The question is, is this the year the drought ends?