League predictions are usually made preseason. It’s a fun way to get the college basketball season started, with blind prognostications and shots in the dark about which teams will gel and which underclassmen will play with maturity beyond their years.
However, it doesn’t have to be like this. Big time league play doesn’t begin until late December (today) at the earliest, so we actually have over two months of non league play with which to evaluate teams and make more informed (if not correct) predictions on how teams will fare in league play.
I always prefer the informed route.
Big Ten play kicks off tonight, so it seems like the perfect time to lace you with my predictions on how the conference will shake out based on what we’ve seen to date. The B1G basketball conference has been solid, at best, so far. Michigan State, Maryland and Purdue have proven to be the conference’s “big 3” at the moment, with the rest of the league either in flux or just plain bad.
Here’s a look at how I see the Big Ten panning out this season.
1. Maryland – the Terps have been impressive so far, led by one of the best point guards in the country, in Melo Trimble. They are good defensively and will continue to improve on the offensive end. Plus, they play Michigan State only once in the regular season.
2. Michigan State – Denzel Valentine should be back within a couple weeks, which means Michigan State – at full strength – will battle Maryland tooth and nail for the league crown.
3. Purdue – the Boilermakers only play Michigan State once, as well, so that should help. This big and strong team already has solid wins over Vanderbilt, Pittsburgh and Florida.
4. Michigan – the Wolverines haven’t been all that impressive to date, but they don’t really have any bad losses either. They are a talented team, led by Caris LeVert, and I expect Coach Beilein to whip this team into shape before it’s all said and done.
5. Indiana – Tom Crean and the Hoosiers have been a disappointment so far, especially considering the talent they have on this team, particularly on the perimeter. Their relatively soft schedule to begin league play should give them the confidence they need to perform adequately.
6. Iowa – the Hawkeyes have been just OK so far. They have a blowout win over Wichita State, but WSU was nowhere near full strength for that game. They lost to a couple of teams they could be fighting against for at-large tournament berths come March, in Dayton and Notre Dame.
7. Ohio State – the Buckeyes had a horrible start to the season, with losses to Texas Arlington and Louisiana Tech. But, their win over Kentucky in Brooklyn showed they have the potential to be solid.
8. Northwestern – many college basketball pundits sound excited about the Wildcats’ 12-1 start, but there is nary a good win in sight. However, they are improved and could prove me wrong.
9. Wisconsin – in case you haven’t noticed, this ain’t last year’s Badgers. Or the year before’s. Bo Ryan retired just in time to avoid a Big Ten finish he’s not accustomed to.
10. Nebraska – the Cornhuskers will find themselves in the familiar position of fighting to be included in the top ten of the conference. They may well accomplish that. They actually played Cincinnati and Miami tough this season.
11. Illinois – the Illini haven’t shown much so far this season and that’s not a good sign in this tough league.
12. Minnesota – Richard Pitino’s squad has been abysmal in the non conference portion of their schedule and it wasn’t exactly laced with tough opponents.
13. Penn State – opposing teams better not sleep on the Nittany Lions, but prognosticators can.
14. Rutgers – Eddie Jordan & co. have a long way to go before being competitive in this league.