The NCAA Division 1 basketball season is set to tip off on Nov. 25, and there will be plenty of eyes on the Big Ten Conference. The Big Ten was arguably having its best season of all-time last year before the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down.
Even though it is a new season, the Big Ten Conference is once again loaded. While other leagues lost a number of players to graduation or the NBA, some of the best players in the country decided to return to this league.
There is plenty of uncertainty facing the 2020 college basketball season, but there is one thing that is for sure: The Big Ten Conference will be playing some big-time basketball this season.
Projected Order of Finish:
- Iowa Hawkeyes
- Illinois Fighting Illini
- Wisconsin Badgers
- Michigan State Spartans
- Indiana Hoosiers
- Rutgers Scarlet Knights
- Ohio State Buckeyes
- Purdue Boilermakers
- Michigan Wolverines
- Maryland Terrapins
- Minnesota Golden Gophers
- Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Penn State Nittany Lions
- Northwestern Wildcats
Trying to handicap the top of the Big Ten Conference this season is not an easy task, but it does appear that two teams are better than the rest. Iowa and Illinois both return their best players from a season ago, and there is plenty of depth as well.
Both Iowa and Illinois will be ranked in the top-10 in most Top 25 polls, and it’s likely that these two rivals battle it out all season long. The Hawkeyes have a more veteran team, and that gives them a slight edge over Illinois at this time.
Wisconsin went on a late run in February to finish in a tie for the regular-season title. The Badgers will be a contender this year, as will the Spartans of Michigan State.
There does seem to be a pretty clear gap between the top four teams and the rest of the league, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other really good teams. The Big Ten Conference will be incredibly deep again, but look for either Iowa or Illinois to win the title this season.
NCAA Tournament Teams (9)
Last year, it appeared as if the Big Ten Conference was set to send at least 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament. It doesn’t appear that will happen in 2020, but the league should get at least nine bids. These seven teams are absolute locks to make the NCAA Tournament this season:
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
Two of these four teams will likely be able to punch their ticket to the Big Dance with a strong showing during the regular season:
Final Four Contenders
With all due respect to Wisconsin and Michigan State, the Big Ten Conference only has two real Final Four contenders this season. The Badgers or Spartans could go on a run in March, but there are some holes in each team that will eventually be exposed.
Iowa and Illinois have no holes on their roster, and each of these teams will be a popular pick to get to the Final Four. Illinois appeared to have enough momentum a season ago to make a run through March, and Iowa will be one of the deepest teams in America.
The Big Ten Conference has not won a title since Michigan State in 2002, but the Fighting Illini or Hawkeyes will be looking to change that this season.
Big Ten Conference Player of the Year Contenders
Trying to predict the Player of the Year in any conference is never an easy task, but there are two easy choices in the Big Ten. These two players could have both been first-round NBA Draft picks but chose to come back to school for another year.
The two best players in the Big Ten will also likely be competing for National Player of the Year as well. Ayo Dosunmu and Luka Garza will both have monster seasons in 2020.
Ayo Dosunmu was the most clutch player in the league a season ago as he continued to deliver game-winning shots. The combo guard has improved his shooting, and he is almost impossible to stop in the open floor.
Illinois has been looking for someone to transform the program since the Final Four run in 2005, and Dosunmu is that guy. The Fighting Illini have plenty of talent, but everything begins and ends with their leader.
Luka Garza averaged 23.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game a season ago and was a First Team All-American. Garza enters this season as a Preseason Player of the Year candidate, and as the reigning Big Ten Conference Player of the Year.
Garza can do a little bit of everything for the Hawkeyes, and his return to school immediately made Iowa a Final Four contender.