Your Way-Too-Early Big Ten 2014-15 Power RankingsPosted by Brendan Brody on April 10th, 2014
The Big Ten was once again a juggernaut during the 2013-14 campaign, as the league was arguably the best conference in America, or at worst second behind the Big 12. There were six teams invited to the NCAA Tournament, three of which made the Elite Eight, and the league was also the home of the NIT Champion. One thing that cannot be disputed is that the bottom half of the league’s teams were much better. This meant that some games that were considered big upsets early became much less surprising as the season went on. With this year in the books, the league is set to add newcomers Maryland and Rutgers to the mix for 2014-15. With 14 teams and a plethora of players slated to return, it’s time to construct some kind of pecking order as we head into the long offseason.
- Wisconsin: The Badgers are only projected to lose starting guard Ben Brust right now. Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky could both leave school, but neither is anything close to a certain first round pick. If they return, the Badgers would have four upperclassmen starters in the lineup, plus sophomores Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes ready to take on bigger roles. This team could be scary.
- Michigan: While the Wisconsin situation looks much more settled, Michigan is an absolute wild card at this point. The Wolverines could very well lose any combination of Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. Stauskas is the only player who is thought to be a certain first-rounder, however, and a team that brings back Robinson, McGary, Caris LeVert, and Derrick Walton Jr. could easily build off of their Elite Eight appearance and battle Wisconsin for the league title.
- Ohio State: The Buckeyes have the best recruiting class in the Big Ten coming in, with D’Angelo Russell, Keita Bates-Diop, and Jae’Sean Tate on the majority of the top 100 lists. Combine this infusion of young talent with a solid group of upperclassmen and graduate transfer Anthony Lee coming in from Temple, and Ohio State should be better next year than it was in 2013-14.
- Illinois: This team clearly got better toward the back half of Big Ten play, and now it’ll add sorely needed outside shooting with transfers Ahmad Starks and Aaron Cosby. They’ll defend just as well as before, only now they’ll be able to keep up offensively too. Keep an eye on Kendrick Nunn, as he could have a breakout sophomore year.
- Michigan State: Gary Harris is gone, and Branden Dawson could leave school as well. Their departures would leave Sparty with maybe its least-talented team in a decade. Still, because of Tom Izzo and a bunch of veterans like Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice primed for bigger roles, Michigan State is a fringe Top 25 team. Recruiting misses will keep them from the levels they’ve previously obtained, but you just can’t count Izzo out.
- Nebraska: Almost everyone except for Ray Gallegos is coming back, but the main question here is how do the Cornhuskers handle being the hunted? They will not sneak up on anybody next year, and they’ll have to avoid getting complacent after one of the best seasons in Nebraska history.
- Maryland: News that Nick Faust, Roddy Peters and Shaq Cleare are transferring hurts the Terrapins’ depth, but this could be a matter of addition by subtraction. They return their top four scorers, highlighted by Dez Wells and Seth Allen. They also have three high-level recruits headed to College Park in Romelo Trimble, Dion Wiley and Trayvon Reed. Maryland could easily make a splash in its first Big Ten season.
- Iowa: Much like this season, the talent will be in Iowa City. Aaron White, Mike Gesell, Jarrod Uthoff and Gabriel Olaseni are big-time players with great experience. The question is whether the Hawkeyes learned from their mistakes this season, or are they now too shell-shocked to take the next step that was expected?
- Minnesota: An NIT title is nice, and this team showed that it has bought into Richard Pitino’s system. Now the major question is whether Andre Hollins can come back from injury and his correlated confidence issues. If he can get back to averaging 18.0 PPG and shooting 40 perce3nt from the perimeter, the Gophers will end up much higher on this list. If he’s not the same, the loss of Austin Hollins and the lack of an impact recruiting class will hurt their progression.
- Northwestern: Four starters are back, and in the second season in Chris Collins’ system, the Wildcats will be better. They could be a fringe bubble team if Victor Law and others from his recruiting class make an immediate impact.
- Penn State: In what seems to be a common theme among Big Ten teams, Penn State is also supposed to have four starters back. D.J. Newbill, Brandon Taylor, Ross Travis and John Johnson form a nice nucleus for a team that could also contend for an NCAA berth if things break right.
- Indiana: There’s still talent with Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams on the squad, and freshman James Blackmon Jr should make an impact. But the Indiana program is at a crossroads with all of its transfers and the departure of Noah Vonleh. If they weren’t very good with last year’s roster, they could be even worse with what the Hoosiers have right now.
- Purdue: Matt Painter’s seat could get to scorching levels with another poor season in West Lafayette. A.J. Hammons still hasn’t made an NBA decision, and even if he returns for his junior year, who will get him the ball? The freshman class could blossom into super sophomores, but depth and quality of talent is a huge issue with this team.
- Rutgers: If you go 12-21 in a conference with games against Temple, UCF, South Florida and Houston two times apiece, you aren’t going to make much headway in a league as loaded as the Big Ten. Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack are returning to campus, but this program is a long way away from getting past the Mike Rice horror show.