RTC Big Ten Preview: The Bottom Tier (#14-#8)

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 10th, 2015

It’s almost time to get rolling, as actual games begin in three days. That means that it’s time for us here at the Big Ten microsite to unleash our preseason predictions and superlatives for the upcoming season. Keep an eye out in the next few days for our preseason all-league teams and some other preview material before the first games tip off on Friday. After careful deliberation among our group of writers, here’s how we see the standings shaking out, starting with our projected bottom half of the conference.

It could be another long season for Eddie Jordan and Rutgers in their second Big Ten season (USATSI).

It could be another long season for Eddie Jordan and Rutgers in their second Big Ten season (USATSI).

  • 14. Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights started last season 10-7 before proceeding to lose their last 15 games. That team lost three of their top four scorers and only returns two starters. Corey Sanders is a nice building block for the future, but Eddie Jordan needs his freshman point guard and some of the sophomores to really improve quickly in order to move out of the basement.
  • 13. Penn State: Pat Chambers is starting to get things going on the recruiting side of things, but losing DJ Newbill and Geno Thorpe means that his backcourt is going to be a question mark all season long. The Nittany Lions have the bodies with which to bang down low, but who scores for this team at the level of Newbill?

  • 12. Minnesota: The Gophers started Big Ten play 0-5 last season, losing those five games by an average of 4.6 points. They never really recovered from that rough start and, to add insult to injury, they also lose four senior contributors. On one hand, head coach Richard Pitino is starting to bring in the players that he wants to run his system. On the other hand, losing a combined 37.2 PPG from these seniors means that his freshman class needs to produce immediately.
  • 11. Nebraska: Questions about the Cornhuskers’ lack of size and scoring punch make us skeptical that Tim Miles’ unit can get back to their winning ways of two seasons ago. Shavon Shields is outstanding, and freshmen like Jack McVeigh and Glynn Watson are nice pieces to add to the mix. If Nebraska can somehow shoot the ball better than the woeful 28.4 percent they shot from deep a season ago, things will be better. But don’t count on it.
  • 10. Illinois: Losing point guard Tracy Abrams for the second consecutive season to injury sums up how snakebitten this program has been. Graduate transfers Mike Thorne Jr and Khalid Lewis will help things out, but Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn have to make huge strides for the Illini to make it back to the NCAA Tournament.
  • 9. Northwestern: The pieces are here for the Wildcats to make a run toward the upper half of the standings, as they return four starters and eight of their top 10 scorers. They also added some size with transfer Joey Van Zeggren and two freshmen (Aaron Falzon and Jordan Ash) who could immediately contribute. Is this the year the Wildcats finally break the NCAA Tourney drought?
  • 8. Ohio State: The Buckeyes are probably the hardest team to figure out in the league this season. Thad Matta’s team lost a ton of production but he also brings in five quality recruits to build with the returning sophomores. The youngest team in the league could be scary once they get their footing, but they also could struggle if they don’t develop a couple reliable scorers.

The top tier of teams will be released on Wednesday. Make sure to check back for that post tomorrow.

Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at brendan.brody@gmail.com, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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