Big Ten Conference Preview: Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Ohio State, Michigan

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 11th, 2016

The ballots have been revealed and the results have been tabulated. Unlike another round of voting that took place this week, there isn’t as much shock value in seeing these results. We at the Big Ten microsite have voted and determined how the league will shake out this season. The second of three segments lists our middle five teams (the bottom tier can be found here).

9. Iowa: The Hawkeyes arguably lost more than any other squad in the Big Ten, with four senior starters moving on from Iowa City. The good news, however, starts with guard Peter Jok staying put for his senior season. Jok will lead an inexperienced crew highlighted by freshman Tyler Cook, and jack-of-all-trades Dom Uhl. The point guard situation here is dicey, but if either Christian Williams or Jordan Bohannon can handle it, this team could still be in the mix for another NCAA Tournament bid. Jok needs to put up large numbers on the offensive end, though, and several secondary scorers need to emerge for this to happen.

Fran McCaffery and his Iowa Hawkeyes are predicted to finish in the middle of the Big Ten. (AP)

Fran McCaffery and his Iowa Hawkeyes are predicted to finish in the middle of the Big Ten. (AP).

Best-Case Scenario: NCAA Tournament Berth

8. Illinois: Things will be much better at Illinois this season if the Illini can simply keep their roster healthy for the first time in two years. The transfer of Kendrick Nunn will sting a bit, but six seniors make this the most experienced roster in the conference. Malcolm Hill is the team’s best player, but the key to the season will be the health of sixth- year seniors Tracy Abrams and Mike Thorne Jr. If that pair can stay on the floor, last season’s 135th ranked defense should be much better and that ugly 15-19 record should also improve.

Best-Case Scenario: 20+ wins and a return trip to the NCAA Tournament

7. Maryland: Which Melo Trimble will show up this season? If it’s the player who burst onto the scene as a freshman by averaging 16.2 PPG on 41 percent shooting from three-point range, this team could be really good. If he struggles like parts of last season, the Terps could have serious problems. Keep an eye on Dion Wiley. If he can return from injury and regain the form that made him a top 60 recruit out of high school, Maryland could be much better than people think. Mark Turgeon must replace four starters, but Trimble can be National Player of the Year candidate if he’s on point this season. A top four finish in the Big Ten is not out of the question.

Which Melo will show up this season? (Getty)

Which Melo will show up this season? (Getty)

Best Case Scenario: 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament

6. Ohio State: Coming into last season, Ohio State had averaged 28.6 wins per season from 2011 to 2015 and made the NCAA Tournament five times during that span (including a Final Four appearance in 2012). Last year the Buckeyes fell to 21 total wins and were relegated to the NIT. With all five starters and their best six players returning this year, Thad Matta‘s team should be poised for a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. A top 50 defense in addition to the return of JaeSean Tate from injury will also help. One caveat is that Jaquan Lyle and Keita Bates-Diop need to play much better, and the team as a whole also needs to shoot much better than a mediocre 49.4 percent effective field goal percentage. If all goes well in Columbus, this is a sleeper pick to be a very dangerous team in March.

Best-Case Scenario: Sweet Sixteen

5. Michigan: Much like their rival to the south, the Wolverines also bring all five starters back to campus. Two keys worth watching will be the health of Zak Irvin and whether Michigan’s defense can improve. Irvin has flashed all-conference potential, but he’s never consistently put it all together. Meanwhile, the defense last season did not protect the rim and gave up too many easy looks inside (51.1% 2FG defense). If Irvin has an outstanding season and bigs like Duncan Robinson and Marc Donnal get stingier around the rim, this team is a contender to finish among the protected top four of the B1G.

Best-Case Scenario: Sweet Sixteen

Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

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

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