2019-20 Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings Media Day Edition


Wednesday is Big Ten Media Day, and if that seems extremely early, well that’s because it is really is. It’s 87 degrees in Chicago, host city for this event, as I type. Let’s talk basketball, amirite? I mean the Major League Baseball playoffs haven’t even started yet (the real postseason, not the play-in games) and we’re talking about an event that literally, just five years ago was held on Halloween.

That is the nature of the college basketball beast though. Everything is being moved up; way up in the calendar year. So without further ado, let’s look at the Big Ten basketball pecking order.

tom izzo

1. Michigan State Spartans

No matter what side you were on in the debate over Tom Izzo’s temper tantrum at Aaron Henry in the first round of the NCAA Tournament you must acknowledge:

a.) the other side has some valid points

b.) his tough love style gets results…but only to a point

c.) most of the pundits you hate (deservedly so) fell on the “hey, these kids today are soft” camp

d.) Izzo didn’t help matters by the Trumpian way he answered questions about it

e.) that last point doesn’t matter much because the national TV network studio guys all carried his water anyway

f.) he won’t change unless he starts losing

g.) it won’t be this season because MSU should be one of the top five teams in the nation.


2. Maryland Terrapins

After what Penn State did to them in football on Friday night, hey, let’s get basketball season started. It’s funny, just two weeks ago, BTN was fawning over Terps football, and they even made Maryland the focus of the A block on their weekly football highlights show.

As for Maryland hoops, once again they have top notch talent on paper, but it’s matter of whether or not they can maximize it. We’re thinking they can, perhaps better than the team with Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone on it. The school that invented midnight madness holds the league’s most recent national title, albeit it was won when they were still in the ACC.


3. Ohio State Buckeyes

This is where we’re going to really see how and why the Chris Holtmann hire was a sharp one; especially so given how late in the cycle it was. Holtmann continues the tradition of Butler coaches achieving success in Indianapolis, bolting for a power five job, and then finding success there.

This season sees the best recruiting class in the Big Ten come to Columbus; complementing Kaleb Wesson who is back after getting some NBA feedback on his game.


4. Michigan Wolverines

We’ll see if the homecoming hire works out here better than it did at St. John’s with Chris Mullin. It’s a practice that is certainly spreading all across the sporting universe (see Manchester United, Chelsea). However, year one of the Juwan Howard era could be a challenge as they do lose quite a bit from last year’s team.

There’s still plenty back though with Zavier Simpson, Isaiah Livers and John Teske all back.

5. Purdue Boilermakers

Carson Edwards is gone, and yes that is a huge loss. However, they did recover when Biggie Swanigan left, same with Vince Edwards. They didn’t have to rebuild, but instead just retooled. This year could be more of the same, but it would be a tremendous challenge as experienced leaders like Ryan Cline and Grady Eifert are gone too.

Last year was a breakthrough, but it came oh so close to being even more of a bigger breakthrough. Matt Painter has gotten this program to a standard and baseline now that even when they dip, it won’t be very low.


6. Wisconsin Badgers

Not many are all that high on the Badgers, and that’s understandable given how Ethan Happ is now gone. Now it’s time for Brad Davison to be the alpha dog. If you pick UW in the lower division, then you do so at your own peril. That was a rule under Bo Ryan, and it’s going to be that way of life under Greg Gard too.

7. Indiana Hoosiers

The heat has to be on Archie Miller now, as the Hoosiers of his era have been more hype than results. Another new five-star, blue chipper arrives in Traycs Jackson-Davis, and hopefully he’ll succeed better at aligning his interests with the team’s interests than Romeo Langford did last year.

illini basketball

8. Illinois Fighting Illini

There are some limits to the “hey, they return everybody, so they’re going to be so much better” take. Yes, the Illini will be significantly better than last year’s team, but you got to remember that the ’18-’19 team ended the season in a tailspin, needing overtime to beat the league’s last place team, which was missing their best player, in the Big Ten Tournament.

It’s also pretty much the same team as last year, except replace Aaron Jordan with top 50 overall recruit Kofi Cockburn. They’re more experienced now yes, but that group also went 12-21 and broke the school record for losses. I understand that most people making Big Ten power rankings out there are a lot higher on the Illini than I am. However, I’m not sure all of them are aware of just what a terrible nosedive this program has been in since making the national title game in 2005.

Also, have they met the Josh Whitman era of Illini revenue sports?

9. Iowa Hawkeyes

Not sure what to make of the Hawkeyes, and I don’t think anyone else knows either. They return a few key players in Jordan Bohannon, Ryan Kriener, and Luke Garza, but Tyler Cook will certainly be missed. They had a ton of ups and downs last year, and overall this program seems to have plateaued.

10. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Richard Pitino is A+ in the press conference game, but he’s still looking for a major breakthrough in the NCAA Tournament. So is the program in general. Last Big Ten tournament, Pitino said that his team was one of the least talked about in the nation, given what they had accomplished to that point.

Well, get to the second weekend of the tourney, hey reach the third weekend, and then you’ll have plenty of Gophers chatter. However, it’s going to be hard to do with Amir Coffey, Jordan Murphy, Dupree McBrayer, and Matz Stockman all departed.

rutgers dance team

11. Rutgers Scarlet Knights 

These guys will be a tough out this year- don’t laugh! Steve Pikiell will still have some ups and downs, but overall he’s a good fit to get these guys moving forward. Most of the key contributors from last season’s squad are back and that’s a good sign, but in order to move up, someone else has to move down, and we just don’t see it right now.

12. Penn State Nittany Lions

These players and their staff deserve so much better than the fan base they have. Until PSU can generate any semblance of an atmosphere at their home games, it’s hard to really envision them moving up to the upper division of the league. I wonder how many of you that clicked here will even bother reading this entry. Most will probably just scroll past.

fred hoiberg iowa state

13. Nebraska Cornhuskers

The Chicago Bulls are a total dumpster fire of an organization that is essentially stealing money from anyone who buys a ticket. So with that in mind, take Fred Hoiberg’s disastrous tenure there with a grain of salt. This hire could work in Lincoln long term, but it’s going to take time.

In the near future, he has to cobble together a roster filled of transfers and some square pegs in round holes. Almost the entire starting lineup from last year is gone and they were merely a NIT team anyway.

northwestern basketball

14. Northwestern Wildcats 

The good news? A highly ranked recruiting class is on the way, with more to come after that. The bad news? (well, let’s watch the word count limit of these power rankings here)

The Wildcats lose their top three scorers and a whopping majority of statistical production from last year’s team, which finished firmly in the Big Ten basement. Also, it’s quite concerning how many players have been exiting this program as of late. Additionally, Chris Collins hasn’t produced win-loss records commensurate with the rankings of the recruiting classes that he’s hauled in, and the gap there is quite large.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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