My 2020-2021 Big Ten basketball predictions

My 2020-2021 Big Ten basketball predictions

As the set start date for Big Ten Basketball (November 25th) creeps up, multiple questions still hang in the balance. The Big Ten has undoubtedly been the most competitive conference in the country for the back half of this decade. Regardless of the pandemic, it is shaping up to return to a similar form in the upcoming season. While most conferences are only able to boast two or three contenders, the Big Ten is remarkably deep with talent. The following teams are my top six predictions for the best teams for the 2020-2021 season.

6. Wisconsin Badgers-  Wisconsin shocked everybody last year, taking home a share of the Big Ten regular-season trophy. The Badgers lost sophomore star Kobe King—a young, talented guard to the transfer portal. Regardless of this notable loss, the Badgers have phenomenal returning talent, led by seniors D’Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison, and Nate Ruevers. With these three players at the helm, expect a strong showing from Wisconsin this season. However, a lack of star-power and depth can often create a loss of identity and frequent losing streaks, which is why Wisconsin is my pick to finish right smack in the middle of the conference.

5. Maryland Terrapins- Last season, Maryland fell apart in the latter half of the year after being a serious threat early on. Maryland has also experienced tough losses, such as Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith. However, never count out Mark Turgeon and the Terrapins, who have finished in the top half of the Big Ten for the last 6 years. Although the roster is thin on raw skill, Maryland has high aspirations for the upcoming year. My prediction is that the team will exceed expectations this season but its talent levels will lag behind, causing them to finish in 5th place.

4. Illinois Fighting Illini- Unlike the rest of the teams on this list, Illinois is my pick for the most disappointing team for the upcoming season. The Illini have received copious amounts of attention following the return of its two best players: Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. However, the lack of depth and recent success makes me especially sketchy of Illinois this year. While I do not disagree that the Dosunmu-Cockburn tandem will be marvelous, I just simply do not believe that the Illini can win enough games to come out on top of the Big Ten. I predict that Illinois will finish fourth in the conference standings and receive a six or seven seed in March Madness.

3. Michigan Wolverines- Michigan is searching for a bounce-back year after finishing a measly eighth in the conference in the 2019 season. A healthy Isaiah Livers along with a plethora of incoming freshman and graduate transfers creates an ideal scenario for second-year coach Juwan Howard. Just like its rivals across the state, Michigan has established itself as an elite program in the past decade as they continue to outperform preseason rankings. In my opinion, this is a make-or-break year for the Wolverines in terms of the future; however, I believe that Michigan will have an extremely strong year, finishing third in the Big Ten and being well-equipped for the NCAA Tournament.

2. Michigan State Spartans- MSU, to no surprise, had an extremely strong campaign in 2019, winning a share of the Big Ten title. After losing its promising season to the depths of Covid-19, the Spartans are hungry for a breakout season. Even after losing its two best players in Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman, this MSU squad is possibly one of the deepest teams that Tom Izzo has seen in quite some time. With the talents of Aaron Henry and Rocket Watts, this Michigan State team has legitimate hopes for an NCAA Championship. It seems that MSU is in contention for the Big Ten Championship every year, and this season will be no different. Although I predict that they will fall just short of the number one spot, the college basketball world knows that Michigan State is a constant threat, especially in March.

1. Iowa Hawkeyes- Iowa, especially in recent years, has been known for its subtle consistency. While the Hawkeyes have never presented a strong case for the conference’s best team, it has provided respectable seasons year in and year out. I presume that this will all change in 2020. With Luka Garza, the soon-to-be unanimous preseason player of the year, Iowa has an unprecedented chance to announce itself on a national level this season. With plenty of talent and experience, the Iowa Hawkeyes are my pick to win the Big Ten in the 2020-2021 season and receive at least a two seed in March Madness.