Believe it or not, the college basketball season is nearly upon us. No bigger indicator of that fact is that media day is this Thursday in New York City.
It also means the annual media poll comes out, and that was the case on Tuesday as the Columbus Dispatch and The Athletic put together a poll of 28 writers from across the conference. The leader of the poll was Michigan State, who was a unanimous pick for the conference crown.
Here’s the full poll (1 point for 1st place, 14 for last):
1. Michigan State (28 – unanimous)
2. Purdue (80)
3. Minnesota (90)
4. Northwestern (115)
T-5. Maryland (155)
T-5. Michigan (155)
7. Wisconsin (168)
8. Iowa (204)
9. Indiana (270)
10. Penn State (280)
11. Ohio State (314)
12. Illinois (315)
13. Nebraska (362)
14. Rutgers (376)
This poll certainly is an interesting take on where the Big Ten stands heading in to the season. So, let’s take a look at the
Best Pick: Michigan State
There’s little evidence to suggest that heading in to this season, Michigan State isn’t the Big Ten’s best program. When you have the likes of Miles Bridges and Nick Ward coming back and then add top recruit Jaren Jackson at Center, this is a program loaded for a national championship run. It’s also a program that has re-built its depth to the point that an injury or two wouldn’t kill their season. Look for Izzo’s crew to be in a good position to make a run at a Big Ten and national championship.
Worst Pick: Northwestern
Don’t get me wrong, this is a loaded team and could be a contender in 2017-18, but this is unchartered territory for the Wildcats. It’s also a season being played away from Welsh-Ryan arena thanks to construction. Playing at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont is certainly going to be an adjustment and there’s no substitute for playing at home in the Big Ten. Let’s not forget, this was a team that went 10-8 in the Big Ten last season with virtually the same lineup. This group has all the potential in the world, but the Wildcats have to overcome a history of underachieving if you want to tell me they’re the 4th best team in the Big Ten.
Way Too High: Penn State
Sorry, but I’ve seen this story play out plenty of times. This is the year Penn State could eventually break out…blah, blah, blah. I’m not saying this to disrespect any player on the roster, because I happen to really like the games of Tony Carr, Shep Garner and Mike Watkins. However, I also happen to believe that Illinois, Indiana and Ohio State all made home run hires. They also happen to have equal, if not more intriguing parts to their rosters. We’ll see if talent or coaching matters. But, for now, I’m not sold that Penn State is a top 10 team in the Big Ten this season.
Way Too Low: Wisconsin
We’re going to let history be our guide here. Since Bo Ryan first arrived at UW and now after a year and a half under Greg Gard the Badgers have never finished lower than fourth in the Big Ten standings. Last season the Badgers were 12-6 and finished second in the Big Ten. I know, replacing four starters isn’t going to be fun, but Ethan Happ is on the short list for Big Ten Player of the Year and point guard D’Mitirck Trice got plenty of playing time last season behind Bronson Koenig. What makes me think this pick is way too low isn’t Happ and Trice though, it is a recruiting class that was No. 34 in the country and includes immediate help in the forms of Kobe King (No. 198 nationally) and forward Nathan Reuvers (No. 65). There’s also help in the backcourt in form of intriguing point guard Brad Davidson. This is a team that may not be great in November, but has the classic makeup of the underrated Wisconsin team that makes a big run in the Big Ten. The talent is there to suggest 7th place is a bit of a slap in the face.