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College Basketball Preview 2022-2023: Big Ten

Malik Hall, Michigan State

Football season may be in full swing, but the 2022-2023 college basketball season is right around the corner. I begin my preview series with the Big Ten Conference, a league that is regularly among the best nationally, but is still searching for their first National Title since Michigan State in 2000. With the league boasting some of the sport's biggest stars and adding several big-name transfers over the offseason, it looks like another deep year for the league, but the lack of an overwhelming frontrunner creates plenty of intrigue as we near tip-off.

1. Illinois Fighting Illini 

The Illinois Fighting Illini have become a model of consistency in the Big Ten, with three consecutive seasons finishing fourth place or higher in the conference under head coach Brad Underwood. However, they're still searching for postseason success, as they were sent home before the second weekend once again this past spring. The '22-'23 team might not have the headline stars of the past several teams, but this group is arguably deeper and more balanced. With an injection of talent from the transfer portal and high school ranks, they are my pick to take home the Big Ten Title.

BACKCOURT: A pair of newcomers are expected to command most of the attention in the backcourt in true frosh Skyy Clark and Texas Tech transfer Terrence Shannon Jr. Clark is one of the highest-rated players to ever sign with the Illini and he's an explosive offensive weapon. His youth may be a detriment in the league, but there's no denying his talent, and he should be able to acclimate quickly. It will help that he has a veteran presence next to him in Shannon, a Chicago native who was a three-year contributor for the Red Raiders. A 6'6" playmaker who can also handle the ball, Shannon will be featured heavily in this offense, but turnovers were a problem area for him last season and he'll need to clean it up. Illinois will also count on sharpshooter Luke Goode, who will play a valuable floor-spacing role that will open up lanes for Clark and Shannon.

FRONTCOURT: Kofi Cockburn was one of the most physically imposing bigs we've seen in recent memory. However, the Illini are hopeful that some of the young pieces on the frontline can step up and replace Cockburn, who recently signed to play for a Japanese professional team. Sophomore R.J. Melendez is more of a wing than a true big, but the Illini will be counting on him all the same. Despite playing just 8.5 minutes per game a season ago, he flashed major upside and is a popular breakout candidate. Junior Coleman Hawkins is another player who has been in the program for several years still awaiting his true breakthrough. He's always been a high energy player who can defend multiple positions, but his offensive game needs to round out if he's to hit his full potential. Much like Shannon, there's an infusion of Big 12 talent here in Matthew Mayer, a 6'9" combo forward. Mayer played a major role on the 2021 Baylor National Title team, but his role seemed to diminish a year ago. He can play both ways and add shooting ability, although his three-point numbers slid down the stretch in 2022. Then there's Dain Dainja, another former Baylor Bear who is a completely mystery right now. Dainja is an imposing presence on the block, but he's played a total of less than ten minutes in his collegiate career up to this point.

BOTTOM LINE: Even though the Illini lose several program staples, notably Cockburn and guard Trent Frazier, there's a lot of talent on this roster. Clark and Shannon should provide plenty of fireworks in the backcourt and the frontcourt has a bunch of potential, even if most of it is unproven. Plus, Underwood is among the best coaches in college basketball, a true technician calling the shots. Without a clear favorite, that makes Illinois my pick to win the league and advance to the second weekend of the 2023 NCAA Tournament.


2. Michigan Wolverines

Michigan entered last season with a bunch of hype, thanks in large part to the return of big Hunter Dickinson and the arrivals of several highly touted newcomers. Unfortunately, things took a long time to gel, and after some early struggles, they finished the season strong. An 11-9 mark in the Big Ten helped them earn a spot in the Field of 68 and they were able to pull off wins against Colorado State and Tennessee before exiting in the Sweet 16. It wasn't quite the year fans were hoping for in Ann Arbor, but demonstrated that even a down year under Juwan Howard could yield solid results.

BACKCOURT: Once again, Michigan dipped into the transfer portal to help shore up their guard play, as they added Princeton transfer Jaelin Llewellyn. Llewellyn was asked to do a lot for Princeton, primarily as a scorer, but the Wolverines are hoping he can be more of a distributor. He'll play a crucial role, because this backcourt is very short on experience around him. Newcomer Dug McDaniel has earned rave reviews, as has Juwan's son, Jett, but neither are proven commodities. Sophomore Kobe Bufkin could be a breakout candidate at shooting guard, but he doesn't bring the shooting element that long-time contributor Eli Brooks did.

FRONTCOURT: Junior Hunter Dickinson is one of the best players in college basketball and a legit National Player of the Year contender. He's always had great touch around the rim, but his growth as a shooter and leader has taken him to another level. With so much youth on this team, Dickinson is going to play an even larger role this season. It will be interesting to see who emerges alongside him in the frontcourt now that Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate are gone. Junior Terrance Williams has shown flashes and plays well beyond his 6'7" frame, but it hasn't all come together just yet. Perhaps newcomer Youssef Khayat could play an immediate role, as the Lebanese product has been playing in Europe for several years. Duke transfer Joey Baker will also bring much-needed help, particularly as a shooter. With that being said, he suffered through some truly horrifying shooting stretches while in Durham, so regaining his confidence will be important.

BOTTOM LINE: There are certainly questions on this Michigan team, but having a bonafide star like Dickinson elevates their floor. Llewellyn could end up being an improvement over Devante' Jones, who had a brutal year in 2021-22, while plenty of intriguing talent arrives through the high school ranks. National Title contention is probably too much to ask for this season, but the Wolverines can certainly battle for a Big Ten Title and have another strong showing in the NCAA Tournament.


3. Indiana Hoosiers

It was an up-and-down campaign in Mike Woodson's first season in Bloomington, as the Hoosiers enjoyed tremendous highs and frustrating lows. Even though they finished sub-.500 in the league, a run to the semifinals in the Big Ten Tournament earned them a spot in the "First Four" and they promptly beat Wyoming. Although they lost to Saint Mary's in the first round, even making the NCAA Tournament was a success for Woodson and company. Now, the Hoosiers enter 2022-2023 as one of the league's favorites, primarily because of the return of Trayce Jackson-Davis. How do they handle the added pressure?

BACKCOURT: There's plenty of experience returning in the Hoosier backcourt, headlined by senior Xavier Johnson. The former Pitt transfer started all 34 games for Indiana a year ago and averaged 12.1 PPG while shooting 38% from three-point. Alongside him will be veterans Trey Galloway and Tamar Bates, who were both featured heavily off the bench in 2021-22. Both suffered through significant ups-and-downs as shooters a season ago, but their experience should be a major asset come conference play. Coming in to add playmaking is five-star combo guard Jalen Hood-Schifino, who was a major get for this staff out of the state of Florida. His jump shot will need some refinement for him to become a key contributor, but his athleticism and explosive off-the-dribble make him a fun watch.

FRONTCOURT: There might not be a more significant returnee in college basketball this season than Trayce Jackson-Davis. The senior has started every single game for the Hoosiers the last three years and earned a host of accolades, including All-Big Ten last season. After briefly joining the NBA Draft, his return gives Indiana a proven scorer who is always active around the rim. He'll compete with Hunter Dickinson and others for Big Ten Player of the Year and other recognition. Indiana also returns former Northwestern transfer Miller Kopp, a deadeye shooter who should be featured even more heavily in '22-'23 after taking a backseat. Add in Race Thompson and Jordan Geronimo, and this may be the deepest and most talented frontcourt in the league. Thompson is a high-energy player who can defend multiple positions, while Geronimo has flashed serious upside and could be a breakout candidate.

BOTTOM LINE: An NCAA Tournament appearance was a fine debut for Mike Woodson, but expectations have risen significantly in Bloomington. With the star power on this roster and the Big Ten wide-open, Hoosier fans are thinking conference title. That may be a bit too much to ask for right now, but this should be a second weekend NCAA Tournament team and the best Indiana team since the early Tom Crean days.


4. Purdue Boilermakers

Few programs in college basketball are as consistent as the Purdue Boilermakers, as they've played in every NCAA Tournament since 2014 (with the obvious exception of the cancelled 2020 event). However, Matt Painter is still longing for the type of postseason success others in the conference have enjoyed, as the loss in last year's Sweet 16 to 15-seed Saint Peter's was a major disappointment. The 2022-23 team could be the one to change that, although there will be growing pains as this roster gels.

BACKCOURT: Purdue's backcourt this year will be among the least experienced Painter has ever had, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of talent. Juniors Brandon Newman and Ethan Morton will be forced to play leading roles as the offense says goodbye to superstar Jaden Ivey. Newman saw his minutes decrease significantly last season but should be in for a redemptive campaign, while Morton is the type of elite perimeter defender that has defined past Painter teams. Joining those two will be several newcomers, including Utah transfer David Jenkins and freshmen Fletcher Loyer and Cam Heide. Jenkins was a solid contributor in the Pac-12 but will have to adjust to the physicality of the Big Ten, while Loyer and Heide are quite the talents. Purdue is hopeful one of them can take over the vacancy left by Sasha Stefanovic, an elite volume shooter.

FRONTCOURT: There's a big loss (literally) in the Boilermaker frontcourt now that Trevion Williams is gone, but 7'4" Canadian Zach Edey looks like to be the next great Purdue big. He averaged over 14 PPG last season despite teams looking to get him in foul trouble at every opportunity, and it sounds like he's in great shape heading into the season. He'll be joined up front by junior Mason Gillis and sophomore Caleb Furst. Gillis is a bit undersized but plays well beyond his size and could be ready for greater things, while Furst is an impressive talent who should be capable of more minutes. Redshirt freshman Trey Kaufman-Renn is another name to watch, as the Indiana native was destined for immediate minutes last year before an injury cost him the season. He was back to 100 percent by the spring and should a healthy dosage of action.

BOTTOM LINE: Losing a combination like Ivey and Williams is difficult for any team to overcome, but Painter has earned the benefit of the doubt. It seems like he exceeds preseason expectations every single season, and it wouldn't shock if that's the case again this year. The youth movement in the backcourt won't be easy, but a strong frontline should be able to keep the Boilermakers in the hunt for a Big Ten Title.


5. Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State had a tremendous start to the 2021-22 campaign, with a 13-4 record highlighted by a win over Duke. However, the team faded down the stretch, as .500 mark in their final 12 of the regular season left a bad taste in many fan's mouths. They still won an NCAA Tournament game, capping off a solid, but rather unremarkable campaign for Chris Holtmann and company. After 10 players departed the program over the offseason, the Buckeyes will have their work cut out for them, but there are plenty of reinforcements on the way.

BACKCOURT: The most notable loss in the backcourt is Malaki Branham, a Columbus native who averaged 13.7 PPG before becoming the 20th overall selection in this summer's NBA Draft. He wasn't just a capable scorer, but an efficient one who shot 50% from the field. Holtmann and the Buckeyes will turn to several newcomers to replace his production, including Oklahoma State transfer Isaac Likekele and West Virginia transfer Sean McNeil. Likekele is likely to take over lead-guard duties and proved to be a solid player while at Oklahoma State, while McNeil is a tremendous shooter who should play an important role spacing the floor. A pair of freshmen should also be asked to contribute right away in Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle Jr. Thornton is likely to play plenty of point guard this year and has potential to be a real difference-maker.

FRONTCOURT: Up front, the Buckeyes say goodbye to one of the best players in recent program history, E.J. Liddell. Liddell developed into a real offensive force over his time with the Buckeyes, going from a guy who didn't start a single game in '19-'20, to a player who notched 19.4 PPG and 5.7 RPG a year ago. Ohio State is not going to find a single player who can match his offensive production, instead hoping for a committee approach. One name that should see plenty of usage is wing Justice Sueing, who can also handle the ball. Sueing was a pleasant surprise in 2020-21 but played just two games a season ago, scoring a total of 12 points. He'll be asked to carry a much more significant offensive load, as will big man Zed Key. Key's another player that plays much larger than his 6'8" frame, but his offensive game is rather one-dimensional and OSU will need more growth this year. Beyond those two, there's a whole bunch of questions, although there is freshmen help here in the form of Felix Okpara and Brice Sensabaugh.

BOTTOM LINE: Ohio State has been remarkably consistent under Holtmann, but it was a rather tumultuous offseason in Columbus. Fortunately, the healthy return of Sueing and the additions of Likekele and McNeil are likely good enough for a return to the NCAA Tournament, but anything beyond that likely hinges on the immediate play of this talented freshmen class.


6. Michigan State Spartans

Much like Ohio State, Michigan State was a Big Ten team with a strong start to the season who faded down the stretch. They still earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament but offered little resistance to Coach K and Duke and were promptly eliminated. Unsurprisingly, there's plenty of turnover here, but also plenty of potential for Tom Izzo. 

BACKCOURT: The Spartans feature one of the best backcourt combos in the Big Ten, with A.J. Hoggard and Tyson Walker. The pair had their share of ups-and-downs a year ago, but complement each other very well and can create instant offense. Walker in particular seemed to find his groove later on in the season after a rough adjustment to Big Ten play following his transfer from Northeastern. Alongside them is a potential breakout candidate in Jaden Akins, who played in all 36 games but averaged under 15 minutes per. His shot didn't quite translate to the collegiate level many had hoped, as his field goal and free throw percentages were incredibly underwhelming, but he's got a lot of physical tools. Freshman Tre Holloman is a name to keep an eye on, as he should be able to provide a nice spark off the bench.

FRONTCOURT: There's some notable turnover in the MSU frontcourt, namely the departures of Julius Marble and Marcus Bingham, but also many familiar faces. Forwards Malik Hall and Joey Hauser are both very experienced and are proven commodities. Hauser has seemed to struggle with confidence but he's a versatile player who can really shoot it, while Hall has always had the physical gifts, but hasn't completely put it together just yet. The Spartans remain hopeful that center Mady Sissoko can finally break out this year after two quiet seasons on the roster. Originally from Mali, Sissoko was a well-known recruit, but he's played minute averages of just 5.4 and 4.5 in his first two years in East Lansing. His offensive game may never round out, but he has the tools to be a quality rim protector.

BOTTOM LINE: It's been two consecutive "down" years by typical Michigan State standards, but this team could be much improved. The foursome of Hoggard, Walker, Hall, and Hauser are all veterans who know their way around the league, but the lack of depth could be a concern. The frontcourt especially is extremely thin, which is a major concern considering how talented this league is up front. I still have faith Izzo can deliver a successful season, but this team's ceiling is probably capped at about the Sweet 16.


7. Iowa Hawkeyes

An explosive offense fueled an impressive 2021-22 in Iowa City, capped off with a Big Ten Tournament Title over Purdue. However, the March Madness demons that have haunted Fran McCaffery since taking over the Hawkeyes returned once again, as they were subsequently shocked by 12 seed Richmond in the first round. This season won't be easy without superstar Keegan Murray, but plenty returns, including Keegan's younger brother and rising star, Kris.

BACKCOURT: After what felt like one of the longest careers in college basketball history, Jordan Bohannon has moved on, as has combo guard Joe Toussaint. That leaves a slight leadership gap in the Iowa backcourt entering the 2022-23 campaign, but the trio of Tony Perkins, Ahron Ulis, and Connor McCaffery are more than capable. Perkins emerged as a very reliable contributor last season and could be an offensive focal point if his shooting is able to improve, while Ulis has a lot of natural tools. There's nothing flashy about the way McCaffery plays, but he's the type of player every coach wants; he defends, plays hard, and is a natural leader. Add in talented true freshman Dasonte Bowen, and there's a lot to like about this backcourt, which should be much more dynamic and fun-to-watch than past editions.

FRONTCOURT: Not even the most optimistic Iowa fan likely saw Keegan Murray's jump coming last year. Sure, he was a popular breakout candidate, but to evolve into one of the most dominant players in the sport? It's a testament not only to Keegan but this coaching staff, which continues to develop elite forwards. The next one in line could be Kris Murray, who came on strong in the second half last season and plays a similar brand of basketball to his older brother. With that being said, Kris might end up being a better three-point shooter than his brother, giving him a diverse offensive game that should be awfully effective. There's plenty to like around him, including Peyton Sandfort, Patrick McCaffery, and Filip Rebraca. Sandfort is ready for a lot more after playing 10.5 minutes per game as a freshman, and I'm still holding out belief in McCaffery, who has had the occasional flash but has yet to put it together over long stretches. Rebraca's extremely limited on the offensive end, but his defensive presence is huge for this team, particularly once they hit Big Ten play.

BOTTOM LINE: This feels like a pretty standard Iowa team under McCaffery; they'll be a tough out in the league, finish around the middle-of-the-pack in the standings, and make the NCAA Tournament. Anything more than that likely requires not only a huge year from Kris Murray, but also one or two other breakout pieces to develop. That seems unlikely, but the Hawkeyes are always feisty, and they could do damage in a wide-open league.


8. Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin spent most of the 2021-22 season near the top of the Big Ten standings and were another team that ended the regular season, although two consecutive losses to Nebraska and Michigan State indicated they still had their notable flaws. They earned a three seed and managed to get past a tough Colgate team in the first round, but the offense disappeared a game later against Iowa State. The two teams shot under 35% from the field and the Badgers hit just 9% of their three-pointers, dooming them in a 54-49 loss. The defeat put a damper on an otherwise successful year, but a rebuilding 2022-23 could be on the horizon.

BACKCOURT: Love him or hate him, Brad Davison was a staple of the Badger backcourt for a half-decade. His graduation coincides with the departure of reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Johnny Davis, who averaged 19.7 PPG in '21-'22. Fortunately, the Badgers have a rising star remaining in the backcourt in Chucky Hepburn, already a proven lead guard as a sophomore. Hepburn was extremely impressive down the stretch and his injury in the loss to Iowa State was a real killer for the team. Entering this season as one of the team's most proven weapons, he has All-Big Ten potential. However, things are fairly underwhelming beyond him, with the possible exception of Johnny's younger brother, Jordan, and veteran shooting guard Jahcobi Neath. Jordan played in 27 games last year but is a shell of his brother, while Neath suffered through horrific shooting slumps a season ago.

FRONTCOURT: Improved depth should be huge for the Wisconsin front-line, as they were one of the thinnest they've ever been during the Greg Gard era. Combo forward Tyler Wahl is the leader, a proven senior who has gotten better each year and plays 100 percent every time he's on the floor. He'll be a focal point of this offense, as will big Steven Crowl. Crowl isn't the flashiest player on the court, but the seven-footer can rebound, has nice touch around the rim, and isn't a poor shooter. After seeing his role expand in a big way last year, even more could be expected. Junior Carter Gillmore and Estonian transplant Markus Ilver should also see an increase in minutes this year.

BOTTOM LINE: The core of Hepburn, Wahl, and Crowl give the Badgers a fine starting point, but a program like this doesn't lose players like Johnny Davis too often. He was a reliable bucket every game and as defenses keyed in on him, shooting lanes opened up for others. Even so, Gard and Wisconsin are ever-consistent, and this feels like another NCAA Tournament team.


9. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

From 1992-2020, Rutgers did not participate in a single NCAA Tournament (albeit they would have earned an invite in 2020 had the event not been cancelled). Since then, head coach Steve Pikiell has delivered a pair of trips to the "Big Dance" and the Scarlet Knights nearly advanced to the second weekend in 2021. Clearly, the program is at a completely different level than they were when they first joined the Big Ten, but keeping the momentum going won't be easy, especially with a number of key pieces moving on.

BACKCOURT: Guard Paul Mulcahy was quietly one of the Big Ten's breakout stars a season ago, upping his averages in every category and shooting the ball well across the board. Now, Rutgers is hopeful the senior can be even better as they move forward without program stalwarts Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker. Mulcahy is an underrated playmaker and a real irritant on the defensive end, but has to improve his decision-making to reach the next level. The same can be said about Caleb McConnell, who has flashes of brilliance, but can also be extremely frustrating. Now a fifth-year senior, it's about time for McConnell to show what he can fully do. Beyond those two, youngster Jalen Miller and Loyola Maryland transfer Cam Spencer will be the primary pieces off the bench.

FRONTCOURT: Is this the year Cliff Omoruyi truly asserts himself as one of the best big men in the league? After an up-and-down first season with the team, Omoruyi began to emerge last season, notching 11.9 PPG and 7.8 RPG. His offensive game still needs to round out, but there's no denying he's become a force on the block, and he has the talent to be even better. Unfortunately, there's not a ton of proven commodities around him, at least not yet. The trio of Aundre Hyatt, Dean Reiber, and Oskar Palmquist all played last season and could see expanded roles. Junior Mawot Mag could also see extended minutes, although his shooting numbers dropped significantly in 2021-22.

BOTTOM LINE: The Scarlet Knights are never one of the most talented teams in the league, but they're incredibly frustrating to play. Pikiell always has his teams playing hard, and Jersey Mike's Arena (aka "The RAC") is among the most underrated venues anywhere in college basketball. Another trip to the NCAA Tournament is a real possibility, but a slight rebuild could be in order as new pieces work their way into the rotation.


10. Maryland Terrapins

One of the longest hot seats in recent college basketball history concluded last season when Maryland finally moved on from Mark Turgeon. Turgeon was a source of great frustration for many Terp fans, but his departure does mark quite a transition, as he coached the team since 2011. Now, it's time for Kevin Willard, who spent over a decade at Seton Hall and won 225 games. Willard joins a program with major potential, but it may take a year or two before things really get rolling in College Park.

BACKCOURT: It's not just the coaching staff that turned over this offseason, Maryland is replacing a bunch of pieces, namely in the backcourt. Gone are names like Eric Ayala and Fatts Russell, replaced by transfers Jahmir Young and Donald Carey. Young comes over from Charlotte, where the Maryland native averaged 19.6 PPG and shot 47% last year. Carey is on his fourth school, with previous pit stops at Mount St. Mary's, Siena, and Georgetown. The pair are likely to handle most of the backcourt minutes, with holdover Hakim Hart and yet another newcomer, Patrick Emilien, handling things on the wing. Emilien is another player who has made treks through the college basketball world, including stops at Western Michigan and St. Francis Brooklyn. 

FRONTCOURT: Things are a bit more settled up front, but not by much. Forward Donta Scott is an important returnee, as the senior knows the program and led them in minutes a year ago. He's a solid player, a capable scorer who can bang down low despite not being the largest or most athletic. Sophomore Julian Reese is also back after averaging 17 minutes per game in 2021-22, but depth is a concern. Three-star forward Noah Batchelor could see immediate playing time, as a decent shooter with good size (6'10").

BOTTOM LINE: This is probably the biggest mystery in the conference entering 2022-23. Willard proved to be a terrific coach at Seton Hall, but the Big Ten is always a bit of an adjustment, and there are so many fresh faces. Young and Carey could provide some offensive fireworks and Donta Scott gives them a nice building block, but it's hard to imagine this team being a serious contender this year. A trip to the NIT would mark a solid debut campaign for Willard and company.


11. Penn State Nittany Lions

No team in the Big Ten has a longer NCAA Tournament drought than the Penn State Nittany Lions, who haven't appeared in the sport's premier event since 2011. In fact, PSU hasn't won a Tournament game since all the way back in 2001. Yet, the program is hopeful that second-year head coach Micah Shrewsberry will be the one to lead them back into contention in the conference, and he did an admirable job in Year One. Despite replacing an interim coach and suffering through a frustrating non-conference, Shrewsberry helped Penn State deliver a 7-13 conference mark, which could set the stage for a postseason trip this season.

BACKCOURT: There's good news and bad news in the Penn State backcourt. While they lose one of their top scorers and sources of offense in Sam Sessoms, who transferred, they return veteran guards Jalen Pickett and Myles Dread. Pickett, a former transfer from SIU-Edwardsville, started every single game for the Nittany Lions last year and despite a rollercoaster shooting season, provided plenty of offense. Dread is the type of hard-nosed, gritty player that fits what Shrewsberry is trying to build here. A pair of transfers, Andrew Funk and Camren Wynter, could also provide a nice spark to this offense. Funk comes over after averaging over 17 PPG at Bucknell, while Wynter arrives from Drexel. Both are accomplished in the mid-major ranks, but how will their games translate to the Big Ten?

FRONTCOURT: Forward Seth Lundy is one of the most underrated players in the league when he's on, but the senior had some real struggles down the stretch a season ago. If he can regain his shooting stroke, Penn State has a dynamic scorer who can play and defend multiple spots. Either way, he'll play a leading role in a frontcourt that is very thin without long-time big John Harrar. Denver transfer Michael Henn is expected to see notable minutes right from the get-go and junior Caleb Dorsey will also see his role expand. However, there really isn't a true, low-block big on the roster, which is a major concern in this league.

BOTTOM LINE: It takes time to build a program, but Shrewsberry is hoping the addition of several notable transfers can help PSU contend for the postseason and speed up the process. There is some interesting talent on this roster, but the frontcourt is a major concern, as is three-point shooting. A buttery smooth non-conference may help the Nittany Lions stay in the postseason hunt, but it feels like it's too early for that this year.


12. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Roster turnover is a reality of modern college basketball but even when you consider that, Minnesota was facing down brutal odds a season ago. Following a season-ending injury to forward Isaiah Ihnen, the Golden Gophers had just one player, big man Eric Curry, who had played a single minute on the 2020-21 team, although guard Payton Willis had previously been with the program. Naturally, the Gophers struggled and slipped to the Big Ten basement, but the fight the program showed and success on the recruiting trail has many Minnesota fans (including me) dreaming of a brighter day in the Twin Cities.

BACKCOURT: Minnesota was razor thin back here a year ago, and it may be even worse in 2022-23. Dartmouth transfer Taurus Samuels and Morehead State transplant Ta'lon Cooper bring much-needed experience and will both see big minutes. Neither are going to score a lot of points, but should be able to run the offense well enough. Beyond those two, freshman Braeden Carrington was the lone scholarship guard on the roster, before walk-on Will Ramberg earned one over the offseason. Carrington is awfully talented, but will he be ready for significant minutes so early?

FRONTCOURT: This was the weak spot on Minnesota's roster a year ago, but head coach Ben Johnson brought on some necessary reinforcements. Former George Washington transfer Jamison Battle is a holdover from last year's team who proved to be their most consistent source of offense. The junior has a knack for making difficult shots and paced the Gophers with 17.5 PPG on 45% shooting a year ago. He has a chance to be an All-Big Ten player this season, although he may not have the ball in his hands quite so often. That's because Johnson managed to land one of the biggest names in school history in Dawson Garcia, a former five-star prospect. Garcia averaged 13 PPG for Marquette back in 2020-21 before a one-year stop at North Carolina, but decided to return home due to a sickness in the family. Minnesota hasn't had a player of his caliber in awhile, but how does he adjust to the physicality of the Big Ten? With unfortunate injuries to Ihnen and Parker Fox for the second straight year, it's a whole lot of youth behind Battle and Garcia. Sophomore center Treyton Thompson showed flashes a year ago but is still a project, and then there's freshmen Jaden Henley, Kadyn Betts, Joshua Ola-Joseph, and Pharrel Payne. This foursome comprises one of the most talented recruiting classes in program history, but it wouldn't be shocking to see serious growing pains. Payne has been receiving significant offseason attention and Betts may have the highest ceiling on this roster, but he reclassified and should technically still be a high school senior.

BOTTOM LINE: Minnesota has been a program ripe with potential for a long while, but building a winner here has proven to be difficult. Johnson seems to have the program on the right path, but it's likely to be another year in Minneapolis. At the very least, Minnesota fans should take solace in seeing two MN boys light up opposing defenses in Garcia and Battle, and the recruiting class should inject energy into Williams Arena.


13. Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern head man Chris Collins will forever be a legend at the school for guiding the program to their first NCAA Tournament in history back in 2017. Since then, it's been a whole lot of frustration, as the Wildcats have not sniffed a winning season since that '17 season. Collins enters 2022-23 on a flaming hot seat and more turnover over the offseason has things looking rather dire in Evanston right now.

BACKCOURT: There is ample experience in the backcourt, which should fuel the Wildcat offense this year. Senior Boo Buie was second on the team in points per game a season ago and will now be expected to shoulder an even heavier load. Northwestern is hoping he can become more consistent, as he has shot under 40% each year he's been in Evanston. Alongside Buie, the Wildcats will also feature wing Chase Audige and combo guard Ty Berry. Berry saw his role expand in 2021-22 and proved to be a capable shooter, while Audige is a steady vet looking to regain his previous form after a down campaign last year. It's not the Big Ten's most imposing trio, but a quality group that should be able to put up points. However, the depth behind them has taken a hit over the offseason, meaning youngsters Nick Martinelli and Blake Smith could see early minutes.

FRONTCOURT: Northwestern was hit hard by two important transfers, both departing for greener pastures in the ACC. Pete Nance, the team's top scorer a year ago and most consistent offensive weapon, opted to head to Chapel Hill and play his final year of college basketball at North Carolina. Big man Ryan Young also chose to head to the state of North Carolina, instead playing for Duke. Without those two, it's hard to envision what the Wildcats will look like in the frontcourt. Senior Robbie Beran is the lone returning big name; he started 30 games a season ago and has proven to be a solid contributor. Can he reach a next level his final year at Northwestern? UTEP transfer Tydus Verhoeven is also in line to start after coming over from Conference USA. He wasn't a prolific scorer at UTEP, but offers nice touch around the rim and defensive upside. Junior Matthew Nicholson, who averaged under five minutes per game last year, could also be ready to play significant minutes. The seven-footer could eventually grow into something, but he's been used sparingly his first two seasons on campus.

BOTTOM LINE: Keeping the trio of Buie, Audige, and Berry in town can keep Northwestern a feisty bottom-tier team in the league, but it's hard to imagine their ceiling being much higher than that without Nance and Young. There simply is not enough in the frontcourt to realistically compete in the physical Big Ten, and depth is also a concern. Collins may be able to keep this team fighting deep into the season, but a postseason trip feels unlikely.


14. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Despite an overall record of 24-67 and 9-50 in the Big Ten, Fred Hoiberg was brought back for a fourth season in Lincoln, Nebraska. The former Iowa State and Chicago Bulls head coach simply has not been able to build a competitive roster at Nebraska and it feels like he's running out of time. The 2022-23 team might be his last chance, and the absence of the McGowens brothers doesn't make the prognosis look very reassuring.

BACKCOURT: Sophomore C.J. Wilcher should be one of the 'Husker's primary sources of offense, as the gunslinging guard proved he could really stroke it a year ago. Wilcher averaged 8.1 PPG while shooting 46% from the field and over 40% from three-point territory. He'll be joined in the backcourt by North Dakota State transfer Sam Griesel, a Lincoln native. Griesel was a four-year contributor at NDSU, including putting together a tremendous 2021-22, and should provide a steady hand at point guard. With Quaran McPherson likely to miss the entire year, Emmanuel Bondamuel and Keisei Tominaga will be the top two pieces off the bench. Both are excellent shooters and Tominaga has become a fan favorite for his deep range. In addition, freshman Ramel Lloyd Jr. was a huge get for the 'Huskers, a Sierra Canyon (CA) product who should provide quality minutes off the bench.

FRONTCOURT: The biggest news of the offseason for Hoiberg was the return of Derrick Walker Jr., who will use his extra COVID year in 2022-2023. The senior is an imposing presence on the block and one of the most efficient players in the conference. He's not going to go out and get 20 and 10 a night, but is the type of contributor that has often alluded Nebraska during the Hoiberg and Tim Miles years. Junior Juwan Gary is a name to watch, as the former Alabama transfer comes with quite the pedigree. He was a quality contributor on several really strong Alabama teams, but how does he fit this Nebraska offense? At the very least, he's an energy guy who can defend multiple positions. Wilhelm Breidenbach is a unique piece; he doesn't have the look of a star forward, but he was a big-time get from California powerhouse Mater Dei and showed flashes of brilliance a year ago. He's known as a great shooter, which should help open things up underneath for Walker and company.

BOTTOM LINE: There are some interesting pieces on this Nebraska roster and this team could surprise people, but it's hard to know what their ceiling is. Hoiberg likely has to deliver a postseason berth, but rising out of the cellar in this conference is easier said than done, particularly with how deep the middle of the Big Ten appears. The more likely scenario is Nebraska hovers around the cellar once again, with a league win every once in awhile giving fans something to cheer about.


All-Big Team Teams


G Chucky Hepburn, Wisconsin

G/F Terrance Shannon Jr., Illinois

F Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana

F Hunter Dickinson, Michigan

C Zach Edey, Purdue


G Jaelin Llewellyn, Michigan

G Tyson Walker, Michigan State

G/F Kris Murray, Iowa

F Jamison Battle, Minnesota

F/C Cliff Omoruyi, Rutgers


G Skyy Clark, Illinois

G Jalen Hood-Schifino, Indiana

G/F Brice Sensabaugh, Ohio State

G/F Jett Howard, Michigan

C Tarris Reed, Michigan


Player of the Year: Hunter Dickinson, Michigan 

Freshman of the Year: Skyy Clark, Illinois

Coach of the Year: Matt Painter, Purdue

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