Big Ten Preview: Michigan State and Purdue start the season at the top of the league

On3 imageby:Jamie Shaw10/02/23


The college basketball season is right around the corner. On3 is going to go through each of the Power 6 conferences to preview the upcoming 2023-24 season. This week we are starting with the Big Ten.

As the season begins, Michigan State and Purdue look to be in a tier to themselves atop the league. They will each have national championship aspirations as they season begins. There is a lot of parity in the middle; any number of five or six teams could be favored to come in third as the season unfolds. The bottom of the Big Ten is improved, too, and the race to see who finishes in the 10-14 spots could be interesting. Parity leads to competition, and heading into the season, teams at the bottom third of this league could knock off teams in the top third on any given night.

As a whole, the conference hit the transfer portal hard this off-season. Michigan State and Purdue are the only programs that did not bring in a player from the transfer portal. The other 12 schools brought in a combined 34 players from the transfer portal.

Let’s take a look through the basketball preseason power rankings for the Big Ten in 2023-24.

1. Michigan State

Head Coach Tom Izzo (career 687-280)
2022-23: 21-13 (11-8, 4th in B10)

PG 6-4 Jr. AJ Hoggard
G 6-1 Sr. Tyson Walker
G 6-4 Jr. Jaden Akins
F 6-8 Sr. Malik Hall
C 6-9 Jr. Mady Sissoko

Bench: 6-9 So. Jaxon Kohler, 6-6 Fr. Coen Carr, 6-1 Fr. Jeremy Fears, 6-11 So. Carson Cooper, 6-11 Fr. Xavier Booker. 6-2 So. Tre Holloman, 6-7 Fr. Gehrig Normand

The Buzz: When you add together the experience, the talent, the coaching, and the depth, there is a lot to like with this roster. Hoggard’s 5.9 assists finished third in the Big Ten last season; he’s started 49 games in his career. Walker, a former CAA Defensive Player of the Year at Northeastern, earned second-team All-Big Ten honors last season after averaging 14.8 points and shooting 41.5 percent from three. Akins started 25 games last season and shot 42.2 percent from three. Sissoko is the team’s leading returning rebounder (6.1). Hall has played in 118 career games. Michigan State’s four-man recruiting class finished among the top ten. Each player in the class should provide depth. Steps forward should be expected from both Kohler and Cooper.

2. Purdue

Head Coach Matt Painter (career 438-203)
2022-23: 29-6 (15-5, 1st in B10)

PG 6-0 So. Braden Smith
G 6-4 So. Fletcher Loyer
F 6-5 Fr. Myles Colvin
F 6-6 Sr. Mason Gillis
C 7-4 Sr. Zach Edey

Bench: 6-10 Jr. Caleb Furst, 6-1 Sr. Lance Jones, 6-7 Sr. Ethan Morton, 6-7 Fr. Cameron Heide, 6-9 So. Trey Kaufman-Penn

The Buzz: They return 169 of 175 starts from a team that entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed. This team is centered around Edey, the 7-foot-4 reigning National Player of the Year. Smith and Loyer started all 35 games last season; while the true freshmen did take some lumps when pressured, they also combined to knock down 77 threes and dish out 238 assists. Gillis provides floor spacing and some toughness, and Colvin brings an extra level of athletic burst to the team. Morton, Jones, and Furst bring experience off the bench. Kaufman-Penn adds size. Matt Painter has had a lot of success with players in Heide’s archetype. The Boilermakers look to run it back.

3. Illinois

Head Coach Brad Underwood (career 223-106)
2022-23: 20-13 (11-9, 5th in B10)

PG 6-6 So. Ty Rodgers
G 6-4 Sr. Terrence Shannon
F 6-6 Sr. Marcus Domask
F 6-10 Sr Coleman Hawkins
C 6-9 Jr. Dain Dainja

Bench: 6-8 Sr. Quincey Guerrier, 6-7 Jr. Luke Goode, 6-1 Fr. Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn, 6-4 So. Sincere Harris, 6-8 Fr. Amani Hansberry, 6-4 Sr. Justin Harmon

The Buzz: Who will play the point guard? That is the question that is keeping this team from being talked about in a tier higher than they currently are. Shannon will be a preseason All-Big Ten selection. He brings athleticism and experience. Hawkins is filled with length and upside, while Dainja is a low-block presence. Guerrier is capable of stretching the floor at 6-foot-8, same with Goode at 6-foot-7. Domask comes to Illinois from Southern Illinois, where he scored over 1,600 career points and shot almost 36 percent from three over his four years. The point guard role might be done by committee this season. Rodgers and/or Gibbs-Lawhorn should get the first crack at it. This roster has talent.

4. Ohio State

Head Coach Chris Holtmann (career 237-160)
2022-23: 16-19 (5-15, 13th in B10)

PG 6-2 So. Bruce Thornton
G 6-4 So. Roddy Gayle
G 6-7 Fr. Scotty Middleton
F 6-7 Sr. Jamison Battle
C 6-8 Sr. Zed Key

Bench: 6-6 So. Evan Mahaffey, 6-11 So. Felix Okpara, 6-2 Sr. Dale Bonner, 6-6 Fr. Devin Royal, 6-3 Fr. Taison Chatman

The Buzz: Chris Holtmann has built a roster with talent and with some depth. Thornton is looking to build on a good freshman year, starting all 35 games he played. Key led the team in rebounding last season and finished second in blocks. It was Okpara who led the way in blocks. Battle has scored over 1,400 career points and knocked down 257 threes. Bonner provides experience and speed. Chatman can play on or off the ball. Royal is a skill scorer at each level with touch and footwork. Mahaffey, a defensive presence, could play starter minutes at the wing. Gayle could be one of the Big Ten breakout players. 

5. Wisconsin

Head Coach Greg Gard (career 164-93)
2022-23: 20-15 (9-11, 11th in B10)

G 6-4 So. Connor Essegian
PG 6-2 Jr. Chucky Hepburn
G 6-3 Sr. Max Klesmit
F 6-9 Sr. Tyler Wahl
C 7-0 Sr. Stephen Crowl

Bench: 6-10 Fr. Nolan Winter, 6-8 Jr. Markus Ilver, 6-9 Fr. Gus Yalden, 6-7 Sr. Carter Gilmore, 6-6 G So. AJ Storr, 6-0 Jr. Kamari McGee

The Buzz: Wisconsin returns 157 of 175 starts from last season’s 20-15 team. This team might as well have six starters adding AJ Storr to the mix. Storr is a good athlete and can shoot it while toggling between the three and four. Will they be able to find more consistency out of Essegian and Klesmit, both in their second year at Wisconsin? Hepburn could the the swing player here. Can he consistently take care of possessions? He shot 40.5 percent from three and averaged 1.5 steals per game last season. Wahl’s footwork in the mid-range and on the block is pristine. Expect another step from Crowl, who shot 51.0 percent from the field and knocked down 17 threes as a 7-footer. With roster continuity from a mediocre season, can this team take a step forward?

6. Maryland

Head Coach Scott Willard (career 292-223)
2022-23: 22-23 (11-9, 5th in B10)

PG 6-1 Sr. Jahmir Young
G 6-5 Fr. Deshawn Harris-Smith
G 6-5 Fr. Jamie Kaiser
F 6-8 Sr. Donta Scott
C 6-9 Jr. Julian Reese

Bench: 6-5 Sr. Jahari Long, 6-6 Jr. Jordan Geromino, 6-3 So. Chance Stephens, 6-11 So. Caelum Swanton-Rodger

The Buzz: Where does the depth come from? The starting group here can compete with most teams. Young will push for All-League honors after finishing top fifteen in the Big Ten in points, assists, and steals en route to second-team All-Big Ten honors last season. Reese, the brother of LSU’s Angel Reese, led the team in rebounding and blocks last season, shooting 63.2 percent from the field. Scott started 114 games in his career and averaged double figures for three seasons. Kaiser and Harris-Smith were both top 75 recruits from the DMV area. Kaiser, a former football player, is a tough shooter, and Harris-Smith is a utility guard who can defend multiple positions and set up his teammates. How quickly can the freshmen get up to speed? Who will step up off the bench?

7. Indiana

Head Coach Mike Woodson (career 44-26)
2022-23: 23-12 (12-8, 2nd in B10)

PG 6-3 Sr. Xavier Johnson
G 6-4 Sr. Trey Galloway
F 6-8 Fr. Mackenzie Mgbako
F 6-9 So. Malik Reneau
C 7-1 So. Kel’el Ware

Bench: 6-9 Jr. Payton Sparks, 6-9 Sr. Anthony Walker, 6-6 So. CJ Gunn, 6-2 Fr. Gabe Cupps, 6-5 Sr. Anthony Leal

The Buzz: Losing first-round draft pick Jalen Hood-Schifino and four-year starter and first-team All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis could be a tall order. Indiana has depth on the roster, especially in the frontcourt. Can Johnson and Galloway provide enough from the guard spots? And where does the backcourt depth come from? Ware could be one of the premier rim protectors in the Big Ten; he has long arms and natural instincts and is a potential first-round draft pick if he can keep his motor running hot. Reneau is skilled from the mid-range and has a productive pedigree. Woodson flipped Mgbako from a long-time Duke commitment. He is 6-foot-8 with a smooth shooting stroke. Sparks and Walker are experienced college frontcourt players who have seen success. 

8. Northwestern

Head Coach Chris Collins (career 156-162)
2022-23: 22-12 (12-8, 2nd in B10)

PG 6-2 Sr. Boo Buie
G 6-4 Sr. Ryan Langborg
G 6-3 Jr. Ty Berry
F 6-6 Jr. Brooks Barnhizer
C 7-0 Jr. Matthew Nicholson

Bench: 6-9 Sr. Blake Preston, 6-7 So. Nick Martinelli, 6-10 So. Luke Hunger, 6-6 So. Justin Mullins, 6-4 Fr. Parker Strauss

The Buzz: Buie will make a run at All-League honors as he turned in a second-team All-Big Ten performance last season. He averaged 17.3 points and 4.5 assists last season in leading Northwestern to its first 20-win season (22) since 2016. Langborg was the second-leading scorer for a Princeton team that made it to the Sweet Sixteen. He started 54 games over the last two years and shot 36.5 percent from three. Berry has experience guarding the ball and making shots. Can he put it all together? Nicholson is a big presence who averaged 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks last season. Is he ready for a breakout? Barnhizer is a crafty forward, much like Martinelli. Preston won a lot of games and gave a lot of production in his career at Liberty. Can Chris Collins reproduce last season’s success?

9. Iowa 

Head Coach Fran McCaffery (career 512-353)
2022-23: 19-14 (11-9, 5th in B10)

PG 6-4 Sr. Tony Perkins
G 6-5 So. Josh Dix
F 6-7 Jr. Payton Sandfort
F 6-9 Sr. Patrick McCaffery
C 6-9 Sr. Ben Krikke

Bench: 6-2 So. Dasonte Bowen, 6-7 Fr. Pryce Sandfort, 6-11 Fr. Owen Freeman, 6-9 Sr. Even Brauns, 6-9 Fr. Ladji Dembele, 6-0 Fr. Brock Harding

The Buzz: Who is the go-to player? For the past couple of seasons, the Hawkeyes have had a Murray to rely on. This team does not lack talent, but it does not have that proven “guy.” Krikke led the MVC in scoring last season at 19.4 per game. He has 90 career starts in his four years at Valparaiso. Perkins took a step forward last season, showing a nose for the basket as well as the ability to set up teammates. He is also a Big Ten All-Defense candidate. Expect a step forward from Payton Sandfort this season. Also, watch younger brother Pryce Sandfort if he pushes for starters minutes. Freshman bigs Dembele and Freeman are tough on the boards. McCaffery, the coach’s son, has 45 career starts. 

10. Rutgers

Head Coach Steve Pikiell (career 309-262)
2022-23: 19-15 (10-10, 9th in B10)

G 6-3 So. Derek Simpson
PG 5-11 Sr. Noah Fernandes
F 6-8 Fr. Gavin Griffiths
F 6-7 Jr. Mawot Mag
C 6-11 Jr. Cliff Omoruyi

Bench: 6-4 Sr. Austin Williams, 6-6 Sr. Aundre Hyatt, 6-8 Jr. Oskar Palmquist, 6-8 So. Antwone Wolfolk, 6-4 Jr. Jeremiah Williams

The Buzz: This roster is an interesting one. By committee, they were able to fill the defections with some experienced players in the portal. Cam Spencer and Paul Mulcahy started a combined 62 games last season. Omoruyi will make a run at All-Big Ten honors. He is one of the best rebounders and paint presences in the league. Simpson took a step forward as his freshman season progressed. He averaged 12.7 points in six starts. When healthy, Mag is one of the best defenders in the league. How will he come back from injury? Same with Jeremiah Williams, who averaged 9.4 points through two seasons at Temple prior to an ACL injury. Griffiths has an argument as the top shooter in the freshman class. He has positional size, length, and athleticism. Austin Williams, Hyatt, and Palmquist are experienced, and each knows who they are and what they can bring to the table. Fernandes is coming off a season-ending ankle injury as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 4.1 assists in the 11 games prior to the injury. Can they stay healthy, and how quickly can Pikiell get this group of guys to play together and generate enough offense?

11. Nebraska

Head Coach Fred Hoiberg (career 155-139)
2022-23: 16-16 (9-11, 11th in B10)

PG 6-5 Sr. Jarron Coleman
G 6-2 Sr. Keisei Tominaga
G 6-7 Jr Brice Williams
F 6-6 Jr. Juwan Gary
F 6-10 Jr. Rienk Mast

Bench: 6-8 Sr. Josiah Allick, 6-11 Jr. Blaise Keita, 6-5 Jr. CJ Wilcher, 6-6 Fr. Ramel Lloyd Jr., 6-3 So. Jamarques Lawrence, 6-7 Fr. Eli Rice

The Buzz: Tominaga might be the best shooter in the country. He is capable of ringing off a lot of points in a hurry. Williams averaged 13.8 points last season and is a career 39.5 percent shooter from three at Charlotte. Coleman has started 86 games in his career, including 21 at Missouri. The big guard averaged 14.3 points and 3.8 assists last year. Mast finished last season with first-team All-MVC honors after averaging 13.8 points and 8.0 rebounds. Gary is an active forward, capable of guarding multiple spots and scoring in mismatch situations. When Wilcher is making shots, he is a valuable asset. Allick has started 84 career games through four years in college. There is some intriguing talent on this roster; how quickly can the pieces gel?

12. Michigan

Head Coach Juwan Howard (career 79-48)
2022-23: 18-16 (11-9, 5th in B10)

PG 5-11 So. Dug McDaniel
G 6-2 Sr. Jaelin Llewellyn
F 6-7 Sr. Terrance Williams
F 6-9 Sr. Olivier Nkamhoua
C 6-10 So. Tarris Reed

Bench: 6-4 Sr. Nimari Burnett, 6-10 Sr. Tray Jackson, 6-8 So. Will Tschetter, 6-2 Fr. George Washington, 6-9 So. Youssef Khayat

The Buzz: How does Llewellyn, a former first-team All-Ivy performer, come back from an ACL injury? Does Nkamhoua play like he did, scoring 27 against Duke in the NCAA Tournament, or will he continue his inconsistent showings like the eight-point game against Louisiana and six-point game against FAU in his other two NCAA Tournament games? Can McDaniel and Reed take steps forward? Both showed talent and winning aptitude throughout high school. Can Burnett, a former McDonald’s All-American, get back to pre-knee injury form? Will Williams tap into his high ceiling? Who on this team can get stops? Who will make shots? This team has some names, and the talent is there to outplay this preseason outlook, but there are also questions at every spot on the floor.

13. Penn State

Head Coach Mike Rhoades (career 176-113)
Year 1 at Penn State

PG 6-1 Sr. Ace Baldwin
G 6-5 Jr. D’Marco Dunn
G 6-5 Sr. RayQuawndis Mitchell
F 6-8 Sr. Puff Johnson
C 6-11 Sr. Qudus Wahab

Bench: 6-11 So. Favour Aire, 6-8 Jr. Zach Hicks, 6-7 Sr. Leo O’Boyle, 6-6 Jr. NicK Kern, 5-11 So. Kanye Clary, 6-10 So. Demetrius Lilley, 6-4 So. Jameel Brown

The Buzz: Along with head coach Mike Rhoades came the A10 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, Ace Baldwin. The pair won 68 games together in three seasons at VCU. Mitchell has started 50 games in his college career and averaged 17.3 points last season. Dunn has a smooth shooting stroke with a good basketball IQ and length. He is looking for new beginnings after his time at North Carolina. Same with Johnson. The younger brother of former lottery pick Cameron Johnson, Puff has good length and can knock down shots. Wahab and Aire are both rim and paint protectors. Hicks can stretch the floor. O’Boyle is experienced and tough. Clary will back up Baldwin; he is quick-twitch and crafty off the bounce. Kern came with Rhoades from VCU, where he played 17.2 minutes a game last season. There are very intriguing pieces; how quickly can players define their roles and become comfortable with the new system? This team probably has the widest range of possible outcomes in the Big Ten, as they could outplay this ranking or fall short. 

14. Minnesota

Head Coach Ben Johnson (9-22 career)
2022-23: 9-22 (2-17, 14th in B10)

G 6-2 Jr. Mike Mitchell
PG 5-11 Jr. Elijah Hawkins
G 6-6 Fr. Cam Christie
F 6-9 So. Pharrel Payne
F 6-11 Jr. Dawson Garcia

Bench: 6-7 So. Joshua Ola-Joseph, 6-4 So. Braeden Carrington, 6-10 Jr. Isaiah Ihnen, 6-8 Fr. Kadyn Betts, 6-8 Sr. Parker Fox, 6-11 Sr. Jack Wilson

The Buzz: Ben Johnson made some moves in the portal, elevating their backcourt with Mitchell and Hawkins, who started a combined 60 games last season. Hawkins averaged 12.9 points and 6.0 assists while shooting 46.6 percent from three. Mitchell averaged 11.4 points and 5.0 assists while shooting 44.0 percent from three. Both are well-rounded guards. Garcia found his comfort zone last season and could be in line for another step forward this season. Payne is a presence around the basket and in the paint on both ends of the floor. Christie, the younger brother of LA Lakers guard Max Christie, might have the highest upside of anyone on the roster. Ola-Joseph will toggle between the two forward spots, and Carrington is back healthy and ready to make a push. Betts, Ihnen, Fox, and Wilson provide frontcourt depth. Last season was the fourth straight Minnesota has finished either 13th or 14th in the league.