An Early Look: Big Ten Returning Minutes

Dylan Burkhardt

It’s almost football season but that doesn’t mean we can’t start talking about basketball. Joining in on the fun over at The Only Colors, here is an early look at the Big Ten conference. I used a couple posts over at Villanova by the Numbers for some more off-season inspiration and decided to take a look at how much conference teams are returning in various statistical categories. The Only Colors takes a slightly different approach using returning minutes plotted against last year’s Pomeroy rating for each team.

VBTN is quick to point out that returning minutes (and other statistics) is not necessarily a great predictor when comparing teams. It tends to be more effective to predict a team’s improvement over the year before. VBTN also looked at three year trends to confirm some of this and noted that John Beilein’s West Virginia teams tend to imr. This isn’t surprising given Beilein’s complicated system and proven track record for steady improvement.

We all know that the entire all-conference first team is returning, so the star power will definitely be back next year. The question is beyond the stars, how much does each team bring back? Apparently quite a bit, only one team, Iowa, loses more than half of their scoring and minutes.  Comparing the chart of the Big Ten (below) to the Big East is staggering in terms of how much more the Big Ten returns.

updateminutesTop two and bottom two of each statistical category are highlighted. These numbers aren’t guaranteed, I may have missed a transfer or departure but I was mostly working off of this list for transfers.

The news here looks pretty good for Michigan, who ranks very high in most of the categories. Michigan returns the most in blocks and free throws made, these are two of the weaknesses of last year’s team. The debate is whether this means Michigan will see a big jump with added experience, or they are stuck with the same struggles on the interior.

Three point shooting, shooting, and scoring are all very encouraging. The nucleus of this team returns and with a couple added parts Michigan has the potential to be very good. Michigan’s numbers aren’t necessarily that surprising, we knew this team brings back a lot, however the rest of the numbers from around the conference are pretty appalling. All of the contenders bring back a lot of their teams from last year, this could be a special year in terms of Big Ten talent.

Here are some quick notes on each team in the conference (other than Michigan) in roughly the order I think they will fall this year:

  • Michigan State loses a big chunk of their minutes, defense, and rebounding with Walton, Suton, Gray, and Ibok all moving on. However, it would be pretty foolish to complain about returning around 70% of a team that made it to the Championship game last year.
  • Purdue returns 80% of their production across the board and really doesn’t lose anyone of note besides Calasan and Green. The Baby Boilers are growing up and they should be a consistent top 15 team this year.
  • Minnesota ranks in the top two in 7 of 8 categories, and they return over 85% of their production in every category. With a monster freshmen class headed to the Twin Cities there is plenty to be excited about. Minnesota was the 2nd best rebounding team in the conference, they return the most rebounding, and Trevor Mbakwe and Royce White should only make things better.
  • Ohio State returns everyone but BJ Mullens but they don’t bring any freshmen. The Buckeyes have an odd combo of wing players without a true point guard. I’m not sure if that keeps them from getting over the hump and being a great team but they have experience and talent as well as arguably the best player in the conference, Evan Turner.
  • Illinois loses their defensive stopper (Frazier) in a similar fashion as Michigan (Lee) and Michigan State (Walton) but they have arguably the best one-two punch inside with Davis and Tisdale. Illinois losing a lot of their three point shooting doesn’t worry me because that was not their game plan last year, the assists on the other hand are an issue. Incoming freshmen Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson will provide an influx of talent and athleticism into the backcourt next to Demetri McCamey.
  • Wisconsin is looking at a rebuilding year on paper after losing Krabbenhoft and Landry. I still have a tough time believing they will struggle because Wisconsin seems to always reload regardless of who is on the court.
  • Penn State is probably the biggest loser besides Iowa — losing Cornley, Pringle, and Morrissey — Battle is great but they are  going to need some people to step up that weren’t contributors last year.
  • Northwestern returns everyone’s favorite rec league player, Kevin Coble, but they lose Craig Moore. Three point shooting takes a huge hit but Northwestern should continue to improve on the inside with so many pieces returning.
  • Indiana brings in another huge freshmen class but they already lost enough of last year’s class (Story and Williams) that there probably won’t be enough continuity to make huge strides.
  • Iowa fans have nothing to look forward to besides the upcoming football season. The Hawkeyes return the least in every statistical category that I picked out. They weren’t great last year and their incoming class won’t raise many eyebrows either.

Who do I have ranked too high? Who is too low? I think Michigan falls somewhere in the Minnesota, Ohio State, Illinois range but I’m having a very tough time differentiating there. Where would you place Michigan in the conference at this point?

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  • mmccrae

    I think we will end up 4th or 5th… UM, OSU and Illinois will be very close i think, with minnesota being slightly better, but it would take little to hop over minnesota… I definetly think 3rd is possible, but 4th more likely…

  • Re: that inside game. I would expect Peedi to get a lot more attention from opposing d’s in the new season. If he’s stronger and more confident that will help him hold his own. But with the new attention his point production may not rise. If they’re focusing on him someone else should be coming open; the rest of the team must rise to the occasion. If Manny brings new midrange tools; if Stu and Novak are more confident; if whoever’s at the point brings awareness; if the bigs–Gibson/Cronin–can step up, even be a factor. . . and I think they can.

    A discussion like this helps you see that–far from being unimportant in Beilein’s offense–the inside game remains critical, maybe the biggest key (?) once you assume sharp outside shooting, especially as he strives to move to that next level, and with better players.

  • maxwell’s demon

    It seems like a lot of preseason polls like us around #3 in B10 and they don’t show a lot of love towards Minnesota. Maybe because we won a game in the tourney but really I don’t see any reason to expect us to be better than them.

    Any chance we could get a collection of 2010 preseason rankings?

  • Tom_McC

    Well, UM did beat Minny twice last year and won a game in the NCAA and played Okla very tight in the 2nd rd.

    I’m in no way suggesting UM will or will not be better than Minny, but the above evidence is certainly enough to think UM could be better than Minny.

    Minny returns almost everyone and they are bringing in a couple of very good recruits…but UM returns almost everyone and they are bringing in a couple of very good recruits as well. Maybe Minny’s recruits are better…but that alone doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be better than Michigan.

    I look at it like this…

    Tier 1: MSU, Purdue
    Tier 2: Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, OSU, Wiscy
    Tier 3: NW, Indiana, PSU
    Tier 4: Iowa

    I think these tiers are pretty much solid. I could see Wiscy maybe dropping into Tier 3, NW moving to Tier 2, or perhaps OSU jumping to Tier 1. But for the most part I think teams will stay in these tiers and a game or two will separate teams within their individual tiers while the tiers themselves will be separated by 2-3 games.

  • Jon

    I find it interesting that UM loses 3 point guards (Grady, Merrit, and Lee) but returns 78% of their assists. It shows that Beilein’s emphasis on fundamentals like passing is paying off when players at all positions rack up assists.

  • That is interesting… And it’s because I made a mistake. I fixed the table. Michigan’s actual assist # is 67%, I added Kelvin’s assists to the MSU column by accident so MSU bumps up Michigan bumps down.

    Table is updated.

  • Adam

    One big advantage I see us having over Minnesota will lie in the conference road games. Dylan mentioned the great freshman recruiting class they have yet those guys are going to have to adapt and learn how to win on the road. Last year in the OOC play Minnesota played one or two legit road games which is why they jumped out to such a great start, something like 12-1 I think. Now granted they did beat a good Louisville team on a neutral court but even if they jump out to a great start again, we must remember the weakness of their schedule and the tank job they pulled last year when their schedule beefed up in the conference season.


    How will that be an advantage, Adam? Michigan’s freshman class will probably see as many minutes as Minnesota’s freshman class.

  • Ken in Vegas

    I think we are in a good position to take 3rd or 4th in the conference. We were a better team than Minnesota last year, and with the addition of Cronin, Morris, and Vogrich (fresh who will contribute), I feel very confident we will be better than them this year as well. That doesn’t even take into account the progress of Novak and Stu. Moreover, our best two players are better than Minny’s best two players. At some point we have to except expectations. We are supposed to be the 3rd best team in the B10, so that should be what we strive for.


    What if Minnesota’s freshmen from last season — Joseph, Sampson, and Iverson — improve in the same way that some other Big Ten sophomores (Turner, Tisdale, Davis, McCamey, Johnson, et al) improved from their freshman to sophomore seasons?

  • jmblue

    I love the table – great way to quantify what everybody has coming back.

  • David

    Some impressive teams coming back. When was the last time the Big Ten was this deep in bball?

  • Nice work, thanks for the nod. Lack of consistent reporting makes this type of analysis difficult. About half of the Big East teams have still not published their “early season” rosters, nor have they reported academic dismissals. I suspect we observers will not have a true headcount of Big East rosters until mid October.

    You have a terrific coach in John Beilein. After he had his system in place at West Virginia he drove the rest of the conference crazy. West Virginia visited Villanova early in the 2006 season, and Nova out shot West Virginia 58% to 51.6% and still lost 91-87 (even the pace was more to Villanova’s liking…). The trick is to appreciate what Beilein does offensively and defensively. It is, especially the offense, uniquely his.

  • Tom Too

    JB is the hardest working in the business……

  • Tom Too

    JB is the hardest working COACH in the business….

  • gpsimms

    Dylan, Just curious why you called Koble “everyone’s favorite rec league player”?

  • ToBlav

    gpsimma – nice question; I second that question. Hassarding a guess, is it because he doesn’t play within a system but rather just creates his own shots?

  • Suavdaddy

    Any word or rumor regarding a summer decision from Kearney?

  • It was just a little joke about the Coble’s style of play… Just kind of reminds me of that guy at the gym who doesn’t look like a player but just gets his shot off in every way possible.

  • gpsimms

    Yeah ok, I was just curious. You were definitely right about the ‘favorite’ part. If there’s one non-umich guy in the big ten I pull for, it’s him.

    He reminds me of Nowitski, the way he gets shots off.

  • ScottGoBlue

    I like the tiers (brought to you by Tom_McC) and agree with the distribution. I’m sure you’ve all noticed this by now (thanks, Dylan) that both Dick Vitale and Andy Katz have us in the top 15 … in the nation.

    I don’t know about that. What I do know is that they’ve got us consistently ahead of Minnesota, Illinois, and Ohio State (and consistently behind MSU and Purdue). So, I think we can finish 3rd this year.

    Minnesota is talented, but Tubby always recruits talent … and underacheives. The guy would still be at Kentucky otherwise. So I expect more of the same, and by that I mean JB out-coaching Tubby and the Wolverines sweeping the series.

    We only play Illinois once this year, and at home. We already know we can go toe-to-toe with them since we split with them last year. I think we lock this one up.

    Ohio State and Wisconsin, although not intrinsicly better than us this year, have seemed to get the better of us consistently. If we can just hold our own court against them, we’ll be golden.

    And, oh, by the way, we can beat Purdue, too. Even on their court. We’ve got an axe to grind (just watch those elbows).

    It’s easy to expect a finish between 5 and 3. Here’s hoping for the top end.

    P.S. – Peedi won’t have more pressure this year. Everyone knew he was our only inside threat LAST YEAR, and he still got better and better. This year he’ll have a little more help down low (particularly from Ben Cronin) and a lot more experience all around him. His numbers should be about the same or a little better, but the teams numbers as a whole will certainly rise. That’s my prediction.

  • Dave

    we can beat anybody in the country……..there may be teams better than us but we can defintely beat michigan st and purdue, just as they can beat us, its not like they are light years ahead of us..these teams can be beaten, idk why people think purdue is so tremendous every time we have played them the last couple years i have felt we could win every game even on the road…….on that note michigan definitely derves that preseason ranking maybe somewhere in the upper teens would be better but they have one of the best 1-2 punches in the country along with another year of experience with most of it returning………michigan is under beilein now, you know they are going to be well coached and will be turning many heads without a doubt ,this preseason ranking is well deserved

  • ryan

    Tickets for the old spice classic are only $20’s per game. i think it was like $120’s for the whole tournament. I will be in tampa for thanksgiving (which is only about an hour from orlando, so I will be there. I know it is a ways out but is anyone else planning on going?

  • michigan4204

    I am hearing rumors that Trey Ziegler is expected to commit to CMU in the very near future. Is this true? After I heard this, I then heard he was favoring Arizona St. and UCLA. Does anyone actually know if either one of the rumors are true? Just curious…

  • Giddings

    I’m hoping to make it there… had a lot of fun going to the CvC Classic in NYC last year and I’m hoping I can bring the same luck to the team this year.

  • jds

    Ziegler still has no favorite and everyone is still in the running according to Sam from today’s WTKA podcast. He talked to him last night and Trey claims those rumors are exactly what they are, rumors.

  • michigan4204

    Cool. Thanks jds

  • JCW

    Dave–maybe some people think Purdue is good because they have been winning?? Feeling like we could have won every game is slightly different than actually winning. A lot of the attention purdue has been getting has very little to do with their record against mich over the last couple years. The real question is can we beat the teams pur has been beating. when we do, we will take their spot on the respect side of this.

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