Big Ten Power Rankings: Offseason Edition

Dylan Burkhardt
on

The 2015-16 season is over five months away, but rosters across the Big Ten are nearly finalized as the late signing period is in the books, the NBA Draft list is final and and most transfers have picked a destination. So what better time than to bring back our Big Ten Power Rankings and look ahead to next year.

1. Maryland (28-7, 14-4)

· Arriving: Diamond Stone (247Composite top 100), Jaylen Brantley, Rasheed Suliamon (Duke graduate transfer), Robert Carter (Georgia Tech transfer)
· Departing: Dez Wells (graduation), Evan Smotrycz (graduation), Jon Graham (graduation), Richaud Pack (graduation)

Maryland’s senior day was a busy affair and watching from press row last season I was struck by how many of the Terps’ graduating seniors started somewhere else. Maryland graduated four transfers last season, but adds two more to the mix along with the highest rated recruit in the conference in Diamond Stone. With Jake Layman and Melo Trimble returning, the Terps are garnering mentions as preseason No. 1 entering the 2015-16 season.

Robert Carter, a Georgia Tech transfer, is a 6-foot-8 combo forward that should replace some of Wells’ toughness while adding a significant rebounding threat. Rasheed Suliamon had ups and downs at Duke, but he should be an immediate rotation player while Stone could very well be the conference’s best big man. Layman is already one of the most versatile stretch fours in the league while Trimble is arguably the best returning ball screen player. The Terps even have one of the more forgiving Big Ten schedules.

2. Michigan State (27-12, 12-6)

· Arriving: Deyonta Davis (247Composite top 100), Eron Harris (West Virginia transfer), Kyle Ahrens, Matthew McQuaid (247Composite top 100)
· Departing: Branden Dawson (graduation), Travis Trice (graduation)

Fresh off of a trip to the Final Four, Michigan State loses two starters in Branden Dawson and Travis Trice. Trice was one of the primary reasons why Michigan State made the Final Four (he averaged 19.8 points per game and hit 13 threes in the first two weekends of the tournament), but Eron Harris is an ideal replacement. Compare the shot charts from Trice’s senior year to Eron Harris’s sophomore season at West Virginia.

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Deyonta Davis won’t rebound like Branden Dawson, but he’s oozing with potential and could be more effective at stretching defenses than Dawson. The key for the Spartans will be Denzel Valentine. On his good days, he’s one of the best players in the conference, but he’s struggled with consistency throughout his career. He has the tools to be an All-Big Ten first team player as a senior and how far Michigan State goes will depend on his progression.

3. Indiana (20-14, 9-9)

· Arriving: Juwan Morgan, O.G. Anunoby, Thomas Bryant (247Composite top 100)
· Departing: Devin Davis (dismissed/transfer), Jeremiah April (transfer), Hanner Mosquera-Perea (dismissed/transfer), Max Hoetzel (transfer), Stanford Robinson (transfer)

Yogi Ferrell is the league’s best point guard and he’ll have a big man this year with the signing of Thomas Bryant, but questions remain for the Hoosiers. They lack depth on the interior after losing five players to transfer or dismissal, but still have James Blackmon Jr. and Troy Williams to surround Ferrell with one of the league’s better shooting guards and combo forwards.

4. Purdue (21-13, 12-6)

· Arriving: Caleb Swanigan (247Composite top 100), Grant Weatherford, Johnny Hill (UT-Arlington graduate transfer), Ryan Cline
· Departing: Bryson Scott (transfer), Jon Octeus (graduation)

The Caleb Swanigan saga finally came to an end with the big man picking Purdue last month. The addition of Swanigan means that the Boilermakers will have three of the league’s top big men in Swanigan, AJ Hammons and Isaac Haas. Matt Painter appears to have promised that Swanigan will play the four position next to one of the other two bigs at the five. Is it feasible? I have my doubts, but to Painter’s credit the Boilermakers post up as much as anyone in the country.

According to Synergy Sports, only six teams (Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, New Mexico St., Alabama St., LaSalle and Oakland) in the country threw the ball in the post more often than Purdue last season.

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My concerns with the two-post look for Purdue revolve around the fact that the Boilers already pounded the ball into the post pretty well, but still weren’t a great offensive team.

They also turned the ball over more often than anyone else in the Big Ten last season and I’m not convinced that Johnny Hill, a graduate transfer guard from UT-Arlington who had a higher turnover than assist rate last season, will fix those problems. On the other hand, the addition of Swanigan should make Purdue one of the best rebounding teams in the Big Ten after they dominated the offensive glass, but struggled on the defensive glass last season.

5. Michigan (16-16, 8-10)

· Arriving: Duncan Robinson (Williams College transfer), Moritz Wagner
· Departing: Max Bielfeldt (transfer)

On paper, Michigan returns almost all of a team that went 8-10 in the Big Ten last season. Returning all of a sub-.500 team isn’t always a recipe for success, but Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton were sidelined or hamstrung by injuries for a majority of last season and the rest of John Beilein’s team made major strides in their absence. Now the Wolverines add LeVert and Walton back into the mix and should have a significantly better team around them than we saw last December. The addition of Duncan Robinson’s shooting ability and Moritz Wagner and DJ Wilson in the front court should also help what was one of the Big Ten’s worst front courts last season.

6. Wisconsin (36-4, 16-2)

· Arriving: Alex Illikainen, Brevin Pritzl (247Composite top 100), Charlie Thomas, Khalil Iverson, Andy Van Vliet
· Departing: Duje Dujan (graduation), Frank Kaminsky (graduation), Josh Gasser (graduation), Sam Dekker (early entry), Traevon Jackson (graduation)

Anyone that has written about the Big Ten in the last decade knows the number one rule of the offseason: never write off Wisconsin. It doesn’t really matter who Bo Ryan has on his roster, he’s usually going to field a team that competes for the Big Ten crown.

But while last year’s Wisconsin team was one of Ryan’s best ever, it also loses more talent than any Wisconsin team in recent memory with Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker off to the NBA and Badger stalwarts Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson finally graduating. Wisconsin loses about two-thirds of its field goal attempts from last season, and these comparisons from ShotAnalytics show what the Badgers lost and what they return.

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7. Ohio State (24-11, 11-7)

· Arriving: A.J. Harris (247Composite top 100), Austin Grandstaff (247Composite top 100), Daniel Giddens (247Composite top 100), JaQuan Lyle (247Composite top 100), Mickey Mitchell, Trevor Thompson (transfer from Virginia Tech)
· Departing: Amir Williams (graduation), Anthony Lee (graduation), D’Angelo Russell (early entry), Sam Thompson (graduation), Shannon Scott (graduation), Trey McDonald (graduation)

Ohio State brings in the league’s best recruiting class, but has to replace four starters including D’Angelo Russell. Russell was sublime last season and even if JaQuan Lyle is an instant impact scoring guard, the Buckeyes will have a lot of ramping up to do.

8. Iowa (22-12, 12-6)

· Arriving: Ahmad Wagner, Andrew Fleming, Brandon Hutton, Christian Williams, Dale Jones, Isaiah Moss
· Departing: Aaron White (graduation), Gabriel Olaseni (graduation), Josh Oglesby (graduation), Trey Dickerson (transfer)

Iowa returns four started from last year’s NCAA tournament team, but the losses of Aaron White and Gabriel Olaseni will certainly be a blow. The Hawkeyes incoming class has numbers, but isn’t that highly ranked nationally. Expect the core of Adam Woodbury, Anthony Clemmons, Peter Jok, Jarrod Uthoff and Mike Gesell to remain competitive in the Big Ten.

9. Illinois (19-14, 9-9)

· Arriving: Aaron Jordan, Darius Paul, D.J. Williams (247Composite top 100), Jalen Coleman (247Composite top 100), Mike Thorne (Graduate transfer from Charlotte)
· Departing: Aaron Cosby (transfer), Ahmad Starks (graduation), Austin Colbert (transfer), Nnanna Egwu (graduation), Rayvonte Rice (graduation)

Illinois has seemed to be stuck in neutral since John Groce arrived. The Illini made the tournament in his first season before missing the Big Dance in each of the last two seasons and they’ve finished with 7, 8 or 9 conference wins in all three years. What we’ve come to expect from Illinois under Groce is a good defense and an offense that just isn’t consistent enough to win important Big Ten games.

What’s wrong with Illinois’ offense? The Illini keep running ball screens and just aren’t very efficient when they do. Only two teams ran more ball screens than Illinois last season (Northwestern and Nebraska) and only three teams were less efficient (Purdue, Rutgers and Nebraska) in the ball screen game. Two of those three teams were cognizant of their ball screen inabilities and just didn’t run very many (Purdue and Rutgers), but Illinois – like Nebraska – kept on trying. It’s no surprise that Illinois and Nebraska had two of the conference’s four worst offenses.

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10. Northwestern (13-18, 5-13)

· Arriving: Aaron Falzon, Dererk Pardon, Joey van Zegeren (Graduate transfer from Virginia Tech), Jordan Ash
· Departing: Dave Sobolewski (graduation), Jeremiah Kreisberg (graduation), Jershon Cobb (graduation), Johnnie Vassar (transfer)

Chris Collins is bringing in the talent necessary to make Northwestern relevant. Aaron Falzon and Jordan Ash might not be five-star recruits or All-Americans, but they are quality top-250 level players that can make an impact in the Big Ten.

The incoming recruits are nice, but the real story is that Northwestern returns several good players. Alex Olah is a legitimate low post scorer and was ranked fifth in the conference last season in post-up scoring. Bryant McIntosh was one of the more underrated impact freshmen in the league last year and Tre Demps is capable of hitting big shots. Sophomore wing Vic Law should make a big jump as he starts to turn some of his potential into production.

For a team that lost 10 of its first 11 Big Ten games last season, there’s reason for promise. The Wildcats can build off of that 5-2 finish to the regular season last year and have the talent to surprise.

11. Nebraska (13-18, 5-13)

· Arriving: Andrew White (Kansas transfer), Barkari Evelyn, Ed Morrow, Glynn Watson (247Composite top 100), Jack McVeigh, Michael Jacobson
· Departing: David Rivers (graduation), Tarin Smith (transfer), Leslee Smith (graduation), Moses Abraham (graduation), Terran Petteway (early entry), Walter Pitchford (early entry)

Sometimes a complete reboot is what a program needs. Nebraska came into last season on the heels of a surprise NCAA tournament appearance, but 2015 was a disaster from day one. The dirty little secret is that Nebraska overachieved in the win column in 2013-14 as its nearly even efficiency margin didn’t bode well for the future.

We saw some of that regression last season and now we’ll see almost a completely new Cornhusker team in 2015-16. Shavon Shields will return for his senior year and should anchor Nebraska, but Terran Petteway  and Walter Pitchford both are moving on before their eligibility expired.

In a way, Nebraska’s situation reminds me a bit of Michigan early in John Beilein’s tenure. The Wolverines made a surprising run to the NCAA tournament in 2009 despite a modest efficiency margin and returned a high-volume scorer in Manny Harris. Facing higher expectations in 2010, Michigan got off to a bad start and was never able to get back on track. When they lost Harris and Sims, most expected them to continue to struggle, but a fresh start turned out to be ideal as Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway Jr. helped the Wolverines back to the tournament.

I’m not predicting Nebraska will make the tournament this season, but the Huskers needed a shake up and a fresh start. Remember that Nebraska loses a lot of production, but shouldn’t have a problem replacing the efficiency.

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12. Penn State (18-16, 4-14)

· Arriving: Josh Reaves (247Composite top 100), Mike Watkins (247Composite top 100), Deividas Zemgulis
· Departing: D.J. Newbill (graduation), Ross Travis (graduation), John Johnson (dismissed/graduation)

DJ Newbill was a first-team caliber All-Big Ten player last season and carried the Nittany Lions for long stretches. The adding a couple of top-100 recruits will help, but replacing a guy who used over a quarter of your possessions for the past three seasons is never easy.

13. Minnesota (18-15, 6-12)

· Arriving: Dupree McBrayer, Jarvis Johnson, J.R. Gilbert, Jordan Murphy, Kevin Dorsey
· Departing: Andre Hollins (graduation), Deandre Mathieu (graduation), Elliott Eliason (graduation), Maurice Walker (graduation)

Andre Hollins and Deandre Mathieu were one of the more underrated backcourts in the conference while Elliot Eliason and Maurice Walker handled the interior for the Golden Gophers last season. Expect Nate Mason and Carlos Morris to step up in the backcourt, but it’s hard to imagine Minnesota improving after losing four of its best players from a season ago.

14. Rutgers (10-22, 2-16)

· Arriving: Corey Sanders (247Composite top 100), Deshawn Freeman, Jonathan Laurent, Justin Goode, Kejuan Johnson
· Departing: Junior Etou (transfer), Kadeem Jack (graduation), Kerwin Okoro (transfer), Malick Kone (graduation), Myles Mack (graduation)

Rutgers lost its final 14 Big Ten games last season and now loses its top two scorers from a season ago in Kadeem Jack and Myles Mack to graduation while Junior Etou, a starting forward, opted to transfer. Top 100 point guard Corey Sanders should bring plenty of highlights, but it’s hard to imagine the Scarlet Knights competing next year.

  • Robert Golden

    Miles has done a really good job with transfers and former U of F player Andrew White becomes eligible. They also have a U of L transfer, a former top 50 player, who will practice with the team this year. Also just recruited the best class in the history of the program. I think this past season was an anomaly and that Nebraska will be a surprise in the 15-16 season. If Max wants playing time (>= 15 mpg), this is the best situation for him.

  • UMHoopsFan

    Regarding Harris replacing Trice, Trice had over five assists and under two TOs last year, while Harris had under 2 assists and over 2 TOs his last year at WVU. Going from Trice to Harris could be a big drop in playmaking. Valentine can create, but you’re essentially taking one creator off the floor by going to Harris, and perhaps another going with Davis instead of Dawson, who created a lot of offense through his rebounds and put-backs. Not saying MSU won’t be good on O, but replacing Trice and Dawson with Harris and Davis at least could be a substantial downgrade, especially in year 2 — and that’s assuming Davis gets Dawson’s minutes.

    • Good point with the assists. Curious what we’ll see from Tum Tum in that department.

    • Anonymous

      I had a hard time buying MSU at #2. Losing Dawson really hurts especially when losing Swanigan and then somehow a rail thin Davis is going to offset that production is a stretch. Davis looks pretty raw to me. I would have MSU around 4-5.
      IU is also a stretch. What makes IU better on paper than UM? Question for Dylan. Right now..would you rather have Blackmon or Dawkins?
      In regards to UM, talented but I think they were ‘politically’ left below MSU and IU not to be perceived as biased. Levert and Walton come back. Dawkins and Irvin finished strong and this is the JB system. Scoring punch off the bench.
      Remember, I am the poster complaining about grade inflation but these projections are deflated for UM. I’ll go with Maryland & Purdue at the top.

      • Honestly, actually ranking the teams is my least favorite part of the power rankings. The research and looking at each teams pros and cons is something I find to be much more valuable.

        But people love the rankings, so they make for a good format. ;-)

        You could probably debate the top five or six teams pretty easily and make a case. After Maryland it seems like a toss up to me.

        • Lanknows

          It’s a good conversation starter. Nice work.

    • MAZS

      Harris is much better than Trice. He will play some point, but Nairns will handle most of that duty. With Nairns, Harris and Valentine on the court, MSU will have as good or better passing than this past year. I don’t know how good State will be this next year, but they were much better last year than this Board thought they would be at this time–the consensus was that MSU would be in the bottom half of the league–though Dylan was pretty accurate about them. I think people’s wishes creep into their analyses–at least with State.

      It is Indiana who I think is over-rated here–though that may be my bias since I hate that tool Crean.

      • Maybe he’s transformed his game over the last year (certainly possible), but statistically there’s not really much about Eron Harris that says ‘point guard’. He’s a shooter and has pretty poor distribution numbers.

        Travis Trice on the other hand had great A:TO rations and I don’t know how you can tout how good MSU was last year without recognizing how important he was to their success — especially in the NCAA tournament (where most of their success was).

        Also, there was no consensus that MSU would be a ‘bottom half of the league’ team heading into last year. That seems a bit ludicrous.

        • MAZS

          I wasn’t saying Harris was a true “point guard”. I said he would play “some point”. And everything I hear says that is true. Harris has been working very hard at his play-making this past year–obviously to improve his NBA chances at 6’3″. I don’t know how good he will be, but Izzo and people inside the MSU program believe he can play there. It is almost certain that he will get the non-Nairn point guard minutes. Plus with Valentine around, a true point guard may not be as necessary as with some teams.

          • Champswest

            I think that you are just making up that bottom half of the league stuff for MSU. Maybe that was on some other board.

          • MAZS

            Trust me, I am not–usually accompanied by Izzo and Valentine are over-rated comments.

          • Champswest

            Most of that thread was UM vs MSU talk. No mention of MSU being a lower tier Big Ten team.

      • UMHoopsFan

        Actually, MSU was basically where many thought they would be (7-seed) until the tourney run — where Trice led them to a somewhat lucky but hard- and well-earned F4 run. Trice and Dawson basically beat UVA by themselves (Valentine and Nairn combined for 5 points in that game). I have little doubt Izzo would gladly trade Harris — who, by the way, starred at WVU for the only two seasons they haven’t made the NCAAs under Huggins — for another year of Trice. Dawson was inconsistent but really impacted a bunch of games late in the year with offensive rebounding and defense. Nairns was in many ways an offensive liability last year as teams essentially didn’t guard him outside fifteen feet. We haven’t seen Davis on a court, and he’s not a top ten talent.

        All that said, MSU could still be pretty good next year, and with Izzo’s coaching and defense and the pieces they have they’ll probably be at least solid and in the upper half, probably third, of the B1G.

        • MAZS

          I don’t know what you are arguing. My two points were (1) that MSU would be fine at point and (2) people here under-rated MSU last year. The Trice I watched last year was quite inconsistent–enough so that Izzo went to a terrible shooting Nairns (who Izzo loves). There is no chance Izzo would trade Harris for another year of Trice. And you must not have been on this Board last year this time because virtually no one had MSU in the top 3 in the B10 (where they finished) and many/most had them in the bottom half of the conference. While State won’t go as far as their ridiculously lucky NCAA run, I predict they will actually be a better team than this year.

          • UMHoopsFan

            “I don’t know what you are arguing” is weak sauce, but here goes: You said Harris is better than Trice and he and Nairns will just take over Trice’s spot. I said that while that could happen, it’s far from a certainty. Nairns hasn’t demonstrated that he can shoot, Harris hasn’t shown he can pass. Trice could do both. He was third team all B1G and East Regional MOP. I haven’t done the math, but I bet Trice led MSU in minutes, points, and assists in the tourney. A guy like that just might be missed. But if you think “there is no chance” Izzo would trade Harris for Trice, well, enjoy your certainty.

  • Him Paino

    I am still hoping that Max can come back but that looks like a long shot….good luck to where ever he goes.

  • Champswest

    Purdue finished 12-6 and seems to have gotten better thru arrivals/departures while Indiana was 9-9 and appears to have not improved much, if at all. Seems these two should be flipped in the order. MSU might be the second best team in the B1G, but I will have to see it before I believe it.

  • bobohle

    Good for discussion purposes! A lot can happen such as preseason injuries etc. before next season tips off. A BIG (hopefully Michigan) could still land Jamal Murray for 2015.

  • Mattski

    Crackerjack analysis. Every one of those graphics is worth at least 100 words. Second sentence of the Michigan section looks like it got pruned but not re-read.

  • Slim33

    Maryland, UM, Purdue, MSU are my top 4. Maryland is loaded. I think sooner than later Chris Collins will have NW in the top half of the league.

  • Leslie Hoerwinkle

    If Michigan can put together a few wins later this month, I can see them moving up in the rankings.

  • Anonymous

    I played against D. Davis in high school. Don’t get me wrong, he is a great player but I’m not sure where he gets his 5star rating. He gets all his points off of offensive rebounds including his own missed shots. Not a ton of offensive game/moves. He got pushed around a little but I’m sure a weight program will change that. He is not your typical big ten stretch 4 or an athletic freak like Dawson was.

  • AC1997

    You touched on the fact that Nebraska was a bit of a mirage before coming back to earth this year. Despite the impressive incoming players, doesnt that potentially apply to Maryland too? Their won/loss record never aligned with their advanced stats and that meant an early departure from the big dance and a possible regression to the mean. I can’t see them being ranked #1….seems crazy unless Stone is the next superstar.

    • jakerblue

      Yeah, Dylan was definitely pointing this out about Maryland last year especially heading into the tourney. And a lot of their close games were won by Wells. But if Stone is as good as advertised and if Trimble has any kind of sophomore jump after the freshman year he had, with that core of Trimble, layman, and stone they are definitely going to be good.

    • Stone is projected as a top ten pick next year. Generally those guys are very high-impact players. Trimble pretty much proved he’s a stud and the other additions are all quality.

      No. 1 in the country? Maybe not. No. 1 in the Big Ten? Yep.

    • Lanknows

      Maryland getting overrated a bit IMO because they have more turnover than MSU and Stone is more of questionmark than people are recognizing. MSU’s going to be just fine if Davis or McQuaid don’t live up to the hype. Maryland’s not going to be a top 5 team if Stone doesn’t. Maryland is going to be a different team and returning players will need to adjust their roles. MSU just plug and plays Harris in for Trice and Davis in for Dawson. Not the exact same players of course, but you are talking about little tweaks for MSU, while Maryland will have far more significant adjustments than MSU.

      Maryland may indeed be better by March, but in the first half of the year I expect MSU to be the #1 team in the conference.

  • W3

    I don’t agree with these rankings but it could honestly go any which way. You kind of just have to go; Maryland and then “the group” of UM/MSU/IU/PU. I don’t think OSU or wisky will be in that group. I think the B1G is too tough this year for “maybe” teams. IMO, of the bunch mentioned above, UM & IU are the most talented, UM and MSU have the coaches. Should be a great year in the B1G. Would love to sweep MSU/OSU again, and think it’s certainly possible

  • Lanknows

    Great discussion and a variety of opinions.

    MSU and Maryland are the clear top 2 IMO. Neither team has many questions that really make you worry. Trice is gone but are 5 assists that hard to replace when your return Valentine, Nairns, and add Harris. Trice did have a great tournament run but we’re not talking about Gary Harris, Jason Richardson, or Mateen Cleeves here. An extra assist per game out of Valentine, maybe some more ball-handling from Forbes, Tum Tum and Harris stepping up. I’d be shocked if anyone was bemoaning the departure of Trice by March.

    MSU has the advantage of continuity. The returning guys are going to be asked to do the same things they did before more or less. Maryland has more to handle — incorporating a talent like Stone requires unselfishness. Wells was so huge for them and did so much. A lot of new faces and new roles to that squad so it will take time.

    I get Indiana because Ferrell is so good and on paper that starting lineup is as good as any, but the depth is so bad and they’ll be asking too much of a freshman center to be a true contender IMO.

    Purdue, I absolutely do not understand in the top 4. They’re guard wing play is not nearly good enough and Swanigan isn’t going to pop right away given the support around him.

    Michigan is really getting underrated here IMO. Center is the only questionmark but Michigan’s other 4 spot are as strong or stronger than any other team IMO. Add in depth and experience and of course Beilein and co. and I wouldn’t bet on any of the rest of the second tier (Indiana, Purdue, OSU) to finish ahead of us.

    Finally, I’ll take OSU over Wisconsin. The Badgers will never be a push over but they simply return too little experience to be a legit contender. OSU isn’t much better but their talent is exceptional and Matta isn’t a bad coach either.

    1. MSU
    2. Maryland
    3. Michigan
    4. Indiana
    5. OSU
    6. Iowa
    7. Purdue
    8. Northwestern
    9. Wisconsin
    10.Illinoisetc.

    • Jeff

      Purdue returns all of it’s wings from last season’s team that finished 3rd in the B1G. The bigger question mark is whether Purdue can replace Jon Octeus, who was a late addition and came up big. Hill’s numbers are similar to Octeus’ CSU numbers but can his impact be as well?

      • Champswest

        I agree. Purdue tied with MSU for third and probably lost the least of any of the good teams and they add Swanigan. They definitely deserve to be rated 4th or better at this point. Their size is going to cause problems for a lot of teams.