As always, the Big Ten will be loaded with talent and new faces for you to learn. With Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn coming back, Illinois joins Iowa and Wisconsin as favorites to win the Big Ten title. With Michigan State, Rutgers, Michigan and Indiana all being ranked in the top 20 this is going to be another great season of Big Ten basketball. I will cover some of the incoming freshmen for each team and my preseason All-Freshman team.
The Terrapins have the 85th ranked class nationally and 14th in the Big Ten. The low ranked class has to be disappointing for Mark Turgeon who lost Anthony Cowan to graduation and Jalen Smith to the NBA draft.
Maryland picked up a pair of guards in Aquan Smart and Marcus Dockery. Dockery is more of a point guard than Smart, even though Smart is listed as a point guard and Dockery as a combo guard. Nevertheless, Dockery should be the first player off the bench after Eric Ayala at point guard.
Maryland is deeper up front so Smart should get a chance to play as well competing with Hakim Hart and Serrel Smith for playing time at the two guard. Smart is a good shooter but will struggle to get to the hoop at the collegiate level.
The Wildcats class was ranked 80th in the nation and 13th in the Big Ten. Ty Berry a 6’2 guard is the best incoming player for Northwestern. Berry is a three-star recruit and can play either guard position. Matt Nicholson, a 6’10 center, is also a three-star recruit. He is not a great defender and will need to put on some muscle.
Berry should get immediate playing time as the Wildcats lost both Pat Spencer and A.J. Turner in the backcourt. Look for Berry to join Boo Buie as the starting guards for Northwestern. Nicholson may have to consider redshirting as he will be Ryan Young, Jared Jones and Pete Nance on the depth chart at center.
The Nittany Lions freshman class was ranked 74th in the nation and 12th in the Big Ten. While they have a large class, three freshmen and one JUCO, the highest ranked player is 170th in DJ Gordon. Gordon is a 6’5 guard who got offers from other Big Ten schools in Iowa and Minnesota. Gordon is an outstanding defender, which will go well with Pat Chambers’ system which had Penn State listed as the 23rd ranked defensive team in the nation last year.
Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins are big losses up front, so Valdir Manuel, a 6’10 junior college transfer, and Caleb Dorsey, a 6’7 small forward, might get a chance to play. Manuel might get to play more out of necessity as Penn State lacks size, but he is going to struggle against the talented big men in conference play. The last player in the class, Dallion Johnson, is a 6’2 guard who can really shoot. He needs to put on some size but has the skill set to be a contributor in a couple years for the Nittany Lions.
The Buckeyes class was ranked 65th in the nation and 11th in the Big Ten. This class is overrated for me. Zed Key, a 6’7 forward, got to play against smaller competition and will struggle, especially on the defensive end when he has to guard more athletic players. Eugene Brown, a 6’6 guard, will be a solid contributor but lacks the skill set to ever be elite.
CJ Walker and Duane Washington will be the starting backcourt, but Brown will compete with Abel Porter, Utah State transfer, Justin Ahrens and Jimmy Sotos for playing time. Key will be stuck behind Harvard transfer Seth Towns, Kyle Young, E.J. Lidell, Justice Sueing and Ibrahimo Diallo. Key may benefit from a redshirt.
The Cornhuskers recruiting class was ranked 61st in the nation and 10th in the Big Ten. While the incoming freshmen are not exactly eye opening, Trey McGowens leads a list of six incoming transfers that should make Nebraska relevant in the Big Ten again. Coach Fred Hoiberg was extremely busy as he had six players transfer out, six players transfer in and two freshman recruits.
To say there will be a learning curve is an understatement. While Teddy Allen, a JUCO transfer from Western Nebraska is the jewel of the class, 6’5 guard Elijah Wood is not a bad second prize. Wood can really shoot the ball and should give Hoiberg a weapon to utilize. 6’10 center Eduardo Andre has a huge wingspan but is considered more of a project as he struggles with ball handling and will need to develop a shot to extend defenses.
The Hawkeyes had the 55th ranked class in the nation and 9th in the Big Ten. This recruiting class is deep, five incoming freshmen, but Iowa only loses two contributors from last year’s team. There is a reason the Hawkeyes are ranked in the top 10 in most polls.
Guards Ahron Ulis, 6’2 point guard, and Tony Perkins, 6’4 shooting guard, probably will not see significant minutes this year. Both have a lot of work to do on defense, but Ulis is a solid ball handler who could run the point if necessary.
Josh Ogundele, a 6’10 center, gets the advantage of sitting behind Luka Garza and learning from arguably the best player in college basketball. Ogundele will likely redshirt to work on his body which is a little thick, and that is putting it nicely. Brothers Kris and Keegan Murray, who are both 6’8 forwards, are the most likely to contribute right away. Both can play inside and out and could find themselves in the rotation to replace the role Ryan Kriener leaves behind.
The Golden Gophers had the 49th ranked recruiting class nationally and the 8th best in the Big Ten. Liam Robbins, the transfer from Drake, will make an immediate impact after receiving a waiver, but this freshman class is nothing for coach Richard Pitino to be ashamed of. Martice Mitchell, a 6’10 center, will benefit from playing with Robbins. Mitchell is already a solid defender and if he can pick up a few tips from Robbins on the offensive end, the three-star recruit will be a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten for years to come.
David Mutaf, a 6’5 guard from Turkey, has a lot of international experience. He will not be your traditional freshman as he has played high level basketball. The last member of the freshman class is Jamal Mashburn Jr., who is the highest ranked of the bunch. He will play behind Marcus Carr at point guard. While Mashburn is only 6’0, he has the talent to overcome his lack of size.
The Spartans had a disappointing recruiting class as they ranked 49th in the nation and 7th in the Big Ten. It is not often when you find Tom Izzo getting a class not in the top 25 nationally. AJ Hoggard, a 6’3 shooting guard, was ranked as high as 70th by a few rankings, but is not the McDonald’s All-American we are used to seeing going to Michigan State. Izzo will turn Hoggard into a much better player than his 70th ranking would lead you to believe. Huggard has a great motor and can play on both ends of the floor.
Mady Sissoko, a 6’9 center, only averaged 12.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. His numbers are not overwhelming but his ranking at 34 tells you how good Sissoko is. We will help offset the loss of Xavier Tillman. Sissoko will be a member of my All-Freshman Big Ten team.
The Scarlet Knights recruiting class is ranked 48th nationally and 6th in the Big Ten. Rutgers is going to be one of the best teams in the nation and only lost Akwasi Yeboah off a team that competed for a Big Ten title last year. Playing time will be hard to come by for this four-player recruiting class.
Center Cliff Omuruyi is the highest ranked player in this group at 46nd. He will not be asked to do much scoring as a freshman but should eventually develop into a threat inside. Omuruyi is ready to contribute right away as a defender, which will be needed with the strength of the center in conference play.
Dean Rieber, who is listed as a 6’10 forward, may also get a chance to play as Rutgers only has Myles Johnson returning on the inside. Rieber will be better offensively than Omuruyi, but does not have as high of a ceiling. Mawot Mag, a 6’7 small forward, is another quality player who loves to rebound. He has quite an arsenal at getting to the basket, but may have a hard time seeing the floor with this deep Rutgers team. The big man heavy group’s last player is Oskar Palmquist, who is a 6’8 Swedish forward. He is a scorer first and will need to learn to bang inside to be a contributor in Big Ten play.
The Boilermakers had a strong recruiting class at 33rd nationally and 5th in the Big Ten. Zach Edey, a 7’3 Canadian center, is the star of the class. Edey is still a little raw, as he has only been playing organized basketball for a few years, but was a huge get for coach Matt Painter. Edey will struggle defending on the outside but will be a huge defensive presence on the inside.
6’4 Combo guard Ethan Morton was ranked in the top 100 on most lists. Defenses were able to key on him in high school so it was hard to really figure out how good he can be. He should see some playing time off the bench this year for the Boilermakers. Jaden Ivey, a 6’2 shooting guard, was a four-star recruit. My biggest issue with Ivey is that he is extremely streaky with his shot. He can go ice cold for long periods of time. He will need to be more consistent if he wants to contribute right away at Purdue.
The Badgers come in with the 29th ranked class nationally and 4th in the Big Ten. This five-player class is headlined by the only four-star recruit in the state of Wisconsin Ben Carlson. Carlson is a 6’9 power forward who has a college ready body. He is strong and will eventually be able to play both forward positions once he improves defensively. Look for Carlson to compete with Micah Potter and Brevin Pritzil, if coach Greg Gard chooses to go small, for the last starting spot.
Guards Lorne Bowman and Johnny Davis both could find themselves as contributors for a Wisconsin team that has national title aspirations. Both are above average defenders which goes a long way with goach Gard. Jordan Davis, who is listed as a 6’4 forward, and center Steven Crowl round out the class. Jordan played forward so his brother Johnny could handle guard duties. He will have to handle the ball more to contribute right away. Crowl is the most likely of the group to redshirt as he has some work to do.
Coach Underwood’s best recruiting was getting Dosunmu and Cockburn to come back for another season with the Illini. If not for that, this recruiting class would have received a lot more attention as they were ranked 16th nationally and third in the Big Ten. Adam Miller, a 6’3 guard, is the highest ranked of the group at 29th. The four-star recruit had offers from Arizona, Arizona State and Louisville. Look for Miller to be the third guard behind Dosunmu and Frazier.
Andre Curbelo, a 6’0 point guard, could also find his way into the rotation. He was ranked the best player in New York and top 50 by most sites. The problem for him is that Dosunmu plays a lot of minutes, but look for Underwood to get creative with some small lineups that feature Dosunmu, Frazier, Miller and Curbelo with Cockburn when Giorgi Bezhanishvilli heads to the bench.
Brandon Lieb, 6’11 center, and Coleman Hawkins, 6’10 forward, both have some work to do to be able to compete in the Big Ten. Hawkins is probably more ready to play and may have to as Bezhanishvilli and Cockburn are about all Illinois has on the inside.
The Hoosiers have the 15th ranked class in the nation and second in the Big Ten led by Khristian Lander who is the highest rated recruit in the conference. Lander is a 6’2 point guard who is a five-star recruit and could start right away at point guard. Jordan Geronimo, is a 6’6 small forward who is underrated. Geronimo could contribute for a Hoosiers team who should be the most improved team in the Big Ten.
Shooting guards Trey Galloway and Anthony Leal both will have a hard time cracking the rotation. Lander, Geronimo will join Trayce Jackson-Davis, Rob Phinese, Justin Smith, Alijami Durham, Joey Brunk, Armaan Franklin and Jerome Hunter in a very deep rotation.
Juwan Howard has impressed in his recruiting early in his coaching career. This Wolverines bunch is ranked 14th nationally and first in the Big Ten. Hunter Dickinson, a 7’2 center, is the highest rated recruit in the talented four-person class. Dickinson is a top 40 player should play right away and help soften the loss of center Jon Teske. Four star-guard Zeb Jackson will also be a big time contributor for Michigan. Ironically, Jackson did not even start at Montverde Academy, but might be able to play his way into a starting job right away with Zavier Simpson graduating.
Terrance Williams, a 6’6 forward, is the most athletic of the bunch. He can play guard in college, but dominated the block in high school. He will be a fan favorite in Ann Arbor. Jace Howard, who is Juwan’s son, is the type of player a coach would want. He is solid, but lacks game changing athleticism and many do not think he is the 6’8 which he is listed.
Big Ten All-Freshman Team
G- Khristian Lander
This one is a no brainer. He will get a lot of playing time and is the most talented freshman in the conference.
G- Adam Miller
Miller should be one of the best five freshmen in the conference but his playing time is the only thing that could keep him off this list. The Illini return a lot of talent and Dosunmu and Cockburn will fill the stat sheet for the Illini.
F- Mady Sissoko
While not extremely productive in high school, Tom Izzo will have him ready to contribute in the conference right away. Sissoko will end up being in the mold of an Xavier Tillman when all is said and done.
F- Ben Carlson
The best player in Wisconsin stays home and will be a big factor for a Wisconsin team that starts the season ranked in the top 10. He is strong and athletic and ready to bang with the big boys of the Big Ten conference.
C- Zach Edy
Purdue will need Edy to be good if they hope to finish in the top half of the conference. Edy
G- Ty Berry
This is my big surprise on the team. I think Berry will get a lot of playing time and plenty of chances to score on a Northwestern team that lacks a go to scorer. I almost put him on the team instead of Miller.
C- Hunter Dickinson
It is a toss up between Edey and Dickinson for best freshman center in the Big Ten. Cliff Omuruyi will make it a trio of centers who keep adding to the list of great centers in the Big Ten.