The Big Ten is not as talented as it it has been in the past couple years. This is still the Big Ten so there is plenty of talent, but it is not the clear cut best conference it has been. That was to be expected with the players who were were drafted or left early to follow NBA dreams (Stauskus, Vonleh, Payne, Harris, McGary, Robinson III, Ross, and Marble) and some other very good seniors graduating (Tim Frazier, Craft, Brust, Sheehey, Appling, Craword). Other than UW I don't see a team that looks to be playing a lot better than they did last season, but I see a bunch of teams that look worse.
There are a fixed number of wins and losses in Big Ten play, so while several teams will be worse, they may have the same record due to the addition of Rutgers who looks awful. They will lose enough games to boost the other team's records. Maryland will be a good team, but not so good they balance out all the Rutgers losses. There is a remarkable balance of decent teams in the Big Ten and I almost decided to predict UW as champ and every other team except PSU, NW and Rutgers at 9-9. This should lead to a lot of entertaining games, and a lot of teams on the bubble in March.
The Big Ten has a very good group of freshman. With all the players leaving last season there are plenty of opportunities for young kids to play and several have taken advantage. The future is bright for the Big Ten as most of these kids look like they will play at least 2-3 years. The point guards have been especially impressive with several already starting or playing major minutes (Trimble, Robert Johnson, Nairn Jr, Nate Mason, Shep Garner, McIntosh, Tarin Smith). The star power is at the wing with Russell and Blackmon who are the leading contenders for Freshman of the year. Kam Williams and Chatman also look like future star scorers. There are few freshman big men and most are on Purdue with Haas and Edwards looking the best. There are a lot more freshman who may not put up big numbers, but will get very important minutes and have a chance to make a jump next year.
On to the predictions.
UW- I was torn here but finally decided to go with 15-3. I almost went 16-2 because they get NW, PSU, Iowa, Minn, and Nebraska twice, but three of the singles are road games against MI, OSU, and Maryland.
OSU- Hard to read as they have blown out a lot of bad teams, but I still think they are the leagues 2nd best team. The schedule gives them winnable single road games @NW and @PSU, and allows them to avoid @UW, @Nebraska, and @Maryland. 13-5
MSU- This might be the worst MSU team since the Drew Neitzel era, but like those teams, Izzo just won't let them miss the tourney. 11-7
Maryland-If this team gets healthy I think they may be the surprise team in the Big Ten and challenge OSU. They have yet to play with a full deck, but everyone should be back eventually. They get Rutgers, PSU, Indiana, Nebraska, and MSU twice. If Trimble, Wells, Layman, and Smotrycz all play they have 4 scorers. 10-8.
MI- A lot of people are off the MI bandwagon ad predicting disaster after the consecutive home losses to NJIT, and EMU. This team lost a lot the last 2 years but the cupboard is not bare. Defense will be a problem all season, but they have enough scorers to win games. 9-9
Iowa- This team is not as good as last year's team, but a weaker Big Ten allows them to hold at 9-9.
Illinois- I like the young kids on this team to step up and give this team a 2 game improvement over last season. 9-9
Nebraska- They had a magical run to finish the season and make the NCAA last year, but they will not surprise anyone this year. 9-9.
Indiana- I have softened on IU after seeing them play with the 3 returned players who were suspended. They are still bad defensively, but not as bad as I first thought. 9-9.
Minnesota- I really like that Mason kid, but this team doesn't look any better than last years team. 8-10.
Purdue- I like the young players on this team to help them improve over last year's disastrous 5-13 season. I won't be shocked if this team makes a tournament run. 8-10.
PSU- Newbill will get hot and chuck this team into an upset or 2, and they'll win some home games against the mediocre middle of the Big Ten. 6-12
Northwestern- I hope I don't see any game they play other than the UW games. In addition to being bad they play UW, MSU, Iowa, MI and IL twice, Rutgers and PSU only once. 5-13
Rutgers- Also don't want to watch this team play again. 5-13