I love this time of year. Outside of the beginning of baseball season, this is when I really get my hopes up because Illini basketball might actually be good this year. They won't win the Big Ten, so I analyzed how I think it will all unfold because, as you may know from my past predictions, I am quite intelligent. Without further ado, here are my 2019-20 Big Ten predictions.
- Michigan State - Michigan State is bringing back a STACKED team. It's a shame that Josh Langford is injured for what could be the majority of the season. They are, however, bringing in a loaded freshman class headlined by Rocket Watts (what a name!) and Malik Hall. I think this team walks away with the Big Ten title with the potential Naismith-Winner, Cassius Winston.
- Maryland - Typically, I think Maryland is overrated. They bring back Anthony Cowan, who is probably the second-best point guard in the Big Ten behind Winston. Jalen Smith is a stud on the block. They also bring in four-star recruit Makhi Mitchell. Bruno Fernando left for the league, but this roster is still rock solid.
- Ohio State - OSU has the strongest 2019 recruiting class in D.J. Carton, E.J. Liddell, and Alonzo Gaffney. They are LOADED. They bring back Kaleb Wesson, who is arguably the best big man in the Big Ten this year. They are deeper than any other team in the Big Ten. I could see them making a run at it this year, but that's dependent on the performance of their freshmen.
- Purdue - Purdue still has a seven-footer, per usual. His name is Matt Haarms, and he has stupid hair (shoutout Tom DeLonge). Their freshman class isn't as strong as the likes of Michigan State, OSU, and Maryland, but their current depth is there. I can see Purdue having a strong regular season but folding in the tournament.
- Illinois - Here are my Fighting Illini. The Illini return three of the top-30 scorers in the conference with about twenty of those scorers either graduating or leaving to play professionally. Ayo Dosunmu, Trent Frazier, and Giorgi Bezhanishvili are those three. They also add a four-star in Kofi Cockburn to take over as the center. This is a deep roster. Let's not forget the Illini defeated MSU and Maryland and went 7-7 in the Big Ten after January 25 last year. Look for them to make some noise and grab a tournament slot in their first March Madness appearance since 2012.
- Penn State - Penn State returns a plethora of upperclassmen. Lamar Stevens could lead the Big Ten in points per game this upcoming season. Jamari Wheeler will have a breakout campaign. Mike Watkins will get a LOT of boards. This team is top-heavy but can make the tournament.
- Wisconsin - Wisconsin is guard-heavy. They have a decent amount of returners, but I expect them to be a bubble team. Brevin Pritzl can hit threes. D'Mitrik Trice can dish, and Brad Davison can hit people in the nuts. They do lack a bit in the post, which could hurt them against the likes of Purdue or taller teams.
- Michigan - Michigan coach John Beilein left for the Cleveland Cavaliers, so that leaves a hole not many can fill on the coaching end. Zavier Simpson is a great facilitator at the top of the key. Jon Teske can handle the workload down low. Franz Wagner (Mo Wagner's brother) broke his wrist, so he could be out for a while. Juwan Howard could be a good coach, but it's hard to tell at this time. They will make some noise when he returns.
- Rutgers - Rutgers returns some depth. Geo Baker can score from the point, and they have a ton of height at the guard position. They can match up well against slower-paced teams but might have trouble with Michigan State and teams with guards that can run the floor quickly. They could surprise, so watch out for the Scarlet Knights.
- Iowa - The Hawkeyes could struggle at the forward position with the suspension of Cordell Pemsl. Jordan Bohannon is also hurt, so we could see that take a toll on the team in the leadership department. Luka Garza is great down low. Jack Nunge adds some depth, as well. Connor McCaffery has some big shoes to fill if Bohannon misses time, though.
- Indiana - Indiana has the best recruit in the 2019 class in Trayce Jackson-Davis. Unfortunately, they lack in a lot of areas. De'Ron Davis and Joey Brunk will need to play extensively down low, so if this team wants to succeed, they will need to make up ground on that end. Who knows, Maybe Jackson-Davis is THAT good.
- Minnesota - Minnesota landed a solid transfer in Marcus Carr. They also bring back Daniel Oturu, who is a stud in the post. Gabe Kalscheur can also score. Outside of that, I am not sure they have much else. We'll see, I guess.
- Nebraska - Jervay Green and Cam Mack can score. Haanif Cheatam could also provide a spark after transferring from Florida Gulf Coast. Unfortunately, I think they graduated too many seniors last season to make an impact this year.
- Northwestern - Northwestern is by far the weakest team in the Big Ten. One of their transfers, Pat Spencer, could provide a spark. However, he hasn't played basketball since high school. In fact, he was on his way to playing professional lacrosse before transferring to Northwestern for hoops. A.J. Turner and Anthony Gaines will have to lead the way, but that's a tall order with Dererk Pardon and Vic Law gone.
Well, there you have it. I've laid out my predictions for the 2019-20 Big Ten hoops season; how do you think it will play out? Regular season games start tonight, so tune in for the return of college basketball. As always, go Illini!
Featured Photo: Stephen Haas/AP