Big Ten 2021 is the upcoming season of college football for the Big Ten conference. This article provides an introduction to what you can expect from this year’s edition, including how it will end up affecting your favorite team.
The “big ten football standings 2021” is the upcoming schedule for the Big Ten Conference. The conference will have 14 teams in 2020, but it will be reduced to 10 teams for the 2021 season.
An ESPN panel of experts has issued predictions for all of the nation’s biggest conferences as the countdown to the start of the 2021-22 college basketball season on Tuesday continues. So far, we’ve looked at Gonzaga and the best teams from the mid-major conferences (Atlantic 10, C-USA, Ivy, MAC, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, SoCon, Sun Belt, and WCC), followed by Memphis, Houston, and the AAC, the Villanova-dominated Big East, UCLA, and the resurgent Pac-12 Conference, a Big 12 on the verge of a second straight national title, an SEC led by intriguing Kentucky and Duke, and the The Big Ten Conference brings our conference series to a close.
In 2020-21, the Big Ten showed its depth in a major by sending nine teams to the NCAA tournament, including two No. 1 seeds in the Michigan Wolverines and Illinois Fighting Illini, as well as the second-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes and eventual Wooden Award winner Luka Garza. None of them would make it to the Final Four, with Michigan losing in the Elite Eight to No. 11-seed UCLA and Illinois and Iowa being eliminated before the second weekend. These losses contributed to the Big Ten not being represented in the Final Four, and also prolonged the conference’s national title drought, which dates back to the Michigan State Spartans’ victory in 2000. This season, the league, headed once again by Michigan’s excellent squad, will have another wonderful chance to silence its national detractors.
Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway, and Joe Lunardi of ESPN’s writing staff assessed all of the league’s best teams and stories before making their predictions for the 15-team conference.
Superlatives | Roundtable | Picks | Superlatives
Superlatives for the Big Ten in 2021-22
Athlete of the Year
Kofi Cockburn, Kofi Medcalf, Kofi Medcalf, Kofi Medcalf, Kofi Borzello: Illinois’s Kofi Cockburn Gasaway: Illinois’s Kofi Cockburn Kofi Cockburn, Illinois, Lunardi
Newcomer of the Year is a prestigious award given to a newcomer
Caleb Houstan, Caleb Houstan, Caleb Houstan, Caleb Houstan, Caleb Caleb Houstan, Michigan Borzello Alonzo Verge Jr., Nebraska Gasaway Caleb Houstan, Caleb Houstan, Caleb Houstan, Caleb Houstan, Caleb Hou
Writers’ roundtable for the Big Ten in 2021-22
The Big Ten has not to win a national championship since 2000, and Michigan (No. 6 in the preseason AP poll) seems to be the favorite to break the streak. Is there a case to be made for the Wolverines cutting down the nets in New Orleans? To make it to the Final Four?
Hunter Dickinson’s comeback is one of the main reasons Michigan has a legitimate chance of winning the national title. USA TODAY Sports/Marc Lebryk
Medcalf: I believe this Michigan team is better — or at the very least, more skilled — than the one that had a chance to upset UCLA at the buzzer last season in a 51-49 Elite Eight loss with Isaiah Livers on the bench due to injury. A trip to the Final Four should be expected of this team, and a national championship should be a realistic objective. Michigan can break its national championship drought (the last time it won one was in 1989) and the Big Ten’s (2000, Michigan State). Nothing seemed to be too difficult for this group.
According to hooplens.com, Michigan made 40% of their 3-point tries with Hunter Dickinson on the court last season, while restricting opponents to just 88 points per 100 possessions. His comeback is what keeps the Wolverines’ hopeful predictions alive. If Howard can combine Dickinson with five-star prospect Moussa Diabate in the paint, the Wolverines will have a frontcourt capable of competing with Gonzaga, Kansas, and other great teams if they make it to New Orleans. He also has another year with Eli Brooks, and DeVante’ Jones (19.3 points per game last season) is on the way. If you stop there, you’ve got a Big Ten contender, but Caleb Houstan, a predicted top-10 selection in the 2022 NBA draft, might be the greatest player on the team this season, according to ESPN. Houstan provides the Wolverines with a high-level player capable of leading one of Michigan’s most talented squads in the post-Fab Five era.
Borzello: Purdue is rated higher than Michigan, therefore I should definitely argue in favor of the Boilermakers, but I don’t believe the Wolverines are far behind. However, I have some concerns regarding Juwan Howard’s organization. Mike Smith, a graduate transfer point guard from a mid- or low-major college, was a hit last season; players who move up from a mid- or low-major institution to an elite program don’t always work out, particularly if they need to drastically shift positions. Smith was eager to invest. Will Jones follow suit? He’s a stronger two-way player than Smith, but he’ll have to adjust his style since he won’t be scoring as much as he did at Coastal Carolina.
The second minor issue is defensive continuity, since Michigan lost three starters from a top-five defense. However, Howard acquired two high-level defenders in Jones and Diabate, while cornerstones Dickinson, Brooks, and Brandon Johns Jr. are still around. If Michigan’s point guard and defense get figured out early in the season, I think they’ll be in the Final Four. Howard’s two Michigan teams have placed No. 28 and No. 4 in adjusted defensive efficiency, respectively, on KenPom, so the Wolverines’ ceiling is very high there. On the other hand, Houstan is a lottery pick-caliber offensive talent who might soon become the team’s go-to man. Given their size and talent, Houstan and Dickinson will create nightmares for opposing defenders. The starting five and first two players off the bench for Michigan are unquestionably good enough to win at least four games in the NCAA tournament.
In 2022, playing against Michigan will be a particularly difficult experience for opponents, according to Gasaway. Last season, Michigan’s defense was by far the strongest in Big Ten competition, and the Wolverines operate similarly to Jim Calhoun’s golden-era UConn. Juwan Howard’s team isn’t interested in forcing turnovers because they know they can force misses. It’s a little unsettling. The amount of 3s attempted by opponents is likewise limited at UM.
Dickinson is a natural force who has a chance to win. Eli Brooks, the Big Ten Player of the Year, has made 38 percent of his three-point attempts over the previous two seasons, and you may have heard of Howard’s No. 1-ranked recruiting class. Is all of this enough to earn a national title? It’s a possibility. It’s possible that UM has a chance to defeat Gonzaga. The Bulldogs and Wolverines, in fact, have the nation’s longest current runs of Sweet 16 appearances, with six and four consecutive visits, respectively. In 2022, the streaks are expected to reach seven and five, respectively.
Lunardi: The chances of any conference fielding nine teams in a 68-team field, five of which are seeded one through four, and none of them making the Final Four are, well, humiliating. But then again, so was the Big Ten’s performance in the NCAA tournament in 2021. The Wolverines were the last team remaining, and even their Elite Eight defeat to UCLA left a bad taste in their mouth. Is it possible that 2022 will be the year of redemption? What does this mean for the league and Michigan? We’ll have to wait and see. All of the parts are in place. The Big Ten is stacked at the top, deep and dangerous in the middle, and the Wolverines are one of at least three teams in the mix to chop down the nets in April.
Juwan Howard has performed well on all fronts, and he wasn’t exactly up against it. John Beilein was a great slouch who twice made it to the NCAA championship game. Howard has the ability to achieve the same — or even better — with this squad, but he must first traverse a conference maze that seems to wear out even the top teams in the league. Michigan has a good chance. Quite a bit. Someone needs to put a stop to the Big Ten’s losing skid. Eventually.
Purdue (No. 7), Illinois (No. 11), Ohio State (No. 17), and Maryland round out the preseason top 25. (No. 21). One member of this foursome do you think is the most fascinating at this point, and which do you think is the most overrated?
Maryland has great aspirations, but Mark Turgeon has struggled to get to the second weekend. Julio Cortez/AP Photo
Borzello: Purdue is my favorite to win the league, so I’m interested in learning more about the Boilermakers. Much of it hinges on Jaden Ivey and Zach Edey, two breakthrough potential. After averaging 14.8 points in 12 starts last season, Ivey is everyone’s favorite blow-up name heading into the season, while Edey has been dominating in preseason training and put up monster numbers with Canada at the FIBA U19 World Cup. The interior will be led by All-American contender Trevion Williams, who will be joined by four other players who have started at least 21 games. Matt Painter’s role assignment may be a little more challenging this season, but there’s enough talent here to reach the Final Four.
All four teams are rated roughly where they are in the preseason AP poll, but Ohio State and Maryland are two teams that I am concerned about. Last season, the Buckeyes’ defense finished in the bottom of the Big Ten, and they also lost two of their top offensive players in Duane Washington Jr. and CJ Walker. Chris Holtmann must also address the position at point guard. The additions of transfers Fatts Russell (Rhode Island) and Qudus Wahab (Arizona) have fueled a lot of excitement for the Terrapins (Georgetown). If Maryland is to be a top-20 team, those two guys will have to live up to the hype. Last season, Maryland’s offense was one of the worst in the Big Ten, and Aaron Wiggins’ decision to depart for the NBA won’t help matters.
Gasaway: This is where I get to return to the original question and say that, as good as Michigan seems to be, I’m not convinced Purdue isn’t right behind them. Borzello’s prediction to win the league is fantastic. You may wait a long time and yet not see a pairing like the one Williams and Ivey are expected to provide. Williams has been a high-usage fighter since his Carsen Edwards days, and Ivey spent the summer competing in the FIBA U19 World Cup with Chet Holmgren and Patrick Baldwin Jr. Plus, Zach Edey seems to be able to dunk without his feet leaving the floor. The Boilermakers are not a team you want to play.
The phrase “overrated” is so harsh. Instead, consider if Maryland is a little “under proved” at this stage. Last season, their offensive was rated No. 11 in Big Ten play, and that was with Wiggins, who has since left. In 2020-21, the coaching staff shockingly implemented a bright red light on offensive rebounding efforts, which, when combined with an average turnover rate, resulted in a very low amount of shot attempts. If the red light comes on in College Park again this season, the Terrapins’ shooting and defense will have to be exceptional.
Lunardi: Illinois intrigues me the most, if only because Kofi Cockburn seems like someone who might easily split me in pieces if I weren’t careful. All jokes aside, the Illini must be bitter about their second-round defeat to Loyola Chicago in 2021. Illinois was a popular — and real — favorite to win it all a year ago, and even with Ayo Dosunmu in the NBA, they have more than enough talent to continue what they started.
Maryland, on the other hand, is one of those places where I’ll believe it when I see it. Sure, the Terps have some outstanding players. They always manage to do so. In recent years, however, the whole has seldom, if ever, been larger than the parts. As a result, just one trip beyond the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament has been made since 2003. In College Park, this level of mediocrity has become the norm. The squad from 2021-22 has the ability to change the narrative, but will they?
Maryland, in my opinion, is the most fascinating squad in this group. I’m a fan of Fatts Russell (14.7 PPG, 4.5 APG). And, in the company of Donta Scott and Eric Ayala, he has the potential to do some good. However, he was a 24% 3-point shooter a year ago, and the Terps could use another shooter to spread the floor now that Wiggins and Jairus Hamilton are gone. Darryl Morsell, the Big Ten defensive player of the year, has transferred to Marquette. This bunch simply seems to have a lot of variance potential, which is par for the course with Maryland basketball.
And I’d argue Illinois is somewhat overrated, owing to Dosunmu’s status as one of the top two or three players in college basketball last season. With Cockburn and Trent Frazier back, Illinois has a lot of potential, but I believe they should be closer to the top 15 than the top 10. However, it isn’t egregious.
This season, first-year coach Mike Woodson will try to reestablish Indiana as a household name. What are your first thoughts on his efforts? What do you think Indiana’s ceiling will be in 2021-22?
Since taking over as Indiana’s coach, Mike Woodson seemed to have made all of the proper decisions. Robert Goddin is a sports reporter for USA TODAY.
Lunardi: In Bloomington, a startling hiring has been followed by even more surprising optimism. Mike Woodson, like Juwan Howard before him, seemed unaffected by the switch from the NBA to college basketball. Recruiting is up, the roster is looking good, and the atmosphere surrounding the program is making people grin for the first time in a long time.
Woodson has a great shot to break Indiana’s mystifying NCAA tournament skid on the floor. I anticipate it to happen right away, with extended March (and April?) experiences in the subsequent seasons. And no one has bothered to contact him — or me! Oscar the Grouch (Oscar the Grouch)
Woodson has been excellent, according to Medcalf. He persuaded Trayce Jackson-Davis to return to Indiana, claiming that another year with the Hoosiers would improve his draft ranking. In the transfer portal, he also put some intriguing names (Xavier Johnson, Miller Kopp). In his next two recruiting classes, he’s recruited a pair of Georgia-based prospects, using his ties from his tenure as the Atlanta Hawks’ head coach. But now it’s time for the big test. For the first time since 2016, I believe Indiana can sneak into the NCAA tournament as a bubble team. We know what Jackson-Davis will provide them. The Hoosiers have a chance to earn an at-large spot if Race Thompson (9.1 PPG), the transfers, and Tamar Bates, the class’s No. 25 prospect, can complement Jackson-Davis.
Gasaway: Yes, the Big Ten has a national championship drought and a slew of non-Michigan tournament memories from 2021. But let me say this for the league: Indiana finishing seventh is a positive development for the Hoosiers. That’s how deep the conference is, and how optimistic things seem in Bloomington at the start of the Woodson era.
Naturally, having an All-American-level player like Jackson-Davis helps, but he’s a star on a team that was better even last year than what you’d expect from a season that ends with the coach being fired. This was an NCAA tournament squad until Indiana’s dramatic and disastrous collapse in the last 10 minutes of a home game against Michigan State. Everything went bad after that. Now that the season has begun, Woodson is mingling with Bob Knight at practice, and only Purdue and Northwestern have more experience than last year. In 2022, the Indiana Hoosiers will perform.
Borzello: Woodson’s rapid adaptation to the collegiate game has astonished me. The concern for him was never whether he could coach basketball on the court; it was whether he could recruit at a high enough level to get Indiana back into the national debate. He’s done a wonderful job thus far. Johnson, Kopp, Parker Stewart, and Michael Durr are four transfers who can help this season, and Bates was a great spring signing. In the 2022 class, Woodson has already added two ESPN 100 prospects. So the Indiana Hoosiers seem to be in terrific shape off the court.
Indiana, I believe, will go under the radar a little bit this season. In fact, I had Indiana as a dark horse to be this year’s Michigan or Alabama. Jackson-Davis is one of college basketball’s most dominating players, two other starters are returning, and we’ve already listed all of Woodson’s complementing components from last spring.
What Big Ten team isn’t getting nearly enough attention heading into 2021-22?
Geo Baker (0) and Ron Harper Jr. (24) are expected to help Rutgers achieve even greater success in 2021-22, according to Steve Pikiell. Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire photo
Gasaway: Am I permitted to preach Ohio State’s underappreciated praises, despite the Buckeyes’ outstanding No. 17 ranking? In Big Ten play last season, this offensive outperformed the much-talked-about offenses of Michigan and Illinois, as well as every other team save Iowa. If the Big Ten Player of the Year award was given based on overall performance, E.J. Liddell would easily win it. He scores on both ends of the court, draws fouls, makes free throws, rebounds, assists, and guards the rim. On any given night, Justice Sueing is more than capable of taking over as the team’s top scorer. Along with the likes of UM, Purdue, and the Illini, Chris Holtmann’s club has a place in the debate.
Medcalf: What about Rutgers University? Rutgers would have made their third straight NCAA tournament participation if the 2020 tournament hadn’t been canceled. Yes, this club lost Jacob Young and other key players from last year’s team, which advanced to the second round but blew a double-digit lead in a second-round defeat to Houston. The Scarlet Knights, on the other hand, return 73 percent of their offensive output from their first-round win against Clemson. Both Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker are returning for a Rutgers squad that has a chance to beat the odds and finish with a.500 or better Big Ten record and an NCAA tournament spot.
Borzello: I agree with Myron that Rutgers is a sleeper heading into the season, but I also believe Northwestern and — dare I say — Nebraska are. Northwestern looked like an NCAA tournament team for roughly two months last season, winning three straight games over Michigan State, Indiana, and Ohio State before dropping its next 13 games. All of the players, with the exception of Indiana forward Kopp, will return to Evanston for another season.
Meanwhile, Nebraska has the potential to compete for a top-half conference finish. That may not seem like much, but Nebraska has finished 13th, 14th, and 14th in the Big Ten the previous three seasons. Arizona State transfer Bryce McGowens should be one of the league’s finest freshman. Alonzo Verge Jr. is a high-level scorer, and Fred Hoiberg has plenty of options to surround those two on the perimeter.
Lunardi: My attention is also drawn to Nebraska’s Hoiberg, who is still at least a year away. The Cornhuskers are the only Power 5 team that has never won an NCAA tournament game. That’s never, as in never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, The previous Tim Miles club was on course to break that bleak history, with a 13-4 record at the halfway point of the 2018-19 season. Then big man Isaac Copeland was injured, and everything fell apart, prompting a leadership change and the entrance of Hoiberg. Hoiberg, I think, will get it done in Lincoln in due time. And I’m a sucker for schools that are NCAA non-perennials striving for a chance at a championship.
Order of finish for the Big Ten in 2021-22
1. The state of Michigan Purdue is ranked second, while Illinois is ranked third. 4. The Ohio State Buckeyes Maryland is number five. 6. Michigan State University Indiana is ranked number seven. 8. Rutgers University 10. Wisconsin 9. Iowa 11. Northwestern University Nebraska is number 12 on the list. Penn State is number thirteen. Minnesota is number 14 on the list.
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