College Basketball Betting Preview for Big Ten: Michigan, Purdue Above All Else?

College Basketball Betting Preview for Big Ten: Michigan, Purdue Above All Else? article feature image
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  • Michigan, Purdue, Ohio State and Illinois are in the top tier of the conference's elite.
  • Maryland and Michigan State are dangerous in the second tier.
  • Tanner McGrath breaks down the league from top-to-bottom.

There’s no better conference to follow than the Big Ten.

Every team is good, every game is hard-fought and any team can win on any given night. Last season, the conference’s top-two regular-season finishers (Michigan, Illinois) earned No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Another two earned a No. 2 seed (Iowa, Ohio State).

However, it’s worth mentioning this conference is not for the faint of heart. Since the start of the 2017-18 season, conference games have hit the under at a 54.5% rate. This obviously speaks to the defensive prowess of the league, rather than the offensive ineptitude.

But as I’ve always said: Big Ten basketball is the purest form of the sport. This is hard-nosed, back-to-the-basket, blood-sweat-and-tears basketball. If James Naismith watched a mid-season Minnesota-Northwestern game, he’d cry tears of joy, exclaiming that this is how he intended the game to be played.

That being said, let’s preview another unbelievable Big Ten season from top-to-bottom.




The Favorites

Michigan Wolverines

Odds to Win Big Ten via BetMGM +250
2020-21 Overall Record 23-5
2020-21 Conference Record 14-3
2020-21 KenPom Offensive Efficiency 117.6 (9th)
2020-21 KenPom Defensive Efficiency 87.9 (4th)

Juwan Howard was asked to replace the irreplaceable. Becoming the Michigan head coach after John Beilein is akin to becoming the Patriots’ quarterback after Tom Brady.

But Howard has proven he’s up to the task. Last season, he built a team that finished top-10 in both KenPom offensive and defensive efficiency, earning AP Coach of the Year honors as a result.

This year, Howard has a more difficult task as he tries to replace three starters, a sixth man and a five-year backup center. However, Howard has built a strong culture in Ann Arbor and he has a smorgasbord of incoming talent primed to fit right in.

For example, Coastal Carolina transfer DeVanté Jones, who will be asked to do exactly what Mike Smith did last season. Smith transferred to Ann Arbor from Columbia, turning from a high-volume Ivy League scorer into a Big Ten ball-screen facilitator.

Smith excelled in his role, but can Jones do the same?

Jones has the tangibles to do so. Although he led the Sun Belt in scoring last season, he also led the league in assists his sophomore year (5.7 APG) while ranking in the top-40 nationally in assist rate (33.4).

The jury is still out if he’ll productively handle all the different offensive sets.

MID-MAJOR MONDAY 6’1 Sophomore G Devante Jones out of Coastal Carolina does it all. The New Orleans native averaged 17 PPG 6 RPG and 6 APG while also being named to the 2nd team All-Sun Belt this past season. NBA scouts take notice!! Full tape on the FV YouTube @DevanteJones_ pic.twitter.com/oSdcbqxS9C

— Frankie Vision (@Frankie_Vision) May 18, 2020

Jones will surely be a better defender than Smith was. Jones boasts a much larger frame and he paced the Sun Belt in steals last year.

Maybe more importantly, however, is that Jones will allow super senior Eli Brooks to retain his same role at the 2. Brooks has been a productive member of this system for four seasons, playing high-level defense on one end and shooting almost 40% from 3 at the other (39.6% in 2020-21).

The chemistry that Jones builds with center Hunter Dickinson will be important as well. Dickinson changed the entire team in his inaugural season, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors after leading the team in scoring, rebounding and blocks.

Dickinson is a monstrous interior presence. He scores efficiently (1.034 PPP in post-up situations, 86th percentile), can pass effectively out of double teams and is an excellent rim protector. If he can develop his right hand and extend his range, the Virginia product could become the best center in the nation.

COUNTDOWN TO COLLEGE BASKETBALL:

Michigan center; Hunter Dickinson; 2020-21 stats:

14.1 ppg
7.4 rpg
1.4 bpg
in only…
24.9 mpg

The Big Ten Freshman of the Year ladies and gentlemen!!

A monster in the restricted area — would you guess he's lefty? pic.twitter.com/jfRWgKrs3p

— Sƚαƚ Sϙυιԃ (@statsquid) November 2, 2021

Those three will be the core of the team, but Michigan’s roster is as deep as it comes.

That includes the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class, headlined by three McDonald’s All-Americans.

ESPN’s No. 8 overall prospect Caleb Houstan will start at the 3. He’s Michigan’s highest-rated recruit since Glenn Robinson III in 2012. But don’t overlook 6-foot-11 IMG Academy product Moussa Diabate or Grand Rapids guard Kobe Bufkin, who both will play big roles off the bench.


Purdue Boilermakers

Odds to Win Big Ten via BetMGM +300
2020-21 Overall Record 18-10
2020-21 Conference Record 13-6
2020-21 KenPom Offensive Efficiency 113.3 (26th)
2020-21 KenPom Defensive Efficiency 92.9 (34th)

While Michigan is the clear-cut favorite, the Wolverines have a very young roster, filled with inexperience and teammates who have yet to build chemistry.

Matt Painter’s Boilermakers are the exact opposite, and Purdue will be breathing down Michigan’s neck all season.

Painter returned all five starters from last season and a whopping 91.3% of the team’s total minutes played. The Boilermakers are one of just four high-major schools that didn’t take a transfer.

As such, there are high expectations in West Lafayette, as Purdue is ranked in the preseason top 10 of the AP Poll for the first time since 2009.

Things center around all-conference center Trevion Williams, who averaged 15.5 points and 9.1 rebounds while finishing seventh in KenPom’s Player of the Year rankings. He’ll be the steady interior body and the leader of the Purdue pack.

However, the biggest X-factor for the Boilermakers this season is All-Big Ten freshman guard Jaden Ivey, who’s one of the biggest breakout candidates for the upcoming season.

He averaged 18.2 points over his final six games of 2020-21 and dropped 26 in Purdue’s first-round NCAA Tournament loss to North Texas.

Jaden Ivey is so much fun pic.twitter.com/5iNWuJVUqT

— Simon Rath (@HawksDraftNerd) October 28, 2021

The two other key players for Purdue will be Sasha Stefanovic and Zach Edey.

Stefanovic is one of the Big Ten’s premier deep threats, shooting 40% from 3 and ranking in the 92nd percentile in spot-up points per possession (1.203 PPP). Purdue went 9-1 in games where he scored double-digits last season.

Edey is the Big Ten’s most intriguing young player. He’s 7-foot-4, 285 pounds and his potential is as big as his frame.

Edey began the season with 19 points against Liberty and 17 against Clemson, and he closed it with 21 against Wisconsin and 20 against Indiana. However, the middle of the season was filled with ups and downs, but he still finished the year leading the Boilermakers in true shooting percentage (63.2%) and blocks (30).

Purdue has the offensive and defensive abilities to make a deep run in March this season. But its added experience needs to translate to better decision-making, as Purdue’s 1.14 assist-to-turnover ratio ranked 13th among the 14 Big Ten teams.

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Ohio State Buckeyes

Odds to Win Big Ten via BetMGM +450
2020-21 Overall Record 21-10
2020-21 Conference Record 12-8
2020-21 KenPom Offensive Efficiency 120.7 (4th)
2020-21 KenPom Defensive Efficiency 97.1 (82nd)

Despite losing Duane Washington Jr., the trio of Justice Sueing, E.J. Liddell and Kyle Young still make the Buckeyes’ offense very dangerous.

However, the Buckeyes don’t need any more offense. Chris Holtmann needs to build a defense.

The Buckeyes finished 10th in the conference in KenPom defensive efficiency last season, allowing the 207th most points per game in college basketball (71.7). In the halfcourt, the Buckeyes allowed .893 points per possession (25th percentile) and opponents shot 34% from 3 (184th).

With Washington gone, Holtmann dipped into the transfer portal and pulled out Penn State grad transfer Jamari Wheeler. While he averaged just 6.8 points last season, he’s been one of the conference’s best defenders.

He’s the Big Ten’s two-time defending steals leader and was voted to the conference’s all-defensive team in both campaigns. Wheeler will immediately step in as Ohio State’s best on-the-ball defender and if he can improve his jump shot, the sky is the limit.

Jamari Wheeler just made a nice recovery after a turnover, getting back on defense for a clean strip to get the ball back. Lions lead 30-24 late in the half. pic.twitter.com/WMtGMOsKjg

— Black Shoe Diaries (@BSDtweet) November 16, 2017

However, other newcomers include Cedric Russell (ULL) and Malaki Branham (St. Vincent-St. Mary HS).

Russell is an offensive force, a three-level scorer who dropped 26 on Baylor’s guards in non-conference play last season. Meanwhile, Branham was Ohio’s Mr. Basketball in his senior season and dropped 37 points in the Ohio Division-II state championship game.

However, neither will provide much defense. Russell’s resume shows he’s a true scorer (124 games, 75 steals, nine blocks, 168:187 assist-to-turnover ratio), while Branham’s 6-foot-5, 180-pound frame makes him a defensive liability on the perimeter.

Maybe it’s best Holtmann plays to his strengths, though. Scoring in bunches at an uber-efficient level (.986 PPP in half-court offense last season, 96th percentile) led them to a 2-seed, so they might as well load up on bucket-getters and run it back.


Illinois Fighting Illini

Odds to Win Big Ten via BetMGM +550
2020-21 Overall Record 24-7
2020-21 Conference Record 16-4
2020-21 KenPom Offensive Efficiency 118.0 (8th)
2020-21 KenPom Defensive Efficiency 88.9 (7th)

Ayo Dosunmu is irreplaceable. Last season, he became the first college player in over a decade to average at least 20 points, six rebounds and five assists per game. He was the USA Today National Player of the Year and the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year.

However, lest we forget what Brad Underwood’s Illini accomplished without Ayo?

When Dosunmu was out with a broken nose late last season, the Illini proceeded to dominate both Wisconsin and Michigan on the road. They won the two games by a combined 28 points and posted an effective field goal rate above 55%.

The three guys that stepped up in Dosunmu’s absence: Kofi Cockburn, Andre Curbelo and Trent Frazier.

The three combined for 51 of the team’s 76 points against Michigan and 42 of the team’s 74 points against Wisconsin. And this season, all three return with an extra year of experience.

The biggest member (both literally and metaphorically) of that crew is Cockburn, who spent time this offseason in the NBA draft process and the transfer portal.

His decision to spend another season in Champaign makes the Illini contenders again. He’s a top-10 player in the country and the best big man in the Big Ten, a true two-way force who recorded 16 double-doubles last season.

He’ll be the primary focus of the Illinois attack, but Curbelo and Frazier perfectly compliment him.

Curbelo can’t shoot from deep, but he’s a joy to watch with the ball in his hands. He averaged four assists per game last year on his way to becoming the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year. He also finished with a team-high assist rate (34.4). He’s the perfect man to run Underwood’s offense.

Andre Curbelo is a wizard man. The shot fake into the wraparound. So freakin dynamic as a playmaker pic.twitter.com/WYc9bE5aY1

— Mark Schindler (@MSchindlerNBA) December 22, 2020

Meanwhile, Frazier is a bucket-getter who will shoulder a much-larger scoring load with Dosunmu out. Plus, he made the Big Ten All-Defensive Team last season. His decision to return for his super senior season is not lost on Illinois fans.

Underwood’s team finished in the top-10 in both KenPom offensive and defensive efficiency last season. Losing a first-team All-American and expecting to repeat the same success seems illogical, but I’m not putting it past the three-headed monster of Cockburn, Curbelo and Frazier.


Tier 2

Michigan State Spartans

Odds to Win Big Ten via BetMGM +900
2020-21 Overall Record 15-13
2020-21 Conference Record 9-11
2020-21 KenPom Offensive Efficiency 107.1 (98th)
2020-21 KenPom Defensive Efficiency 92.4 (45th)

There were all sorts of issues with the Spartans last season, but Tom Izzo is one of college basketball’s best minds and he managed to fix things toward the end of the campaign. The Spartans beat three top-10 teams in the final two weeks (Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan).

However, the season was largely a loss, and the primary issue was not having a pure point guard. Rocket Watts is a great player, but he’s not the right fit for Izzo’s team. Watts should see an uptick in production with Mississippi State.

Izzo went to the transfer portal and he pulled out Northeastern’s Tyson Walker. In the CAA, Walker averaged over 25 points, shot 47% from the field — 40% from 3 — and added three steals per game.

Like to see this in the bag for Tyson Walker. Best version of this season’s team has Walker playing a significant role sooner than later. pic.twitter.com/q3NRtMWuXV

— DK (@SpartanHoops_DK) September 10, 2021

But Walker won’t carry the team in the Big Ten. Izzo will have to see a major improvement from four returning players in particular: Marcus Bingham Jr., Gabe Brown, Joey Hauser and A.J. Hoggard.

Izzo also has McDonald’s All-American and Illinois’ Mr. Basketball Max Christie joining his program. Christie is expected to start at the 2 right away. As the nation’s No. 17 prospect, Christie is Izzo’s highest-rated recruit since Jaren Jackson Jr.

All-in-all, there’s talent on the roster, but so many unknowns. However, if Izzo is the head coach, I’d never count out the Spartans.


Maryland Terrapins

Odds to Win Big Ten via BetMGM +1000
2020-21 Overall Record 17-14
2020-21 Conference Record 9-11
2020-21 KenPom Offensive Efficiency 111.8 (37th)
2020-21 KenPom Defensive Efficiency 94.1 (42nd)

Last season, the Terps largely over-performed expectations thanks to the trio of Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins and Donta Scott.

Well, Wiggins is gone, but the team has added considerably otherwise. The biggest name is Rhode Island transfer Fatts Russell, who led the Rams in scoring (14.7 PPG), assists (4.5 APG) and steals (1.9 SPG) last season.

Top-5 name in college hoops: Fatts Russell!

Drive. Ball-fake. Drop-off. Assist. pic.twitter.com/KCiUocqZ4n

— ESPN (@espn) December 19, 2020

Pairing him with the Ayala — the Terps’ top scorer last season — creates a tremendously talented backcourt.

Plus, Mark Turgeon significantly upgraded his frontcourt with Georgetown transfer Qudus Wahab. Wahab was rated as the No. 3 overall transfer, averaging 12.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last season.

However, he’s proven himself as a big-game player, averaging 14.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in the Hoyas unlikely Big East Tournament title last season. He earned all-tournament honors as a result.

He also went on to drop 20 points and 12 rebounds in Georgetown’s NCAA Tournament loss to Colorado.

NCAA Tournament Potential Upset Preview

Georgetown

Most of Georgetown's half-court offense begins by having 6'11 Center Qudus Wahab set ballscreens and then roll hard to the basket. The Georgetown guards are excellent at finding the open man, leading to very balanced scoring pic.twitter.com/zmTaLeXyC7

— Let's Talk College Hoops (@Hoops2College) March 16, 2021

That makes Wahab perfect for the Big Ten, where every night is a big game.

Wahab also solves a massive issue for the Terps: Size. Last season, the tallest Maryland player was 6-foot-9 and the Terps started 6-foot-7 Donta Scott at center. The Terps finished dead last in the Big Ten in rebounding as a result.

Turgeon also added depth at the wing position, but a talented, veteran backcourt and a strong interior presence will do wonders for Maryland this season.


Tier 3

Indiana Hoosiers

Odds to Win Big Ten via BetMGM +1500
2020-21 Overall Record 12-15
2020-21 Conference Record 7-12
2020-21 KenPom Offensive Efficiency 109.1 (70th)
2020-21 KenPom Defensive Efficiency 92.4 (43rd)

All-in-all, Mike Woodson is a pretty good hire. Although he has no college basketball experience, he’s coached both the Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks to playoff appearances — not an easy task.

Plus, anyone is better than Archie Miller.

The Hoosiers lost their final six games to end the season last year. Trayce-Jackson Davis was a First Team All-Big Ten honoree and one of the best big men in the country, but the shooting around him was horrendous (236th in 3-point shooting percentage) and the Hoosiers finished 7-12 in Big Ten play.

To help with that, Woodson managed to get Miller Kopp to transfer from Northwestern. Kopp is a career 36% 3-point shooter and a career 85% free-throw shooter, two areas where Indiana needs tremendous help.

🎯 @Miller_Kopp already has 2 buckets from deep for @NUMensBball

It's what he does 🙃 pic.twitter.com/6w9581fv0z

— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) December 3, 2020

Woodson went out and picked up Pittsburgh transfer Xavier Johnson to compete with Rob Phinisee for the starting point guard job. Johnson averaged 14.2 points and 5.7 assists per game last season while posting much better shooting splits than most of the Indiana guards.

Woodson will play a four-out, one-in offensive system and the two perimeter additions will help tremendously.

Meanwhile, Indiana will transition from Miller’s pack-line defense to Woodson’s switching man-to-man with heavy ball pressure.

Indiana didn’t play terrible defense in the half-court last season, with Race Thompson being its best interior defender. But the Hoosiers were pathetic in transition, getting boat-raced down the floor to the tune of 1.213 points per possession (1st percentile).

Woodson has made it clear that improved conditioning will be a big part of the team going forward. But, there’s still plenty of questions surrounding Indiana for the upcoming season.

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Wisconsin Badgers

Odds to Win Big Ten via BetMGM +3000
2020-21 Overall Record 18-13
2020-21 Conference Record 10-10
2020-21 KenPom Offensive Efficiency 113.0 (29th)
2020-21 KenPom Defensive Efficiency 90.6 (15th)

The Badgers were frisky last season, but Wisconsin ultimately fell short of expectations. Greg Gard’s offensive scheme ends with a lot of 3-point shots, something the Badgers did well with. But it’s a boom-or-bust offense, and the highly experienced roster faltered down the stretch.

For this season, there’s zero experience on the roster.

Of the 14 scholarship players on the Badgers, 10 are still classified as freshmen (for eligibility purposes). Just one starter returns in Brad Davison, who has more points in a Wisconsin uniform than the rest of his team combined.

UNC can’t stop Brad Davison 😯

He has 27 PTS | 5-7 3PM pic.twitter.com/th1wJCeEv9

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 20, 2021

Almost the entire offense will be put on Davison’s shoulders. He’s a capable scorer (career 10.6 PPG) and shooter (39% from 3 last season), but sadly, he’s no D’Mitrik Trice, who the Badgers will sorely miss.

Outside of him, however, there are two sure-fire starters in Tyler Wahl and Jonathan Davis, who combined for 12.2 points per game last season.

There’s some future excitement for the Badgers, as they have so many new faces and are such a young team. For this year, however, look for Wisconsin to take a major step back and enter “rebuilding” mode.

If you’re a Badgers fan, keep an eye on true freshman Chucky Hepburn. Hepburn averaged 15.9 points per game at Bellevue West in Omaha and he could potentially take over at the point guard position this season.


Iowa Hawkeyes

Odds to Win Big Ten via BetMGM +5000
2020-21 Overall Record 22-9
2020-21 Conference Record 14-6
2020-21 KenPom Offensive Efficiency 123.5 (3rd)
2020-21 KenPom Defensive Efficiency 96.7 (75th)

The Luka Garza era was special. Garza earned consensus National Player of the Year honors and Iowa twice finished in the top five in KenPom offensive efficiency with him in the middle.

But that era is over and it’s all-too-obvious by the roster turnover. Garza and Wisekamp got drafted, CJ Fredrick transferred to Kentucky and Jack Nunge went to Xavier.

That leaves Jordan Bohannon and Connor McCaffery as the only starters from last season, while Patrick McCaffery will probably step in as the sixth man. It also leaves as much offensive uncertainty as there’s ever been for Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes.

It also leaves a lot of room for guys to step up. I’d keep an eye on Keegan Murray for the upcoming year. Murray started four games for the Hawkeyes last season and was the team’s fourth-leading scorer.

Murray was also wildly efficient, posting 1.048 points per possession in half-court sets (79th percentile) and a true shooting mark over 58%. His efficiency might take a step down as his usage goes up, but the offensive skillset is there.

Keegan Murray making a difference. 👀

The @IowaHoops freshman stretches the lead to eight: pic.twitter.com/2b7hZeKHuR

— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 5, 2021

The defense has always been trash, but there’s a chance McCaffery’s team steps up the intensity on that side without automatic Garza buckets. Either way, the ceiling on this team isn’t very high.


Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Odds to Win Big Ten via BetMGM +6600
2020-21 Overall Record 16-12
2020-21 Conference Record 10-10
2020-21 KenPom Offensive Efficiency 108.1 (82nd
2020-21 KenPom Defensive Efficiency 90.6 (16th)

If you’re looking for a dark-horse in the Big Ten, Rutgers and its 66-to-1 price are it.

Steve Pikiell has done wonders for this team, leading them to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1991 last season. Now, he returns the ever-dangerous Ron Harper Jr. (14.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG) and the talented, albeit mercurial, Geo Baker.

Plus, Pikiell still has Paul Mulcahy to pair with Baker in the backcourt, making it one of the more experienced in the conference. Mulcahy is a pass-first point guard who can effectively run an offense and be a reliable spot-up shooter.

Additionally, big-man Cliff Omoruyi is primed to break out now that Myles Johnson plays in Southern California. He was a top-50 prospect out of Roselle High in New Jersey and he has the skills to take Rutgers to the next level.

However, depth is an issue and perimeter shooting will continue to come at a premium for this squad.

But I’m high on the Scarlet Knights because of Harper. Harper averaged 23.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game during Rutgers’ 6-1 stretch to start the season. Then he rolled his ankle and things weren’t the same for the rest of the year.

Ron Harper Jr dropped a career-high 30 PTS (5 3PTS) for @RutgersMBB pic.twitter.com/IS7qmOXsyu

— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) November 28, 2020

If he comes back from his injury issues at 100% and the defense continues to play at an elite level (16th in KenPom defensive efficiency last season), the Scarlet Knights will climb the Big Ten ranks.


Minnesota Golden Gophers

Odds to Win Big Ten via BetMGM +6600
2020-21 Overall Record 14-15
2020-21 Conference Record 6-14
2020-21 KenPom Offensive Efficiency 108.4 (76th)
2020-21 KenPom Defensive Efficiency 95.4 (56th)

Richard Pitino is out as Minnesota head coach, and former Xavier assistant Ben Johnson is in.

However, Johnson has a massive rebuilding project on his hands. Minnesota returns just two players from last year’s roster, with one of them likely out for the year.

So, Johnson went to work on building his new roster. He ended up bringing in 14 players from 13 different schools who had played at six different levels the season before.

Minnesota should be picked to finish last in the Big Ten and I have no clue why BetMGM has them priced above Penn State, Northwestern or even Nebraska. I don’t know why I’m writing about them right now.


The Bottom Dwellers

Penn State Nittany Lions

Odds to Win Big Ten via BetMGM +10000
2020-21 Overall Record 11-14
2020-21 Conference Record 7-12
2020-21 KenPom Offensive Efficiency 112.2 (34th)
2020-21 KenPom Defensive Efficiency 95.2 (52nd)

Micah Shrewsberry is an excellent hire for the Nittany Lions. He’ll start the project of getting Penn State back on the right track.

The last year has been rough for Nittany Lions’ fans. Pat Chambers resigned, the team went through a COVID pause and six players, including three starters, have already found new homes through the transfer portal.

Shrewsberry will have three players from last year’s rotation that he can rely upon in Seth Lundy, John Harrar and Myles Dread. Harrar is an excellent rebounder and Lundy has shown he can do magical things at this level. But the starting five will be inconsistent and there’s no real depth.

Penn State will be frisky and it’ll win a few games, but this is a multi-year project for Shrewsberry. Look for Penn State to break out in two or three years.

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Northwestern Wildcats

Odds to Win Big Ten via BetMGM +10000
2020-21 Overall Record 9-14
2020-21 Conference Record 6-13
2020-21 KenPom Offensive Efficiency 104.3 (132nd)
2020-21 KenPom Defensive Efficiency 93.4 (37th)

Chris Collins and the Wildcats were 6-1 overall and 3-0 in conference play on December 28. They also ranked at No. 19 in the AP Top 25.

The team went on to lose 13 consecutive games. But Northwestern capped off the year with three more wins, including one against Maryland, that brought its conference record to 6-13.

Considering the Wildcats had won three games the year before and now return four of five starters, Collins will take it.

The frontcourt is one of the deepest in the conference and Pete Nance will continue to lead the Wildcats’ attack. However, the backcourt will remain consistent with both Chase Audige and Boo Buie returning after combining for more than 22 points and seven assists per game.

Northwestern takes a lot of shots from deep, with 35.2% of its total points coming from beyond the arc (64th in the nation). This makes them a boom-or-bust offense and when the shots stopped falling after Christmas, the losses came in bunches.

Northwestern provides a high level of intrigue, as its continuity and experience should lead to an improved team. However, it’s hard to see the Wildcats shooting hot for an entire season. It’d be nice if they could lean more on their frontcourt, but that might not translate into more wins either.


Nebraska Cornhuskers

Odds to Win Big Ten via BetMGM +15000
2020-21 Overall Record 7-20
2020-21 Conference Record 3-16
2020-21 KenPom Offensive Efficiency 101.8 (179th)
2020-21 KenPom Defensive Efficiency 94.1 (40th)

If Fred Hoiberg is going to start delivering wins, it should be now.

There’s talent on this roster. Hoiberg pulled in Nebraska’s first five-star recruit in school history in Bryce McGowens.

Bryce McGowens is gonna BALL OUT at Nebraska this szn 👀 #Lotto pic.twitter.com/LtB5avizEJ

— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) August 16, 2021

Then, Hoiberg picked up Arizona State grad transfer Alonzo Verge Jr., a combo-guard who averaged 14 points per game in his two seasons as a Sun Devil.

And finally, the Cornhuskers grabbed two big-time transfers in Xavier’s CJ Wilcher and DePaul’s Keon Edwards.

There is a path for Nebraska to hop out of the basement, but it must start on the offensive end. Nebraska ranked 179th in KenPom offensive efficiency, 253rd in effective field goal percentage and 205th in turnover rate.

But Nebraska has the ball-handling, wing play and shooting to pick up a few victories this season. After two straight years of seven-win seasons, Nebraska fans are happy to hear it.

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