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Big Ten Basketball: Preview and Predictions for 2021-22 Season

E.J. Liddell, Ohio State Buckeyes Basketball

E.J. Liddell and Ohio State look to win a Big Ten title in what appears to be a top-heavy conference

Don't look for the Big Ten to field nine NCAA Tournament teams, including a pair of No. 1 seeds and two No. 2 seeds, again. Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Rutgers suffered major attrition.

Three new coaches arrive. Micah Shrewsberry (Penn State) and Ben Johnson (Minnesota) face major rebuilding work, while Mike Woodson drew early praise for reworking the Indiana roster.

With Luka Garza, Ayo Dosunmu and Marcus Carr departing, only three of the league's top 10 scorers return — Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, E.J. Liddell of Ohio State and Purdue's Trevion Williams.

Related: College Basketball Top 25 for 2021-22

Familiar faces remain at the top. Matt Painter, starting his 17th season, should have his best Purdue team, returning his top nine players and adding two four-star recruits. Guard Jaden Ivey was dazzling in March and in the summer as he excelled for the Team USA 19-and-under team.

Michigan won't be as experienced as Purdue after losing three starters but could be more talented with bruising center Hunter Dickinson, guard Eli Brooks and the nation's top recruiting class.

Ohio State benefited from the return of Liddell but will scramble to replace guard Duane Washington. Maryland scored in the transfer pool with Qudus Wahab of Georgetown and Rhode Island guard Fatts Russell.

Tom Izzo believes he solved the Spartans' point guard problem by adding Tyson Walker, who averaged 18.8 points and 4.8 assists last season at Northeastern.

After those five, expect a scramble.

Predictions

1. Michigan
Hunter Dickinson decided he was not ready for the NBA, so Big Ten defenders will have to deal with him again. Transfer DeVante' Jones was the best guard in the Sun Belt. With guard Eli Brooks and the nation's top recruiting class, the Wolverines will chase another No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed.

2. Purdue
If Michigan falters, the Boilermakers have the tools to pounce. Guard Jaden Ivey has star quality. Nobody outworks Trevion Williams on the glass. Zach Edey is more than a shot-blocker as an agile 7'4" center. Matt Painter has much more than a Big 3.

3. Ohio State
The Buckeyes will ride E.J. Liddell, Justice Sueing and bruising Kyle Young. But can Cedric Russell replace Duane Washington as a lead guard? Russell averaged 17 points and shot 40 percent from 3 at Louisiana.

4. Illinois
Kofi Cockburn's decision to return was welcome news after four starters and the assistant coaching staff departed. Trent Frazier, Andre Curbelo and Utah transfer Alfonso Plummer will give Brad Underwood one of the league's top backcourts.

5. Maryland
Mark Turgeon tapped into the transfer portal for guard Fatts Russell (Rhode Island) and forward Qudus Wahab (Georgetown). With Aaron Wiggins lost to the NBA, guard Eric Ayala will become the Terps' go-to guy.

6. Michigan State
The Spartans stumbled into the NCAA Tournament play-in game, prompting Tom Izzo to fetch Northeastern guard Tyson Walker to fix MSU's leadership problem. Five-star freshman Max Christie was the Illinois Prep Player of the Year.

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7. Indiana
Coach Mike Woodson returned to his alma mater, but more importantly, Trayce Jackson-Davis returned for his junior season. Improved guard play could come from transfers Xavier Johnson and Parker Stewart or five-star recruit Tamar Bates.

8. Wisconsin
Warning signs in Madison, where somebody leaked a recording of players complaining about their relationship with head coach Greg Gard. Wisconsin will ride wing Jonathan Davis and gritty Brad Davison.

9. Rutgers
Head coach Steve Pikiell has built a culture of toughness with the Scarlet Knights. Forward Ron Harper Jr. and savvy point guard Geo Baker make Rutgers risky to dismiss.

10. Iowa
Fran McCaffrey knew he would have to adjust to life without Luka Garza. It's life without Joe Wieskamp (NBA), CJ Frederick (Kentucky) and Jack Nunge (Xavier) that put McCaffrey in scramble mode.

11. Northwestern
The Wildcats made their first NCAA Tournament in 2017 — and since that breakthrough moment, Chris Collins' program has gone 29 games under .500.

12. Nebraska
The return of three starters and the addition of five-star recruit Bryce McGowens make the Cornhuskers intriguing.

13. Penn State
Micah Shrewsberry arrives after running the offense at Purdue and working with Brad Stevens in Boston. But the Nittany Lions lost their starting backcourt.

14. Minnesota
A seven-game losing streak to close Big Ten play cost Richard Pitino his job. Ben Johnson has a major rebuild after 10 players, including top scorer Marcus Carr, entered the portal.

Big Ten Superlatives

Player of the Year: E.J. Liddell, Ohio State

Best Defensive Player: Jamari Wheeler, Ohio State

Most Underrated Player: John Harrar, Penn State

Newcomer of the Year: Caleb Houstan, Michigan

All-Big Ten First Team

Kofi Cockburn, Jr., C, Illinois
Jaden Ivey, So., G, Purdue
Trayce Jackson-Davis, So., F, Indiana
E.J. Liddell, Jr., F, Ohio State
Trevion Williams, Sr., F, Purdue

All-Big Ten Second Team

Eric Ayala, Sr., G, Maryland
Hunter Dickinson, So., C, Michigan
Caleb Houstan, Fr., G/F, Michigan
Devante' Jones, Sr., G, Michigan
Keegan Murray, So., F, Iowa

All-Big Ten Third Team

Zach Edey, So., C, Purdue
Ron Harper Jr., Sr., G/F, Rutgers
Donta Scott, Jr., F, Maryland
Qudus Wahab, Jr., F, Maryan
Tyson Walker, So., G, Michigan State