As the countdown continues to the start of the 2021-22 college basketball season on Tuesday, an ESPN panel of experts has made predictions for all of the nation’s top leagues. So far we’ve taken a look 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 with a second straight national title in its sights , an SEC led by intriguing Kentucky and Duke and the always fascinating ACC . Our conference series concludes with the Big Ten.
The Big Ten demonstrated its top-to-bottom strength in a major was in 2020-21, sending nine teams to the NCAA tournament, including a pair of No. 1-seeds in the Michigan Wolverines and Illinois Fighting Illini , and the second-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes and eventual Wooden Award winner Luka Garza . None would reach the Final Four, with Michigan falling to No. 11-seed UCLA in the Elite Eight and Illinois and Iowa both getting bounced before the second weekend. Those setbacks helped prevent the Big Ten from being represented on the Final Four stage, and extended a drought of national championships for the conference that extends back to the Michigan State Spartans ‘ win in 2000. The conference — led again by another talented team at Michigan — will have another golden opportunity to quiet its national critics this season.
ESPN’s writing team of Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway and Joe Lunardi sized up all the top teams and storylines in the league and made their predictions for the 15-team conference.
Jump to: Superlatives | Roundtable | Picks Big Ten 2021-22 superlatives
Player of the Year
Medcalf: Kofi Cockburn , Illinois
Borzello: Kofi Cockburn, Illinois
Gasaway: Kofi Cockburn, Illinois
Lunardi: Kofi Cockburn, Illinois
Newcomer of the Year
Medcalf: Caleb Houstan , Michigan
Borzello: Caleb Houstan, Michigan
Gasaway: Alonzo Verge Jr. , Nebraska
Lunardi: Caleb Houstan, Michigan Big Ten 2021-22 writer roundtable
The Big Ten is still seeking its first national title since 2000, and Michigan (No. 6 in the preseason AP poll) would seem to be its top candidate to end the drought. Can you make a case for the Wolverines to cut down the nets in New Orleans? To reach the Final Four?
Hunter Dickinson’s return is among the major reasons Michigan has realistic national championship hopes. Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY Sports Medcalf: I think this Michigan team is better — or at least, more talented — than the one that had a chance to beat UCLA at the buzzer in a 51-49 Elite Eight loss last season with Isaiah Livers on the bench due to injury. The Final Four should be the expectation for this group and a national title should be its realistic goal. Michigan can end its drought (last national title was in 1989) and the Big Ten’s (2000, Michigan State). Nothing seems […]