2021-22 MBB Preview: Big Ten Tiers, Part One
New KenPom dropped, it's rankings time. Let's start from the bottom, which possesses some dangerous teams — with the noted exception of Minnesota.
KenPom’s preseason rankings dropped on Sunday. Michigan is second, with a healthy gap both behind #1 Gonzaga and ahead of #3 Kansas. The Wolverines project to have the nation’s #1 defense and #3 offense. I find this pleasing.
We have plenty of preseason human polls to check out, as well. The Big Ten preseason media poll placed Michigan in a deadlock with Purdue atop the standings, getting the tiebreaker based on first-place votes:
Big Ten Media Preseason Poll
(first-place votes in parentheses)
1. Michigan, 373 (13)
2. Purdue, 373 (12)
3. Illinois, 320 (3)
4. Ohio State, 316
5. Maryland, 269
6. Michigan State, 262
7. Indiana, 219
8. Rutgers, 208
9. Iowa, 150
10. Wisconsin, 149
11. Nebraska, 105
T-12. Northwestern, 81
T-12. Penn State, 81
14. Minnesota, 34
That poll matches the top seven of a composite average of several preseason rankings I compiled: KenPom, Bart Torvik, the AP poll, ESPN, CBS, Three Man Weave, and The Athletic.
The humans like Rutgers more than the computers, which are wildly split on Iowa and bullish on Northwestern. The constants:
A top four, in some order, of Michigan-Purdue-Illinois-OSU, followed by Maryland.
Nebraska and Penn State are the back of a tightly packed middle group.
As I usually do, I’m grouping the Big Ten into tiers — the idea being that being placed in a certain tier is more important than the rankings within those tiers, since preseason projections in college hoops is not the most exact science.
These will be broken into two posts. Today, we begin with the bottom half of the conference.
Tier VI: Terrible
Noted disaster factory Both Gach transferred back to Utah, completing a roster exodus that also included Marcus Carr, Liam Robbins, Gabe Kalscheur, Jamal Mashburn Jr., Brandon Johnson, and Tre Williams. The Gophers have, at least, also rid themselves of Richard Pitino, but Ben Johnson is starting from a near-blank slate in his first year as a head coach.
One of two returning contributors, forward Isaiah Ihnen, injured his knee during an offseason practice and is out for the season. The other is senior Eric Curry, whose effectiveness has been sapped by his own injury issues since a promising freshman season.
Johnson has assembled a roster of transfers from mid-major, low-major, JuCo, and even Division II ranks, plus one (1) freshman. If that sounds doomed to fail, well, yeah, it is. This is a Year Zero situation.
Tier V: Bad, But Not Terrible
13. Penn State
Another first-time coach in a suboptimal spot, in this case Micah Shrewsberry supplanting interim coach Jim Ferry, who took the place last year of noted asshole Pat Chambers. PSU lost their two best guards, Myreon Jones and Jamari Wheeler, from a team that was already near the bottom of the conference.
That leaves an uninspiring core of big man John Harrar, wing Seth Lundy, and guards Sam Sessoms and Myles Dread. There are zero incoming freshmen. Instead, there are up-transfers from Canisius, Gardner-Webb, Siena, and Western Michigan. I don’t see much upside on this team unless Shrewsberry is an instant A-grade hire, and even then the ceiling is limited.
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