Big Ten men's basketball outlook, players to watch for 2019-20 season

World-Herald staff writer Chris Heady made his preseason picks for the order of finish in the Big Ten and top players for the 2019-20 men's basketball season.

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Predicted order of finish

1. Michigan State

Last season: 32-7, 16-4 (T-1st)

Coach: Tom Izzo (24th season, 606-232 at Michigan State)

Last NCAA appearance: 2019

Returning starters: Cassius Winston (G, 6-1, Sr.), Aaron Henry (F, 6-6, So.), Xavier Tillman (F, 6-8, Jr.)

Michigan State returns much of its firepower from a Final Four team a year ago and has the preseason Big Ten and national player of the year in Cassius Winston. The Spartans are for real this year.

2. Maryland

Last season: 23-11, 13-7 (5th)

Coach: Mark Turgeon (fifth season, 180-92 at Maryland)

Last NCAA appearance: 2019

Returning starters: Jalen Smith (F, 6-10, So.), Anthony Cowan Jr. (G, 6-0, Sr.), Eric Ayala (G, 6-5, So.)

Jalen Smith returning for his sophomore year took the Terrapins from a pretty good team to a dangerous one. With Smith and senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr., the Terps have two of the best players in the conference, and a coach out to prove he can win the Big Ten.

3. Purdue

Last season: 26-10, 16-4 (T-1st)

Coach: Matt Painter (14th season, 321-159 at Purdue)

Last NCAA appearance: 2019

Returning starters: Nojel Eastern (F, 6-7, Jr.), Matt Haarms (C, 7-3, Jr.)

You can’t ever count the Boilermakers out. Matt Painter returns a team with length (Matt Haarms is still here, all 7-foot-3 of him), and a 6-7 guard Nojel Eastern is a matchup nightmare. Maybe not as deep as in years prior, but Painter always gets his team ready to play.

4. Iowa

Last season: 23-12, 10-10 (6th)

Coach: Fran McCaffery (ninth season, 174-132 at Iowa)

Last NCAA appearance: 2019

Returning starters: Jordan Bohannon (G, 6-1, Sr.), Joe Wieskamp (G, 6-6, So.), Luka Garza (C, 6-11, Jr.)

Fran McCaffery finds himself with a real nice roster from an NCAA tournament team a year ago. Joe Wieskamp is a preseason All-Big Ten selection, Luka Garza is a 6-foot-11, 260-pound load down low and the up-tempo pace still works for the Hawkeyes. If Jordan Bohannon is able to play (his status up in the air because of an injury), the Hawkeyes could make a deep run in March.

5. Ohio State

Last season: 20-15, 8-12 (T-8th)

Coach: Chris Holtmann (second season, 45-25 at Ohio State)

Last NCAA appearance: 2019

Returning starters: Luther Muhammad (G, 6-3, So.), Kaleb Wesson (F, 6-9, Jr.), Kyle Young (F, 6-8, Jr.), Andre Wesson (F, 6-6, Sr.)

It is only a matter of time before Chris Holtmann and the Buckeyes raise a Big Ten trophy. It may not be this year, but this year will be a crucial step for Ohio State. Luther Muhammad returns for his sophomore year, and preseason Big Ten selection Kaleb Wesson will still be working down low. Having stud freshman D.J. Carton doesn’t hurt, either.

6. Illinois

Last season: 12-21, 7-13 (T-10th)

Coach: Brad Underwood (third season, 26-39 at Illinois)

Last NCAA appearance: 2012

Returning starters: Trent Frazier (G, 6-2, Jr.), Ayo Dosunmu (G, 6-5, So.), Giorgi Bezhanishvili (F, 6-9, So.), Kipper Nichols (F, 6-6, Sr.)

Don’t sleep on the Illini. Trent Frazier is one of the best point guards in the conference, Ayo Dosunmu could be an NBA lottery pick with a good season and Giorgi Bezhanishvili is a do-it-all forward who can take over a game. Mix that with Brad Underwood’s muck-it-up style, and Illinois could be an NCAA tournament team.

7. Penn State

Last season: 14-18, 7-13 (T-10th)

Coach: Pat Chambers (ninth season, 127-140 at Penn State)

Last NCAA appearance: 2011

Returning starters: Myles Dread (G, 6-4, So.), Lamar Stevens (F, 6-8, Sr.), Mike Watkins (F, 6-9, Sr.)

Every once in a while, Penn State has a year that saves a coach’s job. That should be this season for Pat Chambers. Lamar Stevens might be the best pure scorer in the conference, returning for his senior season after a 19.9-points-per-game campaign a year ago. If he stays healthy, PSU has a shot every night.

8. Michigan

Last season: 30-7, 15-5 (3rd)

Coach: Juwan Howard (first season, 0-0 at Michigan)

Last NCAA appearance: 2019

Returning starters: Zavier Simpson (G, 6-0, Sr.), Jon Teske (C, 7-1, Sr.)

You just never know with first-year coaches. Juwan Howard will have to juggle a lot for the first time. Recruiting, scouting, coaching. College basketball is much different from the NBA. He does have Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske returning. Those two are usually the best at their position every night. But we’ll see how Howard is able to manage this year. John Beilein often coached his team up much higher than most coaches could.

9. Wisconsin

Last season: 23-11, 14-6 (4th)

Coach: Greg Gard, (sixth season, 80-47 at Wisconsin)

Last NCAA appearance: 2019

Returning starters: D’Mitrik Trice (G 6-0 Jr.) Brad Davison (G 6-4 Jr.)

You get back D’Mitrik Trice, you get back Brad Davison, Greg Gard is a good coach. But what’s this program look like without Ethan Happ? Is there a legitimate replacement here, or is this a season spent searching for the answer to that question?

10. Indiana

Last season: 19-16, 8-12 (T-8th)

Coach: Archie Miller (third season, 35-31 at Indiana)

Last NCAA appearance: 2016

Returning starters: Rob Phinisee (G, 6-1, So.), Justin Smith (F, 6-7, Jr.)

Archie Miller might have another tough year. Losing Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan takes away most of the production from last year. Rob Phinisee is a nice point guard, but you wonder if Indiana has a solid five or six guys behind him to be able to compete night in and night out.

11. Rutgers

Last season: 14-17, 7-13 (T-10th)

Coach: Steve Pikiell (fourth season, 44-54 at Rutgers)

Last NCAA appearance: 1991

Returning starters: Geo Baker (G, 6-4, Jr.), Montez Mathis (G, 6-4, So.), Ron Harper Jr. (G/F, 6-6, So.)

The Scarlet Knights are the biggest team in the Big Ten. Geo Baker is the star returner. Add him to a lineup with 6-9, 250-pound Mamadou Doucoure and 6-9, 250-pound Shaq Carter and 6-10, 255-pound Myles Johnson and 6-11 Luke Nathan, and that’s a tough night in New Jersey.

12. Nebraska

Last season: 19-17, 6-14 (13th)

Coach: Fred Hoiberg, (first season, 0-0 at Nebraska)

Last NCAA appearance: 2014

Returning starters: None

Count on speed. Count on a ton of 3-pointers taken. But don’t count on a breakout year in the first season under Fred Hoiberg. Year 1 at Iowa State was 16-16 with three conference wins. Cam Mack, Dachon Burke and Jervay Green could trade off 20-point nights all season, and Matej Kavas could lead the league in 3-point percentage. But the boards will kill Nebraska.

13. Minnesota

Last season: 22-14, 9-11 (7th)

Coach: Richard Pitino (seventh season, 112-92 at Minnesota)

Last NCAA appearance: 2019

Returning starters: Gabe Kalscheur (G, 6-4, So.), Daniel Oturu (C, 6-10, So.)

Richard Pitino’s team barely beat a subpar semipro Italian team this summer, lost two of the best players in school history and has a tendency to implode. Gophers have talent. But with Pitino’s tendencies, if things start to slide, they’ll tumble hard.

14. Northwestern

Last season: 13-19, 4-16 (14th)

Coach: Chris Collins (seventh season, 101-96 at Northwestern)

Last NCAA appearance: 2017

Returning starters: A.J. Turner (F, 6-7, Sr.), Miller Kopp (F, 6-7, So.)

That NCAA tournament win was a long, long time ago. Chris Collins had a mass exodus after last year, and that cupboard is mighty empty.

All-Big Ten predictions

Cassius Winston

Michigan State

Lamar Stevens

Penn State

Jalen Smith


Anthony Cowan


Kaleb Wesson

Ohio State

Player of the year

Winston (pictured)

Freshman of the year

D.J. Carton, Ohio State

Coach of the year

Mark Turgeon, Maryland

NCAA tournament teams

Michigan State, Maryland, Purdue, Iowa, Ohio State, Illinois, Penn State

NIT teams

Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Rutgers

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