Despite Many Changes, Big Ten Basketball Will Likely Still Be Strong Once Again

By David Wertheim on May 25, 2019 at 8:45 am
Tom Izzo
Bob Donnan- USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten basketball landscape will be very different entering 2019. Many of the conferences top players such as Carsen Edwards, Nick Ward, Ethan Happ and Bruno Fernando have departed, as has one of the best coaches in the game in John Beilein, who left Michigan to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

After receiving eight bids to the NCAA Tournament last season, the Big Ten went an incredible 7-1 in the first round, with the only loss coming by Wisconsin in a blemish against Oregon. 

"It’s the best league I’ve ever been a part of, this year in the Big Ten," Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said at the time. "I can’t explain how difficult it is on a given night. And when you play now 20 games (the conference schedule), you’re going to have losses. ... I think the league has genuinely prepared us for this moment."

This year, the conference looks to continue its dominance that it showed in last year's NCAA Tournament.

Most coaches remain, but a few did change over from last season. As mentioned, John Beilein is out at Michigan. His successor, Juwan Howard, was one of the members of Michigan's "Fab Five" recruiting class that took college basketball by storm in the early 1990's.

In the West, Nebraska replaced Tim Miles with a high-profile guy of their own in former Iowa State and Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg. 

Many of the conference's best players return as well. Cassius Winston will be back in East Lansing, hoping to help Michigan State build on a Final Four appearance that they earned last year.

Ohio State will get return most of its team that led it to the Round of 32 last year, and add to it three top-50 recruits, a 7-footer and a transfer guard. 

Purdue will be strong once again, as always, with a combination of a solid recruiting class and a strong returning lineup.

Nebraska looks to be scary in Hoiberg's first season after adding a few transfers and Ohio's Mr. Basketball for 2019, Samari Curtis, who de-committed from Cincinnati after the departure of Mick Cronin.

In addition, Maryland and Illinois will enjoy a nice set of returning players, and Indiana landed five-star Trayce Jackson-Davis as Archie Miller looks to lead the Hoosiers back to the big dance in what has turned out to be a critical season for him.

What may lead to hard times in the Big Ten, however, is the abundance of youth. Most teams in this conference this year will lack one definitive star (whereas most teams had them last year). In order to replace these stars, most coaches have elected to go with getting talented players, who may not exactly be stars in their first year. Thus, there may be growing pains.

However, if these players "overachieve" and become great immediately, it will be another dominating year in the NCAA Tournament for the Big Ten. Regardless, it should be a fun year in the conference no matter what.

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