December 2, 2023

Brighton Journal

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Purdue, Michigan State is ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten men’s basketball media poll

Purdue, Michigan State is ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten men’s basketball media poll

The problem with preseason polls is that they seem especially empty when each year ends without any tangible results. Perhaps that’s why it’s especially fitting to see Bordeaux as the favorites in the league this season.

This preseason marks the seventh year we’ve conducted the Official/Unofficial Men’s Basketball Media Poll, an annual sample compiled by Adam Gardy of the Columbus Dispatch and myself. The survey included two writers from each of the association’s 14 schools. Sometimes it turns out to be fairly accurate. In other years it was comically inaccurate.

Not sure why we do this. Not because preseason predictions are unfounded (measuring sticks carry a degree of value in framing results), but because when it comes to the Big Ten, this often feels like selling out false hope. Over the seven years only this exercise has been organised two Two Big Ten teams have played in the Final Four — Michigan in 2018 and Michigan State in 2019. While we annually predict who the best teams and players in the league will be, the league still underperforms in the end. Since the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament, the conference has produced 26 NCAA Tournament bids and collectively gone 23-26 in tournament games while sending just four teams to the second weekend. Meanwhile, the AAC, WCC, Conference USA and Mountain West have sent teams to the Final Four in the past three seasons.

This is the recent history of the Big Ten, and it cannot be avoided. I usually use this preseason column to promote this team or that player. But it all rings a little hollow after a while. The conference is approaching a quarter century without a national champion. This is despite no league being seen on television more, no league receiving more attention, and no league consistently producing as many NCAA Tournament teams as this one. But the lack of return, especially recently, gives this feeling of a multi-level marketing scheme.

As expected, behind Zach Eddy, the almost unanimous MVP of the preseason, Purdue is this year’s favorite, receiving 24 of the 28 first-place votes from our esteemed panel. The Boilermakers won the regular-season league title by three games last season, 15-5, and the postseason conference tournament.

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Is it fair to use the above premise to frame this Bordeaux team? On the one hand, no, these are college players, and they’re going to write their own story. On the other side? Yes a lot. No program embodied this league’s March farewell like the Boilers. Last year’s first-round loss to 16th-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson was probably a postcard. Losing to the shortest of the nation’s 363 Division I teams with the biggest player in America? After those recent losses to North Texas and St. Peter’s? You can’t make this stuff up.

Despite that finish, the Boilers are the clear favorite in the league. You can’t choose against Eddie. You can’t choose between young guards and collegiate talent. You can’t choose against Matt Painter. It’s very likely that Purdue will do what Purdue does – play an upscale brand of basketball and put together a banner regular season.

And after that?

Does anyone really expect Purdue to reach the Final Four? Does anyone really think the Boilers will give this league the boost of national importance it so desperately needs? Such faith seems a little…blind.

Behind Purdue, Michigan State is first on four of our preseason ballots, and second on 24. The Spartans are loaded and stand as a legitimate Final Four contender. However, a team that looks a lot like this one lost 13 games last year.

Next, blend. Maryland is picked to finish third or fourth on 19 of the 24 ballots. Illinois is picked every where from third to seventh, Wisconsin between third and ninth, Indiana between fourth and ninth, and Ohio State between third and ninth ( With only one vote for thirteenth place).

No team runs the series quite like Northwestern. A year after making only its second NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, Chris Collins’ program was picked by three voters to finish third, two voters sixth, five seventh, seven eighth and four ninth. Three ranked 10th, two ranked 11th, one ranked 12th, and one ranked 13th.

Dispersion makes sense. Last year’s Big Ten standings were a glorious mess. Northwestern won at Rutgers on the final night of the regular season, securing its 12th league win, the program’s most since 1930-31, and locking the Wildcats into second place in the Big Ten Tournament. If Northwestern loses that night? The Cats have fallen to a Ninth place He finishes.

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Last season, 11 of the league’s 14 teams finished between 12-8 and 9-11. Of those 11, nine finished between 23rd and 44th in the KenPom efficiency rankings. How much better was it really than the other? It wasn’t much. Most of the league has been separated by a few possessions here and there and the whims of scheduling — catching the right teams at the right time, avoiding double plays against the league’s best teams, and protecting the home field.

This year should look pretty similar. With Purdue and Michigan State clearly in a league of their own, the weight of the schedule should be particularly heavy. It is worth mentioning:

• Illinois plays twice against Purdue and MSU, along with Maryland.

• Michigan also took Purdue and Michigan State twice, as well as Ohio State and Illinois.

• Northwestern University gets the Purdue-Michigan state dual, along with Maryland and Illinois.

• Nebraska gets one-on-one plays against Purdue and Michigan State, both at home.

• Ohio State also gets to play Purdue (home) and Michigan State (away).

Ultimately, the league will be determined by the players. Eddie is in a class of his own. He was amazing last season, and unless he shrinks in size, he will have no problem replicating such dominance. He is the Preseason Player of the Year and is joined on the preseason first team by returning teammates Jahmir Young (Maryland), Terrence Shannon Jr. (Illinois), Tyson Walker (Michigan State) and Boo Boy (Northwestern).

Penn State newcomer Ace Baldwin Jr. received 14 of 28 votes as Transfer of the Year before the start of the season. It’s hard to say. The 6-foot-1 guard was last season’s Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year before following head coach Mike Rhodes from VCU to Penn State.

Mackenzie Mgbako, an incoming wing/forward at Indiana, is a potential rookie star in the league and received 19 Rookie of the Year votes. Considering what Indiana has lost this season (Tracey Jackson-Davis, Jalen Hood-Schinino, Reece Thompson, Miller Kupp, Tamar Pitts), he will be key in the Hoosiers’ attempt to maintain momentum in Year 3 under Mike Woodson.

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This brings us to the 2023-2024 season, and the results of the latest pre-season poll:

Player of the year

Zach Eddy, Bordeaux (27)

He also received votes: Tyson Walker, Michigan State (1)

Student of the year

Mackenzie Mgbako, Indiana (19)

He also received votes: DeShaun Harris Smith, Maryland (5); Xavier Booker, Michigan State (2); Myles Colvin, Purdue, and Scottie Middleton, Ohio State (1)

Transfer of the year

Ace Baldwin Jr., Penn State (14)

He also received votes: Olivier Nkamhua, Michigan (6); Jamison Battle, Ohio State (4); Kell Weir, Indiana, and AJ Store, Wisconsin (2)

First Team – Big Ten

player a team Votes

Zach Eddy


Jahmir Young


Terrence Shannon Jr


Tyson Walker


Boo boy


Second Team – Big Ten

player a team Votes

Clifford Omoruyi


A. J. Hoggard


Ace Baldwin Jr


Kise Tominaga


Coleman Hawkins


*- Unanimously

He also received votes: Bruce Thornton, Ohio State 7; Julian Reese, Maryland 6; Steven Kroll, Wisconsin 5; Dawson Garcia, Minnesota 5; Braden Smith, Purdue 5; Chucky Hepburn, Wisconsin 4; Xavier Johnson, Indiana 4; ZK, Ohio State 4; Mackenzie Mgbako, Indiana 4; Payton Sandfort, Iowa 4; Jaden Akins, Michigan State 3; Connor Essegian, Wisconsin 3; Olivier Nkamhua, Michigan 3; Tony Perkins, Iowa 3; Jamison Battle, Ohio State 2; Fletcher Loyer, Purdue 2; A. J. Storr, Wisconsin 2; Tyler Wahl, Wisconsin 2; Malik Hall, Michigan State 1; Ben Crikey, Iowa 1; Donta Scott, Maryland 1; Kill Wear, Indiana 1

Brendan Quinn’s preseason poll

1. Bordeaux
2. Michigan State
3. Wisconsin
4. Maryland
5. Ohio State
6. Illinois
7. Indiana
8. Rutgers
9. Nebraska
10. Yes
11. Northwest
12. Michigan
13. Pennsylvania
14. Minnesota

Player of the year: Zach Eddy

Student of the year: Mackenzie Mgbako

Sunnah transfer: Olivier Nkamhua

First Team – Big Ten

Zach Eddy
Tyson Walker
Kise Tominaga
Terrence Shannon Jr
Jahmir Young

Second Team – Big Ten

Cliff Omoruyi
Zed key
braden smith
A. J. Hoggard
Payton Sandfort

(Photo of Zach Eddy at last season’s Big Ten Championship: Quinn Harris/Getty Images)