Big Ten basketball: Preseason power rankings heading into 2021-2022 season

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Northwestern Wildcats head coach Chris Collins speaks to the media during Big Ten media day at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Big Ten basketball power rankings entering the 2021-2022 season. Is Michigan the best team in the conference or is there a bigger threat?

It has been well-documented that the Big Ten hasn’t produced a national champion since Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans cut down the nets in 2000. There may not be a true title favorite in this league like Gonzaga or UCLA, but the Big Ten can feel very good about the fact that it placed five teams inside the AP’s Preseason Top 25 poll.

In addition to those five teams, three other schools received votes, with Michigan State and Indiana finishing just outside the Top 25. The Big Ten annually sends a lot of teams dancing, securing nine bids to March Madness a year ago, and there is a great shot of the conference either matching or exceeding that total again during the 2021-22 campaign.

While there is still a lot of time left to sort out how the league will play this year, let’s look at some preseason power rankings for all 14 teams in the Big Ten.

College basketball rankings: Preseason Big Ten power rankings

14. Minnesota Golden Gophers

The unquestioned bottom feeder in this year’s Big Ten is Minnesota, which is in the midst of a big transition after firing Richard Pitino. New head coach Ben Johnson has his work cut out for him since Pitino’s departure led to a significant exodus of talent, leaving the Golden Gophers with the shallowest roster in the conference.

That is a bad recipe to have in a conference that usually produces close to 10 NCAA Tournament teams. Expect a lot of losses as Johnson looks to build a new identity for the Golden Gophers over the course of this season.

13. Nebraska Cornhuskers

It is fitting that Nebraska and Northwestern are right next to each other in these power rankings after being linked at the bottom of the Big Ten pretty much all of last season. Head coach Fred Hoiberg has struggled to generate the same kind of dynamic offenses he had at Iowa State so Nebraska tried to get a jump start on their rebuild by hitting up the transfer portal.

The Cornhuskers did land a talented pair of transfers, Alonso Verge (formerly of Arizona State) and C.J. Wilcher (formerly of Xavier), to provide a shot in the arm to Nebraska’s offense. The addition of five-star recruit Bryce McGowens should also add jet fuel to Nebraska’s rebuild but it’s unclear if Hoiberg has enough talent yet to legitimately challenge for an NCAA Tournament berth.

12. Northwestern Wildcats

The pressure may be starting to build for Chris Collins, who has seen Northwestern fall back to the bottom of the heap in the Big Ten after taking the program to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2017. The Wildcats did get off to a fast start in conference play in 2020 but dropped 13 straight games to fall into the cellar alongside Nebraska.

The positive for Northwestern is that this team is experienced, which could give them a leg up on teams like Wisconsin and Iowa which are trying to transition to a new era. The key player for the Wildcats is point guard Boo Buie, who can elevate Northwestern’s ceiling significantly if he has a breakout year.

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