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Big Ten Basketball Media Day Preview

How to follow, what to watch for & conference predictions

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Media Day Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday is media day for Big Ten basketball and it is taking place at Madison Square Garden in New York City for the first time in conference history. The Big Ten Tournament is taking place at the Garden from February 28th to March 4th, so it’s a natural fit to hold media day there as well.

How To Watch

Live coverage will be shown on the Big Ten Network from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. After the coaches press conferences, BTN will hold individual interviews with the players and coaches from every team.

Press Conference Schedule Shown Live on BTN

9:00-9:20 a.m. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany

9:30-9:40 a.m. Nebraska Head Coach Tim Miles

9:40-9:50 a.m. Minnesota Head Coach Richard Pitino

9:50-10:00 a.m. Iowa Head Coach Fran McCaffery

10:00-10:10 a.m. Wisconsin Head Coach Greg Gard

10:10-10:20 a.m. Northwestern Head Coach Chris Collins

10:20-10:30 a.m. Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller

10:30-10:40 a.m. Illinois Head Coach Brad Underwood

10:40-10:50 a.m. Purdue Head Coach Matt Painter

10:50-11:00 a.m. Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo

11:00-11:10 a.m. Michigan Head Coach John Beilein

11:10-11:20 a.m. Ohio State Head Coach Chris Holtmann

11:20-11:30 a.m. Penn State Head Coach Patrick Chambers

11:30-11:40 a.m. Rutgers Head Coach Steve Pikiell

11:40-11:50 a.m. Maryland Head Coach Mark Turgeon

For a full list of players attending, click here.

Five Things To Watch For

New Coaches

The Big Ten welcomes three new coaches this season with Brad Underwood at Illinois, Archie Miller at Indiana, and Chris Holtmann at Ohio State. All three are very good coaches and will help improve the competitiveness of the conference over time. They all face roster issues in their debut seasons and their teams expected to finish in the bottom half of the conference. Rutgers plays Illinois and Ohio State twice this season, two teams they beat last year.

Recruiting Scandal

While no coaches or programs from the Big Ten were linked to the recruiting scandal that broke a few weeks ago and is still developing, it’s likely to be a hot topic at media day. Commissioner Jim Delany will likely be asked about it, as well as some coaches. It will be interesting to hear their responses. There is no doubt that changes in recruiting will result from the fallout of this scandal, which is likely to grow over the next few months.

Michigan State Is A Heavy Favorite

The dean of the league, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, brings a stacked roster to the court this season. With reigning Freshman of the Year, Miles Bridges returning, as well as key returnees Josh Langford, Nick Ward, and Cassius Winston, the Spartans will be the overwhelming pick to win the conference this season. Add in heralded freshman Jaren Jackson and this could be as talented a team as Izzo has had in some time. It will also be interesting to hear from Izzo, who is a class act and is generally asked about big picture issues within college basketball.

20 game conference schedule for 2018-2019

It was reported by Jon Rothstein earlier this week that the Big Ten coaches have voted in favor of playing a 20 game conference schedule and that it will begin in the 2018-2019 season. Nothing has been formally announced by the Big Ten, but it’s likely that Commissioner Delany will do so, or at least address the reports, during his press conference on Thursday. The ACC previously announced they are doing the same beginning in the 2019-2020 season. Adding two more conference games will bring more balance to the schedule and likely mean teams will play seven teams twice and six teams once per season. Right now, teams play five others twice and eight programs just once.

Big Ten Tournament Comes To Big Apple

Last year, media day was held in Washington D.C. to promote the conference tournament being played there at the end of the season. The conference is doing the same thing this year by holding media day at the Garden in New York City. This is another first for a conference that expanded their footprint to the east coast by adding Rutgers and Maryland in 2014. Expect many coaches to be asked about the conference tournament being played in New York City, as well as the schedule shift caused by it. For the first time ever this season, two conference games will be played by each team between December 1st to 5th to accommodate the conference tournament being played a week earlier than usual in order to play at the Garden. It will be interesting to hear the coaches responses to this change.

Rutgers Focus

Players attending for the Scarlet Knights are Corey Sanders, Deshawn Freeman, and Mike Williams. I look forward to hearing head coach Steve Pikiell talk about the roster additions to this team, the improvement of several returning players, and his overall outlook for this season. After making his debut at media day last year, Pikiell should be more comfortable and confident after the major improvement Rutgers made on the court last season.

Conference Predictions

To see the results of the media poll conducted by the Columbus Dispatch and The Athletic, click here. Not surprisingly, Rutgers was voted to finish in last place for a fourth consecutive season.

Below is how I see the conference stacking up this season.

1. Michigan State

2. Purdue

3. Minnesota

4. Northwestern

5. Maryland

6. Michigan

7. Iowa

8. Wisconsin

9. Penn State

10. Indiana

11. Illinois

12. Rutgers

13. Ohio State

14. Nebraska

Quick Thoughts:

Michigan State is the heavy favorite, but I’m surprised how many preseason predictions from various sites have discounted Purdue. Granted, the loss of Caleb Swanigan is significant, but the Boilermakers return the majority of their key players and will still be one of the deeper teams in the conference. Minnesota could be in line for a big season and Northwestern is looking to build off of their first NCAA Tournament appearance and win. Maryland lost Melo Trimble, but I still expect them to be a team in the top half of the conference. Michigan is always a difficult team to play and typically get better as the season progresses. Iowa returns a group that played big minutes as freshmen and will be a solid team. Wisconsin is in rebuilding mode but still have one of, if not the best player in the Big Ten in center Ethan Happ. There is a ton of pressure on Penn State’s Pat Chambers to take a step forward this season and I think they are a borderline NCAA team. Indiana and Illinois are rebuilding with new coaches but still have talent. Call me a homer but I’m starting Rutgers at 12th in the preseason, based on their strong returning core and the fact that they beat the Buckeyes last March, who have a lot more parts to replace this season. The loss of big man Ed Morrow for Nebraska due to transfer will hurt and I think they face the steepest hill to climb this season.

All-Big Ten Teams

I don’t have a vote, but if I did, here are my selections:

1st Team: Miles Bridges, Michigan State; Ethan Happ, Wisconsin; Nate Mason; Minnesota; Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern; Vince Edwards, Purdue

2nd Team: Justin Jackson, Maryland; Moe Wagner, Michigan; Scottie Lindsey, Northwestern; Nick Ward, Michigan State; Jae’Sean Tate, Ohio State

3rd Team: Corey Sanders, Rutgers; Jordan Murphy, Minnesota; Tony Carr, Penn State; Mike Watkins, Penn State; Vic Law, Northwestern

All-Freshmen Team: Jaren Jackson, Michigan State; Isaiah Washington, Minnesota; Kyle Young, Ohio State; Mark Smith, Illinois; Bruno Fernando, Maryland

POY: Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

Defensive POY: Reggie Lynch, Minnesota

Freshman of Year: Jaren Jackson, Michigan State

I’ll be at Big Ten Media Day on Thursday and will have plenty of coverage throughout the day, as well as the rest of the preseason. To view our season preview stream for Rutgers basketball, click here.