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Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings to start the season

College basketball season is back and here is how the conference stacks up at the start.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-USC vs Gonzaga Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

College basketball is back and the best conference in the nation is preparing to tip-off.

The Big Ten was well-represented in the postseason a year ago but struggled in the big dance. This year, the conference continues to be strong and as deep as there is.

There are plenty of returning stars in the conference along with freshmen ready to make an impact. Teams have went through plenty of turnover but remain excited about playing in front of fans once again.

The stage is set for another exciting basketball season. Let’s breakdown the power rankings in the Big Ten heading into the season.

1. Michigan

2020-2021 Record: 23-5, 14-3 Big Ten

First 3 Games: 11/10 vs. Buffalo, 11/13 vs. Prairie View, 11/16 vs. Seton Hall

Big Ten is a deep conference but it is certainly top-heavy as well. Michigan leads the way after an Elite Eight appearance a season ago. This is a team that has been replenishing. Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner might be gone but the Wolverines return Hunter Dickinson, who has a chance to be the conference player of the year. Brandon Johns and Eli Brooks will also be back — not to mention Caleb Houstan. Long story short, Michigan is loaded once again.

2. Purdue

2020-2021 Record: 18-10, 13-6 Big Ten

First 3 Games: 11/9 vs. Bellarmine, 11/12 vs. Indiana State, 11/16 vs. Wright State

Purdue is being picked by many to win the Big Ten and it is because they return nearly their entire roster. Jaden Ivey and Trevion Williams have All-American potential. After a first-round exit a season ago, Purdue is a nation title contender. Zach Edey, the 7-foot-4 center, will control the frontcourt while Indiana transfer Trey Kaufman is expected to play a big role. Matt Painter will not have a lack of weapons to work with this season.

3. Ohio State

2020-2021 Record: 21-10, 12-8 Big Ten

First 3 Games: 11/9 vs. Akron, 11/12 vs. Niagara, 11/15 vs. Bowling Green

Perhaps the biggest disappointment was second-seeded Ohio State being eliminated by Oral Roberts in the tournament. This season, that will be put behind the Buckeyes and it begins with E.J. Liddell. Ohio State will return its best player and that gives the team a huge spark. Jamari Wheeler came over from Penn State and Joey Brunk is another transfer to provide depth. Justice Sueing and Zed Key will take on bigger roles as well with the loss of Duane Washington Jr. Ohio State is not going to sneak up on any teams this season.

4. Illinois

2020-2021 Record: 24-7, 16-4 Big Ten

First 3 Games: 11/9 vs. Jackson State, 11/12 vs. Arkansas State, 11/15 at Marquette

Ayo Dosunmu is in the NBA and Adam Miller went over to LSU. The Illini are the reigning Big Ten champions but might not be getting the respect they are used to. Kofi Cockburn made a decision to return and will be viewed as the focal point of the offense. Will Illinois be able to plan their strategy around the big man? This is not an option at the end of games with a 55% free throw shooter. Nonetheless, Illinois will be a force and a tough out.

5. Michigan State

2020-2021 Record: 15-13, 9-11 Big Ten

First 3 Games: 11/9 vs. Kansas, 11/12 vs. Western Michigan, 11/17 at Butler

Michigan State lost in the first four a season ago and logged the lowest winning percentage for Tom Izzo since 1995. Aaron Henry led the Spartans in nearly every category a season and is gone. Joshua Langford is also gone but with Izzo leading the way, Michigan State will always be a contender. Tyson Walker transferred over from Northwestern while Max Christie is a five-star recruit expected to make an impact.

6. Maryland

2020-2021 Record: 17-14, 9-11 Big Ten

First 3 Games: 11/9 vs. Quinnipiac, 11/11 vs. George Washington, 11/13 vs. Vermont

It was a mediocre season for Maryland a year ago but fortunes are expected to change in 2021-2022. The Terrapins added five transfers in the offseason. This is in an attempt to replace Aaron Wiggins in the rotation. Eric Ayala will be relied on heavily during his senior season. With a new-look roster, it might take some time for the Terrapins to put it all together but this is a team that can find success quickly.

7. Rutgers

2020-2021 Record: 16-12, 10-10 Big Ten

First 3 Games: 11/10 vs. Lehigh, 11/13 vs. Merrimack, 11/16 vs. NJIT

The Scarlet Knights were a Sweet 16 team a season ago — or should have been. 10th-seeded Rutgers collapsed against Houston in the Round of 32. Did this hit a nerve? The bright side is that Rutgers will be good once again. Despite four players transferring, led by Myles Johnson and Jacob Young, Rutgers is primed for another NCAA Tournament run. The return of Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. have the Scarlet Knights right where they want to be. This is a team that can win 20 games and 10 Big Ten contests if all goes right.

8. Indiana

2020-2021 Record: 12-15, 7-12 Big Ten

First 3 Games: 11/9 vs. Eastern Michigan, 11/12 vs. Northern Illinois, 11/17 vs. St. John’s

Mike Woodson is the new man on the sideline for Indiana. It was a strong offseason for the Hoosiers after missing the postseason a year ago. Xavier Johnson and Miller Kopp transferred in to join Trayce Jackson-Davis, who is an All-Conference player. Indiana has a chance to be ranked higher but Woodson might have some growing pains and that is why they remain in the middle of the pack.

9. Wisconsin

2020-2021 Record: 18-13, 10-10 Big Ten

First 3 Games: 11/9 vs. St. Francis (BKN), 11/12 vs. Green Bay, 11/15 vs. Providence

Wisconsin was older than the Chicago Bulls a season ago. While that is not the case anymore, Brad Davidson will still be featured at the top of the offense. The sharpshooting guard will have to take on an even bigger role after what was a disappointing campaign for the Badgers last season. Is Greg Gard on the hot seat? It is possible if the Badgers do not take a step this season.

10. Iowa

2020-2021 Record: 22-9, 14-6 Big Ten

First 3 Games: 11/9 vs. Longwood, 11/12 vs. Kansas City, 11/16 vs. North Carolina Central

Iowa will likely have the biggest fall in the Big Ten and it is because of the loss of Luka Garza. He did it all for the Hawkeyes and it is impossible to replace. Jordan Bohannon is back but this is not enough to make up for the loss of Garza and Joe Wiskamp. The Hawkeyes will struggle offensively and this is the biggest question mark for Fran McCaffrey’s bunch.

11. Nebraska

2020-2021 Record: 7-20, 3-16 Big Ten

First 3 Games: 11/9 vs. Western Illinois, 11/12 vs. Sam Houston, 11/16 vs. Creighton

Nebraska was dead-last in the Big Ten last season with just three conference victories. The future might be bright for the Cornhuskers. Bryce McGowens, a five-star guard, leads the third-best recruiting class in the conference. With five impact freshmen coming in, Fred Hoiberg will have some talent to work with but there could be some first-year woes. Nebraska has a chance to be good soon but this might not be the year.

12. Penn State

2020-2021 Record: 11-14, 7-12 Big Ten

First 3 Games: 11/10 vs. Youngstown State, 11/15 at UMass, 11/18 vs. St. Francis (BKN)

The bottom of the Big Ten seems distinguished coming into the season and it begins with Penn State. Micah Shrewsberry will rake over as head coach and will look to make the tournament for the first time since 2011 — which seems almost impossible. The Nittany Lions were led by Myreon Jones and Izaiah Brockington last season. Both entered the transfer portal and there is a complete overhaul at Penn State.

13. Northwestern

2020-2021 Record: 9-15, 6-13

First 3 Games: 11/9 vs. Eastern Illinois, 11/12 vs. High Point, 11/16 vs. New Orleans

Boo Buie is back and he will have to put together a superhuman season if Northwestern wants to shock the conference. The Wildcats have a chance to win some more games than last season but how many more? Buie is joined by Chase Aldridge and Pete Nance as a productive trio to lead the way. Northwestern returns a large percentage of its roster but expectations are not high.

14. Minnesota

2020-2021 Record: 14-15, 6-14 Big Ten

First 3 Games: 11/9 vs. Kansas City, 11/12 vs. Western Kentucky, 11/19 vs. Purdue Fort Wayne

Minnesota can be found at the bottom of any predictions. The Golden Gophers lost their top seven scorers to the transfer portal a season ago — yes, seven. Marcus Carr is the most significant as he was the third leading scorer in the Big Ten last season. Eric Curry returns after a season where he averaged four points and 16 minutes per contest. Ben Johnson is the new head coach and there will be plenty of new faces on the court. The Gophers are in for what could be an endless season.