2022-23 Season

Michigan picked third in “official unofficial” Big Ten poll (and a breakdown of my ballot)

The official unofficial Big Ten poll of conference media members was released today and Michigan was picked to finish third in the conference.

Indiana was picked to win the league with 377 polling points and 19 first place votes. Illinois (6), Michigan (1), Purdue (1) and Iowa (1) also received first-place votes.

A full writer-by-writer breakdown of the polling results can be found here. The “official unofficial” poll exists because the conference’s official media poll doesn’t release a full ranking of teams. The polling group features two beat writers to represent each of the 14 teams in the league.

Hunter Dickinson was named Preseason Player of the Year by the panel, edging out Trayce Jackson-Davis 14 to 13. Kris Murray also received one vote for Player of the Year.

The All-Big Ten First Team features Dickinson, Jackson-Davis and Zach Edey, Kris Murray and Clifford Omoruyi.

The Second Team includes Terrance Shannon Jr., Jamison Battle, Xavier Johnson, Chucky Hepburn and Tyler Wahl.

The individual talent parity in the league was evident from the long list of players who received at least one vote for All-Big Ten (first-team votes were worth two, second-team votes were worth one): Malik Hall, 13; Jalen Pickett, 11; Matthew Mayer, Justice Sueing, 9; Donta Scott, 8; Caleb McConnell, 5; Patrick McCaffery, 3; AJ Hoggard, Zed Key, Jaelin Llewellyn, Paul Mulcahy, Race Thompson, Jahmir Young, 2; Boo Buie, Dawson Garcia, Coleman Hawkins, RJ Melendez, Tyson Walker, 1.

Transfer of the Year was also added to the polling this year, and Illinois transfer Terrance Shannon Jr. won that honor with 16 votes. Matthew Mayer (4), Jaelin Llewellyn (3), Jahmir Young (3) and Dawson Garcia (2) also received votes.

Jalen Hood-Schifino won Freshman of the Year with 16 votes. Skyy Clark (7), Brice Sensabaugh (2), Ty Rodgers (1), Jett Howard (1) and Tre Hollomon (1) also received votes.

Here’s a rundown of where each poll participant voted for Michigan:

  • 1st: Jardy
  • 2nd: Giambalvo, Carino, Ben Jones, Quinn, Couch, Neubert, Washut, Watkins, Schnable, Potrykus
  • 3rd: Osterman, Burkhardt, Charboneau, Richey, Smith, Carmin, Greenberg, Cervantes
  • 4th: McFadden, David Jones, Fuller
  • 5th: Bozich, Landis, Leistikow
  • 6th: Werner
  • 7th: Fonesca, James

The complete predicted order of finish is as follows (first-place votes in parenthesis)

Standings (first-place votes in parenthesis)
1. Indiana, 377 (19)
2. Illinois, 339 (6)
3. Michigan, 328 (1)
4. Michigan State, 281
5. Purdue, 279 (1)
6. Ohio State, 253
7. Iowa, 235 (1)
8. Rutgers, 202
9. Wisconsin, 191
10. Maryland, 153
11. Penn State, 118
12. Minnesota, 86
13. Northwestern, 56
14. Nebraska, 42

Player of the year:
Hunter Dickinson, Michigan, 14

Also receiving votes
Trayce Jackson-Davis, 13
Kris Murray, 1

Freshman of the year:
Jalen Hood-Schifino, Indiana, 16

Also receiving votes
Skyy Clark, 7
Brice Sensabaugh, 2
Ty Rodgers, 1
Jett Howard, 1
Tre Holloman, 1

Transfer of the year:
Terrence Shannon Jr., 16

Also receiving votes
Matthew Mayer, 4
Jaelin Llewellyn, 3
Jahmir Young, 3
Dawson Garcia, 2

First Team All-Big Ten (unanimous selections in all caps)
Zach Edey, Purdue, 52
Kris Murray, Iowa, 49
Clifford Omoruyi, Rutgers, 30

Second Team All-Big Ten
Terrance Shannon Jr., Illinois, 29
Jamison Battle, Minnesota, 24
Xavier Johnson, Indiana, 20
Chucky Hepburn, Wisconsin, 15
Tyler Wahl, Wisconsin, 14

Also receiving votes: Malik Hall, 13; Jalen Pickett, 11; Matthew Mayer, Justice Sueing, 9; Donta Scott, 8; Caleb McConnell, 5; Patrick McCaffery, 3; AJ Hoggard, Zed Key, Jaelin Llewellyn, Paul Mulcahy, Race Thompson, Jahmir Young, 2; Boo Buie, Dawson Garcia, Coleman Hawkins, RJ Melendez, Tyson Walker, 1.

Note: Players received two points for a first-team vote and one point for a second-team vote.

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I voted for Hunter Dickinson as Player of the Year, Jalen Hood-Schifino as Freshman of the Year, and Jaelin Llewellyn as Transfer of the Year. My All-Big Ten First Team matched the final group: Dickinson, Jackson-Davis, Edey, Murray and Omoruyi. My second team included Terrence Shannon Jr., Jamison Battle, Matthew Mayer, Xavier Johnson and Llewellyn. Llewellyn is the surprising choice in that group and I ended up voting for him because I think his role and fit are a little more set in stone while the two Illinois transfers will be competing for opportunities with each other.

1. Purdue (+4)

This is a strange year in the conference where over half of the teams should be competent, but it is hard to get excited about any team as potentially elite. Perhaps the most telling data point in this entire preseason exercise is that the two writers who cover Indiana picked Illinois to win the league and the two writers who cover Illinois picked Indiana to win the league.

It takes a leap of faith to see either of those teams coalescing into a title-contending team. A leap that both teams’ beat writers weren’t excited to take on the record. It’s certainly possible, and you can build a case for either program, but the fact that those who observe both teams the closest didn’t want to pick them to win the league is a useful data point.

But the reality is that it is a really hard year to find someone else to pick. I picked Hunter Dickinson as Player of the Year which makes Michigan a reasonable choice, but I’m worried enough about the defense (and an almost entirely new roster) not to make that leap.

In the end, I went with Purdue. A group that returns a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, has arguably the best coach in the conference, and has won at least 12 league games in seven of the last eight seasons. There’s also an impressive crop of top-100 caliber recruits like Caleb Furst, Fletcher Loyer, Trey Kaufman and Ethan Morton to fill in the roster.

Point guard is a concern, but I’ve seen Purdue win games without a true point guard before. Zach Edey’s stamina is a concern, but I’ve seen Painter-coached teams dominate through a monster big man in the middle. It’s easy to envision what this Purdue group is going to be and I can see that team winning a dozen league games because that’s what Purdue does.

Purdue’s far from a perfect pick, but I’m not sure there is a perfect pick this season.

2. Illinois

A year ago, Illinois largely went overlooked in the preseason poll (receiving just 3 of 28 first-place votes) because it was a “run-it-back” team. The Illini lost Ayo Dosunmu but returned Kofi Cockburn and were able to keep the same identity. They played through the post, spread the floor around Cockburn, defended ball screens with drop coverage, and used their small backcourt to pressure the ball. They weren’t as dominant as the team with Dosunmu, but the recipe worked well enough to win a share of the Big Ten.

This year’s Illinois team is going to have to forge a new plan. Brad Underwood isn’t just trying to fit in new pieces, he’s going to have to build a new system.

Terrance Shannon Jr. and Matthew Mayer were fringe NBA Draft prospects who were looked at as potential All-Big 12 players at this point last season. The last 12 months didn’t quite go according to plan, but they are All-Big Ten talents. Coleman Hawkins looks incredible on his good days. The freshman class is as good as any incoming group in the league. RJ Melendez is one of the most intriguing sophomore breakout candidates in the conference.

There’s a lot to like with Underwood’s roster and I don’t think there’s a team in the conference with a better 95th-percentile outcome than Illinois.

The big issue is that I just don’t know how this group is going to play. The new personnel means that the offensive and defensive schemes will have to be refreshed. Underwood has proven that he can change scheme in an offseason. or even mid-season, but without the baseline of Kofi Cockburn anchoring the paint, there are far more questions to ask in the preseason.

3. Michigan

I think there’s probably a case for picking Michigan a bit higher. As disappointing as Michigan’s 2021-22 season was, the Wolverines had the fourth-best KenPom finish in the league and were one of two league teams to make the Sweet Sixteen. They also return an All-American center who was as dominant as any player in the country from mid-January through March. On the other hand, I haven’t seen Jaelin Llewellyn play a Big Ten game, the defense wasn’t good enough to compete for a Big Ten title last year, and Juwan Howard was to replace a pair of one-and-done starters.

4. Indiana (-3)

Indiana hasn’t had a winning record in the conference since Tom Crean was in charge. Last year’s group had an even efficiency margin in league play, only making the NCAA Tournament because of a Michigan collapse, and finished 48th in KenPom. If that Michigan game doesn’t go sideways and the Hoosiers lose 8 of their last 10 games of the regular season are they still pegged as league favorites?

It’s fair to expect this group to take another step. That means that this should be an NCAA Tournament team that competes in the top third of the league, but pegging the Hoosiers as Big Ten favorites is too far for me to go right now.

IU’s defense was terrific in Mike Woodson’s first year, and the foundation returns. A talented incoming class adds some upside, but I haven’t seen enough from Woodson’s offensive scheme or the starting frontcourt combination of Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson to expect a title-caliber offense from this group.

5. Rutgers (+3)

I ended up three spots higher than the consensus on Rutgers, and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. Clifford Omoruyi was dominant from January onward last year, and I think he’ll continue on that upward trajectory. Add in Caleb McConnell, the league’s best perimeter defender, and Steve Pikiell on the bench and this is clearly one of the two best defensive teams in the league.

Defense provides a floor, but I’m even more worried about how Rutgers will score than Indiana. Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker weren’t the best offensive players in the league, but they were the best offensive options that Rutgers had. Now they aren’t on the roster.

Add in one of the best home-court advantages in the league, and I think the Scarlet Knights probably finish a bit higher than expected — even if they do end up playing an ugly brand of basketball (again).

6. Michigan State (-2)

Michigan State is .500 in the Big Ten over the last two seasons with an average KenPom finish of 53rd. The MSU defense finished 67th last year and 45th in 2020-21, per KenPom, worse finishes than at any other year in the previous 14 (!) seasons in East Lansing. The Spartans lose their best rim protector (Marcus Bingham), backup big man (Julius Marble), three-and-D wing (Gabe Brown), and an NBA Draft pick (Max Christie) from last year’s roster and didn’t bring in any transfers to bolster the roster.

There are plenty of starter-quality Big Ten players on the roster. I’m a big fan of Malik Hall and think that Jaden Akins has legitimate potential to breakout, but there’s also not a likely First-Team All-Big Ten player on the roster (again) and I have a hard time envisioning how a group that already struggled defensively is going to elevate on that end of the court while likely playing some combination of Mady Sissoko, Joey Hauser, Jaxon Kholer and Carson Cooper at the five.

7. Maryland (+3)

Another team that I’m higher on than consensus is Maryland. The Terps start fresh under Kevin Willard and should be lucky enough to have the same head coach in November and March this season, which probably adds at least one or two wins to the final total already. Jahmir Young averaged 20 points per night in the Conference USA and should be at least an even replacement for Fatts Russell. Donald Carey played for one of the worst high-major teams in the country, but he’s a 39% career 3-point shooter who made 64 threes last year at 6-foot-5.

Add in the senior year version of Donta Scott and Hakim Hart — two guys who appeared to be on the verge of being stars at different points as underclassmen — and there’s enough there to pick seventh in my book.

Kevin Willard’s Seton Hall teams consistently finished in the 30-60 range on KenPom and were able to hover around .500 in Big East play which feels like a reasonable expectation for this roster in his first year in College Park.

8 Iowa (-1)

It feels like the only reason that Kris Murray wasn’t an All-Big Ten player last year is that he didn’t play enough minutes. He was awesome when he was on the floor, other than when he got in foul trouble. We know that Fran McCaffery can build an offense around an elite player like Murray and I think he’ll be terrific this year. In hindsight, I’d say this pick probably came in a bit low. I’d rank Iowa 8th-or-better more than 8th-or-worse and I feel a bit sheepish betting against a program that has had a top-five offense for three consecutive seasons.

There’s always the defense, but there aren’t many proven two-way teams in the league this year.

9. Ohio State (-3)

Ohio State feels like a high-floor, low-ceiling team to me. Chris Holtmann added some useful pieces in the transfer portal and Justice Sueing is expected to be back healthy. This group is old and experienced and Holtmann has had a top-25 offense in four of his five seasons in Columbus. The pieces are there to be a solid league team with a chance to make the NCAA Tournament.

But where’s the upside? I’m not really excited about a team with Sueing as the primary option, especially after a year off due to injury. Maybe Zed Key is that guy, but I don’t think he’s at the same level as the league’s top bigs.

10. Wisconsin (-1)

Everyone knows not to bet against Wisconsin in a preseason Big Ten poll, but this team was Johnny Davis first, second and third last season. I like Chucky Hepburn and Tyler Wahl, but Wisconsin only outscored Big Ten teams by 2.7 points per 100 possessions with Davis last season. The defense will be good, the Kohl Center will do its thing, but this feels like an 8-12 team to me.

11. Penn State

Micah Shrewsberry deserves credit for figuring out how to get something out of nothing last season. He slowed games down to a crawl (PSU finished 354th in tempo last season), established a defensive identity, and stole a few big wins along the way (Iowa, Rutgers, Indiana and Michigan State).

That was enough to stop the backslide and hold things in progress. Now how is Penn State going to start taking bigger steps forward? Jalen Pickett is good but I’m not sure there’s much more that PSU can accomplish with him carrying so much of the offensive load.

12. Minnesota

Minnesota has two of the top 15 players in the league in Jamison Battle and Dawson Garcia but good luck naming someone else on the roster. It wasn’t just that Battle had an elite shot-making year last season; his running mate Payton Willis might have been even better. And Minnesota only won four league games.

Now Willis is gone which means Minnesota needs a new point guard and Battle is likely facing some shooting regression. I have a hard time seeing the Gophers make a leap in year two for Ben Johnson.

13. Nebraska (+1)

In October, I am usually the guy who wants to predict that this is the year that Nebraska isn’t going to play on Wednesday in the Big Ten Tournament. I’m not falling for that again. I want to like Fred Hoiberg and was excited about his hire as a way to bring some modern offensive ideas to the Big Ten, but it just isn’t working.

14. Northwestern (-1)

Pete Nance was good enough to start for any team in the Big Ten over the last two seasons and Northwestern finished in the bottom four places both years. Now Nance is in Chapel Hill, and his teammates are still in Evanston.

Notable Replies

  1. romeowolv

    No guards on the first team. Don’t like that format.

  2. nswan

    How many times has the team with the Big Ten POTY finished 5th or worse? Feels like there is some potential tension there

  3. umhoops

    Off the top of my head, Iowa in 2020.

  4. nswan

    Also, FWIW - Purdue also made the S16 last year

  5. kturnup

    If Tyler Wahl makes 2nd team All B1G then the conference is boned

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