Nebraska was tabbed 13th to finish in the Big Ten according to a poll of 24 conference beat writers conducted by the Columbus Dispatch and The Athletic.
Nebraska is coming off of a 12-19 season that saw the Huskers go 6-12 and finish in a tie for 12th place, and it does not seem like many outside the program expect to see much improvement in 2018-19.
“There are preseason rankings and all that, we see all that stuff and I think that’s just like a hidden motivator; we don’t really talk about it,” sophomore forward Isaiah Roby said a couple of weeks prior to the poll even being conducted. “Nobody really knows what our team’s going to be like because we’ve got three transfers coming in and three freshmen, so it’s a totally different team than last year; it’s not even comparable. I think the coaches are going to put us in a good spot and that’s all we can look forward to.”
The Huskers only return one double-digit scorer in junior point guard Glynn Watson Jr. (13.0 points per game, 2.6 assists per game, 39.8 percent 3-point shooting) but add six new players to the roster between transfers and true freshmen.
Michigan State is the league favorite according to the poll (and pretty much everyone else who follows college basketball). The Spartans return the unanimous preseason Big Ten Player of the Year in sophomore forward Miles Bridges who should also be a preseason All-American and contender for national player of the year. Bridges isn’t alone, however, as Michigan State only lost two seniors from last year’s rotation and add the preseason freshman of the year in forward Jaren Jackson.
Purdue, who won the conference last season but lost Big Ten Player of the Year Caleb Swanigan, was picked second with a strong senior core of Vince Edwards, Isaac Haas and Dakota Mathias leading the way. Minnesota brings everyone back including arguably the best point guard in the league in Nate Mason and was voted third. Northwestern rounds out the top four as the Wildcats return their top five scorers including a talented perimeter trio of Bryant McIntosh, Vic law and Scottie Lindsey.
After tying for second in 2016-17, the Badgers lost four starters to graduation but bring back center Ethan Happ, an All-Big Ten performer, and were tabbed seventh.
Indiana under new coach Archie Miller was picked ninth after losing three of its top four scorers from last season’s 10th place team. Under first-year coach Chris Holtmann, Ohio State was picked 11th. Illinois was picked just behind Indiana heading into year one under Brad Underwood.
Nebraska tips off the season on Nov. 11 against Eastern Illinois at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
1. Michigan State (28); 20-15 (10-8)
2. Purdue (80); 27-8 (4-4)
3. Minnesota (90); 24-10 (11-7)
4. Northwestern (115); 24-12 (10-8)
T-5. Maryland (155); 24-9 (12-6)
T-5. Michigan (155); 26-12 (10-8)
7. Wisconsin (168); 27-10 (12-6)
8. Iowa (204); 19-15 (10-8)
9. Indiana (270); 18-16 (7-11)
10. Penn State (280); 15-18 (6-12)
11. Ohio State (314); 17-15 (7-11)
12. Illinois (315); 20-15 (8-10)
13. Nebraska (362); 12-19 (6-12)
14. Rutgers (376); 15-18 (3-15)
Player of the year: Miles Bridges, Michigan State (unanimous)
Rookie of the year: Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State
– Also receiving votes: Bruno Fernando, Minnesota (1)
First Team All-Big Ten
- Miles Bridges, SO, Michigan State (28): 16.9 jpg, 8.3 rpg, 2.0 apg
- Ethan Happ, JR, Wisconsin (28): 14.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.8 apg
- Moritz Wagner, JR, Michigan (20): 12.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.5 apg
- Nate Mason, SR, Minnesota (19): 15.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 5.0 apg
- Bryant McIntosh, SR, Northwestern (18): 14.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 5.2 apg
Also receiving votes: Vincent Edwards, Purdue (12); Amir Coffey, Minnesota (2); Nick Ward, Michigan State (2); Carsen Edwards, Purdue (1); Jae’Sean Tate, Ohio State (1); Isaac Haas, Purdue (1); Jordan Murphy, Minnesota (1).
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.