Previously: The Mulligan; Position Preview: The Guards; Position Preview: The Wings; Position Preview: The Big Men; Big Ten Preview: Top 15 Players; Big Ten Preview: The Pretenders; Big Ten Preview: The Contenders
We have reached the final installment of Maize n Brew's 2015-16 Michigan basketball preview. We have covered what the story is for Michigan entering this season, previewed Michigan's talent at each position, and provided an overview of what you should expect to happen in the Big Ten. And, now that the start of the season is in less than 24 hours, it's time to reveal our predictions and superlatives for Michigan and Big Ten basketball.
Big Ten Standings Prediction
1. Maryland (NCAA Finalist)
2. Michigan State (Elite Eight)
The Terrapins and Spartans will duke it out for the right to hang a Big Ten championship banner in their respective rafters. Both teams are loaded with talent and will play well on both ends of the court. The difference is that Maryland has a more complete and star-studded lineup, while Michigan State's talent goes deeper. However, as Tom Izzo mixes and matches with his rotations to cover up the Spartans' deficiency at point guard, Maryland will know what it has night in and night out. And the best team doesn't need to have the best 10 or 11 players on the roster, though that wouldn't hurt. It just needs to have the best seven or eight. And that's why Maryland will take home the Big Ten crown.
3. Indiana (Sweet 16)
4. Michigan (Sweet 16)
5. Purdue (Round of 32)
The Hoosiers, Wolverines, and Boilermakers are very good teams that will make some noise in March, but each has one flaw too significant to ignore. For Indiana, it's the defense. The Hoosiers are asking a lot from 6-foot-10 freshman center Thomas Bryant to anchor the middle. But it's yet to be seen if he can defend without fouling, and Indiana does not have a backup center. This spells trouble. For Michigan, it's the interior. They have proven they can win with elite point guards and wings, but they still needed to be solid down low. It's unclear if Michigan has that answer. And, for Purdue, no matter how big you are down low, it's difficult to score consistently when you don't have shooters.
6. Iowa (Round of 64)
7. Wisconsin (Round of 64)
8. Ohio State (First Four)
The surprise here is that I have Wisconsin seventh. I know that I wrote earlier this morning that I had learned not to bet against Bo Ryan, but I'm doing it anyway. Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig are talented players, but those are the only proven pieces the Badgers have. We just assume that the new starters, who have underwhelmed in their limited time on the court or haven't even played a single minute, will have breakout seasons. And it's not like Ryan brings in five-star recruits that are ready to make an impact from the get-go. Freshmen usually need a year or two before they begin to thrive in Ryan's system. All of this suggests the fourth-place-or-better streak comes to a halt.
9. Illinois (NIT)
10. Northwestern (NIT)
Illinois and Northwestern have the talent to make runs at an NCAA Tournament bid, but preseason troubles have set in. For Illinois, numerous players have suffered injuries that will sideline them for chunks of time. Some, like Leron Black and Kendrick Nunn, will miss a month or two, while Tracy Abrams will miss the entire season. That and the lack of a front-court presence will be too much to overcome. For Northwestern, the Wildcats aren't deep but had a legitimate starting lineup that could take them dancing. Of course, that took a hit on Wednesday when Northwestern announced that forward Vic Law will miss the season with a shoulder injury. Is Northwestern basketball cursed? [nods]
13. Penn State
There is a steep drop-off from Tier 4 to Tier 5. Minnesota, Nebraska, and Penn State are in rebuilding periods, though it could be said that the Nittany Lions have been rebuilding for years. Each of these programs lost a large portion of last season's roster and don't have the players to replace them adequately. In what should be a strong Big Ten, wins will be rare for these programs as they'll fight and scrap each other for 5-13 campaigns.
Big Ten Superlatives
Most Valuable Player: Melo Trimble, Maryland
Least Valuable Player: Shavon Shields, Nebraska
Best Senior: Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
Best New Transfer: Eron Harris, Michigan State
Best Freshman: Diamond Stone, Maryland
Most Improved: Jae'Sean Tate, Ohio State
Best Bounce Back: Derrick Walton, Michigan
Best Sixth Man: Isaac Haas, Purdue
Most Versatile: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
Best Scorer: Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
Best Shooter: Nick Zeisloft, Indiana
Best Distributor: Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern
Best Big Man: A.J. Hammons, Purdue
Best Defender: A.J. Hammons, Purdue
Most Valuable Player: Caris LeVert
Least Valuable Player: Mark Donnal
Most Improved: Aubrey Dawkins
Best Bounce Back: Derrick Walton
Best Sixth Man: Duncan Robinson
Most Versatile: Caris LeVert
Best Scorer: Caris LeVert
Best Shooter: Duncan Robinson
Best Distributor: Spike Albrecht
Best Big Man: Ricky Doyle
Best Defender: D.J. Wilson
What are your predictions for the 2015-16 Big Ten basketball season? Tell us below!