ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The good thing about having a rotation with eight quality players is it gives Greg Gard plenty of lineup options.
The trick for the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball coach is finding the right mix — at the right time — and knowing when to tinker and when to stick with it. Gard has embraced analytics, at least to some degree, but admits that data overload can lead to what he calls “paralysis from analysis.”
Mostly, Gard relies on his eyes and instincts.
When the game was on the line last Thursday against Indiana, Gard sent out a defensive-minded lineup that included two bench players. That decision played a key role in the Badgers getting enough stops to extend the game and, ultimately, produce an 80-73 win in two overtimes.
Gard and his staff will come up with a plan of attack for a key game between No. 9 UW (10-2, 4-1 Big Ten) and No. 7 Michigan (10-0, 5-0) on Tuesday night at Crisler Arena knowing full-well they may have to adjust on the fly. Just because a lineup has worked against one opponent doesn’t mean it’s going to be effective the next time out.
However, some things are becoming clear as UW nears the midpoint of its regular season. Gard favors three lineups and the least efficient unit in that group is the one that has started every game this season.
The remaining two lineups are the aforementioned defensive-heavy group and another that seems to be UW’s best offensive grouping. Both, interestingly enough, include freshman guard Jonathan Davis.
As Gard said earlier this week when asked about his decision-making process regarding who’s on the floor at important times, “There’s not an exact science to it.”
“I don’t sit there with an algebraic equation and plug things in and it gives me an answer,” Gard added. “I ask the assistants what they’re seeing and then kind of go with what my gut is eventually at the end of it.”
One of the talking points during a longer-than-usual offseason was whether UW could find a way to have its two bigs — seniors Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers — on the floor together more often this season.
Those two have been part of a qroup that has started all 24 halves for the Badgers this season and also includes senior forward Aleem Ford, senior point guard D’Mitrik Trice and senior guard Brad Davison. But over the past nine games, a stretch that has included five Big Ten games and four non-conference matchups against teams in the Top 100 of the KenPom rankings, UW’s starting lineup has yielded average results.
Gard even brought up the two-big lineup unprompted following the Badgers’ 70-64 home loss to Maryland on Dec. 28.
“You wondered why I’ve gone back and forth with only one big in the lineup, now you see why,” he said. “Because it’s hard to guard when you have multiple ball-handlers on the floor and they can really stretch you out and put you in a quandary defensively.”
Analytic data suggest the bigger issue for the starting group is on the other end of the court. Over that nine-game segment, the starters have produced 77 points in 90 possessions, an average of 0.86 points per possession; in Big Ten play, its offensive efficiency (0.69 PPP) is even worse.
Defensively, the starters are holding opponents to well under 1.0 point per possession in both Big Ten play and when the final four non-conference games are included.
So why doesn’t Gard make a change or two in his starting lineup to get his best five players on the court? It’s not that simple.
For starters, Gard would have to bench a senior (or two) and run the risk of disrupting chemistry. Plus, a straight comparison of lineup production isn’t easy because the opponent needs to be taken into account; namely, UW’s starters are typically going up against the other team’s best lineup while the Badgers’ secondary lineups may have the advantage of being paired against weaker bench lineups for the opponents.
Besides, the opening lineup on the court each half is merely a starting point and Gard has shown a willingness to use two other lineups just as often in Big Ten play.
The numbers suggest UW’s best offensive lineup of those three is the one that includes three guards — Trice, Davison and Davis — paired with Ford and Potter in the front court. That group is averaging 1.29 points per possession.
But when Indiana was scoring at will against that lineup in the second half last Thursday, Gard replaced Ford with sophomore forward Tyler Wahl and swapped out Potter for Reuvers.
That grouping — Trice, Davison, Davis, Wahl and Reuvers — has yielded 49 points in 53 defensive possessions in Big Ten play and 81 points in 73 defensive possessions over the past nine games.
“I felt our only chance was we had to get things under control defensively and who were going to be the five that was going to give us the best chance to do that,” Gard said. “That’s where I was going to put all the chips at that point in time.”
Based on how he’s distributed playing time, it’s clear Gard believes he has a winning hand with Davis in the mix. Since the loss to Maryland, only Trice (80) has played more minutes than Davis (71).
That the former La Crosse Central standout went 2 of 11 from the field and still played 41 of a possible 50 minutes in the win over Indiana was telling. His athleticism is an asset on both ends of the floor and helps Gard’s quest to get the right amount of offense and defense on the floor without the other category suffering.
Davis’ shot selection still needs work and, with only 12 games under his belt, there’s plenty of room for growth in terms of understanding UW’s system. But he has solid instincts and came up with some big rebounds in the Indiana game — he led the team with eight — by winning 50/50 balls.
“There’s going to be some freshman miscues, that’s part of it, that’s part of the growing,” Gard said. “But just his ability to go make plays on both ends of the floor is what gives me the desire to have him on the floor more minutes.”
Reuvers presents an interesting conundrum for Gard because of his inconsistency.
In the first half of the five Big Ten games this season, Reuvers has gone 3 of 18 from the field with no free throw attempts for a total of six points.
After halftime in those five games? Reuvers is 14 of 24 from the field and 13 of 14 from the line for a combined 41 points.
“I don’t know if it’s just mentally or just not being physically ready in that first half and ready to go,” Reuvers said this week. “I’m obviously trying to switch up some things and have a bigger impact in the first half because I notice it, too. But when it gets late in that second half, I obviously am more focused and love playing in those tight games. It’s a lot of fun.”
Down the stretch of the Indiana game, Gard wanted Reuvers on the floor because of his defense. That meant an extended stay on the bench for Potter, who sat for most of the final 16-plus minutes of the game.
FS1 television cameras caught what looked like a heated exchange between Potter and UW assistant coach Alando Tucker shortly after Gard made the changes to shore up the defense. Potter downplayed the moment and said it was “a player and a coach talking about different things.”
When Potter finally got back in the game in the second overtime, he made the most of a stint that lasted 1 minute, 48 seconds. He grabbed a key rebound on the defensive end and, Gard pointed out, helped create points on the other end of the floor without even touching the ball: Potter sprinting up the floor in transition drew a defender that left Wahl open for one of his back-to-back 3-pointers.
Shortly thereafter, Potter returned to the bench because Gard wanted Reuvers on the floor to close out the game defensively.
Reuvers, for his part, admitted he’s glad he’s not the one making decisions on playing time for the Badgers.
“I know it’s tough,” Reuvers said. “Everyone wants to be out there, especially in late games, too. We’ve just got to keep playing our hardest. … In that game against Indiana, Coach was saying he was putting in his five best players he thought was going to stop their team at the end of that game.
“So I know the guys that weren’t in there, obviously they want to play. Just keep working hard so when you get that shot — because it will happen — it’ll be mixed up depending on the matchups and who’s playing long in games, how the game’s flowing. It’s just nice to know that we have options, too, if someone’s not doing well in the game.”
Nov. 25 | Kohl Center
Jay Spoonhour is 110-139 in eight seasons at Eastern Illinois. The Wildcats went 17-15 overall and 9-9 in the Ohio Valley Conference in 2019-20, their second winning season under the son of the late Charlie Spoonhour, who coached at Southwest Missouri State, Saint Louis and UNLV.
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Senior guard Josiah Wallace (above left) averaged a team-high 15.6 points last season for the Panthers. He averaged 19.6 per game in conference play, which ranked fifth in the VC. Wallace, who began his career Olney Central College in Illinois, has scored 20 or more points 20 times during his two seasons at Eastern Illinois.
The Panthers return their top seven scorers, including senior guard Mack Smith (13.4) and senior guard George Dixon (11.0). Dixon, who played at Milwaukee Riverside, led the team in rebounding (8.8) a year ago. … Former Madison East product Deang is a senior guard for the Panthers. He was averaging 9.5 points per game in 2019-20 when his season ended due to injury. … UW beat Eastern Illinois 65-52 in its home opener last season behind 14 points, 14 rebounds and nine blocks from Nate Reuvers. The Badgers found themselves clinging to a 46-43 lead after Smith hit a 3-pointer with 8 minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the game, but they answered with a 15-0 run to put away the game.
Nov. 27 | Kohl Center
George Ivory is 136-248 in 12 seasons at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Golden Lions went 4-26 last season, including 3-15 in the SWAC, and haven’t had a winning campaign since 2012-13. They made an NCAA tournament appearance in 2009-10, Ivory’s second season, and beat Winthrop in a play-in game before falling to eventual national champion Duke.
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Markeidric Bell (above), a 6-foot-8 senior forward, led the Golden Lions in scoring last season at 10.8 points per game. He scored 33 points in a win at Mississippi Valley State last season, scoring 26 consecutive points for Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the second half.
The Golden Lions ranked last in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency last season, per KenPom. … Senior forward Terrance Banyard (above), who averaged 7.9 points and 4.4 rebounds last season, played at Milwaukee Destiny High School. … Junior guard Shaun Doss Jr. was a second-team preseason All-SWAC pick last season. He was averaging 12.3 points when he was lost for the season after the third game due to injury. … This is the first meeting between UW and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Dec. 1 | Kohl Center
Will Ryan, the son of former Badgers coach Bo Ryan, was hired in June to replace Linc Darner. Ryan coached last season at NCAA Division II Wheeling University in West Virginia. Wheeling went 14-13, but it finished in a tie for fifth place in the Mountain East Conference after being picked to finish last. Darner went 92-80 in five seasons, including 17-16 overall and 11-7 in Horizon League play in 2019-20.
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Sophomore guard Amari Davis (above) was named the Horizon League Freshman of the Year last season after averaging 15.9 points per game. Davis, who scored 28 points on two occasions, shot 51.4 percent. He finished with 524 points, breaking Tony Bennett’s single-season program record for a freshman.
The Phoenix have to replace JayQuan McCloud, who led the team in scoring (17.1), rebounding (5.1) and assists (4.5). … Senior guard PJ Pipes has appeared in 102 games, including 59 starts, heading into his final season. … Green Bay’s freshman class includes former Sun Prairie standout Colin Schaefer and Terrance Thompson of La Crosse Central.
Dec. 4 | Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee
The Golden Eagles are 115-81 in six seasons under Steve Wojciechowski. They went 18-12 last season, losing six of their final seven games to finish 8-10 and tied for sixth in the Big East. Marquette has gone winless in two NCAA tournament trips during the Wojciechowski era.
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Senior guard Koby McEwen (above) averaged 9.5 points per game in his first season at Marquette. McEwen, who began his career at Utah State, scored a season-high 23 points in a win over Purdue and 19 in a loss at UW. He failed to reach double figures in the final five games of the season.
Marquette certainly won’t be so top-heavy now that guard Markus Howard, who averaged 27.8 points last season, is gone. Howard accounted for 37.4 percent of the Golden Eagles’ possessions as a senior. … In addition to McEwen, Marquette also returns senior forward Jamal Cain, senior forward Theo John and junior guard Greg Elliott. … The Golden Eagles have a crop of intriguing newcomers. Included in that group is sophomore guard D.J. Carton, who transferred from Ohio State. Carton averaged 10.4 points in 20 games last season before leaving the team. Marquette also added Dawson Garcia, a highly touted 6-11 forward from the Minneapolis area.
Dec. 9 | Kohl Center
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Chris Mack is 44-21 in two seasons at Louisville. The Cardinals went 24-7 overall last season and 15-5 in the ACC, tied for second and one game behind champion Florida State. Mack was the coach at Xavier when Bronson Koenig drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer in a 66-63 victory that eliminated the second-seeded Musketeers in the second round of the 2016 NCAA tournament.
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Louisville’s leading returning scorer is senior center Malik Williams (above), who averaged 8.5 points and 6.1 rebounds in 2019-20. Williams came on strong in late February, producing a double-double against Syracuse (14 points, 13 rebounds) followed by a season-high 17 points and nine rebounds against North Carolina.
The Cardinals must replace their top four scorers from last season. Included in that group is Jordan Nwora, who averaged 18.0 points and 7.7 rebounds before leaving early for the NBA. He was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round. … The Cardinals’ roster includes eight freshmen and six sophomores. The remaining players are all seniors, but two of them are graduate transfers. The Cardinals added some scoring punch in the backcourt with graduate transfers Carlik Jones, who averaged 20.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists at Radford last season; and Charles Minlend, who averaged 14.4 points at San Francisco. … UW and Louisville have only met once, a 70-53 win for the host Cardinals on Dec 28, 1978.
Dec. 16 | Kohl Center
Ben Jacobson is 291-174 in 14 seasons at Northern Iowa. The Panthers are coming off a Missouri Valley Conference title; they went 14-4 in conference play and 25-6 overall but were knocked off by Drake 77-56 in a quarterfinal of the MVC tournament.
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AJ Green (above), a 6-5 junior guard, was the MVC Player of the Year last season after averaging 19.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. The previous season, he set a Northern Iowa freshman record with 509 points. Green, the son of Panthers associate head coach Kyle Green, shot 39.1 percent from 3-point range, averaging nearly three makes per game.
Also back for the Panthers are their second- and third-leading scorers: senior guard Trae Berhow (12.5) and junior forward Austin Phyfe (11.2), who led Northern Iowa with 8.2 rebounds per game. … Senior guard Tywhon Pickford and UW senior guard Brad Davison were teammates at Maple Grove High School in Minnesota. … UW is 4-1 all-time vs. Northern Iowa. The programs’ most recent meeting was a 57-52 victory for the Badgers in the opening round of the 2005 NCAA tournament. They met in an exhibition game at the start of the 2017-18 campaign.
Dec. 21 | Kohl Center
Feb. 11 | Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb.
The Cornhuskers went 7-25 in Fred Hoiberg’s first season in 2019-20, including 2-18 in the Big Ten. After beating Iowa 76-70 on Jan. 7, Nebraska lost its final 17 games of the season. For better or for worse, Hoiberg must replace five of the top six scorers from his first team in Lincoln.
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Teddy Allen (above), a 6-6 junior guard, was the leading scorer among NJCAA players last season while playing at Western Nebraska Community College. Allen averaged 31.4 points per game while shooting 37 percent from 3-point range and over 88 percent from the free throw line. Allen began his career at West Virginia, where he averaged 7.0 points off the bench in 2017-18.
Sophomore forward Dalano Banton sat out last season after transferring from Western Kentucky. He had eight points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in the Hilltoppers’ 83-76 win over visiting UW on Dec. 29, 2018. … Senior point guard Kobe Webster is a graduate transfer from Western Illinois, where he piled up over 1,400 points and nearly 300 assists in 85 career starts. … Junior guard Trey McGowens was granted a waiver from the NCAA and is eligible to play this season after transferring from Pittsburgh, where he averaged 11.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.9 steals in 2019-20. Hoiberg landed McGowens’ younger brother Bryce, a shooting guard who’s ranked among the top 35 players in the 2021 recruiting class.
Dec. 25 | Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich.
Tom Izzo begins his 26th season at Michigan State, where he’s gone 628-241. The Spartans have won at least a share of three consecutive Big Ten regular-season titles, giving Izzo 10 for his career. Michigan State went 22-9 in 2019-20 after starting the season ranked No. 1 in the nation. The Spartans overcame a February slump — they lost four of their first five games that month — and closed the season with five consecutive wins to share the conference crown with Maryland and UW.
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Junior forward Aaron Henry (above) flirted with pursuing an NBA career before deciding to return to the Spartans. Henry is the team’s leading returning scorer at 10.0 points per game, and he was second in rebounding (4.6). He shot 34.4 percent from 3-point range.
Michigan State has two big holes to fill following the departures of point guard Cassius Winston and forward Xavier Tillman. Winston averaged a team-high 18.6 points and 5.9 assists last season, while Tillman averaged 13.7 points and a team-best 10.3 rebounds per game. … Junior Joey Hauser will step in at one forward spot after sitting out last season. The Stevens Point native averaged 9.7 points and 5.3 rebounds as a freshman at Marquette in 2018-19. … A foot injury has wiped out most of the past two seasons for senior guard Joshua Langford. He averaged 11.7 points while starting all 35 games in 2017-18. … Rocket Watts started 16 games as a freshman, averaging 9.0 points.
Dec. 28 | Kohl Center
Jan. 30 | Xfinity Center in College Park, Md.
Mark Turgeon begins his 10th season at Maryland, where he’s 204-99. The Terrapins went 24-7 in 2019-20 and overcame some late hiccups by beating Michigan on the final day of the regular season to clinch a share of the title with Michigan State and UW.
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Junior forward Aaron Wiggins (above) is the Terrapins’ leading returning scorer at 10.4 points per game. Wiggins shot 41.3 percent from 3-point range, up from 31.7 the previous season. He reached double figures in 18 of 31 games.
Turgeon has to find a way to replace his top two players. Anthony Cowan Jr., a four-year starter at point guard, averaged 16.3 points and 4.7 assists as a senior. Forward Jalen Smith was an NBA lottery pick after averaging 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds as a sophomore. … Maryland’s success this season may depend on how much development it gets from its complementary players from the past two seasons. That group includes Wiggins, senior guard Darryl Morsell and junior guard Eric Ayala. Both players averaged 9.5 points last season. Ayala shot only 27.4 percent from beyond the arc after connecting on 40.6 percent of his shots from 3-point range as a freshman. … Junior forward Jairus Hamilton is eligible to play immediately after transferring from Boston College, where he averaged 9.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 25.7 minutes per game while making 20 starts last season.
Dec. 31 | Kohl Center
Richard Pitino is 127-108 in seven seasons at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers went 15-16 last season, including 8-12 in the Big Ten. After beating UW 70-52 on Feb. 5 to improve to 6-6 in conference play, the Gophers lost six of their next seven games.
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Junior guard Marcus Carr (above) averaged 15.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists last season. Carr, who began his career at Pittsburgh, shot 36.1 percent from 3-point range.
Star center Daniel Oturu’s departure to the NBA — he was picked in the second round — leaves a big hole on both ends of the court. Oturu averaged 20.1 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks last season as a sophomore. … Junior guard Gabe Kalscheur averaged 11.6 points last season. … The Gophers added three transfers who are eligible immediately: Junior center Liam Robbins, who averaged 14.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks last season at Drake; junior guard Both Gach, who averaged 10.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists at Drake; and senior forward Brandon Johnson, who averaged 15.4 points and 8.1 rebounds at Western Michigan. … The Gophers’ freshman class includes guard Jamal Mashburn Jr., whose father played for Pitino’s father Rick at Kentucky before embarking on an 11-year NBA career. … Minnesota has finished below UW in the Big Ten standings in 22 consecutive seasons.
Jan. 3 | Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa.
Feb. 2 | Kohl Center
Jim Ferry was named Penn State’s interim coach after Patrick Chambers abruptly resigned in October. Chambers went 148-150 in nine seasons in State College. The Nittany Lions went 21-10 last season, including 11-9 in Big Ten play, and would have played in their first NCAA tournament under Chambers had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic. Ferry is 210-246 in 15 years as a head coach. He led Long Island University to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances before leaving for Duquesne, where he went 60-97 in five seasons.
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Junior guard Myreon Jones (above) averaged 13.3 points last season, more than tripling his production from the previous season. He shot 40.3 percent from 3-point range, making six against Michigan State and five each in games vs. Georgetown and Rutgers. All three of those performances were on the road.
Lamar Stevens was a fixture in Penn State’s lineup for four seasons and finished his career with 2,207 points and 875 rebounds. He’ll be difficult to replace, as well center Mike Watkins, who averaged 9.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks as a senior. Without Watkins, the Nittany Lions don’t have much size. Senior forward John Harrar, at 6-9, is Penn State’s tallest player. … Junior guard Myles Dread averaged 8.6 points and connected a team-high 65 times from 3-point range last season.
Jan. 7 | Kohl Center
Archie Miller is 55-43 in three seasons at Indiana, but he’s just 26-32 in Big Ten play. The Hoosiers went 20-12 last season, including 9-11 in conference play. Indiana was 15-4 after a 67-63 win over Michigan State on Jan. 23 before going 4-8 during the stretch run of the regular season.
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Trayce Jackson-Davis (above), a 6-9 forward, averaged 13.5 points and 8.4 rebounds as a freshman. He shot 56.6 percent from the field but was held to a combined 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting in two losses to UW.
The Hoosiers lose guard Devonte Green, who averaged 10.8 points but took 31 percent of the team’s shots. … Wing Justin Smith, who was third on the team in scoring (10.4) and tied for second in rebounding (5.2), transferred to Arkansas. … Freshman point guard Khristian Lander was a top-30 player in the 2020 recruiting class. … Senior guard Aljami Durham started all 32 games last season, averaging 9.8 points per game and shooting 38.3 percent from beyond the arc. … Senior center Joey Brunk averaged 6.8 points and 5.2 rebounds last season after transferring from Butler. … UW has beaten Indiana at home 17 consecutive times. The Hoosiers’ only win at the Kohl Center was a 69-59 decision on Jan. 25, 1998, the same month the building opened.
Jan. 12 | Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Feb. 14 | Kohl Center
The Wolverines went 19-12 in Juwan Howard’s first season, including 10-10 in Big Ten action. Michigan overcame a 2-6 start in Big Ten play and was 9-7 after a five-game winning streak. But a home loss to UW started a slide of three losses in four games to close the regular season.
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Franz Wagner (above), a 6-9 swingman, averaged 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds as a freshman. The younger brother of former Michigan star Mo Wagner scored in double figures in his final seven games, including a career-high 22 points in a win at Purdue.
Michigan has two key pieces to replace: point guard Zavier Simpson, who averaged 12.9 points and 7.9 assists last season; and center Jon Teske, who averaged 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds as a senior. … Senior forward Isaiah Livers was limited to 21 games last season because of injury but ended up leading Michigan with 12.9 points per game. Livers shot 40.2 percent from 3-point range and 95.7 percent from the free throw line. … Senior guard Eli Brooks averaged 10.6 points and shot 36.4 percent from 3-point range last season. … Michigan added two transfers who should help immediately: point guard Mike Smith, who averaged 22.8 points at Columbia last season; and guard Chaundee Brown Jr., who averaged 12.1 points at Wake Forest. … Howard also brought in a terrific recruiting class that includes 7-1 center Hunter Dickinson, a top-50 player.
Jan. 15 | Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.
Steve Pikiell is in the process of a fantastic rebuilding job at Rutgers. While Pikiell is 64-65 overall in four seasons, he led the Scarlet Knights to their first 20-win season in 16 years in 2019-20. Rutgers went 11-9 and would have played in the NCAA tournament had it not been for the pandemic. Pikiell would have been the Big Ten Coach of the Year had it not been for Greg Gard leading the Badgers on a late run to a share of the conference title.
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Junior forward Ron Harper Jr. (above) averaged 12.1 points and 5.8 rebounds last season. Harper scored 29 points in a loss at Iowa and 27 in a win over Illinois.
Senior point guard Geo Baker averaged 10.9 points last season. He shot 28.2 percent from 3-point range, a career low. … Junior center Myles Johnson averaged 7.8 points and 7.9 rebounds last season. … Freshman Clifford Omoruyi, a 6-11 center, was a top-60 player in the 2020 recruiting class. Omoruyi was born in Nigeria and moved to New Jersey when he was 14. … Rutgers went 18-1 at home last season. Michigan was the only team to win at the RAC in 2019-20. … The Scarlet Knights ranked No. 6 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.
Jan. 23 | Kohl Center
Chris Holtmann is 66-34 in three seasons at Ohio State. The Buckeyes went 21-10 overall and 11-9 in the Big Ten last season. They were ranked No. 5 in the nation when the calendar flipped to 2020 but lost five of their first six games of the new year, starting with a 61-57 defeat at home against UW.
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Junior guard Duane Washington Jr. (above) averaged 11.5 points last season in 28 games, including 15 starts. Washington shot 39.3 percent from beyond the arc and 83.3 percent from the free throw line. He played well down the stretch, including a 20-point effort in a win over Michigan.
Center Kaleb Wesson, who led the team with 14.0 points and 9.3 rebounds last season, left Ohio State early to pursue a pro career. … Senior forward Seth Towns arrives back in his hometown as a graduate transfer. Towns sat out his final two seasons at Harvard due to injury. He averaged 16.0 points and 5.7 rebounds during the 2017-18 season. … Junior forward Justice Sueing, a transfer, averaged 14.3 points and 6.0 rebounds at Cal two seasons ago. … Point guard Jimmy Sotos, a graduate transfer, averaged 11.5 points at Bucknell last season. … Senior guard Abel Porter, a graduate transfer from Utah State, won’t play this season due to a heart condition.
Jan. 27 | Kohl Center
Feb. 21 | Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill.
Chris Collins is 109-119 in seven seasons with the Wildcats. Since he took Northwestern to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 2016-17, the Wildcats have gone 13-48 against Big Ten opponents. They were 3-17 in conference play last season, losing 12 consecutive games at one point before beating Nebraska in a matchup of bottom-dwellers.
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Junior forward Miller Kopp (above) led the Wildcats with 13.2 points per game last season. He shot 39.6 percent from 3-point range and scored at least 20 points six times as a sophomore.
Junior guard Anthony Gaines’ 2019-20 season was cut short due to a shoulder injury. He averaged 5.9 points and started all 10 games he played. … Point guard Boo Buie started 11 games as a freshman, averaging 10.3 points. … Forward Robbie Beran started 18 games as a true freshman, averaging 5.3 points and 3.4 rebounds. Beran was recruited by UW. … Center Ryan Young started all 31 games as a redshirt freshman. He averaged 9.0 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds.
Feb. 6 | State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill.
Feb. 27 | Kohl Center
Brad Underwood is 47-49 in three seasons with the Fighting Illini but is coming off a breakthrough campaign. Illinois went 21-10 overall last season and 13-7 in the Big Ten, one game out of a three-way tie for first place. Underwood’s team was picked to win the Big Ten this season in a preseason poll of beat writers from the conference. The Illini received 16 of 28 first-place votes.
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Illinois’ title chances got a big boost when junior guard Ayo Dosunmu (above) decided to return for his third season in Champaign. He led the Fighting Illini with 16.6 points and 3.3 assists last season. Dosunmu reached double figures in his final 15 games, including 27 points in a win at Michigan and 24 in a victory at Penn State.
Sophomore Kofi Cockburn, a 7-foot- center, was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season after averaging 13.3 points and a team-high 8.8 rebounds. … Junior forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili took a big step back last season. After averaging 12.5 points as a freshman, that number dropped to 6.8 last season. … Illinois shot 30.9 percent from 3-point range last season, which ranked last in the Big Ten, but three additions to the lineup should lead to more efficiency from the perimeter. Adam Miller, a 6-3 guard, is the preseason Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Meanwhile, two transfers who sat out last season should help out with the shooting as well: Austin Hutcherson, a 6-6 junior wing who averaged 20.0 points and shot 39.2 percent during the 2018-19 season at Division III Wesleyan (Conn.) University; and junior wing Jacob Grandison, who averaged 13.9 points and averaged more than two triples per game two seasons ago at Holy Cross. … Illinois also needs a bounce-back senior season from guard Trent Frazier, who shot 30.9 percent from beyond the arc in 2019-20.
Feb. 18 | Kohl Center
March 7 | Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa
Fran McCaffery is 194-143 in 10 seasons at Iowa. The Hawkeyes went 20-11 overall and 11-9 in the Big Ten last season. Iowa begins this season ranked No. 5 and one of the favorites in the Big Ten, but it never has finished better than third place in the conference during the McCaffery era.
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Reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Luka Garza (above) returns after averaging 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds as a junior. The 6-11 center scored at least 20 points 25 times, including the final 16 game of the season. His biggest performances: 44 and 33 points in games vs. Michigan; 38 vs. Indiana; and a combined 59 points and 29 rebounds in two games vs. Penn State.
Junior wing Joe Wieskamp averaged 14.0 points and 6.1 rebounds last season. … Point guard Jordan Bohannon, the younger brother of former Badgers Jason and Zach Bohannon, is back for his fifth season. Bohannon has battled a hip injury that limited to him to 10 games last season. He already is the program’s all-time leader in made 3-pointers with 284. … Shooting guard CJ Fredrick shot 46.1 percent from beyond the arc in 2019-20 as a redshirt freshman. … Iowa returns most of its rotation from a team that finished No. 5 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom. But if there’s a reason to believe the Hawkeyes are overhyped, it’s this: They’ve finished No. 97, 111, 242 and 143 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency the past four seasons.
March 2 | Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind.
Matt Painter is 337-174 in 15 seasons at Purdue. The Boilermakers went 16-15 overall and 9-11 in the Big Ten last season, when they struggled to find consistency on the offensive end of the court.
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS
Junior forward Trevion Williams (above) led Purdue in scoring (11.5) and rebounding (7.6) last season. He had 36 points and 20 rebounds in a double-overtime loss at Michigan. One thing Williams needs to work on is his free throw shooting: He was only 47.9 percent from the line as a sophomore.
Purdue lost two key contributors — swingman Nojel Eastern (Howard) and center Matt Haarms (BYU) — to transfer. … Junior guard Eric Hunter Jr., who averaged 10.6 points last season, will miss the start of the season with a broken tibia. … Junior guard Sasha Stefanovic averaged 9.1 points while shooting 38.3 percent from 3-point range last season. … Purdue’s recruiting class includes Ethan Morton, a guard from Pennsylvania who was recruited by UW. … The Boilers’ roster includes seven freshmen and three sophomores, but no seniors.
Dec. 9 | Kohl Center
David Cox is 42-26 in his third season in charge at Rhode Island. The Rams went 21-9 last season, including 13-5 in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Cox served as an assistant coach on Dan Hurley’s staff at Rhode Island for four seasons before taking over the program following Hurley’s departure to Connecticut. Rhode Island made it to the NCAA tournament in each of Hurley’s final two seasons with the program.
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS
Senior guard Fatts Russell (above) was a first-team All-Atlantic 10 selection last season after averaging 18.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.9 steals per game. He was also named to the league’s All-Defense Team. Russell started 61 games over the past two seasons. He scored at least 20 points in 15 games as a junior, including 32 in a loss to West Virginia.
Opponents shot 29.7% from 3-point range against the Rams last season. … The Rams had to replace three players who averaged double figures in points in 2019-20: guard Jeff Dowtin (13.9 ppg) and forward Cyril Langevine (10.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg) exhausted their eligibility, while guard Tyrese Martin (12.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg) transferred to Connecticut after two seasons with the Rams. … Senior guard Jeremy Sheppard sat out last season after transferring from Central Florida. … Twins Makhi and Makhel Mitchell, both sophomore centers, are eligible to play this season after transferring from Maryland.
DEC. 15 | KOHL CENTER
Porter Moser went 162-136 in his first nine seasons with the Ramblers. Loyola-Chicago has won 20 games in each of the past three seasons, including a stunning run to the 2018 Final Four as a No. 11 seed. The Ramblers knocked off Miami (Fla.), Tennessee, Nevada and Kansas State during that run before falling to Michigan in a national semifinal. Loyola won the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title that season and the next.
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS
Cameron Krutwig (above), a 6-9 center, led the Ramblers with 15.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last season. He started 100 of the 104 games he appeared in during his first three seasons at Loyola and has averaged double figures in points in each campaign. Krutwig scored 10.5 points as a freshman on the Final Four team.
Loyola returns its top six scorers from a team that went 21-11 overall and finished second in the MWC with a 13-5 record. Other key returnees besides Krutwig include senior guard Tate Hall (12.7 ppg), senior guard Keith Clemons (10.4), sophomore guard Marquise Kennedy (9.2), senior guard Lucas Williamson (9.0) and senior forward Aher Uguak (5.7) … The Ramblers shot 55.3% on 2-point field goals last season, which ranked ninth nationally.