MSU picked to finish fourth, UM sixth in Big Ten hoops preseason poll

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Michigan State will come up short in its bid to four-peat in the Big Ten and Michigan won’t finish in the bottom half of the standings for a second straight year.

At least, those are the predictions by writers who cover the conference.

Michigan State was picked to finish fourth and Michigan sixth this season in the unofficial Big Ten preseason media poll, which was released Tuesday.

Michigan and Michigan State are predicted to finish in the top half of the Big Ten standings this season.

The Spartans have won at least a share of the regular-season title each of the past three seasons but will face the tall task of replacing star guard Cassius Winston and big man Xavier Tillman. Despite those losses, Michigan State returns plenty of pieces in junior wing Aaron Henry, redshirt junior forward Joey Hauser, fifth-year guard Joshua Langford and sophomore guard Rocket Watts, all of who received votes for the league’s preseason team.

Like the Spartans, the Wolverines will have a void to fill at point guard and center with Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske both gone. Yet, Michigan is projected to improve upon last season’s ninth-place finish in coach Juwan Howard's second year thanks to a combination of returning and new talent led by sophomore wing Franz Wagner, who tied for the final spot on the All-Big Ten first team, and center Hunter Dickinson, who received the third-most votes for freshman of the year.

Michigan State was picked as high as second by four writers and as low as fifth by one writer, while Michigan’s predicted finish ranged anywhere from third to ninth.

Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin made up the top three, respectively. The Fighting Illini received 16 of 28 first-place votes and are projected to finish atop the league standings for the first time since 2005.

Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn were both named to the all-conference preseason team, while Adam Miller earned preseason freshman of the year honors. Iowa’s Luka Garza was the overwhelming favorite to repeat as Big Ten player of the year.

The poll includes 28 media members throughout the conference — two beat writers for each team — and is conducted by The Columbus Dispatch and The Athletic since the Big Ten does not release an official one of its own.

Predicted order of finish

(first-place votes in parentheses)

1. Illinois (16), 376 points

2. Iowa (6), 350

3. Wisconsin (6), 347

4. Michigan State, 323

5. Rutgers, 249

6. Michigan, 241

7. Ohio State, 229

8. Indiana, 212

9. Purdue, 179

10. Maryland, 141

11. Minnesota, 121

12. Penn State, 72

13. Nebraska, 54

14. Northwestern, 47

Player of the year

Luka Garza, Iowa (24)

Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois (4)

Freshman of the year

Adam Miller, Illinois (12)

Khristian Lander, Indiana (10)

Hunter Dickinson, Michigan (4)

Zeb Jackson, Michigan (1)

Ethan Morton, Purdue (1)

All-Big Ten first team

(unanimous selections in caps)

LUKA GARZA, Iowa (28)

AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois (28)

Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana (24)

Kofi Cockburn, Illinois (11)

Nate Reuvers, Wisconsin (11)

Franz Wagner, Michigan (11)

Also receiving votes: Marcus Carr, Minnesota (7); Aaron Henry, Michigan State (7); Geo Baker, Rutgers (6); Joey Hauser, Michigan State (2); Joshua Langford, Michigan State (1); Micah Potter, Wisconsin (1); D'Mitrik Trice, Wisconsin (1); Rocket Watts, Michigan State (1); Joe Wieskamp, Iowa (1)

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins