Michigan picked to repeat, MSU to finish sixth in Big Ten hoops preseason media poll

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

The Spartans and Wolverines have combined to win at least a share of the Big Ten men’s basketball regular-season title each of the past four seasons.

According to predictions from conference media, that streak will see another year.

Michigan was picked to edge out Purdue atop the league standings and Michigan State was pegged to finish sixth in the unofficial Big Ten preseason media poll, which was released Wednesday.

Michigan coach Juwan Howard and the Wolverines were picked to repeat as Big Ten regular-season champs by conference media members.

The Wolverines are coming off a season where they were crowned league champs — via win percentage due to COVID-19 altering schedules and canceling games — for the first time since 2014 and pulling off a repeat for the fourth time in program history won’t be easy. Third-year coach Juwan Howard must replace four of the team’s top six scorers and much of its 3-point shooting production, but he brings back consensus second-team All-American Hunter Dickinson and fifth-year senior guard Eli Brooks to pair with a star-studded recruiting class and grad transfer guard DeVante’ Jones.

The Spartans, on the other hand, are looking to bounce back from last season’s eighth-place finish that saw them finish below .500 in conference play for the first time in 26 years under Tom Izzo. Like Michigan, Michigan State lost several of its top scorers from a year ago in Aaron Henry (NBA), Joshua Langford (graduation) and Rocket Watts (transfer), but Izzo has brought in a talented crop of freshmen and dipped into the transfer portal to find an experienced point guard in Tyson Walker.

Michigan received 13 of 28 first-place votes — one more than Purdue — and was picked no lower than third, while Michigan State’s predicted finish ranged from fourth to eighth. The top five was rounded out by Illinois, Ohio State and Maryland.

Dickinson was named to the all-conference preseason team and Michigan’s Caleb Houstan topped Michigan State’s Max Christie for preseason freshman of the year honors. Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn was chosen as the Big Ten player of the year.

The poll includes voting from 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.

Big Ten predicted finish

(first-place votes in parentheses)

1. Michigan (13), 373 points

2. Purdue (12), 373

3. Illinois (3), 320

4. Ohio State, 316

5. Maryland, 269

6. Michigan State, 262

7. Indiana, 219

8. Rutgers, 208

9. Iowa, 150

10. Wisconsin, 149

11. Nebraska, 105

T-12. Northwestern, 81

T-12. Penn State, 81

14. Minnesota, 34

Player of the year

Kofi Cockburn, Illinois (11)

Jaden Ivey, Purdue (5)

E.J. Liddell, Ohio State (4)

Hunter Dickinson, Michigan (3)

Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana (3)

Trevion Williams, Purdue (2)

Freshman of the year

Caleb Houstan, Michigan (20)

Max Christie, Michigan State (7)

Bryce McGowens, Nebraska (1)

First-team All-Big Ten

Kofi Cockburn, Illinois (27)

E.J. Liddell, Ohio State (26)

Hunter Dickinson, Michigan (25)

Jaden Ivey, Purdue (21)

Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana (20)

Also receiving votes: Trevion Williams, Purdue (10); Eric Ayala, Maryland (4); Andre Curbelo, Illinois (2); DeVante’ Jones, Michigan (2); Geo Baker, Rutgers (1); Ron Harper Jr., Rutgers (1); Caleb Houstan, Michigan (1)


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins