Point/Counterpoint | Who will win the Big Ten?
Two DI staffers debate which team will sit atop the Big Ten Conference at the end of 2020-21 season.
December 1, 2020
As expected, the return of Big Ten and National Player of the Year Luka Garza has helped Iowa garner a great deal of local and national media attention. However, the increased recognition hasn’t come without baggage. Expectations for Iowa basketball are higher than ever before.
In the latest Associated Press poll, Iowa is ranked third in the nation — trailing No. 2 Baylor and No. 1 Gonzaga.
Iowa has the depth and the talent needed to live up to such lofty expectations, and the team’s already proven that this early in the season.
Through two games, Garza is nearly averaging a triple double at 33.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Against Southern University, Garza scored 36 points in the first half and finished the game with 41 after head coach Fran McCaffery gave him some well-deserved rest in the second half of Iowa’s 103-76 blowout victory.
In addition to Garza’s stellar play, the Hawkeyes have received much-needed boosts from unexpected sources like forward Patrick McCaffery.
McCaffery redshirted last season to deal with “residual health issues” related to his 2014 battle with thyroid cancer. This year, McCaffery has averaged 11.5 points, three rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game off the bench.
Freshman forward Keegan Murray has made his presence felt this year too — registering 10.5 points and five rebounds a game in relief of Garza.
Aside from Murray and McCaffery, Iowa fans have yet to see the best of other players that could help provide the Hawkeyes with some depth like forwards Joe Wieskamp and Jack Nunge and guards Jordan Bohannon, Ahron Ulis, C.J. Fredrick, Connor McCaffery, and Joe Toussaint.
With a wealth of depth and weapons at their disposal, there is no telling what the Hawkeyes could achieve in 2020-21.
The Big Ten is already shaping into one of the most competitive conferences in 2020-21. Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State, and even Rutgers appear to be Big Ten title contenders.
However, Wisconsin may be the most equipped to go the distance in what could be a chaotic season.
Not much has changed for Badger basketball since the conclusion of the hyper-competitive 2019-20 season. All five of Wisconsin’s 2020-21 starters are seniors — including big man Nate Reuvers. Reuvers will be an important cog in Wisconsin’s offense and defense. Last season, Reuvers averaged 13 points and two blocks per game.
Forward Micah Potter will also be a difference maker on both ends of the floor. In 2019-20, Potter led the Badgers in rebounding. He also registered 10 points per game.
Brad Davison will be back in Wisconsin’s starting lineup as well. While he only averaged 5.5 points and four rebounds per game last season, Davison adds a level of value to the Badgers’ lineup that isn’t recorded on the stat sheet. Davison’s gritty mentality, physical defense, trash talk, and swagger always make an impact on games, even if those intangible things don’t appear in post-game box scores.
The Badgers’ lockdown defense coupled with their numerous weapons on offense make them a dangerous opponent for any team this season.
With players like sophomore forward Tyler Wahl and senior D’Mitrik Trice at their disposal, the Badgers also figure to have the depth needed to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, especially in a season that will be heavily impacted by COVID-19.
The Badgers snuck up on teams across the Big Ten last year. That won’t be the case this season, as Wisconsin should be the favorite to win a Big Ten title.