College hoops season is here!
Yes, the football teams are still battling it out on the gridiron, but Big Ten basketball teams will hit the hardwood starting Friday night, kicking off the 2016-17 campaigns.
Be sure to clear your schedule because there are some amazing games Friday night — Michigan State vs. Arizona and Indiana vs. Kansas, wow! — and early next week.
Get up to speed on the Big Ten basketball landscape with breakdowns of all 14 teams below.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Last season: 15-19 (5-13 Big Ten, 12th), no NCAA tournament appearance
The Illini enter 2016-17 surprisingly healthy considering how the past few seasons have gone. The three starters that missed the majority of last season — point guards Tracy Abrams, center Mike Thorne Jr. and forward Leron Black — are back from their respective injuries, and they should provide massive upgrades at those positions. Malcolm Hill also returns for his senior season. He's the Big Ten's leading returning scorer and could carry Illinois as it looks to bring a merciful end to a three-year NCAA tournament drought.
Last season: 25-7 (15-3 Big Ten, first), eliminated in Sweet Sixteen
The Hoosiers got terrific news this offseason in the forms of its three top players all opting to return to school for another year. Big man Thomas Bryant was one of the Big Ten's top freshmen last season and shone in the NCAA tournament, scoring in double figures in all three of Indiana's games. James Blackmon Jr. is a sensational scorer who missed the entirety of conference play last year, and OG Anunoby showed incredible explosiveness on both ends as a freshman last year. Losing Yogi Ferrell will be tough, but the Hoosiers can definitely repeat as Big Ten champs.
Last season: 21-10 (12-6 Big Ten, fifth), eliminated in Round of 32
Remember last year's starting five for the Hawkeyes and how good it was? Well, the four seniors from that group are all gone, leaving Peter Jok as the lone returning starter for Fran McCaffery and Iowa. Now, Jok is very, very good, an excellent 3-point shooter who was one of the league's top scorers a season ago. But doing it by himself — without the assistance of Jarrod Uthoff, Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury — will be a real challenge. The Hawkeyes will need big contributions from Nicholas Baer and Dom Uhl to help Jok out.
Last season: 25-8 (12-6 Big Ten, third), eliminated in Sweet Sixteen
The Melo Trimble Show is back for an unexpected third season. Trimble, who two seasons ago was the Big Ten's best freshmen and one of the best point guards in the country, struggled shooting the ball last season (despite underrated improvements as a passer and defender) and will be the only returning starter for Mark Turgeon after Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman exhausted their eligbility and Diamond Stone and Robert Carter Jr. left for the NBA. Trimble is trying to improve his own draft stock, and he'll be trying it with a much different supporting cast this season that includes three top-100 recruits.
Last season: 22-12 (10-8 Big Ten, eighth), eliminated in Round of 64
It's the last stand for the Zak Irvin-Derrick Walton Jr. tandem in Ann Arbor, both players playing in their senior seasons. There was a good deal of offseason roster change for Michigan, but there's also plenty returning alongside the two stars: 3-point sharpshooter Duncan Robinson, junior scorer Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and productive forward Mark Donnal. And John Beilein landed the country's 65th-ranked recruit in point guard Xavier Simpson. There's certainly enough talent for the Wolverines to get back to the Dance. But how high can they climb?
Michigan State Spartans
Last season: 29-5 (13-5 Big Ten, second), eliminated in Round of 64
It's been a brutal preseason for Tom Izzo's team, which has suffered significant injuries to two important front-court pieces in Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter. That's extra bad news considering the losses the Spartans suffered this offseason at the forward positions, watching Matt Costello, Deyonta Davis and some key reserves leave the program. The good news is Izzo's bonkers freshman class, which features four top-41 recruits (per Rivals' rankings) and is headlined by top-10 prospect Miles Bridges, who's getting preseason awards buzz already.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Last season: 8-23 (2-16 Big Ten, 13th), no NCAA tournament appearance
The good news is that the Gophers' top two scorers from a season ago, Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy, return for the 2016-17 campaign. Things have been sliding backward for Richard Pitino since he arrived in the Twin Cities. After winning 25 games and the NIT in his first season, Pitino has posted 18-15 and 8-23 records, last season being completely miserable. Hope comes in the form of freshman guard Amir Coffey, the No. 1 recruit in the state of Minnesota who was ranked just outside the top 50 by Rivals.
Last season: 16-18 (6-12 Big Ten, 11th), no NCAA tournament appearance
Since that great fourth-place regular-season finish in the conference in 2013-14, things have been going the wrong direction, with the Huskers finishing below .500 in each of the past two seasons. Terran Petteway seems like a distant memory, and now Shavon Shields is gone from the program, too. Plus, after evaluating his draft options this past offseason, Andrew White III transferred away from Nebraska. This season, the weight falls on Tai Webster's shoulders, and he'll hopefully get some assistance from Glynn Watson Jr., who impressed as a freshman last year, and Louisville transfer Anton Gill.
Last season: 20-12 (8-10 Big Ten, ninth), no NCAA tournament appearance
Chris Collins keeps knocking down doors, turning his recruiting success into the program's first 20-win season last year. There will be a big hole in the post and on the score sheet with the departures of Alex Olah and Tre Demps, but the Cats have one of the country's best point guards in Bryant McIntosh, who can produce points and move the ball. Plus, Vic Law returns after missing the entirety of last season. Add in expected improvements from Scottie Lindsey and Dererk Pardon, and Northwestern will once more seek its first-ever invite to the Big Dance.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Last season: 20-13 (11-7 Big Ten, seventh), no NCAA tournament appearance
There's plenty of talent on this Ohio State roster, with returners leading the charge in Jae'Sean Tate, Marc Loving, JaQuan Lyle, Kam Williams, Keita Bates-Diop and Trevor Thompson. That's a mighty solid core that could have Thad Matta's crew challenging for a Big Ten title for the first time in a while (since finishing tied for second back in 2012-13).
Penn State Nittany Lions
Last season: 16-16 (7-11 Big Ten, 10th), no NCAA tournament appearance
Patrick Chambers' home-run recruiting class finally comes to State College this season. Ranked in the top 25 in the country by Rivals, the new batch of Nittany Lions includes two four-star prospects and two three-star prospects. The top two members of the class are a pair of Philadelphia products in point guard Tony Carr and small forward Lamar Stevens. Penn State finished .500 last season, but the new group of freshmen gives fans plenty of hope for the future.
Last season: 26-8 (12-6 Big Ten, fourth), eliminated in Round of 64
It's another promising season for the Boilermakers, who return big man Caleb Swanigan and scorer Vince Edwards to go along with a solid supporting cast featuring Dakota Mathias, P.J. Thompson, Isaac Haas and Ryan Cline. And this season, a Big Ten veteran joins the team in point guard Spike Albrecht. Albrecht came up huge during his time at Michigan and tries to bounce back from injury this year with the Boilers. Purdue will again have big expectations after last season's runner-up finish in the Big Ten Tournament and embarrassing first-round exit from the NCAA tournament.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Last season: 7-25 (1-17 Big Ten, 14th), no NCAA tournament appearance
A new era begins this season at Rutgers, with Steve Pikiell taking over for the fired Eddie Jordan, who only mustered seven wins last season, just one of which came in conference play. Corey Sanders returns for his sophomore season after leading Big Ten freshmen in scoring, assists and steals last year.
Last season: 20-12 (12-6 Big Ten, sixth), eliminated in Sweet Sixteen
The Badgers are the Big Ten favorites heading into the season and for very good reason. Greg Gard led an exceptional turnaround after the midseason retirement of Bo Ryan, and his first full season has the entirety of last season's roster back. That includes All-Big Ten First Team selection Nigel Hayes, reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Ethan Happ and clutch point guard Bronson Koenig. It doesn't seem like any team in the Big Ten has a big three quite that good, and the experience and talent has some preseason prognosticators picking Wisconsin to return to the Final Four for the third time in four seasons.