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Among college basketball's top six conferences, only the Big 12 sent a greater percentage of its teams to the 2023 NCAA Tournament than the Big Ten, which put eight of its 14 squads in the Big Dance. But by the tournament's second weekend, only No. 7 seed Michigan State remained, and the Spartans fell in the Sweet 16.

No. 1 overall seed Purdue's stunning first-round loss to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson underscored the conference's postseason futility and added fuel to the league's reputation for flopping in March. But it's hard to question the Big Ten's regular-season prowess. During one stretch in nonconference play, the Boilermakers rattled off consecutive victories over Marquette, West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke, all of whom finished inside the 2023-24 season inside the top-20 at

Illinois picked up wins over top-five KenPom finishers UCLA and Texas. Even Nebraska, which missed the NCAA Tournament, produced a non conference road win over a Creighton team that came one possession away from reaching the Final Four. So why did the Big Ten fail to send a team past the Sweet 16 for a second consecutive year?

Pinpointing a single reason is tough, but the conference has one last chance to erase its reputation for March sadness before realignment arrives and disrupts the sport. The Big Ten's last national title came from Michigan State in 2000 when the league boasted a mere 11 teams. It expanded to 12 for the 2011-12 season and 14 for the 2014-15 campaign. Good basketball has been played since then -- eight or more Big Ten teams have reached the past four NCAA Tournaments -- but a national breakthrough has yet to come. Will 2023-24 be the year?

CBS Sports Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year

Zach Edey | C | Purdue

Edey brought a sigh of relief to Purdue fans and may have caused a groan of despair from opposing Big Ten coaches when he announced his return for a fourth season with the Boilermakers. The 7-foot-4 behemoth and reigning CBS Sports National Player of the Year led the country in double-doubles with 27, finished second in rebounds per game (12.9), sixth in points per game (22.3) and 21st field goal percentage (60.7%) during the 2022-23 season. His conditioning is phenomenal for a player of such rare size, and so is his knack for avoiding fouls (1.6 per game). Those traits enabled Edey to log 31.7 minutes per game while leading Purdue to Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. Fueled by the frustration of an embarrassing NCAA Tournament loss, he is back to push Purdue toward redemption.

Illinois' Terrence Shannon is one of the most dynamic players in the nation. USATSI

Four more players to watch in Big Ten

Terrence Shannon Jr. | G | Illinois: Shannon led the Illini with 17.2 points per game in his first season with the program after three years at Texas Tech. He's a versatile weapon at 6-6. If he can improve his 3-point shooting efficiency (29.1% on 4.4 attempts per game in Big Ten play last season), it could do wonders for an Illini squad that struggled from beyond the arc.

Keisei Tominaga | G | Nebraska: Tominaga was the Big Ten's best player not named Zach Edey during the final month of the 2022-23 season. He averaged 20.3 points on an absurd 55.7% shooting over Nebraska's final nine games, when the Cornhuskers went 6-3. He is the key to Nebraska's hopes of breaking through in coach Fred Hoiberg's fifth season

Jahmir Young | G | Maryland: Young helped Maryland reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament in coach Kevin Willard's first season by averaging a team-best 15.8 points in his first year with the program after three years at Charlotte. He was particularly great in league play, upping his scoring to 17.7 points while shooting 37.9% from beyond the arc.

Xavier Booker | C | Michigan State: This isn't a preseason all-conference team, and Booker is a longshot for all-league honors as a true freshman. But if the 6-11 freshman can elevate Michigan State's defense, it will push the Spartans toward league title contention. The towering prospect has drawn comparisons to former Spartan Jaren Jackson Jr., who is the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

CBS Sports Big Ten Preseason Freshman of the Year

Mackenzie Mgbako | F | Indiana

After originally committing to Duke, Mgbako withdrew from the Blue Devils' loaded class in April and signed with the Hoosiers a month later, providing a needed boost to an IU squad losing its top four scorers. Mgbako ranked as the No. 10 overall player and No. 2 power forward in his class, according to 247Sports. At 6-8, he is regarded as a defensively versatile player with a great outside shot, which makes him a likely impact player and potential 2024 first-round NBA Draft pick.

CBS Sports Big Ten predicted order of finish

It all starts with Zach Edey, but the key to the Boilermakers in making a 2024 NCAA Tournament run will be finding more reliable shot-makers around him. Purdue ranked 291st nationally in 3-point percentage at 32.2% last season and outside shooting woes were a common theme in its rare losses. Given the attention the 7-4 Edey attracts inside, good looks are available, and it will be up to returners such as Fletcher Loyer, Braden Smith and Mason Gillis to knock them down. Smith and Loyer impressed as freshmen after ranking outside the top 100 of the 2022 recruiting class. If the duo makes even a modest sophomore jump, the Boilermakers will dominate the Big Ten again and redeem themselves from the embarrassment of a first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Fairleigh Dickinson.
Michigan State does not have a single first-year transfer joining the roster for the second season in a row and returns four of five starters. Choosing to rely on internal development and veterans such as Tyson Walker and A.J. Hoggard gives the Spartans a high floor. Whether or not they can challenge Purdue for a league title could depend on what legendary coach Tom Izzo can extract from the Big Ten's top recruiting class. The group features three top-50 players, headlined by five-star prospect Xavier Booker. If the 6-11 center shines as a rim protector, it will up this team's defensive acumen and make the Spartans a national contender.
Terrence Shannon Jr. is the league's No. 2 returning scorer after averaging 17.2 points per game last season, and the versatile guard/wing is joined by proven front court producers Coleman Hawkins and Dain Dainja. Those are great building blocks. But if the the Illini are going to return to conference title contention, they must improve in the the back court after freshman guards Jayden Epps and Skyy Clark failed to pan out last season. Both transferred out, leaving ample opportunity for Ty Rodgers and Sencire Harris to step up after playing reserve roles. Utah Valley transfer Justin Harmon could be an asset at guard but did not rank among the league's top transfers. Australian prospect Niccolo Moretti could also be an option after joining as a mid-year enrollee last season. 
Second-year coach Kevin Willard's squad boasts an excellent trio of veteran producers in Jahmir Young, Julian Reese and Donta Scott. Each averaged double figures for a team that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Collectively, they should keep the Terrapins on track for a spot in the Big Dance. Young led last year's team in assists at just 3.1 per game, and the No. 2 man in that category, Hakim Hart, transferred to Villanova. That leaves a playmaking gap to potentially be filled by top-30 freshman freshman guard DeShawn Harris-Smith. Indiana transfer Jordan Geronimo and Loyola Marymount transfer Chance Stephens add quality depth but were reserves at their previous stops. Player development will be key to improving on last season's No. 8 seed for the NCAA Tournament, but the core is in place to keep Maryland on a positive trajectory.
Three victories in the NIT carried Wisconsin to the 20-win mark last season, but the Badgers lost 11 of their final 17 conference games and went one-and-done in the league tournament after starting 3-0 against Big Ten foes. With all five starters back, there is reason to expect coach Greg Gard's club to return to the conference's upper half and the NCAA Tournament. But reaching those goals will require offensive improvement after the Badgers ranked No. 140 in offensive efficiency at KenPom and last in the Big Ten in field goal percentage. If fifth-year senior Tyler Wahl can return to the 51.6% shooting percentage he posted in the 2021-22 season, it could be a significant boost. The fifth-year senior forward dropped to 42.4% last season while dealing with an ankle injury.
After missing four straight NCAA Tournaments under Tom Crean and Archie Miller, the Hoosiers are 2 for 2 on reaching the Big Dance under Mike Woodson. Going 3 for 3 will require replacing front court anchors Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thomspon and freshman phenom guard Jalen Hood-Schifino. The healthy return of guard Xavier Johnson from a foot injury that ended his 2022-23 season after 11 games is huge, and so is the addition of five-star freshman forward Mackenzie Mgbako. If sophomore forward Malik Reneau and Oregon transfer center Kel'El Ware come close to their full potential, this team could be dangerous. All-MAC center Payton Sparks is arriving from Ball State and is joined by Miami transfer Anthony Walker, who logged 125 career appearances as a reserve forward for a great program. All the pieces are in place for the Hoosiers to remain nationally relevant, but it will be a challenge for Woodson to blend them cohesively.
Buoyed by the extra season of eligibility afforded amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Boo Buie will become Northwestern's all-time leading scorer if he matches or nears his mark of 17.3 points per game from last season. The 6-2 graduate guard is the Big Ten's leading returning scorer after guiding the Wildcats to a 22-12 (12-8 Big Ten) mark and first-round NCAA Tournament victory over No. 10 seed Boise State. Making consecutive tournament appearances for the first time in program history will require help from a transfer class featuring former mid-major starters Blake Preston (Liberty), Justin Mullins (Denver) and Ryan Langborg (Princeton) as the Wildcats replace four rotational players, including second-leading scorer Chase Audige.
Ohio State rattled off five straight 20-win seasons to begin coach Chris Holtmann's tenure before last season's 16-19 (5-15 Big Ten) catastrophe. The Buckeyes lost 14 of 15 league games at one point before a stunning rally to reach the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. Gone are leading scorers Brice Sensabaugh and Justice Sueing, leaving the turnaround up to veteran post presence Zed Key and promising sophomore guard Bruce Thornton after both averaged double figures last season. If promising sophomores Roddy Gayle, a guard, and Felix Okpara, a center, thrive in larger roles, this team could surge past modest expectations. Power conference transfers Jamison Battle (Minnesota), Dale Bonner (Baylor) and Evan Mahaffey (Penn State) should help raise the floor.
The departures of longtime glue guards Caleb McConnell and Paul Mulcahy signal the end of an era after both played pivotal roles in the program's renaissance under eighth-year coach Steve Pikiell. But a shot-swatting anchor of the Scarlet Knights' ruthless defense, Clifford Omoruyi, is back. The second-team All-Big Ten performer is also a steady interior producer but will be fed by some new starters on the perimeter. Derek Simpson showed promise as a freshman and could have a breakout season. UMass transfer Noah Fernandes is also a huge snag after averaging 14.9 points and 5.3 assists in 2021-22 before an injury-shortened 2022-23 season. Wings Aundre Hyatt and Mawot Mag are rangy and tough veterans who will ensure this team stays competitive. Rutgers' ceiling could hinge on whether one or two perimeter players step up as offensive playmakers to complement Omoruyi.
Iowa was led by superstar 20+ points per game scorers Luka Garza (2019-21), Keegan Murray (2021-22) and Kris Murray (2022-23) the past four seasons. Now, the Hawkeyes must find a new offensive engine. It should be a committee approach led by veterans Tony Perkins, Payton Sandfort and Patrick McCaffery. Each have been through Big Ten battles, and they'll be supported by the addition of three-time all-Missouri Valley Conference big man Ben Krikke from Valparaiso. Depth will come from sophomore guards Dasonte Bowen and Josh Dix, both of whom should challenge for bigger roles while a four-man freshman class without an obvious headliner gets acclimated to Big Ten basketball.
Michigan lost three-time All-Big Ten performer and leading scorer Hunter Dickinson to Kansas and also bid farewell to top-15 NBA Draft picks Jett Howard and Kobe Bufkin. That's a lot of talent to replace from a team that missed the NCAA Tournament. Point guard Dug McDaniel and forward Terrance Williams are the returning starters, but both will need to be more efficient shooters to effectively take on greater scoring loads. Tennessee transfer Olivier Nkamhoua can play the 4 or 5. He combines with sophomore big man Tarris Reed to give the Wolverines a formidable frontcourt. Former Texas Tech and Alabama guard Nimari Burnett is talented and looks poised for a significant role, but fifth-year coach Juwan Howard has his work cut out for him.
Nebraska finally made strides in coach Fred Hoiberg's fourth season after winning 10 or fewer games in his first three years. The Cornhuskers finished 16-16 (9-11 Big Ten) and won six of their final eight regular season games. The reason for the late-season surge? Keisei Tominaga. The 6-2 guard averaged 20.3 points while shooting 55.7% from the floor and 43.1% from 3-point range over Nebraska's final nine games. He's back for a final season but needs needs some help after last year's No. 2 and 3 scorers departed. A deep transfer class headlined by first-team All-Missouri Valley big man Rienk Mast from Bradley and ex-Iowa guard Ahron Ulis has potential.
Minnesota regressed in Year 2 under Ben Johnson, finishing just 2-17 in league play while dealing with tough injury luck. The Gophers didn't make enough high-quality additions to spark optimism that a major surge up the standings is in store. But Johnson's club does have one of the league's more promising frontcourts with Dawson Garcia and Pharrel Payne and should be more competitive with better health. Guard play is a concern, but Mike Mitchell (Pepperdine) and Elijah Hawkins (Howard) are mid-major additions who were double-figure scorers and averaged 5+ assists per game at their previous stops.
Losing coach Micah Shrewsberry to Notre Dame after just two seasons stung, but this was likely to be a rebuilding season anyway considering how many players from Penn State's 2022-23 roster were out of eligibility. New coach Mike Rhoades brings a tough-nosed defensive mentality from VCU and landed the perfect player to spearhead the operation in Ace Baldwin. The 2022-23 A-10 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year is following Rhoades from VCU to PSU after averaging 12.7 points, 2.2 steals and 5.8 assists last season. North Carolina transfers Puff Johnson and D'Marco Dunn are former top-100 prospects who will be interesting to watch on the perimeter.

Most overrated team

Maryland: A top three of Jahmir Young, Donta Scott and Julian Reese will ensure the Terrapins are competitive, and the Terrapins should certainly return to the Big Dance in Year 2 under Kevin Willard. But finishing fourth in the league will be a tall order unless Jahmir Young gets some help in the form of other playmakers and facilitators. Highly touted freshman DeShawn Harris-Smith may provide that punch, but relying on freshmen in the Big Ten can be tough.

Most underrated team

Indiana: Skepticism on Indiana stems from the Hoosiers losing their top four scorers from a team that finished tied for second in the Big Ten with a 12-8 league record. While the Hoosiers are light on continuity, they aren't lacking talent. A potential starting five of Xavier Johnson, Trey Galloway, Mackenzie Mgbako, Malik Reneau and Kel'el Ware is easily talented enough to finish higher than sixth in the Big Ten.

Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander give you a forecast of the Big Ten Conference in 2023-2024. Subscribe to Eye on College Basketball, which is available for free on the Audacy app as well as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and wherever else you listen to podcasts.

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