Big Ten men's basketball preview: Can Zach Edey, Purdue pull off redemption tour after tournament upset?

With Zach Edey back, the Boilermakers are the favorites to win the Big Ten conference this season.

The 2023-24 men's college basketball season begins on Nov. 6. Come back each day this week as we break down the biggest conferences, teams and more leading up to the season. Check out our previews on the Big 12 and the ACC.

It may finally be time for the Big Ten to end its ridiculously long championship drought, but it’s going to come down to just two teams.

One of them — the last team to cut down the nets, way back when Bill Clinton was in the Oval Office — is seemingly always in the mix. The other is coming off a brutal opening-round loss to a No. 16 seed in the tournament, something that had happened only once before.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Big Ten headed into the college basketball season this fall:

Ranked Big Ten Teams

No. 3 Purdue

No. 4 Michigan State

No. 25 Illinois

Others Receiving Votes: Wisconsin (53), Maryland (34), Indiana (3)

Notable national championship odds

Odds via BetMGM

• Purdue +1400
• Michigan State +1600
• Illinois +6000
• Indiana +6000
• Maryland +6000

Can Zach Edey, Purdue follow in Virginia’s footsteps?

Purdue had all of the pieces last March, including National Player of the Year Zach Edey.

Yet the Boilermakers, after earning a No. 1 seed, fell to No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round of the NCAA tournament, making Purdue the second team in history to lose to a No. 16 seed as a top seed. It also marked the third straight tournament where the Boilermakers were upset by a double-digit seed.

“I don’t think the loss will stay with me through the year, I think it will stay with me forever,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said last month.

Thankfully for Painter, nearly his entire team is back this fall. Edey opted to return again and was a unanimous preseason All-American. The 7-foot-4 center averaged 22.3 points and 12.9 rebounds per game last season. The Boilermakers, who opened the year ranked No. 3 in the country and were the outright favorites to win the conference, return all five starters from last season, too. Guard Fletcher Loyer averaged 11 points per game last season, and Braden Smith was right behind him while shooting a team-high 38% from the 3-point line.

Purdue will have a few challenges early, including a matchup with No. 11 Gonzaga at the Maui Invitational — where the Boilermakers could also see No. 9 Tennessee, No. 1 Kansas, No. 5 Marquette or UCLA. They’ll also take on No. 24 Alabama and No. 12 Arizona before conference play gets going, so there should be plenty of opportunities to see how they matchup with the rest of the country early on.

And hey, if it makes Purdue fans feel any better, Virginia won a national championship the season after it fell to a No. 16 seed as a top seed in the 2018 tournament. So if history is any indication…

A Big Ten team hasn't won the national championship since Tom Izzo's win with Michigan State in 2000
A Big Ten team hasn't won the national championship since Tom Izzo's win with Michigan State in 2000. (Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Tom Izzo, Michigan State ready right behind Purdue

If anyone is going to end the Big Ten’s title drought, it’s Tom Izzo.

Izzo was the last coach to win a championship in the conference in 2000, and he’s brought back five of the Spartans' six top scorers from last season's Sweet 16 team, including senior guards A.J. Hoggard and Tyson Walker.

Walker was Michigan State’s leading scorer last season after he put up 14.8 points per game. Hoggard was behind him at 12.9 points, with only Joey Hauser, who left for the NBA, between them. Hoggard had nearly six assists per game last season, a number that should easily lead the team again this year. Izzo also signed five-star recruit Xavier Booker, who was the second-best forward in his recruiting class.

The Spartans will take on No. 2 Duke, No. 12 Arizona and No. 20 Baylor in their non-conference slate, which should give us a good indication of this year’s team early on. Michigan State lost to No. 9 Tennessee in an exhibition earlier this week, but Purdue also fell to Arkansas.

Outside of the top two, there are still plenty of tournament-caliber teams in the Big Ten. Illinois has six players back this season, including Terrance Shannon and Coleman Hawkins, and was the only other team ranked in the first poll. Head coach Brad Underwood also landed transfer Quincy Guerrier from Oregon, who averaged nine points and 4.6 rebounds per game last season with the Ducks. Former five-star recruit and 7-foot-2 forward Kel’El Ware could easily keep Indiana in the conversation at the top of the conference, and Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard lost only three players from last season's team that made an NIT run — which salvaged what was otherwise a disappointing year.

While the NCAA tournament will be full of Big Ten teams next March, it's almost certainly going to be up to two teams to end the narrative surrounding the conference's national championship drought. It's beyond time to put that to bed.

Notable early games

All times ET | *-neutral site

Nov. 10
No. 15 Texas A&M at Ohio State | 7 p.m. | Peacock
No. 9 Tennessee at Wisconsin | 9 p.m. | Peacock

Nov. 13
Michigan at St. John’s* | 6:30 p.m. | FS1
Xavier at No. 3 Purdue | 8:30 p.m. | FS1

Nov. 14
No. 2 Duke at No. 4 Michigan State* | 7 p.m. | ESPN
No. 5 Marquette at No. 25 Illinois | 8 p.m. | FS1
Iowa at No. 8 Creighton | 10 p.m. | FS1

Nov. 17
Butler at No. 4 Michigan State | 6:30 p.m. | FS1
Maryland at No. 22 Villanova | 8:30 p.m. | FS1

Nov. 19
No. 6 UConn at Indiana* | 1 p.m. | ESPN

Nov. 20
No. 3 Purdue at No. 11 Gonzaga* | 5 p.m. | ESPN2
Virginia at Wisconsin* | 6 p.m. | FS1

Nov. 23
Penn State at No. 15 Texas A&M* | 12 p.m. | ESPN
Oklahoma at Iowa* | 3 p.m. | FS1
No. 12 Arizona at No. 4 Michigan State* | 4 p.m. | Fox