1. Who made the bigger coaching upgrade: Illinois (Brad Underwood) or Indiana (Archie Miller)?
DEREK YOUNG, HAWKEYE INSIDER: I think Indiana got the better coach. I have a lot of respect and admiration for the job that Archie Miller has done and the type of coach that he is. I think he's going to be one of the nation's best coaches for several years. But in terms of an upgrade, Illinois probably made the biggest one just because I believe the difference between Groce and Underwood is greater than that of Crean and Miller. I think Illinois was more desperate for a strong hire and I think they were in the most danger of becoming alarmingly irrelevant as a basketball program.
MIKE PEGRAM, PEEGS: This is not saying who got the better coach but Illinois got the bigger upgrade. Indiana just has crazy expectations and let go a coach for inconsistent results that included a couple conference titles. Illinois hasn't been making the tournament at all of late and now picks up a guy who dominated his mid-major league then showed his fast paced play approach can work this year in a loaded Big 12. IU got the the guy who looks like he could stop the roller coaster results, but in terms of a pure upgrade, have to give it to the Illini.
HONDO CARPENTER, SPARTAN NATION: This is a great question. I think Indiana is a Mt. Rushmore of college hoops school, I also think Illinois is one of the best while not top five. In my opinion, it is considerably easier to win at Indiana, and in the long run Miller will probably be more successful. That doesn’t change the fact that I think Brad Underwood is a better coach. So you have to give the edge to Illinois. Underwood is a tactician who also develops talent and a superior teacher of the game. I have to imagine that Illinois fans are excited because this was a great higher of a big-time coach and a proven winner. I like Miller, but Underwood is not a good coach -- he is a great coach. Now if the administration of Illinois can stay out of the way, Underwood could be in Champaign a long time.
SAM HELLMAN, SCARLET REPORT: Illinois made the bigger coaching upgrade. Underwood already proved he can handle a leap forward in competition, and the way in which Illinois landed him inspires confidence as well. Expectations are lower at Illinois than Indiana, which gives him a chance to really build something without the same pressure.
RYAN JAMES, GOPHER ILLUSTRATED: I lean to Archie Miller and Indiana but not by much. My lean to Miller comes from the fact that he has coached Dayton to four straight NCAA Tournaments and has had more history as a head coach at a reasonably strong level of play in the A10. Underwood has been very successful so far in his four years of coaching at Stephen F Austin and Oklahoma State but Miller has been doing it for longer. Neither has experience as a head coach in the high expectation, high pressure situation that they are now in but I lean to Miller just because he’s been successful for longer.
RYAN McGLADE, BUCKEYE SPORTS: I am inclined to go with Indiana because Archie Miller has two more years of head-coaching experience under his belt. Both Miller and Underwood are familiar with the new schools they'll be coaching at next season, geographically speaking. Miller has been at Dayton, relatively not too far from Bloomington, for the last six seasons and Underwood was an assistant at Western Illinois for 11 years. Being familiar with their respective geographic locations should help in recruiting I would think.
JEREMY WERNER, ILLINI INQUIRER: I think Tom Crean did a pretty good job in Bloomington. He lifted the Hoosiers out of Kelvin Sampson's mess and won two Big Ten titles. Conference titles seem underappreciated nowadays. But Crean's wild swings and inability to land top talent in a loaded in-state 2017 class made it understandable why Indiana wanted a fresh start. Miller is a heck of a coach who is a good fit. But Brad Underwood over John Groce is a bigger upgrade. Sure, Underwood isn't a proven power-five star yet, but he was a much better get than Groce five years prior. At Stephen F. Austin, he dominated the Southland Conference (53-1 conference record and three conference titles) and has made four straight NCAA Tournaments (Illinois has missed four straight). Groce went 34-30 at Ohio and followed that with a 37-53 Big Ten record, the worst conference record for a multi-year Illinois coach in almost a decade. Hard not to be a massive improvement over him.
2. Which program takes the biggest leap forward next season?
DEREK YOUNG, HAWKEYE INSIDER: The Big Ten was so young this year as a whole that this is a question that is so difficult to answer. All of Michigan State, Minnesota and Maryland made the tournament and gritted through the season despite a ton of youth and inexperience. Nearly 80 percent of Iowa's contributions came from freshmen and they were one of the first four out in regards to an NCAA Tournament selection. Ohio State should be better. Indiana could be better. Minnesota and Northwestern took their step this year. Michigan State still won a tournament game. Maryland may be without Melo Trimble and Iowa loses Peter Jok. The Spartans could be a Final Four team a year from now. Iowa should be in the tournament. I think those are the two best answers and I'd lean towards Michigan State because of it being more of a sure thing.
MIKE PEGRAM, PEEGS: I think Michigan State will be back as a real contender again. They'll be much stronger on the inside with the addition of Jaren Jackson and with Gavin Schilling back after sitting out this season. They lost Miles Bridges but the young guys like Cassius Winston, Josh Langford and Nick Ward should be much improved. Along those lines, Penn Sate's talented freshman class should all figure out how to win games late next year and with Shep Garner as a senior leader, easy to argue that the Nittany Lions could have the biggest jump in league wins.
HONDO CARPENTER, SPARTAN NATION: When I looked at all of the Big Ten teams and how they finished, I think there are three teams that could improve by as many as five games. That would include Nebraska, Michigan State and Northwestern. That doesn’t mean that I think others won’t be better, but when asking for biggest leap that is in wins and I think those three are all poised to have the most in conference win improvement.
SAM HELLMAN, SCARLET REPORT: Some bias out of New Jersey but my pick here has to be Rutgers. First off, nowhere to leap but forward. It's hard to take a step back from last place. Rutgers should have the majority of its roster back for a second year. If the Scarlet Knights can solidify the post after CJ Gettys was a nice rental piece last season, we could see Steve Pikiell double his Big Ten win total next year and maybe see the words "Rutgers" and "postseason" in the same sentence come March.
RYAN JAMES, GOPHER ILLUSTRATED: Tom Izzo’s Spartans will likely lose Miles Bridges but this is the team to watch with a huge bounce back season. They will have some veterans, they will be bigger up front, the freshman like Nick Ward and Joshua Langford will have been expectations, and then you add what Izzo is bringing in. Already they have five star Jaren Jackson and top 100 Xavier Tillman adding to the returning talent plus they are in on Brian Bowen. If they get him. Ohio State will also make a jump. They only lose Marc Loving with Jae’Sean Tate, Trevor Thompson, and JaQuan Lyle returning so that 7-11 record could flip. Purdue was 14-4 this year and if they can keep Caleb Swanigan around that record could jump as the Boilers don’t lose much. And Minnesota at 11-7 in the Big Ten return a first team All Big Ten player (Nate Mason), third team All Big Ten player (Jordan Murphy), the Defensive Player of the Year (Reggie Lynch), and a Freshman first teamer (Amir Coffey). Also must put in a mention for Penn State who has some quality young players.
RYAN McGLADE, BUCKEYE SPORTS: I would probably have to say Michigan State. The Spartans' NCAA Tournament appearance was fueled mainly by freshmen. Miles Bridges, Joshua Langford, Nick Ward and Cassius Winston were all true freshmen this past season and all made significant contributions for MSU. I know there's a good chance that Bridges will declare for the NBA draft. But even if he does go on to the next level, the Spartans will have the other three aforementioned guys coming back, all of whom already have NCAA Tourney experience.
JEREMY WERNER, ILLINI INQUIRER: I'm all-in on Penn State as a tournament team next year -- or at least a bubble team. The Nittany Lions were one of the 15 youngest Division-I teams last season and lost five conference games by four points or fewer. That experience will help a team with great young talent, led by point guard Tony Carr who has All-Big Ten potential. Mike Watkins has great length, Lamar Stevens can score and rising senior Shep Garner add much needed leadership. Mix that talent and experience with Pat Chambers' identity of toughness, and I think Penn State will be dancing next March.
3. Which program takes the biggest step back next season?
DEREK YOUNG, HAWKEYE INSIDER: Both Michigan and Wisconsin are due to take a hit. The Wolverines lose Derrick Walton and I'm not sure how quick Xavier Simpson can be ready for primetime and that's an important spot for a John Beilein coached team. The Badgers lose that core with all the accolades and so it'll be a rebuild for the program and handing Greg Gard his first massive test. The Badgers seem to handle this kind of situation well all the time. Can they do it under Gard? Probably. But we don't know it for a fact. Michigan is losing a good chunk from their perimeter players that is going to be very difficult to replace. I think they take the biggest step back.
MIKE PEGRAM, PEEGS: Iowa kind of snuck up on teams last year. How they got to a winning league record, I don't know. Fran McCaffery did a heck of a job. But now you lose Peter Jok, the guy that had the full attention of any defense. I can see that team slipping some because of that and because the Hawkeyes overachieved league wise this past season.
HONDO CARPENTER, SPARTAN NATION: The loss of Walton will be DEVASTATING to Michigan, but I don’t see how anyone can not pick Wisconsin here. They lose not only a ton of talent, but leadership. Coach Gard has proven he can coach. Now he must prove he can recruit and develop and I think he can, but next season the Badgers take the biggest hit.
SAM HELLMAN, SCARLET REPORT: This is a tough question to answer before we get real answers on the NBA and transfers. Wisconsin loses a lot no matter what. Four straight Sweet 16s is an amazing accomplishment when you include a coaching change and the day-to-day grind of the Big Ten. That has to slow down at some point, and the Badgers lose a lot of senior value. I always expect Wisconsin to be a good team, but second place in the conference is hard to see.
RYAN JAMES, GOPHER ILLUSTRATED: Considering they lost the caliber of senior play they did my initial response would be Wisconsin but over the years they have proven to have strong seasons when expectations were for them to take a step back. Michigan lost eight Big Ten games but my measure of their season comes from the postseason success which was strong. With four of their seven players graduating including top two scorers Derrick Walton Jr and Zak Irvin, and the team needing a replacement for Walton’s strong 35 minutes a game (they have a lot to replace in the backcourt), I say Michigan. The answer on paper should be Wisconsin but they bounce back strongly all the time. Also feel Maryland could have a two to three game slip in league play and then have a big 18-19 season.
RYAN McGLADE, BUCKEYE SPORTS: It might be Wisconsin. The Badgers are losing Vitto Brown, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter, who were all seniors this past season (Showalter was a fifth-year senior). Losing four guys like them is going to be pretty tough to recover from within a year.
JEREMY WERNER, ILLINI INQUIRER: I'll say Wisconsin, but these are the Badgers. They have finished in the top-four of the Big Ten for 16 straight seasons. But this feels like it should be the season that streak ends. They lose four key seniors, including Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, who won 117 games, went to two Final Fours and two additional Sweet Sixteens. This is no longer Bo Ryan's program. We'll see what Greg Gard's program looks like.
4. Knowing a lot has to play out with the NBA Draft and recruiting classes, which team enters the 2017-18 season as your favorite to win the Big Ten?
DEREK YOUNG, HAWKEYE INSIDER: Michigan State for the same reasons that I think they take the biggest leap forward. I know they're probably going to lose Miles Bridges but the rest of the freshmen such as Nick Ward and Cassius Winston, and probably Langford, should come forward for another season. The freshmen were the core of the team the last half of the year. They'll likely have them all back, but Bridges. You have to trust Izzo's ability to recruit other studs in as well and they have signed five-star forward Jaren Jackson. This is a team that should be oozing with talent.
MIKE PEGRAM, PEEGS: Maryland isn't taking many graduation hits and has a senior go-to guy in Melo Trimble. Justin Jackson, Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan should be much improved after their rookie seasons. Not enough inside to be a big favorite. Northwestern and Michigan State should be up there as well. Michigan a good sleeper choice if Xavier Simpson can emerge at point and if DJ Wilson and Mo Wagner are both back. In fact the more I type this the more I like Michigan. Very much a wide open race next year, similar to what we've seen in the league since Bo Ryan's last Wisconsin team dominated the Big Ten.
HONDO CARPENTER, SPARTAN NATION: Michigan State hands down. Izzo had his best recruiting class of all time this past season and all four freshmen started at times and three of them often. Combined with two big men who sat out last season with injury and an incoming class of stars the Spartans are loaded. In fact if Miles Bridges returns (believe or not that is a possibility) it could be the most talented team Izzo has ever had and 2017 recruiting is far from over.
SAM HELLMAN, SCARLET REPORT: Michigan State has a lot of talent back, and two down years in a row from Tom Izzo are hard to imagine. Miles Bridges is a star. Imagine what the Spartans can get out of him with a full, healthy season. Five-star Jaren Jackson will be an instant impact guy for Michigan State.
RYAN JAMES, GOPHER ILLUSTRATED: Purdue all the way. That team isn’t just talented with a good coach, they are tough and experienced. Vincent Edwards and Dakota Mathias are warriors both ways, the team can extend your defense from every position (save when Isaac Haas is on the floor who is very good inside), and Matt Painter has more than proven to be a great successor to Gene Keady. With Swanigan being a very late round projected first round pick (or second round) I think he comes back for the run this program has been dying for.
RYAN McGLADE, BUCKEYE SPORTS: I'm leaning toward Michigan State for the reasons I mentioned above. With Tom Izzo at the helm and so much young talent that has had a year of learning under its belt, it's hard for me to not go with them right now.
JEREMY WERNER, ILLINI INQUIRER: I like the picks of Michigan State and Maryland. Both return a ton of talent and have two of the Big Ten's best coaches. If Caleb Swanigan returns though, I might take Purdue since they return almost everyone. I also still like Michigan next season, despite the loss of Derrick Walton Jr. because Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole are great additions and Xavier Simpson should emerge. Oh, and Minnesota and Northwestern return most of their key players. The Big Ten should be pretty darn good.
5. Which coach enters the 2017-18 season on the hottest seat?
DEREK YOUNG, HAWKEYE INSIDER: I think three total come to mind in Thad Matta of Ohio State, Tim Miles at Nebraska and Pat Chambers at Penn State. All three might be in pretty real danger but Matta at least has some guys on the roster right now to make them pretty competitive next year, giving them a chance to reach the NCAA Tournament. For a guy that has had that much success at Ohio State, if he reaches the tournament he's probably safe. Though that's not a given, he probably has a better chance of doing so than either Penn State or Nebraska. Chambers is more likely to be given a bit more time than Miles. This has to be it for Miles. He needs results in the worst way this season. Many were surprised he was not shown the door following this past season. That would be my reasoning for choosing Tim Miles of Nebraska as the Big Ten coach on the hottest seat entering the 2017-2018 regular season.
HONDO CARPENTER, SPARTAN NATION: This has to be Tim Miles of Nebraska. Super facilities and amazing fans combined with a University willing to spend the money to win and demonstrate patience is a big deal. Nebraska is a program with all of the ingredients to be a tourney eligible program every year. I think Miles will reward Nebraska next year with a job saving trip to the dance and an extension so that makes us turn to Happy Valley. Pat Chambers has finally got some talent in the land of the Lions but next season he has to show he can take the next step. Finally we actually answer the question. I think the hottest seat is in Columbus. I not only like Thad Matta personally, but I respect him professionally. With that being said the folks in Columbus are driven and they wanted him gone this year. Love or hate the Buckeyes they have zero patience with mediocrity and a fan base that thinks they are elite in every sport. While Miles and Chambers certainly should not think they are safe not matter what, it is Matta who has the hottest seat.
SAM HELLMAN, SCARLET REPORT: Thad Matta. To get a vote of confidence from Ohio State in the morning and play poorly against 14-seeded Rutgers later that night already has the conversation started. Matta's history with Ohio State is spectacular. but the Buckeyes have to play better next season. Big-time schools are not patient anymore. In a world of 'what have you done for me lately?' Matta finished 11th and lost to Rutgers.
RYAN JAMES, GOPHER ILLUSTRATED: There is a lot of talk about Tim Miles being on the hot seat after a 12-19 year but I think that’s crazy. The team didn’t have a good year after player losses for various reasons but Miles is a good coach trying to produce a good basketball team in a place where it seems extremely hard to do so. Can Thad Matta be on the hot seat? Not sure but they had a tough year. I expect them to bounce back with a quality 17-18 season but if they don’t people in Columbus might become very unruly. The roster is solid and they have a top 100 center coming in but next year needs to show a strong improvement.
RYAN McGLADE, BUCKEYE SPORTS: Probably Thad Matta. I personally think his résumé for what he has done at Ohio State should buy him one more year, though. In other words, if the Buckeyes do not make the NCAA Tournament for a third consecutive season next year, then I think Matta should be on the hot seat entering the 2018-19 campaign. Many who follow OSU, however, feel the 2017-18 season is the make-or-break year for Matta's tenure in Columbus.
JEREMY WERNER, ILLINI INQUIRER: I didn't think I'd say this, but I'll go with Tim Miles. I really like Chambers and like his roster next season. Matta definitely is on the hot seat, but he's got a great career to fall back on and has talent. I like Miles. He seems a great fit for Nebraska. But at some point, results matter. Andrew White was an unfortunate big, late loss last year. But it happened. Miles has finished in the bottom-four of the Big Ten the last three seasons. At some point, Nebraska wants a return on its vast investment into those great basketball facilities. They may need to find the next