Men's basketball: Illinois picked as preseason Big Ten favorite in unofficial official media poll

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
llinois guard Ayo Dosunmu, shown with coach Brad Underwood, is a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten pick.

Illinois has been picked as the favorite to win the Big Ten men's basketball title in a poll of the league’s writers.

The annual unofficial official media poll, which features 28 beat writers – two from each team – saw the Fighting Illini pick up 376 of a possible 392 points to finish ahead of runner-up Iowa (350 points).

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Illinois received 16 first-place votes, with the remaining 12 split evenly between Iowa and Wisconsin, which finished third in the voting and only three points behind the Hawkeyes.

For a fourth straight year, the voting was tabulated as a joint venture by The Dispatch and The Athletic.

The Fighting Illini return Ayo Dosunmu, a first-team all-league player as voted by the media last season, and Kofi Cockburn, who was voted Big Ten freshman of the year by both the coaches and the media. Both players turned down the opportunity to enter the NBA draft to return and play for coach Brad Underwood, now entering his fourth season with the program.

Last season, the Illini finished fourth in the league with a 13-7 record, one game behind co-champions Maryland, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Illinois has won 17 Big Ten titles but none since 2005.

Iowa senior center Luka Garza, who like Dosunmu and Cockburn flirted with the NBA before deciding to return, was voted Big Ten preseason player of the year. He was voted player of the year last season by the coaches and media after leading the league in scoring at 23.9 points per game and finishing fourth in rebounding at 9.8.

Garza received 24 of the possible 28 votes. The other four went to Dosunmu.

Both players were unanimous selections to the all-conference team. They are joined by Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis, a consensus third-team all-league pick and unanimous selection for the all-freshman team last season after averaging 13.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Jackson-Davis received 24 votes, and there was a three-way tie for the final two spots — Wisconsin’s Nate Reuvers, Michigan’s Franz Wagner and Cockburn each received 11 votes.

Illinois freshman Adam Miller (12 votes) edged out Indiana’s Khristian Lander (10 votes) for preseason freshman of the year. Miller was the No. 33 national recruit in the 2020 class according to the composite rankings, six spots below Lander, who was a five-star prospect.

The voting shows a clear divide between the top four teams in the league and everyone else. Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan State received a combined two votes to finish anywhere outside of the top four; one of them had Michigan State finishing fifth, and the other had Wisconsin fifth.

Ohio State was picked to finish seventh. The Buckeyes were picked as high as fifth by six voters and as low as 10th by one writer, and no players received an all-conference vote although transfer Micah Potter, now with Wisconsin, did receive one all-conference vote.

Here are the full voting results:

Media poll (first-place votes in parenthesis):

1. Illinois 376 (16)

2. Iowa 350 (6)

3. Wisconsin 347 (6)

4. Michigan State 323

5. Rutgers 249

6. Michigan 241

7. Ohio State 229

8. Indiana 212

9. Purdue 179

10. Maryland 141

11. Minnesota 121

12. Penn State 72

13. Nebraska 54

14. Northwestern 47

Player of the year votes:

Luka Garza, Iowa (24)

Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois (4)

Freshman of the year votes:

Adam Miller, Illinois (12)

Khristian Lander, Indiana (10)

Hunter Dickinson, Michigan (4)

Zeb Jackson, Michigan (1)

Ethan Morton, Purdue (1)

First-team all-Big Ten (unanimous selections in caps):

LUKA GARZA, Iowa (28)

AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois (28)

Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana (24)

Kofi Cockburn, Illinois (11)

Nate Reuvers, Wisconsin (11)

Franz Wagner, Michigan (11)

Also receiving votes: Marcus Carr, Minnesota (7); Aaron Henry, Michigan State (7); Geo Baker, Rutgers (6); Joey Hauser, Michigan State (2); Joshua Langford, Michigan State (1); Micah Potter, Wisconsin (1); D'Mitrik Trice, Wisconsin (1); Rocket Watts, Michigan State (1); Joe Wieskamp, Iowa (1).

Here is the full media panel: