Michigan, Purdue picked as class of Big Ten in preseason men's basketball media poll

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch

By the slimmest of margins, Michigan has been picked ahead of Purdue to win the 2021-22 Big Ten title.

The Michigan Wolverines open as the Big Ten favorite in a preseason media poll after finishing their season last year in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

In an annual preseason media poll conducted jointly by The Dispatch and The Athletic, both the Wolverines and Boilermakers received a total of 373 points from a panel of two beat writers for each team. But of those 28 ballots, Michigan received 13 first-place votes, one more than Purdue, to take the preseason title on the tiebreaker.

You can check out all of the full ballots by clicking here.

E.J. Liddell:Can power forward play alongside Zed Key and Ohio State's centers?

Michigan was the final Big Ten team standing last season, reaching the Elite Eight after capturing a regular-season league title during coach Juwan Howard’s second season. The latter didn’t come without controversy, though: After losing three games due to COVID-19, the Wolverines went 14-3 in league play and were awarded the title ahead of 16-4 Illinois on the basis of winning percentage. The Illini won the lone meeting between the teams.

The Fighting Illini finished third in this year’s balloting and received the other three first-place votes. Illinois received a significant offseason boost when center Kofi Cockburn, a first-team all-league pick by both the coaches and media last season, opted to return for a third season. Cockburn is the media’s choice for the 2021-22 preseason player of the year, capturing 11 votes, finishing ahead of Purdue’s Jaden Ivey (five) and Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell (four).

Illinois center Kofi Cockburn averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last season.

Cockburn was also a near-unanimous choice for the five-member all-conference team. He received 27 of the 28 possible votes, one more than Liddell and two more than Michigan center Hunter Dickinson. Those three are joined on the team by Ivey (21 votes) and Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis (20).

Jackson-Davis and Dickinson were first-team picks last season by the media, while the coaches voted Liddell to their first team. The 7-0, 285-pound Cockburn averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, numbers on par with Jackson-Davis (19.1 points, 9.0 rebounds), Liddell (16.2 points, 6.7 rebounds) and Dickinson (14.1 points, 7.4 rebounds).

Of the five members on the first team, only Ivey isa backcourt player. He averaged 11.1 points and 3.3 rebounds as a freshman and will help lead a Purdue team that returns 94.6% of its scoring and 91.0% of its minutes from a squad that went 18-10 overall and 13-6 in Big Ten play in 2020-21.

In addition to Dickinson, the Wolverines feature five-star forward Caleb Houstan, a 6-8, 205-pound newcomer who was voted preseason freshman of the year. The top-rated player in the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class per, Houstan captured 20 votes to outdistance Michigan State freshman guard Max Christie (seven votes). The Wolverines are the projected favorite for the first time in the five-year history of the media poll, while Michigan State’s sixth-place preseason ranking is its lowest during that era.

Powered by Liddell, Ohio State finished fourth in the voting and only four points behind Illinois. The Buckeyes lost leading scorer Duane Washington Jr. to the NBA and CJ Walker, their leader in assists, who now plays for the Phoenix Hagen in Germany.

Ohio State's E.J. Liddell averaged 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds a game last year.

Ohio State basketball: A backcourt in search of answers

Ohio State basketball:E.J. Liddell inspires those back home in southern Illinois while winning with the Buckeyes

In the basement, Minnesota and first-year coach Ben Johnson received 24 of 28 last-place votes.

Big Ten preseason media poll

1. Michigan, 373 (13)

2. Purdue, 373 (12)

3. Illinois, 320 (3)

4. Ohio State, 316

5. Maryland, 269

6. Michigan State, 262

7. Indiana, 219

8. Rutgers, 208

9. Iowa, 150

10. Wisconsin, 149

11. Nebraska, 105

T-12. Northwestern, 81

T-12. Penn State, 81

14. Minnesota, 34

Big Ten preseason player of the year

Kofi Cockburn, Illinois (11)

Also receiving votes: Jaden Ivey, Purdue (5); E.J. Liddell, Ohio State, 4; Hunter Dickinson, Michigan, and Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana, (3); Trevion Williams, Purdue (2).

Big Ten preseason freshman of the year

Caleb Houstan, Michigan (20)

Also receiving votes: Max Christie, Michigan State (7); Bryce McGowens, Nebraska (1).

Big Ten preseason all-conference team

Kofi Cockburn, Illinois (27)

E.J. Liddell, Ohio State (26)

Hunter Dickinson, Michigan (25)

Jaden Ivey, Purdue (21)

Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana (20)

Also receiving votes: Trevion Williams, Purdue (10); Eric Ayala, Maryland (4); Andre Curbelo, Illinois, and DeVante' Jones, Michigan (2); Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr., Rutgers, and Caleb Houstan, Michigan (1).

Special thanks to our media panel.

Scott Richey — Illinois | Champaign News-Gazette

Jeremy Werner — Illinois | 247Sports

Alex Bozich — Indiana | Inside the Hall

Zach Osterman — Indiana | Indianapolis Star

Kennington Smith — Iowa | Des Moines Register

Chad Leistikow — Iowa | Des Moines Register

Ryan McFadden — Maryland | The Baltimore Sun

Emily Giambalvo — Maryland | The Washington Post

Dylan Burkhardt — Michigan | UMHoops

Brendan Quinn — Michigan | The Athletic

Matt Charboneau — Michigan State | The Detroit News

Graham Couch — Michigan State | Lansing State Journal

Marcus Fuller — Minnesota | Star Tribune

Ryan James — Minnesota | 247Sports

Chris Basnett — Nebraska | Lincoln Journal Star

Jimmy Watkins — Nebraska | Omaha World-Herald

Steve Greenberg — Northwestern | Chicago Sun-Times

Patrick Andres — Northwestern | The Daily Northwestern

Adam Jardy — Ohio State | The Columbus Dispatch

Bill Landis — Ohio State | The Athletic

Ben Jones — Penn State |

David Jones — Penn State | Harrisburg Patriot-News

Kevin Brockway — Purdue | CNHI Sports Indiana

Brian Neubert — Purdue | Rivals

Jerry Carino — Rutgers | Asbury Park Press

James Kratch — Rutgers |

Abby Schnable — Wisconsin | Wisconsin State Journal

Jeff Potrykus — Wisconsin | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Get more Ohio State basketball by listening to our podcasts