Luka Garza’s Iowa Hawkeyes are preseason Big Ten favorites heading into the 2020-21 campaign. Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)
- Led by Luka Garza, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, Iowa has opened as a +275 favorite to win the conference title in 2021
- Wisconsin (+350), Illinois (+355) and Michigan State (+360) are expected to be the Hawkeyes’ biggest challengers
- A look at the opening odds for all the Big Ten teams and an analysis of the conference race can be found below
Iowa has opened as the favorite to win the 2020-21 Big Ten championship at odds of +270.
Though the Hawkeyes finished in a four-way tie for fifth place in the conference standings last season, they return the 2019-20 Big Ten Player of the Year in Luke Garza.
In a conference loaded with talent teams, Wisconsin (+350), Illinois (+355) and Michigan State (+360) are expected to be Iowa’s primary challengers for the Big Ten Championship in what should be a hotly contested race.
2020-21 Big Ten Championship Opening Odds
Odds taken Oct. 19th from DraftKings
Garza Makes Iowa Favorite
Garza’s decision to forego the NBA Draft and return to Iowa for his senior season tipped the Big Ten scales in Iowa’s favor.
Last season, Garza averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds a game as the Hawkeyes went 20-11. He also shot 54.2 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from 3-point range.
Having Garza back has Iowa thinking about making its first Final Four appearance since 1980 and winning its first national title.
— Brad Pautsch (@BradKTIV4) October 15, 2020
The 6-foot-11 Garza also had 25 games of at least 20 points in 2019-20 and 15 double-doubles in Big Ten play.
Iowa also returns two other double-figure scorers in Joe Wieskamp (14.0 PPG) and CJ Fredrick (10.2 PPG).
Jordan Bohannon will also be back after missing the final 20 games while recovering from hip surgery. He averaged 8.8 points last season.
One cause for concern, though, is that Iowa finished 12th in defensive efficiency in the 14-team league last winter.
Wisconsin Has Experience
Wisconsin returns plenty of experienced players from a team that used a season-ending eight-game winning streak to tie Maryland and Michigan State for the Big Ten championship.
Senior forward Nate Reuvers gives the Badgers a scoring presence in the frontcourt after averaging 13.0 points a game last season.
— Wisconsin On BTN (@WisconsinOnBTN) January 28, 2020
Four other potential starters averaged at least 8.6 PPG in 2019-20: Micah Potter (10.1), Brad Davison (9.9), D’Mitrik Trice (9.8) and Aleem Ford (8.6).
Trice and Reuvers were third-team All-Big Ten last season.
Illinois’ Dynamic Duo
Illinois should be one of the Big Ten’s top teams after the inside-outside duo of guard Ayo Dosunmu and center Kofi Cockburn removed their names from the draft and stayed with the Fighting Illini.
Dosunmu seems poised for a big season.
Brad Underwood just said Ayo Dosunmu came to Illinois 170 lbs and currently weighs 206. Said he could be utilized in much different ways (post ups) than he was even a year ago #Illini
— Nico Haeflinger (@NicoFOXIL) October 14, 2020
Dosunmu scored a team-high 16.6 points a game. Cockburn added 13.3 PPG and topped Illinois with an 8.8 rebound average.
Five players who started at least 22 games return from a team that went 21-10 and finished fourth in the conference. That give Illinois hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.
MSU Wants Rocket Boost
Michigan State is a consistent Big Ten contender under coach Tom Izzo and should be again despite losing two key players in Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman from a 22-9 team.
VIDEO: Tom Izzo looks ahead to Michigan State basketball’s new season https://t.co/Jf58kuUD6c
— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) October 14, 2020
Guard Rocket Watts showed potential last season as a freshman when he averaged 9.0 points a game. The Spartans are counting on him to become the leader of the backcourt following Winston’s graduation.
Forward Aaron Henry (10.0 PPG) is also back. So is forward Marcus Bingham, who started 16 games in 2019-20 but had a 3.5 scoring average.
Don’t Sleep on Them
Michigan was the talk of college basketball in the early stages of last season. In coach Juwan Howard’s first year, the Wolverines won their first seven games and beat Iowa State, North Carolina and Gonzaga in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
There was an eventual fade and Michigan finished 20-12.
However, the trio of Isaiah Livers (12.9 PPG), Franz Wagner (11.6 PPG) and Eli Brooks (10.6 PPG) make the Wolverines an intriguing bet at +1100.
.@umichbball is back at it today.
Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner provide updates on themselves and the squad, via Zoom. 👇 pic.twitter.com/PEdpTGR1yV
— Michigan Athletics 〽️ (@UMichAthletics) October 14, 2020
No odds have been posted yet on Rutgers, but it could be worth a play at the right long shot price.
The Scarlet Knights went 20-11 last season and seemed poised to gain their first berth in the NCAAs since 1991 before the coronavirus wiped out the tournament.
Ron Harper Jr. (12.1 PPG) and Geo Baker (10.9 PPG) are back after leading Rutgers in scoring last season.
John Perrotto has been covering and writing about sports for various outlets for over 40 years. His work has appeared in the likes of USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com, Forbes.com, The Associated Press, Baseball Digest, and more. John is based out of Beaver Falls, PA.