Dienhart: A sneak peek at 2014-15 Big Ten hoops

The 2013-14 season was punctuated with UConn’s win over Kentucky in the national championship game Monday night. Deep breath … exhale. That means it’s time to turn the page toward the 2014-15 season. Yes, already.

How will the Big Ten look? Not too bad. Take a peek.

Illinois 20-15 overall; 7-11 Big Ten

Key personnel back: G Tracy Abrams; F/C Nnanna Egwu; G Malcolm Hill; G Kendrick Nunn; G Rayvonte Rice; G Jaylon Tate

Key losses: G Joseph Bertrand; F Jon Ekey

Key newcomers: F Leron Black; G Aaron Cosby (Seton Hall transfer); F Michael Finke; F Darius Paul (Western Michigan transfer); G Ahmad Starks (Oregon State transfer)

Skinny: John Groce will have a nice core of talent back, building around Abrams, Rice and Nunn. In fact, Nunn looks like a future star after breaking out late in the season. An influx of three four-year transfers will bolster experience and depth in Groce’s third season.

***

Indiana 17-15 overall; 7-11 Big Ten

Key personnel back: F Devin Davis; G Yogi Ferrell; F Collin Hartman; C Peter Jurkin; F Hanner Mosquera-Perea; G Stanford Robinson; F Troy Williams

Key losses: F Austin Etherington (transfer); F Luke Fischer (transfer to Marquette); G Evan Gordon; F Jeremy Hollowell (transfer); F Will Sheehey; F Noah Vonleh

Key newcomers: G James Blackmon; F Max Hoetzel; G Robert Johnson

The skinny: This team needs to cut down on turnovers and improve its shooting. Who will pick up the production of Vonleh? Robinson, Williams and Ferrell are a nice trinity. Blackmon is the most touted newcomer in the Big Ten, a one-and-done talent. The natives are restless after a disappointing 2013-14. Can Tom Crean deliver a big season?

***

Iowa 20-13 overall; 9-9 Big Ten

Key personnel back: G Mike Gesell; G Peter Jok; G Josh Oglesby; C Gabe Olaseni; F Jarrod Uthoff; F Aaron White; C Adam Woodbury

Key losses: F Melsahn Basabe; G Roy Devyn Marble; F Zach McCabe

Key newcomers: G Trey Dickerson; G Brady Ellingson; F Dominique Uhl

The skinny: The steady hand of Marble will be missed. But this looks like a tourney team with one of the strongest collections of returning talent in the Big Ten. Uthoff needs to be a star. And, it’s time for Woodbury to blossom. Defense must be a priority. Ditto toughness. Where’s the grit? Yes, Iowa made the Big Dance this season. But the team limped across the finish line.

***

Maryland 17-15 overall; 9-9 ACC

Key personnel back: G Seth Allen; G/F Jake Layman; F Charles Mitchell; F Evan Smotrycz; G/F Dez Wells

Key losses: C Shaquille Cleare (transfer); G Roddy Peters (transfer); G Nick Faust (transfer)

Key newcomers: C Michal Cekovsky; C Trayvon Reed; F Jared Nickens; G Romelo Trimble; G Dion Wiley

The skinny: The Terps’ have the talent to battle during their maiden Big Ten voyage, with Wells leading the way and a heralded recruiting class coming aboard. The 7-0 Cekovsky is the top newcomer in the very strong four-man class. It remains to be seen if they can defend better or if they boast enough star power to contend.

***

Michigan 28-9 overall; 15-3 Big Ten

Key personnel back: G Spike Albrecht; F Jon Horford; G Zak Irvin; G Caris LeVert; F Mitch McGary; F Glenn Robinson III; G Nik Stauskas; G Derrick Walton, Jr.

Key loss: C Jordan Morgan

Key newcomers: F Kameron Chatman, F D.J. Wilson, G Austin Hatch, F Ricky Doyle

The skinny: The complexion changes markedly if Robinson, McGary and/or Stauskas bolts. I suspect at least two will leave, with Stauskas being a given. Time for Irvin, LeVert and Walton to make this their team. Chatman is the most touted recruit.

***

Michigan State 29-9 overall; 12-6 Big Ten

Key personnel back: G Russell Byrd; F Matt Costello; F Branden Dawson; F Alex Gauna; G Gary Harris; F Kenny Kaminski; F Gavin Schilling; G Travis Trice; G Denzel Valentine

Key losses: G Keith Appling; F/C Adreian Payne

Key newcomers: F Javon Bess; F Marvin Clark; G Lourawls Nairn

The skinny: Most think Gary Harris will leave early. Dawson? Maybe. Still, this team minus Harris, Appling and Payne? Woof. That’s a lot of talent gone. Valentine will need to be a star. And Trice has to lead the backcourt. Nairn should have just-add-water impact in the backcourt for a team that will need some scorers.

***

Minnesota 25-13 overall; 8-10 Big Ten

Key personnel back: F Charles Buggs; C Elliott Eliason; G Andre Hollins; F Joey King; G DeAndre Mathieu; F Mo Walker

Key losses: G Austin Hollins; F Oto Osenieks; G Malik Smith

Key newcomers: F Josh Martin; G Nate Mason; G Carlos Morris (junior college transfer)

The skinny: Lots of mojo coming off a run to the NIT title. Hollins and Mathieu will form one of the top backcourts in the Big Ten. King, Eliason and Walker will make for a good front line. How is depth? Morris is a JC transfer who has to help. This team needs to play tougher defense in Richard Pitino’s second season.

***

Nebraska 19-13 overall; 11-7 Big Ten

Key personnel back: G Benny Parker; G/F Terran Petteway; F Walter Pitchford; F David Rivers; G/F Shavon Shields; G Tai Webster; F Leslee Smith

Key losses: G Ray Gallegos

Key newcomers: C Jacob Hammond; G Tarin Smith

The skinny: There’s no hotter program, as the Huskers are coming off their first NCAA trip since 1998. What’ll Nebraska do for an encore in Tim Miles’ third season? Expectations loom. How will the team handle them? I like Nebraska’s chances to dance again with Petteway, Pitchford, Shields and Webster back. In fact, this team could make a run at the league title.

***

Northwestern 14-19 overall; 6-12 Big Ten

Key personnel back: G JerShon Cobb; G Tre Demps; G/F Sanjay Lumpkin; C Alex Olah; G Dave Sobolewski; F Nathan Taphorn

Key losses: G Kale Abrahamson (transfer); C Nikola Cerina; G/F Drew Crawford

Key newcomers: F Victor Law; G Scott Lindsey; G Bryant McIntosh; F Gavin Skelly; G Johnnie Vasser

The skinny: Losing Crawford from an offensively challenged team hurts. Who will fill the scoring void? Cobb? Demps? Many think McIntosh will be a boffo freshman. Law is a Chicago kid who will help inside. And the massive Olah is a battle ship who continues to develop inside. Chris Collins has an improving team.

***

Ohio State 25-10 overall; 10-8 Big Ten

Key personnel back: F Marc Loving; C Trey McDonald; G Shannon Scott; F Sam Thompson; C Amir Williams

Key losses: G Aaron Craft; G Amedeo Della Valle; F LaQuinton Ross; G Lenzelle Smith, Jr.

Key newcomers: F Keita Bates-Diop; C David Bell; F Anthony Lee (transfer Temple); G D’Angelo Russell; F Jae’Sean Tate

The skinny: No team lost more, with heart-and-soul Craft gone. And Ross left early, leaving a big scoring void for a team that often scrounged for points. This is Scott’s team. Temple transfer Lee will help with what has been a spotty inside game. Diop and Russell are the top freshmen, mega-recruits who will have to be stars right out of the box. Loving showed flashes as a freshman. Time to emerge.

***

Penn State 16-18 overall; 6-12 Big Ten

Key personnel back: C Jordan Dickerson; F Donovon Jack; G John Johnson; G D.J. Newbill; F Brandon Taylor; G Geno Thorpe; F Ross Travis

Key losses: G Tim Frazier; Graham Woodward (transfer)

Key newcomers: G Shep Garner; G Isaiah Washington

The skinny: Just one key loss. But, it’s a biggie in Frazier, a franchise player who can’t be replaced. But Newbill is a very good guard. Taylor is a physical forward. Gotta like the Nittany Lions’ toughness and fight. Still, a bit more skill is needed for this rising program under Pat Chambers.

***

Purdue 15-17 overall; 5-13 Big Ten

Key personnel back: G Rapheal Davis; C A.J. Hammons; G Bryson Scott; F Basil Smotherman; G Kendall Stephens

Key losses: G Sterling Carter; G Ronnie Johnson (transfer); G Terone Johnson; F Errick Peck

Key newcomers: F Vince Edwards; C Isaac Haas; G Dakota Mathias; G P.J. Thompson; C Jacquil Taylor

The skinny: After a last-place finish, there’s only one way to go, right? Matt Painter hasn’t gotten it right the last two years, and it’s difficult to envision this edition of the Boilermakers making the NCAA tourney—especially if Hammons goes pro. Defense, shooting, toughness, leadership and guard play are big issues. This program has lost its identity in what will be a key season for Painter. Where’s the want-to? Where’s the fight?

***

Rutgers 12-21 overall; 5-13 AAC

Key personnel back: C/F Craig Brown; G D’Von Campbell; F Junior Etou; F Kadeem Jack; F Malick Kone; G Myles Mack; G Jerome Seagears

Key losses: F Wally Judge; F J.J. Moore

Key newcomers: G Bishop Daniels; C Ibrahima Diallo; F Dwayne Foreman; G Mike Williams

The skinny: This program struggled in the American Athletic Conference. Who can forget Rutgers’ 92-31 loss to Louisville in the AAC tourney? The Scarlet Knights stand little chance to compete in the Big Ten. One league win? Maybe two? Mack and Jack will need to lead the way in what figures to be a rocky transition.

***

Wisconsin 30-8 overall; 12-6 Big Ten

Key personnel back: F Sam Dekker; Duje Dukan; G Josh Gasser; F Nigel Hayes; G Traevon Jackson; F Frank Kaminsky; G Bronson Koenig

Key loss: G Ben Brust

Key newcomer: F Ethan Happ

The skinny: One early preseason poll has tabbed the Badgers No. 1 in the nation. That’s all you need to know. The lone key loss is Brust. Bo Ryan’s team welcomes back myriad key players from a Final Four squad. Can Wisconsin stay motived and hungry? It will be the hunted. Look for Koenig to continue to emerge as a star. Ditto Hayes, who’s like a linebacker playing basketball. If Dekker and Kaminsky stay and get stronger, they can be All-American players.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Show Comments (3 Comments)
3 Post Your Comment
Nuclear Badger (@nuclearbdgr) on 4/8/2014 @ 10:18pm EDT Said:

I think you mean Ethan Happ, not Hopp

    BTN.com staff on 4/9/2014 @ 10:41am EDT Said:

    Our mistake. The story has been corrected to reflect this change.

Matt on 4/10/2014 @ 9:25am EDT Said:

I’m pretty sure the “top newcomer” in the Terps’ class will be 5* PG and McD AA Melo Trimble. Not that Cekovsky is a slouch, but solidifying the PG spot will be crucial for Maryland.

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