Big Ten Basketball: Projecting starting lineups for 2016-17

Big Ten Basketball: Projecting starting lineups for 2016-17

If he were commissioner for a day, Jon Crispin's first change would be to play four quarters instead of two halves in a college basketball game.

The college basketball season is over as Villanova was crowned the national champions.

[ MORE: Six Big Ten teams ranked in final Coaches Poll ]

That means it is already time to look ahead to the 2016-17 Big Ten basketball slate.

We have seen numerous 2016-17 top 25 polls come out this week, but there are still plenty of big decisions to come that could sway these rankings. Who stays in school and who goes to the NBA? Who transfers out and what transfers come in?

Despite all of those unanswered questions, I went ahead and projected the starting lineups for every Big Ten team next season.

Now, of course, these lineups could change drastically within the next couple of weeks. But my projections are based upon who I believe will stay in school and who will enter the NBA Draft.

Here is a look at my projected lineups for all 14 Big Ten schools.

Indiana

G: Josh Newkirk
G: James Blackmon Jr.
G: Robert Johnson
F: OG Anunoby
C: Thomas Bryant

Summary: Fresh off a Big Ten regular season championship this season, and Hoosiers should be loaded and ready to compete for another conference title in 2016-17. Yogi Ferrell leaves Indiana as one of the greatest guards in program history, but don’t look past Josh Newkirk, who sat out this past season after transferring from Pitt. He should be one of the quickest guards in the Big Ten next year and could form an outstanding backcourt with James Blackmon and Robert Johnson. Troy Williams has a tough decision to make, but I am going off the assumption that he turns pro. OG Anunoby showed signs of greatness in the second half of the year and should be in store for a breakout sophomore campaign. I believe Thomas Bryant makes the choice to come back to Bloomington for another year. If so, Indiana should compete for a Big Ten title and be considered a top 15 team in the nation heading into next season.

Maryland

G: Anthony Cowan
G: Dion Wiley
F: Jared Nickens
F: Michal Cekovsky
C: Damonte Dodd

Summary: With Robert Carter Jr. turning pro, this projection is based on Melo Trimble, Diamond Stone and Carter Jr. all making the jump to the NBA. If that does happen, this will be a rebuilding year for Mark Turgeon and the Terps. Many forget how good Dion Wiley was before an injury wiped out his entire 2015-16 season. If he comes back healthy and develops chemistry with freshman standout Anthony Cowan, this could be one of the top backcourts in the Big Ten. But who will be the go-to scorer on offense? My guess is that Maryland adds at least one transfer in the offseason.

Michigan

G: Derrick Walton Jr.
G: Muhammad-Ali-Abdur Rahkman
F: Zak Irvin
F: Duncan Robinson
C: Mark Donnal

Summary: Losing seniors Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht to season-ending injuries was far from ideal for the Wolverines. However, the one positive to come from this is that the Wolverines’ young players got a chance to mesh throughout the season. Now, John Beilein’s team should feature the same starting five for next season. Add in incoming freshman guard Xavier Simpson and this team should be among the top teams in the Big Ten next season. The same question remains again next year: How will Michigan’s big men develop?

Michigan State

G: Tum Tum Nairn
G: Josh Langford
G: Eron Harris
F: Miles Bridges
C: Gavin Schilling

Summary: This team won the Big Ten Tournament championship and was arguably playing as well as anyone in the country before a stunning first round loss in the NCAA Tournament to Middle Tennessee State. Now, the Spartans must find a way to replace seniors Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello, as well as Deyonta Davis, who is leaving for the NBA after one season in East Lansing. Tum Tum Nairn will be the starting point guard after missing a large portion of the 2015-16 season due to injury. Eron Harris will return as the lone starter. Miles Bridges is the top incoming freshman in the Big Ten and has one-and-done type talent, and the same can be said for high-scoring guard Josh Langford. Look for Gavin Schilling to take over as the starting center. An outstanding freshman class of Bridges, Langford, Cassius Winston and Nick Ward should provide outstanding depth for Tom Izzo’s club once again in 2016-17.

Penn State

G: Tony Carr
G: Shep Garner
G: Josh Reaves
F: Payton Banks
C: Mike Watkins

Summary: This will be Pat Chambers’ most talented team since taking over the head coaching job at Penn State. Carr is a pure point guard who arrives with huge expectations. Shep Garner and Payton Banks were very good this past season, while the same can be said for Josh Reaves before he came down with mononucleosis in mid-January. Mike Watkins was forced to redshirt this past season, but he should bring an inside presence that this team hasn’t had in some time. Is this the year Pat Chambers takes Penn State to the NCAA Tournament? It very-well could be.

Rutgers

G: Corey Sanders
G: Mike Williams
F: Nigel Johnson
F: Jonathan Laurent
F: DeShawn Freeman

Summary: This is under the assumption that Corey Sanders decides to return to school and passes up the NBA. Mike Williams and Jonathan Laurent were mainstays in the Scarlet Knights’ lineup this past season, while DeShawn Freeman showed promise before suffering a season-ending knee injury, followed by a suspension. Nigel Johnson is the wildcard here. A transfer from Kansas State, Johnson should be inserted into the starting lineup right away.

Ohio State

G: JaQuan Lyle
G: Marc Loving
F: Jae’Sean Tate
F: Keita Bates-Diop
C: Trevor Thompson

Summary: Despite having four players in their 2015 recruiting class choosing to transfer, the Buckeyes should maintain the beef of their starting lineup next season. This is a team that just missed the NCAA Tournament in 2016, but with another year of much-needed experience, this group certainly has the talent to make a run at an NCAA Tourney appearance in 2017. Lyle should be one of the top point guards in the conference, while Loving, Tate and Bates-Diop can all score. Thompson has said he will test the NBA Draft waters, but I expect him to return next season and be the man in the middle for the Buckeyes.

Illinois

G: Tracy Abrams
G: Kendrick Nunn
G: Jalen Coleman-Lands
F: Malcolm Hill
C: Maverick Morgan

Summary: The Fighting Illini return the bulk of their lineup next season. They are banking on a healthy Tracy Abrams returning to the lineup after not playing the past two seasons due to injury. Malcolm Hill is an All-Big Ten quality player, and the same can be said for Kendrick Nunn. Jalen Coleman-Lands enjoyed a nice freshman season and should improve with a full offseason under his belt. The question becomes — what happens in the front court? Maverick Morgan and Michael Finke should both be back, but does Leron Black return to this program after dealing with off-the-court issues?

Iowa

G: Christian Williams
G: Peter Jok
F: Dom Uhl
F: Tyler Cook
F: Ahmad Wagner

Summary: This is the toughest starting five to figure out. But, that’s what happens when you lose four senior starters to graduation. Peter Jok will test the NBA waters, but I expect him to come back and be the leader for this group next season. Dom Uhl and Ahmad Wagner will be looked upon to provide both scoring and rebounding for the Hawkeyes next season. Tyler Cook is a talented four-star recruit who comes to Iowa City with high expectations. The question is at the point guard spot. Does Christian Williams take over the starting role, or does Iowa grab another 2016 recruit or possible graduate transfer to fill that role? We will find out soon.

Minnesota

G: Nate Mason
G: Amir Coffey
F: Davonte Fitzgerald
F: Jordan Murphy
C: Reggie Lynch

Summary: This past year was one to forget for Richard Pitino and the Minnesota Gophers. It should be a different story in 2016 as the Gophers bring in a top-tier recruiting class to go along with two talented transfers in Davonte Fitzgerald and Reggie Lynch. Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy, Minnesota’s two best players this past season, both return and should help anchor the starting lineup with Fitzgerald, Lynch and star freshman Amir Coffey. This should be the most improved team in the Big Ten.

Nebraska

G: Tai Webster
G: Anton Gill
G: Andrew White III
F: Ed Morrow
F: Michael Jacobson

Summary: The Huskers must find a way to replace do-it-all senior Shavon Shields. Andrew White had a really good junior season at Nebraska and will flourish in a star role next year. There is already a lot of buzz surrounding Anton Gill, who transferred from Louisville and should make an immediate impact for this Huskers team. The key will be what type of production this group gets from their bigs. Is Ed Morrow ready to take the next step?

Northwestern

G: Bryant McIntosh
G: Aaron Falzon
F: Vic Law
F: Sanjay Lumpkin
F: Dererk Pardon

Summary: The Wildcats return a lot of talent next season, including the return of Vic Law, who missed the entire 2015-16 season with an injury. Bryant McIntosh enjoyed an outstanding sophomore campaign, while both Falzon and Pardon showed promise in their freshman seasons. With Alex Olah gone, the lack of depth in the frontcourt could be an issue. Is this the year the Wildcats break the streak and make their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance? We will see.

Purdue

G: Carsen Edwards
G: Dakota Mathias
F: Vince Edwards
F: Caleb Swanigan
C: Isaac Haas

Summary: This is based on both Caleb Swanigan and Vince Edwards coming back to school. I think both could test well, but in the end, it would be smart for both of them to return. Carsen Edwards takes over at point guard and should be a playmaker from the second he steps on campus. The shooting guard spot will come down to Dakota Mathias and Ryan Cline, but I think Mathias gets the edge. Haas will be a force down low and will take on an ever bigger role with A.J. Hammons off to the NBA. If Swanigan and Edwards do return, this team should compete for a Big Ten title in 2017.

Wisconsin

G: Bronson Koenig
G: Zak Showalter
F: Nigel Hayes
F: Vitto Brown
F: Ethan Happ

Summary: This is a Wisconsin team that made a run to the Sweet 16 this year, and guess what? They return all five starters. Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ should be among the top frontcourt players in the Big Ten next season, while Koenig is expected to be a star at the point guard spot as a senior. If the Badgers are able to get more production from the bench this season with the likes of Khalil Iverson, Charlie Thomas, Brevin Pritzl and Jordan Hill, this team should compete for a Big Ten title next year.

* Dan Duggan and Scott Dochterman contributed to this article.

 

Sean Merriman, BTN.com web editor

BTN.com web editor Sean Merriman covers football and men's basketball and provides original content for BTN.com. You can follow him on Twitter @BTNSean.

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