Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, April 7, 2015
It?s time to look forward and point toward 2015-16. How will the Big Ten look?
Several players have big decisions on if they will remain in school or turn pro. Wisconsin?s Sam Dekker, Purdue?s A.J. Hammons, Indiana?s Yogi Ferrell, Nebraska?s Terran Petteway and Ohio State?s D?Angelo Russell are among the key underclassmen with decisions to make.
Until then, let?s take a super-early stab at how the Big Ten could look for next season.
1. Maryland. The Terps became an instant favorite when Melo Trimble announced he was returning for his sophomore season. Dez Wells and Evan Smotrycz will be missed, but Trimble will join the likes of Jake Layman, Jared Nickens, Dion Wiley, Damonte Dodd, Michal Cekovsky, Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter and top recruit Diamond Stone-a big man stud–to make Maryland the fav after it finished second in its Big Ten debut.
2. Michigan State. Travis Trice and Branden Dawson will be missed, but a great nucleus returns from a Final Four team in players like Denzel Valentine, Lourawls Nairn, Bryn Forbes, Marvin Clark Jr., Matt Costello, Gavin Schilling and Javon Bess. Plus, West Virginia transfer Eron Harris will join the fray along with some great freshmen led by Michigan Mr. Basketball Deyonta Davis.
3. Indiana. With Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr., Troy Williams and Robert Johnson, the Hoosiers will have firepower on the perimeter. Hanner Mosquera-Pera, Emmitt Holt and Collin Hartman figure to improve inside. And the arrival of freshman big man Thomas Bryant will solve some interior issues. Keep an eye on this club.
4. Michigan. Gotta love this squad, which suffers no key losses. Caris LeVert (He won't turn pro, will he?) will be healthy and teaming with Zak Irvin, Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman, Spike Albrecht, Aubrey Dawkins, Derrick Walton Jr. and some blossoming big men. Nice.
5. Wisconsin. How do you replace iconic Frank Kaminsky? Other seniors gone: Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson and Duje Dukan. And Sam Dekker may turn pro. Bo Ryan will build around Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes. Brevin Pritzl is a touted freshman who should help.
6. Ohio State. It seems likely that freshman sensation D?Angelo Russell will turn pro. And the Buckeyes will lose seniors Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, Amir Williams, Trey McDonald and Anthony Lee. That?s a lot. Thad Matta will turn to Marc Loving, Keita Bates-Diop, Kam Williams and Jae?Sean Tate, among others. Virginia Tech big man transfer Trevor Thompson will be eligible. OSU also will welcome one of the nation?s best group of freshmen led by Austin Grandstaff and Daniel Giddens.
7. Purdue. The Boilermakers rebounded from a last-place finish in 2013-14 to make the Big Dance this season. Well done. Work remains, however, especially if big A.J. Hammons turns pro. And who will be the point man with Jon Octeus gone? Bryson Scott has transferred. Cornerstones will have to be Vince Edwards, Rapheal Davis, Dakota Mathias, Isaac Haas and Kendall Stephens.
8. Illinois. John Groce has one Big Dance trip in three seasons. He may get a second in 2015-16. Rayvonte Rice and Nnanna Egwu are gone, but Tracy Abrams is back from injury. Other key vets returning: Leron Black, Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate. Love the backcourt, but can the interior develop? A terrific recruiting class will help Illinois led by Jalen Coleman-Landis. And Darius Paul will be back.
9. Iowa. The Hawkeyes will miss Aaron White, an all-time great. And Gabe Olaseni and Josh Oglesby are gone. Fran McCaffery will turn to Jarrod Uthoff, Peter Jok, Adam Woodbury, Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell as it looks for a third trip to the NCAA tourney in a row. Keep an eye on freshman Isaiah Moss.
10. Northwestern. Is this the year the Wildcats earn their first-ever NCAA bid? Perhaps. Chris Collins appears to have something brewing in Evanston and will continue to build around rising sophomores Vic Law and Bryant McIntosh. Also back will be Tre Demps, Alex Olah, Scottie Lindsey and Sanjay Lumpkin. JerShon Cobb will be missed.
11. Minnesota. The Gophers missed the postseason. But Year Three under Richard Pitino has promise even with Andre Hollins, Elliott Eliason, Deandre Mathieu and Mo Walker gone. It?s time for guys like Nate Mason, Charles Buggs and Carlos Morris, among others, to play bigger roles. Big man Joey King is back, which will help, along with one of the Big Ten?s better recruiting classes led by Kevin Dorsey.
12. Penn State. Patrick Chambers continues to lay a strong foundation but will miss star D.J. Newbill. Ross Travis also is gone. But the Nittany Lions will have back the likes of Shep Garner, Brandon Taylor, Geno Thorpe and Donovan Jack.
13. Nebraska. Tim Miles will try to rebound from a disappointing season. Having Terran Petteway return for his senior season would help Miles, who already has seen Tarin Smith and Walter Pitchford leave early. David Rivers is graduating. Shavon Shields will be a building block along with Benny Parker and Tai Webster.
14. Rutgers. There is only one way for the Scarlet Knights to go, right? Losing Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack will hurt Eddie Jordan?s cause. Bishop Daniels, Mike Williams, Greg Lewis and D.J. Foreman need to be building blocks. A four-man recruiting class paced by Corey Sanders should help.
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|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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