Breaking down B1G hoops for next year

Wisconsin, Michigan project as frontrunners; Illinois, Maryland are potential dark horses

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IOWA CITY -- The Big Ten ended yet another season without a national championship, but the league's prospects remain bright to compete once again next year.

Wisconsin, a Final Four participant, is likely to return all but one starter after its heartbreaking one-point loss to Kentucky. If Michigan can hold together the core of its Elite Eight squad, it could defend its outright Big Ten championship. Both squads have a shot to break into the preseason top-five by this fall.

Here's a look at the league entering next fall, with way-too-early power rankings:

Season finish: Final Four (lost 74-73 to Kentucky)

Starters returning/lost: 4/1

Key returnees: C Frank Kaminsky (14.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg); F Sam Dekker (12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg); G Traevon Jackson (10.7 ppg, 4.0 apg); G Josh Gasser (8.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 47 3PT); F Nigel Hayes (7.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg); G Bronson Koenig (3.3 ppg, 1.2 apg)

Key losses: Ben Brust (graduation)

Key newcomer: F Ethan Hopp (3 stars)

Outlook: The Badgers return four starters and two key reserves from a Final Four team. It's likely Wisconsin will get consideration as a possible preseason No. 1 team after falling just one point shy in a heartbreaking loss to Kentucky on Saturday. Center Frank Kaminsky was a first-team all-Big Ten selection this year and Sam Dekker was a third-team selection. Traevon Jackson brought a tenacious approach to point guard and was a money player all year; the last-second miss on Saturday notwithstanding. Josh Gasser can play multiple positions and fills valuable roles, while Nigel Hayes as the league's sixth man of the year.

Season finish: Elite Eight (lost 75-72 to Kentucky)

Starters returning/lost: 4/1

Key returnees: G Nik Stauskas (17.5 ppg, 3.2 apg), F Glenn Robinson III (13.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg), G Caris LeVert (12.9 ppg, 2.9 apg, 4.4 rpg), G Derrick Walton Jr. (7.9 ppg, 2.9 apg), G/F Zak Irvin (6.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg), F Jon Horford (3.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg), G Spike Albrecht (3.3 ppg, 2.1 apg)

Key losses: C Jordan Morgan

Key newcomers: F Kameron Chatman (4), F D.J. Wilson (3), G Austin Hatch (3), F Ricky Doyle (3)

Outlook: Michigan's prospects will be shaped by who's leaving and who's staying. Center Mitch McGary is likely to declare for the NBA draft after playing in just eight games because of a back injury. If he returns -- along with Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III -- Michigan could rival Wisconsin for the national preseason No. 1 ranking. Stauskas was the Big Ten's player of the year and Caris LeVert was a second-teamer. Even after losing two NBA first-round draft picks last summer, the Wolverines won the Big Ten outright by three games and were one big shot from Kentucky (like Wisconsin) from advancing in this year's tournament.

Season finish: Elite Eight (lost 60-54 to UConn)

Starters returning/lost: 3/2

Key returnees: G Gary Harris (16.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg); F Branden Dawson (11.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg); F Denzel Valentine (8.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.8 apg); G Travis Trice (7.3 ppg); F Kenny Kaminski (4.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg); C Matt Costello (4.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg)

Key losses: F Adreian Payne, G Keith Appling

Key newcomers: F Marvin Clark (3), F Javon Bess (3), G Lourawls Nairn (4)

Outlook: The Spartans' fortunes could rise or fall with Gary Harris' decision to stay or turn pro. The talented sophomore was a first-team all-Big Ten selection and is the league's best pro guard prospect. If he returns, Michigan State will again compete for the league title. Losing Adreian Payne and Keith Appling will be tough to replace, although versatile Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine were game changers late in the season. Michigan State's role players are better than most in the league. But if Harris turns pro, Michigan State appears a spot or two behind Wisconsin and Michigan unless Nairn, Clark or Bess become immediate impact players.

Season finish: NIT second round (lost 50-49 at Clemson)

Starters returning/lost: 3/2

Key returnees: G Rayvonte Rice (15.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg); PG Tracy Abrahms (10.7 ppg, 3.2 apt, 3.5 rpg); C/F Nnanna Egwu (6.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.1 bpg); G Kendrick Nunn (6.2 ppg, 1.7 rpg); G Malcolm Hill (4.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg)

Key losses: G Joseph Bertrand, F Jon Ekey

Key newcomers: F Darius Paul (6-8 Western Michigan transfer); G Ahmad Starks (Oregon State transfer); G Aaron Cosby (Seton Hall transfer); F Leron Black (4); F Michael Finke (3)

Outlook: The Illini zoomed from last place to the NIT with an impressive 4-1 finish to the regular season. Three talented transfers sat out last season, and all figure to make huge impacts. Darius Paul, a sophomore, was the MAC's freshman of the year two years ago with 10.4 points and 5.7 rebounds a game. Ahmad Starks has 991 career points and is the Beavers' all-time leader in 3-pointers. Aaron Cosby, who will be a junior, shot 40 percent from 3-point range at Seton Hall and averaged 9.8 points a game. Rayvonte Rice became one of the Big Ten's top scorers and Nnanna Egwu was one of the league's top defensive threats. Point guard Tracy Abrams improved throughout the season.

Season finish: NCAA second round (lost 74-60 to Baylor)

Starters returning/lost:4/1

Key returnees: G/F Terran Petteway (18.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg); G/F Shavon Shields (12.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg); G Tai Webster (3.9 ppg, 2.0 apg); F Walter Pitchford (9.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg); F Leslee Smith (5.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg); G David Rivers 3.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G Benny Parker (2.4 ppg)

Key losses: G Ray Gallegos, G Nathan Hawkins, C Sergej Vucetic

Key newcomers: G Tarin Smith (3), C Jacob Hammond (3)

Outlook: Nebraska rebounded from an  0-4 Big Ten start to finish fourth in league play. The Cornhuskers were picked for last, so the finish earned praise for Coach Tim Miles. Petteway, a Texas Tech transfer, led the Big Ten in scoring en route to first-team honors. Shavon Shields was perhaps the league's most underrated player. Nebraska lost just one game at home, and that was 71-70 to league champion Michigan. The stakes are raised next year, and nobody will look past Nebraska. This is where Miles' abilities will be tested. Can he sustain success at a place where it previously was unsustainable?

Season finish: First Four (lost 78-65 to Tennessee in overtime)

Starters returning/lost: 3/2

Key returnees: F Aaron White (12.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg); G Mike Gesell (7.8 ppg, 4.0 apg), F Jarrod Uthoff (7.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg); G Josh Oglesby, 6.6 ppg, 31 3PT), C Gabe Olaseni (6.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.4 bpg), C Adam Woodbury  (5.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg), G Peter Jok (4.4 ppg)

Key losses: G Devyn Marble, F Melsahn Basabe, F Zach McCabe

Key newcomers: G Trey Dickerson (3), F Dominique Uhl (3), G Brady Ellingson (3)

Outlook: After moving into the top 10 for the first time in 13 years, Iowa crashed hard to end the season. The Hawkeyes lost seven of their final eight games and barely made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006. Iowa loses all-Big Ten guard Devyn Marble as well as the power forward tandem of Melsahn Basabe and Zach McCabe. Iowa is good enough and deep enough to overcome those losses and compete for an NCAA tournament. But it will be vital for newcomer Trey Dickerson to become an immediate contributor at guard. The returnees also need to take strides to replace Marble's effectiveness as a scorer, passer and defender to keep them in games.

Season finish: NIT champions

Starters returning/lost: 3/2

Key returnees: G Andre Hollins (13.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg); PG DeAndre Mathieu (12.0 ppg, 4.2 apg); C Mo Walker (7.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg); F Joey King (7.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg); C Elliott Eliason (5.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg)

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

Key newcomers: G Carlos Morris (3 -- junior college transfer); G Nate Mason (3); F Josh Martin (3)

Outlook: The Gophers' fortunes changed after putting up 95 points against Iowa. Minnesota barely missed the NCAA tournament but earned the NIT championship by dispatching NCAA bubble teams Southern Miss, Florida State and SMU consecutively. Minnesota returns two-time all-Big Ten selection Andre Hollins, and point guard DeAndre Matheiu was one of the league's quickest players. With multiple front-line players Elliott Eliason, Joey King and Maurice Walker returning coupled with a strong finish, it's likely the Gophers can build toward an NCAA tournament berth.

Season finish: ACC tournament

Starters returning/lost: 5/0

Key returnees: G Dez Wells (14.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg); G Seth Allen (13.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.0 apg); F Jake Layman (11.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg); F Evan Smotrycz (11.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg); G Nick Faust (9.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg); Charles Mitchell (6.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg); G Roddy Peters (4.1 ppg, 1.3 rpg); Shaquille Cleare (3.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg)

Key losses: none ... yet

Key newcomer: C Michal Cekovsky (4), G Romelo Trimble (4), C Trayvon Reed (4), Jared Nickens (4), G Dion Wiley (4)

Outlook: The Terrapins failed to make a postseason tournament despite a 9-9 record in the ACC. The league stacked the schedule against Maryland in losses at North Carolina and Duke, while neither played at College Park. Maryland currently has 16 players committed or currently under scholarship, so a few are going to "pursue other opportunities" within a few weeks. Center Michal Cekovsky, a Slovakian native, is considered a top-50 selection. Dez Wells was a third-team all-ACC pick. Maryland has the depth and the talent to compete immediately in the Big Ten. But its unfamiliarity likely will prevent it from challenging for the league title.

Season finish: NCAA second round (lost 60-59 to Dayton)

Starters returning/lost: 2/3

Key returnees: F Sam Thompson (7.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg); C Amir Williams (7.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg); G Shannon Scott (7.5 ppg, 3.6 apg, 3.4 rpg); G Marc Loving (4.4 ppg, 1.7 rpg); C Trey McDonald (2.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg)

Key losses: F LaQuinton Ross (NBA), G Aaron Craft, G Lenzelle Smith Jr., G Amedeo Della Valle (European pro)

Key newcomers: F Keita Bates-Diop (5), F Jae-Sean Tate (4), C David Bell (3); F Anthony Lee (Temple transfer, 13.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg)

Outlook: The Buckeyes have sustained heavy blows and early defections over the years, but unless the newcomers play like stars immediately, they could step back next year. Aaron Craft is an all-timer, setting the Big Ten record in steals and ranks fifth in league assists. LaQuinton Ross declared for the NBA, and Lenzelle Smith had his moments. Sam Thompson, Amir Williams and Shannon Scott must shift from role players to major contributors for the Buckeyes to return to the NCAA tournament.

Season finish: Big Ten Tournament

Starters returning/lost: 2/3

Key returnees: G Yogi Ferrell (17.3 ppg, 3.8 apg); F Troy Williams (7.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg); G Stanford Robinson (6.4 ppg, 2.5 apg); F Hanner Mosquera-Perea (2.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg), F Devin Davis (2.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg)

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

Key newcomer: G James Blackmon (5), G Robert Johnson (4), F Max Hoetzel (3)

Outlook: Indiana won the outright 2013 Big Ten title, but lost four key cogs in that run. Guard Yogi Ferrell is the only player with key playing time from that 2013 squad. Forward Noah Vonleh led the Big Ten in rebounding as a freshman but declared for the NBA draft. Talented Jeremy Hollowell and Austin Etherington elected to transfer after the season. James Blackmon is extremely talented, and if he combines with Ferrell to form an effective back court, the Hoosiers have an outside chance at the NCAA tournament. If not, the natives will become awfully restless in Bloomington.

Season finish: Big Ten Tournament

Starters returning/lost: 3/2

Key returnees: C A.J. Hammons (10.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg), G Kendall Stephens (8.0 ppg); G Bryson Scott (6.2 ppg); G Raphael Davis (6.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg); G Basil Smotherman (5.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg); F Jay Simpson (4.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg)

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

Key newcomers: C Isaac Haas (4), G P.J. Thompson, F Vince Edwards (3), C Jacquil Taylor (3), G Dakota Mathias (3)

Outlook: Purdue is the perfect example of how quickly teams can go from the Big Ten elite to the bottom with substandard recruiting. Matt Painter was a genius when the school kept him away from Missouri three years ago. Just two years ago the Boilermakers nearly upset Kansas in the NCAA tournament's third round. But the last two seasons, Purdue has slid down the Big Ten standings and finished last this year. With the team losing its top two scorers, it's possible Purdue could stay there ... if Painter wasn't the coach. He'll revive the program but it might take a year or two.

Season finish: Big Ten Tournament

Starters returning/lost: 4/1

Key returnees: G JerShon Cobb (12.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg); G Tre Demps (11.0 ppg, 2.3 apg); C Alex Olah (9.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg); G Dave Sobolewski (5.0 ppg, 2.3 apg); G/F Sanjay Lumpkin (3.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg); F Nathan Taphorn (2.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg)

Key losses: G Drew Crawford, F Kale Abrahamson, C Nikola Cerina

Key newcomer: F Victor Law (4), G Johnnie Vasser (3), G Braynt McIntosh (3), G Scott Lindsey (3), F Gavin Skelly (3)

Outlook: Northwestern was rolled by 20 or more points in each of its first three Big Ten games, but the Wildcats recovered to win five of its next seven, including upsets over Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota. Northwestern promptly lost its next seven before edging Purdue and then shocking Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament. The Wildcats lose all-time school great Drew Crawford but Coach Chris Collins brings in a solid class, highlighted by 6-foot-6 forward Victor Law.

Season finish: CBI second round (lost 54-52 to Siena)

Starters returning/lost: 4/1

Key returnees: G D.J. Newbill (17.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg); F Brandon Taylor (9.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg); F Ross Travis, (8.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg); G John Johnson (6.7 ppg); F Donovan Jack (6.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg); G Geno Thorpe (3.2 ppg); G Graham Woodward (2.8 ppg); C Jordan Dickerson (1.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg)

Key losses: G Tim Frazier

Key newcomer: G Shep Garner (3), G Isaiah Washington

Outlook: Penn State was a tough out for most teams, especially Ohio State, in which the Nittany Lions defeated twice. Penn State picked up a CBI tournament berth and won a game before bowing out. The Nittany Lions return one of the league's best scorers off the bounce in D.J. Newbill as well as a slug of other front line players. But replacing guard Tim Frazier will be more than difficult for the Nittany Lions and Coach Pat Chambers.

Season finish: American Conference Tournament

Starters returning/lost: 3/2

Key returnees: G Myles Mack (14.9 ppg, 4.3 apg); F Kadeem Jack (14.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg); G Jerome Seagears (7.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G D'Von Campbell (5.4 ppg, 1.2 rpg); F Junior Etou (5.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg); G/F Craig Brown (3.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg); F Malick Kone (3.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg)

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

Key newcomer: G Mike Williams (3), F Dwayne Foreman (3), C Ibrahima Diallo (3), G Bishop Daniels (3)

Outlook: This one's going to hurt. Rutgers barely competed in the American Athletic Conference, which had several good teams but hardly the depth from top-to-bottom as the Big Ten. There were a few high marks, such as single-digit losses to Louisville and UConn. But in the Scarlet Knights' final two games against Louisville, they were outscored by 109 points. Rutgers won't have a break against Big Ten powerhouses and it must improve quickly just to compete. Maybe the Scarlet Knights steal one against Purdue, Northwestern or Penn State at home. Maybe.


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