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The Landscape of the Big Ten in 2015-16

The 2015-16 season for the University of Maryland is one of the most anticipated in many years for the Terps.  Despite missing out on Drexel transfer Damion Lee who is going to Louisville, the Terps are the likely favorites to win the Big Ten next season.

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A majority of the top players in the conference will not return next season. Seven of the 10 players selected to the All-Big Ten First and Second teams will not be back in the conference next year. Melo Trimble will be joined by Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell and Purdue center A.J. Hammons as the only returnees.

For the Terps to reach the top of the conference next season, their toughest challenge will likely be the team that the Terps beat twice last season, but who also ended their Big Ten Tournament title bid. Here are some of the top teams that Maryland will see in year two of Big Ten play.

Michigan State

The Spartans will lose two of their senior leaders in guard Travis Trice and forward Branden Dawson, but head coach Tom Izzo has reloaded with the top recruiting class in the Big Ten. The Spartans made a big splash in early April with the commitment of 5-star center Caleb Swanigan. The highly talented big man will be an interesting matchup with Diamond Stone when the team’s meet. Izzo also landed 4-star forward Deyonta Davis, who was named Michigan Mr. Basketball.

Despite to loss of Trice and Dawson, the Spartans will be returning a decent core of their recent Final Four team. Guards Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes,and Lourawls Nairn along with forward Gavin Schilling and Matt Costello will be foundation of next season’s team. They will also add West Virginia transfer Eron Harris who will have his first year of eligibility with the team.

Indiana

The Terps saw the Hoosiers three times last season and Ferrell constantly torched Maryland from long range.  Head coach Tom Crean got good news last week when freshman James Blackmon Jr. announced he would return for his sophomore season. The team did not have any seniors last season, so they will likely have everyone back.  

The Hoosiers missed on keeping Swanigan in-state, but still have some good recruits for next season. They have signed 5-star power forward Thomas Bryant from Huntington Prep in West Virginia. Crean has also signed 4-star power forward Juwan Morgan and 3-star small forward Ogugua Anunoby.

The upcoming season will be a big one for Crean as pressure is continuing to grow and his seat is getting hotter. Crean has had success with the Hoosiers, but expectations are always high for a prestigious program like Indiana. With a talented roster coming back, this could be a make or break year for Crean.

Wisconsin

Following back-to-back trips to the Final Four, the Badgers will likely take a couple steps back next year. They will lose their two top players in center Frank Kaminsky and forward Sam Dekker. They’ll also lose departing seniors Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson, and Duje Dukan.

Head coach Bo Ryan was hoping to rebuild his team around the highly coveted Diamond Stone, but he let the in-state product get away. The key returning pieces for next season are forward Nigel Hayes and guard Bronson Koenig.  The top recruit for Ryan’s 2015 class is 4-star guard Brevin Pritzl who will be joined by a group of 3-star forwards in Alex Illikainen, Charlie Thomas, and Khalil Iverson.

The Badgers were the kings of the conference last season, taking the regular season and tournament titles. Now, they’ll have a target on their backs as team’s will look to get revenge since they’ll be more vulnerable. Despite the key losses in Kaminsky and Dekker, Ryan is one of the top coaches in the conference and his Badgers will likely be a factor next season.

Michigan

The Wolverines were not very good last season and an early season loss to the New Jersey Institute of Technology puts their woes into perspective. However, head coach John Beilein’s team won’t stay down long as they will suffer no key losses heading into next season. Caris LeVert recently announced that he will return next season and he should blossom now that he will likely be back to full health (missed 14 games following foot surgery in mid-January).

LeVert will be joined by guards Spike Albrecht, Derrick Walton Jr., and Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman along with guard/forwards Aubrey Dawkins and Zak Irvin. With so many returning pieces, Beilein’s recruiting class is very small with only one commitment in 3-star forward Moritz Wagner.

Michigan will not have the most talented roster in the conference, but their experience will make them a major threat to compete for the conference crown. The lumps that the Wolverines took throughout this past season will only make them more hungry next season.

Purdue

After finishing in last place in the Big Ten two seasons ago, the Boilermakers rebounded with a NCAA Tournament bid last season. The team got great news when Hammons decided to return for his senior campaign and now head coach Matt Painter has the team to make it consecutive seasons with tournament bids.  

They will need to replace point guard Jon Octeus who graduates, but their second leading scorer and 2015 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Rapheal Davis will be back to be at the team’s core with Hammons. There will be several challenges for the Boilermakers next season, mainly how the offense with progress without Octeus.

The Boilermakers will likely have multiple ups and downs next season, but still make their way into the NCAA Tournament. They will be a gritty team that can score a few upsets and provide a strong test for the elite teams in the conference.

Ohio State

The Buckeyes will lose the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in D’Angelo Russell, who announced this week that he will be heading to the NBA. Head coach Thad Matta will also lose his second leading scorer Sam Thompson along with fellow seniors Amir Williams. Shannon Scott, Trey McDonald, and Anthony Lee.  

To reload, Matta has pulled in a national top 10 recruiting class, highlighted by five, 4-star recruits. Guards Jaquan Lyle and Austin Grandstaff lead the class, along with center Daniel Giddins, forward Mickey Mitchell,and point guard A.J. Harris. The Buckeyes will also have Virginia Tech transfer Trevor Thompson, who will be eligible next season.

Ohio State is almost always a significant presence in the conference, especially since Matta has taken over in 2004. They will miss the versatility of Russell, but Matta has significant talent in line for next season. It will be interesting to see how this recruiting class pans out, but it would be surprising is the Buckeyes weren’t in the top five of the conference next season.

Illinois

The Fighting Illini upset the Terps last season, but the team failed to make a huge impact within the conference. The help turn things around, head coach John Groce has gotten his best recruiting class in his three years with the program. They will also return a solid core of players from last season to pair with the third best recruiting class in the conference.

The team’s second leading scorer in Malcolm Hill will be back for his junior season and they’ll also return Tracey Abrams who was granted another season of eligibility following a torn ACL last preseason.  Guards Jaylon Tate and Kendrick Nunn will also return, along with forward Leron Black.

The recruiting class is highlighted by a group of 4-star recruits and point guard Jalen Coleman is the headliner. The Fighting Illini will also add guard Aaron Jordan and forward D.J. Williams.  With this talented roster, the Illini should make a run at a NCAA Tournament bid.

The 2015-16 season will be another Big Ten style grind for the Terps. They’ll be tested in each road environment, especially being the early favorite to win the conference. Several teams at the top will be loaded with talent, but after the Terps proved last season that they are up to the challenge of taking down the best the conference has to offer.  

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