Predicting the 2015-16 Big Ten College Basketball Standings

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystJuly 22, 2015

Predicting the 2015-16 Big Ten College Basketball Standings

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    Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

    When the 2015-16 men's college basketball regular season draws to a close, it's a safe bet that Maryland will be in first place in the Big Ten while Rutgers sits alone in dead last.

    Just about everything in between is open to debate.

    Our seemingly interminable offseason has nearly reached its midpoint. The 2015 national championship game was 15 weeks ago, and the first game of the 2015-16 season is just over 16 weeks away.

    It's all downhill from here!

    In honor of finally reaching that plateau, we're beginning our weekly summer series of projecting the major conference standings, starting with the Big Ten. Potentially featuring six preseason AP Top 25 teams and the No. 1 team in the country, it's not particularly difficult to argue that the Big Ten is going to be the nation's best conference this season.

    Figuring out the projected order for these teams wasn't nearly as simple. However, we scoured the rosters, offseason "transactions" and unbalanced conference schedules to make an educated guess at each team's primary eight-man rotation and where it will stack up against every other team in the Big Ten.

    This conference could send as many as nine teams to the 2016 NCAA tournament. Read on to find out which ones are fighting for a No. 1 seed and which ones will be jostling for position on the bubble.

The Cellar-Dwellers

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    Mel Evans/Associated Press

    14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Last Season: 2-16)

    The Scarlet Knights were already quite bad, and they arguably got even worse. Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack led the team in scoring before graduating. Four other players transferred, including fourth-leading scorer and leading rebounder Junior Etou.

    They do have a moderately respectable incoming class, headlined by Corey Sanders and JUCO transfer Deshawn Freeman, but it's going to take way more than that for Rutgers to become a legitimate contender in this conference.

    13. Nebraska Cornhuskers (Last Season: 5-13)

    In terms of underclassmen who transferred or went pro, no Big Ten team lost more than Nebraska. Terran Petteway (unsuccessfully) declared for the NBA draft. Walter Pitchford withdrew from the draft but will attempt to play professionally overseas. Tarin Smith transferred to Duquesne. All told, the Huskers lost three of their four leading scorers, even though they didn't need to lose any of them.

    They do still have Shavon Shields, but Tim Miles will need to lean heavily on new players like Kansas transfer Andrew White III and freshmen Glynn Watson Jr. and Ed Morrow. It should be a tough year for a roster that will have more freshmen than the other three classes combined.

    12. Penn State Nittany Lions (Last Season: 4-14)

    The Nittany Lions do retain a pretty solid tandem in Shep Garner and Brandon Taylor, but they lost four of their six leading scorers, including D.J. Newbill's 20.7 points per game. Pat Chambers has yet to win more than six conference games since becoming the head coach before the 2011-12 season. Don't expect that to change this year.

    11. Minnesota Golden Gophers (Last Season: 6-12)

    Though Richard Pitino has a deep recruiting class, it isn't a highly touted one. This could make it extremely difficult to replace the three starters the Golden Gophers lostDeAndre Mathieu, Andre Hollins and Maurice Walker. They should be better in 2016-17 when transfers Reggie Lynch and Davonte Fitzgerald become eligible.

    10. Northwestern Wildcats (Last Season: 6-12)

    Chris Collins and company could surprise a lot of people this year. The Wildcats return all five of their leaders in minutes played and also add a pair of potentially critical players in freshman Aaron Falzon and Virginia Tech transfer Joey van Zegeren. And though they finished 15-17 overall, they were right there in quite a few of those losses.

    However, the top half of this conference is so darn good that it's tough to see any team breaking throughlet alone a team that has never played in the NCAA tournament. Expect a repeat of last year with a lot of close games that ultimately result in a sub-.500 conference record.

9. Iowa Hawkeyes

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    2014-15 Season: 22-12 overall, 12-6 in Big Ten (tied for third place)

    Key Players Lost: Aaron White (16.4 PPG, graduated), Gabriel Olaseni (8.1 PPG, graduated), Josh Oglesby (3.2 PPG, graduated), Trey Dickerson (2.7 PPG, transferred)

    Key Players Added: None

    Projected Starters: Mike Gesell, Anthony Clemmons, Peter Jok, Jarrod Uthoff, Adam Woodbury

    Top Three Reserves: Dominique Uhl, Isaiah Moss, Brandon Hutton

    Fran McCaffery has done a fine job with this program over the past few years, but he'll really have his work cut out for him while trying to adjust to life without Aaron White.

    White really carried the Hawkeyes last season, leading the team in points, rebounds and steals. Thanks to a ton of free-throw attempts and an excellent free-throw percentage, he averaged 1.70 points per field-goal attempt. For sake of comparison, Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky had a ratio of 1.50. Truly, White was one of the most efficient players in the country.

    In his placeas well as in place of crucial role players Gabriel Olaseni and Josh OglesbyIowa adds little more than a plethora of 3-star recruits.

    Of course, we were singing a similar tune one year ago when the Hawkeyes lost Roy Devyn Marble, Melsahn Basabe and Zach McCabe. Instead of slipping a bit, they actually improved as half a dozen players took sizable steps forward with their added year of experience.

    Can they do it again? Is Jarrod Uthoff ready to be a 17 PPG type of guy? Can Anthony Clemmons remain as efficient while becoming a shooting guard with substantially more emphasis on shooting? Will Dominique Uhl blossom into a reliable sixth man after a poor freshman season?

    Maybe the answer to all of those questions is "yes," but there are enough question marks to make it pretty difficult to envision this team finishing in the top half of the leagueespecially once we take into consideration the difficulty of its unbalanced schedule.

    The Hawkeyes play two games each against Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue. They only play Maryland and Ohio State once each, but those games are both on the road. With the possible exception of the gauntlet that Wisconsin has to run, it's the toughest schedule in the conference. This will likely result in a sub-.500 Big Ten record.

8. Illinois Fighting Illini

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    Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

    2014-15 Season: 19-14 overall, 9-9 in Big Ten (tied for seventh place)

    Key Players Lost: Rayvonte Rice (16.5 PPG, graduated), Aaron Cosby (7.8 PPG, transferred), Ahmad Starks (7.7 PPG, graduated), Nnanna Egwu (6.5 PPG, graduated)

    Key Players Added: Tracy Abrams (torn ACL), Mike Thorne Jr. (Charlotte transfer), Darius Paul (JUCO transfer), Jalen Coleman-Lands (4-star freshman), D.J. Williams (4-star freshman), Aaron Jordan (4-star freshman)

    Projected Starters: Abrams, Kendrick Nunn, Malcolm Hill, Paul, Thorne

    Top Three Reserves: Leron Black, Jaylon Tate, Maverick Morgan

    Because of all the shifting pieces, Illinois is perhaps the toughest Big Ten team to put a finger on.

    On the one hand, the Illini lose three starters and a critical bench player from a team that already failed to make the 2015 NCAA tournament. Rayvonte Rice is unquestionably the biggest loss, as he was their best scorer and best defender when healthy and eligible to play. Because of those departures, Illinois returns just two of its six leading scorers.

    For teams that aren't reloading with a handful of 5-star freshmen, that's almost always a recipe for negative regression.

    However, the sheer amount of talent that John Groce is either adding or getting back into the mix this offseason is pretty ridiculous.

    Mike Thorne Jr. is both literally and figuratively the biggest addition. At 6'11" and 270 pounds, he gives the Illini a chance to move on from Nnanna Egwu without missing a beat. He averaged 10.1 points and 7.3 rebounds for Charlotte last season, including a 23-point, 16-rebound game against Penn State that served as the first of his seven double-doubles on the year.

    The return of Tracy Abrams is equally crucial, though. He was expected to be one of the team leaders in last year's backcourt before a torn ACL suffered during preseason drills put him on the shelf for the entire season. He hasn't been a great shooter in his career, but he doesn't need to be. Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill can jointly handle that job while Abrams orchestrates both the offense and defense.

    Power forward is the major X-factor here. Darius Paul was supposed to fill that role last year, but multiple failed drug tests and an arrest for underage drinking led Groce to dismiss the Western Michigan transfer from the team before he ever played a game. He instead played a year of JUCO ball with Lamar State College-Port Arthur before rejoining the Illini this offseason.

    If he can stay out of trouble, he's a very talented player who could be the lift this roster needs to make the tournament. If not or if he struggles, it'll be up to Leron Black to shoulder the load as a sophomore.

7. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    2014-15 Season: 24-11 overall, 11-7 in Big Ten (sixth place)

    Key Players Lost: D'Angelo Russell (19.3 PPG, went pro), Sam Thompson (10.2 PPG, graduated), Shannon Scott (8.5 PPG, graduated), Amir Williams (6.4 PPG, graduated), Anthony Lee (3.4 PPG, graduated), Trey McDonald (2.8 PPG, graduated)

    Key Players Added: Trevor Thompson (Virginia Tech transfer), JaQuan Lyle (4-star freshman), Daniel Giddens (4-star freshman), Austin Grandstaff (4-star freshman), A.J. Harris (4-star freshman), Mickey Mitchell (4-star freshman)

    Projected Starters: Lyle, Kam Williams, Jae'Sean Tate, Marc Loving, Giddens

    Top Three Reserves: Keita Bates-Diop, Trevor Thompson, Grandstaff

    As is the case for Illinois, it's tough to get a read on Ohio State's expectations, due to the wholesale roster changes. Between the six players lost, the Buckeyes need to replace 65 percent of last year's points, 61 percent of their rebounds and 87.5 percent of their assists.

    It would be one thing if they only lost D'Angelo Russell, but they are barely even a shell of the team that was barely even a shell of the 2013-14 squad.

    And yet, Thad Matta's roster is loaded with both talent and potential. In addition to this year's quintet of 4-star freshmen, Jae'Sean Tate, Keita Bates-Diop, Kam Williams and Marc Loving were all ranked in the top 75 of their respective recruiting classes.

    It's not exactly the roster laden with McDonald's All-Americans that Duke or Kentucky had last season, but 36 recruiting stars between nine players is nothing to shake a stick at.

    The unknown is how well they'll all fit together. Not one of the returning players profiles as a point guard or a center, so the Buckeyes will need to bank on guys at those positions who have yet to play a game for them.

    The good news is they have a coach who is basically a professional at getting to the tournament. Save for the year in which he lost Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Ron Lewis, Daequan Cook and Ivan Harris in one offseason, Matta has been to the NCAA tournament in every single season that his team was eligible for it. And even in that one down year, the Buckeyes won the 2008 NIT.

    Ohio State has won at least 10 Big Ten games in 10 straight seasons. That streak might come to an end this season, but 9-9 should be good enough to dance.

6. Wisconsin Badgers

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    Andy Manis/Associated Press

    2014-15 Season: 36-4 overall, 16-2 in Big Ten (first place)

    Key Players Lost: Frank Kaminsky (18.8 PPG, graduated), Sam Dekker (13.9 PPG, went pro), Traevon Jackson (8.1 PPG, graduated), Josh Gasser (6.6 PPG, graduated), Duje Dukan (4.7 PPG, graduated)

    Key Players Added: Ethan Happ (redshirt freshman), Brevin Pritzl (4-star freshman)

    Projected Starters: Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter, Nigel Hayes, Vitto Brown, Happ

    Top Three Reserves: Pritzl, Alex Illikainen, Riley Dearring

    Let's begin our discussion about the team that has been to consecutive Final Fours by taking a look at the impossible schedule alluded to on Iowa's slide.

    The Badgers play home-and-home against Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State and Purdue. Of those five teams, we already encountered Illinois at No. 8 and the other four are among our top five projected finishers in the conference. They do get Michigan and Ohio State at home, but that's minimal solace in what should be an incredibly difficult two months of basketball.

    Back to that whole Final Four thing, though, because it has to be noted how difficult it has been to maintain that level of greatness for three straight seasons.

    Excluding what Kentucky and Wisconsin did the past two years, there have been 10 instances over the past 15 seasons of a school advancing to the national semifinals in consecutive years. Four of those teams (Butler, Florida, Kentucky and North Carolina) failed to reach the tournament the following year.

    Only one of those 10 teams earned better than a No. 4 seed in the third season, and with all due respect to this Wisconsin roster, it doesn't hold a candle to the 2007-08 UCLA team that had Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Darren Collison.

    And let me assure you that most of those teamsif not all of themhad a head coach who was at least as well-respected as Bo Ryan is today. So if the crux of your belief in the 2015-16 Badgers is "Bo Knows Basketball," let it be known that no one is immune to regression when losing as much talent as this team has.

    Yet, we're not willing to believe that Wisconsin is going to completely fall apart in Ryan's final season.

    He still has Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig. He still has a guard in Zak Showalter who had a few games toward the end of last season that screamed "Just wait until he gets legitimate minutes next season." And he still has a redshirt freshman in Ethan Happ whom Wisconsin fans seem to believe is the second coming of Karl Malone.

    As was the case in the ACC last year, finishing top five in the Big Ten probably means a No. 4 seed or better in the NCAA tournament. Based on this roster and coach combination, the Badgers should be a tournament team, but being seeded that high doesn't seem likelyespecially after going through the aforementioned rigorous conference schedule.

5. Purdue Boilermakers

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    Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

    2014-15 Season: 21-13 overall, 12-6 in Big Ten (tied for third place)

    Key Players Lost: Jon Octeus (9.3 PPG, graduated), Bryson Scott (3.8 PPG, transferred)

    Key Players Added: Caleb Swanigan (5-star freshman), Johnny Hill (Texas-Arlington transfer)

    Projected Starters: Hill, Rapheal Davis, Vince Edwards, Swanigan, A.J. Hammons

    Top Three Reserves: Kendall Stephens, Isaac Haas, Dakota Mathias

    Lest you think the gap between each pair of teams is equidistant, we view the Big Ten as having five tiers this year: four teams with little chance of doing anything, three teams that may well spend the entire season on the bubble, two teams that lost a metric ton from last year's roster but should still dance because of excellent coaches, four nearly inseparable Final Four contenders and one Maryland that will probably open the season ranked No. 1 in the nation.

    We bring this up now to note that the difference between No. 5 and No. 2 is about as negligible as was the difference between No. 3 and No. 7 last season when all five of those teams were seeded in the No. 7-10 range in the NCAA tournament.

    From Maryland down to Wisconsin, the Big Ten should begin the 2015-16 season with six teams ranked in the Top 25. And of the 24 possible combinations for ranking teams No. 2-5, it would be a surprise if the 65 AP voters didn't submit at least 20 of those combinations in their preseason ballots.

    That's our long-winded way of requesting you chill out if you've got a problem with Purdue being ranked outside the top three, because these next four teams were primarily separated by strength of conference schedule.

    The Boilermakers play home-and-home against Maryland, Michigan and Wisconsin in addition to road games against Indiana and Illinois. It's not nearly the gauntlet that Iowa and Wisconsin go through, but just wait until you see Indiana's cakewalk.

    Schedules aside, Purdue has undeniably the best frontcourt in the conference. Isaac Haas might be the 10th-best forward/center in the Big Ten, and he won't even start on this stacked roster.

    The backcourt, however, is a different story. Johnny Hill was at Illinois State before transferring to Texas-Arlington, and he wasn't exactly a model for turnover-free point guard play at either location. But he's the only player on the roster with anything close to extensive experience as the primary ball-handler at the D-I level.

    Maybe Hill finally blossoms into a reliable asset in his final season. Maybe P.J. Thompson steps up in a big way as a sophomore. Maybe Matt Painter goes with Rapheal Davis and Kendall Stephens as his starting backcourt, forgoing the traditional pass-first point guard. Or maybe the Boilermakers struggle to find a guy who can actually maximize the strength of this frontcourt.

    It's the type of thing that will determine whether Purdue is a Top 10 or a Top 25 team this year, but it's enough of an unknown that we'll assume the latter while acknowledging that the former is very much a possibility.

4. Michigan Wolverines

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    2014-15 Season: 16-16 overall, 8-10 in Big Ten (ninth place)

    Key Players Lost: Max Bielfeldt (5.1 PPG, transferred)

    Key Players Added: Moritz Wagner (4-star freshman)

    Projected Starters: Derrick Walton Jr., Zak Irvin, Aubrey Dawkins, Caris LeVert, Ricky Doyle

    Top Three Reserves: Kameron Chatman, Spike Albrecht, Wagner

    One of five teams to open the 2014-15 season ranked in the AP Top 25 before proceeding to miss the NCAA tournament, Michigan was on a short list of candidates for most disappointing team in the country. Factor in the back-to-back losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan after consecutive seasons with at least 28 wins, and the Wolverines may well have been the front-runners for the fictitious dishonor.

    But they're better than that. They just never put it all together.

    Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. played pretty well for the first half of the season, but they were already injured and done for the year by the time Zak Irvin evolved into a well-rounded player instead of just a lethal shooter, Ricky Doyle developed into the clear-cut best option in the paint and Aubrey Dawkins started setting the nets on fire.

    In the aforementioned embarrassing losses, Dawkins played a total of five minutes, Doyle wasn't yet a starter and Irvin shot 3-of-16 from three-point range with a grand total of seven rebounds and one assist.

    If those three guys play in November and December the way they played in January and February, and if LeVert and Walton stay healthy for the full season, things are drastically different for the Wolverines.

    So while not much changed about their roster this offseason, this should be a much-improved team over what we saw for the vast majority of 2014-15.

    And that's without assuming Kameron Chatman follows up a poor freshman season with a drastically better sophomore one, justifying his participation in the 2014 Jordan Brand Classic. It's also without assuming Moritz Wagner does any sort of damage after coming over from Germany.

    If Wagner were to make anything close to the "European big-man impact" that Jakob Poeltl had on Utah or Domantas Sabonis had on Gonzaga last season, Michigan could legitimately challenge Maryland for the Big Ten title.

    As is, though, this should be an excellent team. It's a guard-heavy rotation, but that's hardly a disadvantage. Irvin, Dawkins and LeVert can each play the 2, 3 or 4, standing 6'6" with exceptional three-point range.

    Now that we have a better idea what the starting five is capable of doing, the Wolverines will be tough to beat this yearprovided they can stay healthy for a change.

3. Michigan State Spartans

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    Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    2014-15 Season: 27-12 overall, 12-6 in Big Ten (tied for third place)

    Key Players Lost: Travis Trice (15.3 PPG, graduated), Branden Dawson (11.9 PPG, graduated)

    Key Players Added: Eron Harris (West Virginia transfer), Deyonta Davis (4-star freshman), Matthew McQuaid (4-star freshman)

    Projected Starters: Tum Tum Nairn, Harris, Denzel Valentine, Davis, Matt Costello

    Top Three Reserves: Gavin Schilling, Bryn Forbes, Marvin Clark Jr.

    It was quickly forgotten as they caught fire en route to the Final Four, but the Spartans weren't actually great throughout the course of the regular season. They entered the Big Ten tournament with an overall record of 21-10 that included ugly losses to Texas Southern, Nebraska and Minnesota, in addition to an 0-6 record against teams that received a No. 6 seed or better in the NCAA tournament.

    So when I say Michigan State might be significantly better than last year, that's in comparison to what we saw out of this team for the first four months of the season.

    The Spartans could return to the Final Four, but it wouldn't be anywhere near as much of a surprise this year.

    Losing Travis Trice and Branden Dawson will be tough, but Denzel Valentine was really the best player on last year's roster. He's back for one more season and would probably be the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year were it not for Maryland's Melo Trimble. He's a triple-double threat, an extremely efficient offensive weapon and the clear-cut leader of a rotation that could run at least 10 deep without any sort of negative marginal utility.

    Along with the projected starters and top three reserves, Tom Izzo also has Alvin Ellis III, Javon Bess, Matthew McQuaid and Colby Wollenman at his disposal.

    It's ridiculous how much talent is on this roster and even more ridiculous how infrequently it will be challenged. The Spartans' home-and-home series are against Iowa, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers and Wisconsinnone of which appears in our projected top five. Furthermore, their only games against Michigan and Purdue are at home, giving them the upper hand on both the Wolverines and Boilermakers.

    If they can't win at least 11 or 12 games against that schedule, it would go down as the most underachieving team in the Izzo era.

2. Indiana Hoosiers

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    Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

    2014-15 Season: 20-14 overall, 9-9 in Big Ten (tied for seventh place)

    Key Players Lost: Hanner Mosquera-Perea (6.5 PPG, dismissed), Stanford Robinson (3.0 PPG, transferred)

    Key Players Added: Thomas Bryant (5-star freshman), Juwan Morgan (4-star freshman), Max Bielfeldt (Michigan transfer)

    Projected Starters: Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson, Troy Williams, Bryant

    Top Three Reserves: Morgan, Nick Zeisloft, Collin Hartman

    The strength of Indiana's Big Ten schedule is laughable. The Hoosiers play their home-and-home series against Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Not one of those teams is projected to finish in the top five. The average projected rank of those five teams is 9.4.

    Better yet, Indiana's only games against Maryland and Purdue are at home. All told, the Hoosiers will have three very challenging games (at Michigan, at Michigan State, vs. Maryland), two moderately challenging games (at Wisconsin, vs. Purdue) and 13 games in which they should be favored by a considerable margin.

    Even if their roster wasn't particularly talented, that schedule alone would put the Hoosiers in a great position to finish .500 or better. However, they are loaded with talent, which means that home game against Maryland could definitely decide who wins this conference.

    Belief in Indiana's guard play requires no justification whatsoever. Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson, Nick Zeisloft and Collin Hartman combined to shoot 41.5 percent from beyond the arc while making 8.9 three-pointers per game. This will be one of the nation's most potent perimeter offenses for a second straight season.

    But the reason the Hoosiers struggled often in 2014-15 was poor interior play. Hanner Mosquera-Perea was their only player who could even pass for a center, and he was light-years better during the nonconference portion of the season, thanks in large part to a knee injury that caused him to miss seven Big Ten games.

    Understandably, they significantly beefed up their post game this offseason with the additions of Thomas Bryant and Juwan Morgan.

    They aren't quite the can't-miss big men that Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh were, but we're talking about two extremely talented power forwards who will make the team better just by being able to walk and chew gum without getting cited for marijuana possession or hitting teammates with their cars.

    Bryant, in particular, should be able to do much more than that. Expect a shot-blocker with a rebounding motor that won't quit, and expect him to help elevate Indiana from a bubble team to a fringe national championship contender.

1. Maryland Terrapins

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    Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

    2014-15 Season: 28-7 overall, 14-4 in Big Ten (second place)

    Key Players Lost: Dez Wells (15.1 PPG, graduated), Richaud Pack (5.8 PPG, graduated), Evan Smotrycz (4.7 PPG, graduated)

    Key Players Added: Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke transfer), Robert Carter Jr. (Georgia Tech transfer), Diamond Stone (5-star freshman), Jaylen Brantley (JUCO transfer)

    Projected Starters: Melo Trimble, Sulaimon, Jake Layman, Carter, Stone

    Top Three Reserves: Jared Nickens, Damonte Dodd, Dion Wiley

    Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports recently sat down with Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon for a Q&A, during which Turgeon said, "In April when everybody decided to stay, we talked about being great and having a chance to be great."

    Since April, we've been unable to stop talking about the Terrapins as possibly the best team in the country.

    It has been a bit of an unorthodox formula for greatness. Most of the other top-ranking teams are either retaining the vast majority of their talent from last year (North Carolina, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Wichita State) or reloading with a bunch of top-notch freshmen (Duke, Kentucky, California and Arizona).

    The Terrapins, on the other hand, overachieved their way to a No. 4 seed, lost seven seniors (three of whom played important roles) and added just one great freshman in Diamond Stone.

    Yet, we're expecting greatness because Turgeon was able to retain one of the best players in the country (Melo Trimble), adds one of the better transfers who sat out last season (Robert Carter Jr.), adds arguably the best graduate transfer from this offseason (Rasheed Sulaimon) and already had an excellent stable of young role players who are ready to make a bigger impact.

    It's not exactly conventional, but it sure is effective.

    Make no mistake about it, though: Trimble is the reason we're all buying stock in the Terrapins.

    Freshman guards who average 16 points per game while leading the team to 11 more wins than the previous season don't come along every day, and they usually don't stay for multiple seasons, either. However, it was just two years ago that Oklahoma State was a popular Final Four pick because of Marcus Smart's decision to play a second season.

    For the sake of all those in College Park, here's hoping the preseason hype works out better for the Terrapins than it did for the Cowboys.

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.

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